Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. For today’s instalment, we take a look back at the career of one of fringe-rock’s most roguishly endearing characters.
Although ostensibly born from the punk milieu of the late ’70s, Ian Dury was too much of a renaissance man in his own peculiar way to sit comfortably alongside the anarchy-peddlers of his day. Where the bulk of his supposed peers traded on fury as if it were going out of style, Dury’s currency was humour; a social satirist at heart, he possessed a rare ability to cast an eye across the culture of his day in a way which was as critical as it was wry, turning out a series of beautifully conceived and often laugh-out-loud funny vignettes in the process. Setting those ruminations to a limber backing delivered with an off-hand ease, his various bands – most notably The Blockheads – presented idiosyncratic work which tended to draw as heavily from disco and funk as it did from the ever-present spectre of his era’s punk and stomping pub rock. Such qualities are perhaps most fully articulated on his classic 1978 debut ‘New Boots And Panties!!!’ but, despite the generous clutch of enduring fan-favourites which pepper its track-listing, many of his most memorable hits were dotted across his increasingly patchy subsequent work. ‘Hit Me!’, then, represents a crucial release – albeit one which is hardly the first of its kind. Anthologising Dury’s work across the breadth of his twenty year career, the compilation presents all of the usual suspects – favourites including ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’, ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)’ and, of course, ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, the song from which this set’s title is derived – but also offers a clutch of slighter, yet by no means lesser, successes. For those who have only a passing knowledge of this fleet-footed auteur’s catalogue, ‘Hit Me!’ is as rock-solid an entry point for further exploration as any could hope for. Those with a longer-standing appreciation of the man’s work will likely be closely familiar with most of the choices here yet, nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that there’s never a bad time to revisit music as vital as this.
A generous collection of twenty songs, ‘Hit Me!’ has wisely – and very necessarily – been spread across two LPs. Pressed on crisp white vinyl, the records are both roughly mid-weight, boasting glossy surfaces free of any visible imperfections in the case of our copy. Both records sit flat upon the platter during playback; although in an ideal world it would by no means be noteworthy to observe that a brand new release is free of warpage, it is unfortunately the case that all too many modern records display some degree of warping from new, so it’s refreshing to find a recent release which displays such stout quality control. That level of attention is continued across the playback of the full four sides, all of which sound fantastic. The mastering on this compilation is focused and direct; the sonics are balanced with discretion, boasting a pleasing immediacy in the rhythm section’s contributions that never once distracts from the music’s full, realistic presentation of Dury’s vocals. The pressing quality itself is also excellent, with low noise floors free of any audible surface noise at any point throughout. It’s been quite a while since we’ve reviewed any release here on Vinyl Corner that can boast playback as impressive as ‘Hit Me!’, so full marks to BMG, who handled this release.
As is befitting of a double LP release, ‘Hit Me!’ is presented in a stout, well-constructed gatefold sleeve, boasting an attractive thick spine daubed with bold, colourful text which will ensure the album is never difficult to find on even the most crowded of record shelves. The cover itself feels excellent in hand, having been constructed from a good, weighty cardstock which lends the release a pleasing physicality. The inner gatefold spread has been given over to a high-quality portrait of Dury and the back cover boasts a variation of the same striking image as the front, albeit with the addition of a track-listing. It’s a very attractively presented release throughout and, indeed, the only point of complaint we can make here is that a barcode has been printed onto the back cover; we would, as always, have preferred to see this attached to the shrinkwrap as a sticker but it’s a minor point at most. Rounding the package off are a pair of printed inner sleeves, again offering images of the artist in excellent quality as well as brief but humorous newly-commissioned liner notes from Phil Jupitus.
It is very difficult to find flaw in the vinyl release of ‘Hit Me!’ and, when the music is as good as the twenty songs it brings together, even the pickiest of listeners would have little reason to nitpick. This is a consummately presented release which brings together excellent sound quality, top-notch pressing quality and classy presentation. Those who seek a convenient collection of Dury’s most popular numbers need look no further than this highly impressive release.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!
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