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. This time we’re rating the first in a series of reissues of singer/songwriter Janis Ian’s ’70s output, beginning with her 1974 LP ‘Stars’.
Sony/Legacy rereleased five of American singer/songwriter Janis Ian’s albums at the end of May. A selection of her albums from the mid to late ’70s, the five records reissued give a broad overview of her career and we’ll be doing a rundown of each one of them over the coming days. First up: Ian’s 1974 effort ‘Stars’. Although far from her debut album, it is the first to be reissued in the series and finds her in folksy form. The album opens with the 7 minute plus title track – a sombre meditation on fame – and runs the gauntlet from similarly stripped down exercises to lushly (and at times excessively) arranged pieces.
This reissue is released via Sony/Legacy under their We Are Vinyl banner. We’ve had a fair bit of experience of previous releases in the series and although we would say pressing quality has varied from case to case, we’ve generally been impressed by such reissues. As far ‘Stars’ is concerned, the matrix details tell us that it was pressed at the Czech Republic’s GZ Media, which is a pressing plant that produces records we’ve generally been impressed by (such as the recent Joyful Noise releases that we have featured over the last couple of weeks). True to form, this is a solid pressing with a low to practically inaudible noise floor and quality fidelity which avoids becoming compromised at any point. Having said that, it isn’t perfect – there are some spots of minor surface noise and the odd pop. To be fair, though, ‘Stars’ is a very quiet album and on a louder album such noise would be inaudible. As it is, trying to find a cleaner (or even comparatively quiet) original would be a very tall order indeed, so we’d still say this is a good way to go for those looking to acquire the album. GZ clearly have a good handle on quality control as this is a weighty, well pressed record with no warping to report and surfaces free of marks from dirty metal parts or careless handling. Remastered for this reissue by Battery Studio’s Mark Wilder, this reissue has a pleasing clarity to it. We haven’t heard an original pressing to compare this reissue to, however on its own merits alone this is a nicely mastered record. A quick digitization and assessment of the waveform is enough to show that this is a pretty dynamic pressing with some long stretches (such as the title track) never really growing louder than a murmur, whilst others build up to a comparative crescendo. The whole soundscape sounds good, but we’d particularly point to the vocals and guitars as having a pleasing chime, although the sighing bass on ‘The Man You Are In Me’ also sounds excellent. We found the vocals to have a small touch of sibilance at points but this may well have simply been a sonic trait of the original recording, we’re not sure. Either way, this is a solid, well produced reissue.
Packaging and presentation is solid but perhaps not exceptional here. A big plus is the fact that Legacy have chosen to reproduce the original US Colombia Records label design. The ’70s/’80s company label wasn’t quite the all-time classic that the hugely attractive 6-eye and 2-eye 360 sound designs which preceded it were. But, nevertheless, it’s still a slick and instantly recognisable label to many a collector, so it’s great to see it making a return here. The sleeve itself is solid quality but not unusually so – it’s printed on mid-weight card and feels decent enough in hand. Print quality on the front cover is very slightly dull if closely scrutinised, but the back cover is sharper and both look totally fine under normal assessment. A printed paper inner sleeve is included, replicating the original – it includes lyrics for the whole album as well as full credits, both for the original release and this reissue. It’s not the best quality inner we’ve ever seen and it does have a little creasing and seam splitting from new, but it’s still a worthwhile inclusion and an authentic addition to the overall package. Still, we would advise carefully removing the record from the inner and then storing it in a polylined inner for general use. A download code is included with files redeemable in MP3.
The Sony/Legacy reissue of ‘Stars’ sees the album come back into print for the first time in decades on vinyl. It’s a solid reissue throughout with a well pressed record and presentation that remains faithful to the original issue.