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. It’s time now for the penultimate instalment in our Janis Ian reissue series, where this time we look at her 1977 effort ‘Miracle Row’.
By 1977, Janis Ian’s career had already stretched back a decade. It might be easy to assume, then, that it was time for a change – especially considering the raft of new styles appearing around the time. While ‘Miracle Row’ does feature a few cursory nods to the prevailing trends of the time, by and large it’s business as usual for Janis Ian. Indeed, there’s arguably not quite enough to differentiate this from the rest of her ’70s output and proceedings do feel rather familiar to those who’ve heard her previous efforts. By the same flip of the coin, however, it could also be argued that seeing as her brand of heart-ache infused song writing wasn’t broken, why should she fix it? Although more could have been done to freshen up her artistic direction on the album, it retains as much focus as any of her previous efforts and delivers another set of songs likely to engage those already taken with her earlier work.
By the late ’70s, most labels – including Columbia, who released this album – had incrementally shaved off weight from their vinyl pressings until they barely weighed anything at all. While the importance of vinyl weight is significantly overstated in general (there’s plenty of factors more important than that in considering how good a record is likely to sound), there’s no denying that a chunky, heavyweight record feels really good, aside from anything else. Although we haven’t actually handled an original pressing of Janis Ian’s 1977 album ‘Miracle Row’, we’d confidently bet that this 2018 reissue from Sony/Legacy weighs significantly more than any previous issue of the album. Pressing at the Czech Republic’s GZ Media, this pressing is very solid indeed and feels close to – if not the full – 180gs. It’s well cut with smooth edges and flat playing surfaces, but it’s not entirely free of flaw. We found a couple of superficial marks on the surfaces from new, including a noticeable scuff on side two – nothing that effects play but still a minor irritation on a new release. More importantly, however, the actual playback and sound quality is solid throughout. The noise floor is low with just a touch of minor surface crackle on the run-ins that’s drowned out immediately by the music. The songs that prominently feature a backing band sound more or less perfect; our copy is free of pops and fidelity is excellent, lacking distortion or any other sonic flaws. The album’s quieter moments sometimes reveal a smattering of light surface noise in the background of the soundscape but it’s nothing too distracting and, as we’ve said in our features on previous Ian LPs, attempting to find a comparatively clean original pressing is likely more trouble than it’s worth. As with the rest of these reissues, ‘Miracle Row’ has been remastered and it sounds good. The drums have a snappy, punchy impact that particularly stands out on the more upbeat moments and vocals are crisp but, as we’ve observed with some of the other reissues, the bass is a bit overbearing at times – not that that can’t be fixed with some slight EQ adjustment though.
In terms of packaging this is easily the best of the five Janis Ian reissues. Replicating the original issue, the sleeve is gatefold where all the others are not and presentation greatly benefits from this. The sleeve itself feels much higher quality than the others, with the added sturdiness of the extra card leading to a well built sleeve which looks and feels really good. We’ve observed this with a couple of the other reissues as well, but the front cover image is slightly lacking in clarity when closely scrutinised but the font is sharply printed throughout and the back cover and inner gatefold spread look excellent. The inner gatefold shows lyrics to the full album, leaving the inner sleeve to instead replicate the original with some rather uninteresting abstract imagery. As with all other Legacy releases, an MP3 download code is also included and the redemption process is relatively easy and quick, unlike some download systems.
In terms of the pressing, ‘Miracle Row’ is on par with the other reissues in the series which it’s a part of, however presentation is excellent here and the gatefold sleeve goes above and beyond in comparison to the packaging of the other releases.