A Very Fine Winner, Albeit with the Help of a Technicality

The label shown above is from the 1984 Dutch (not UK) release in the “Dell” reissue series of 1984.

The original version of this “winners page” read:  <<To my ears, there are many good sounding LP pressings of this album, but the one that has the best balance of full-range fidelity, good instrumental tone, warm vocal tone, and a key element of intimacy in the sound, the winner, hands down, is the 1982 Mobile Fidelity release.>>  The second version read: <<Although I still love the sound of that MFSL pressing, I cannot say that it is, overall, superior to the British “Alan Dell” LP from 1984.  The MFSL definitely has a little more upper-treble, which at times brings out details that other versions are lacking, but it also is at times just a little (and I mean a little) on the “forward” side of how things should (to my ears) sound on this title.  The UK pressing, meanwhile, has a more relaxed high end, by comparison, which makes it come across, to my ears, as the a little more “laid back,” for lack of a better way to put it.  The MFSL sounds wonderfully modern, and is still probably my personal favorite; the UK pressing sounds subdued and “classic” in tone.>>

All of that remains true five years on.  However, we’ve had a couple of excellent 1980s releases come to light since then, and they are deserving of attention:  1.) The oddball 1983 French (Pathe-Marconi) LP release that says “Duophonic” on the cover, but is actually presented in excellent, true mono; and 2.) The hard-to-find DMM “Dell” LP variant that was released exclusively in the Netherlands alongside its non-DMM, more common UK counterpart.  Frankly, I can’t imagine putting any of these two options, or the MFSL, or the UK Dell on my turntable and not being 100% pleased, but again, in direct A/B comparisons, there are differences.  That’s not to say that other versions, including original Capitol D and N copies are not very good.  Many of them are!

To my ears and to my personal tastes, the MFSL remains the best sounding release, but I know that I am in the minority in that view, and I also know (as evidenced on the previous page) that the MFSL LP is a technically-flawed release, so I’ve got no qualms about pushing it to the curb just a bit, and going with the Dutch-pressed DMM “Dell” LP as a top choice.

Here are some transitional comparisons:

At left:

Comparison of the front cover detail of the Dutch and British releases in the Alan Dell series.  That’s the Dutch (Holland) version at the top, with the rather large DMM logo.  Note that the British release clearly re-used artwork from a Japanese pressing, as the ECJ catalog number remained visible.

The stickers that were used on the British pressings were not (as far as I can tell) used on any of the Dutch DMM pressings.

At right:

Back cover detail, British on top, Dutch below that.  Note the different catalog numbers: #ED 26 0138 1 for the UK non-DMM version, and #1A 038 26 0138 1 for the DMM version from Holland.


Additional rear cover detail.

As always, all clips here parallel those available free of charge via iTunes.  To hear the extended-length iTunes clips, click VIEW at right, then “View in iTunes.” 

Clip #1: D3 LP to Dutch Dell DMM LP and back to D3: PS D3-DMM-D3-cr.aif

Clip #2: N5 LP to Dutch Dell DMM  and back to N5: WithEveryBreath N5-DMM-N5-cr.wav

Clip #3: 1983 French LP to Dutch Dell DMM and back: Easy French-DMM-French-cr.aif

Clip #4: Dell UK LP to DMM and back: LoveLocked1 UK84-DMM-UK84 Norm-cr.wav

As I’ve said, my personal preference is for the MFSL LP, to which end, here are two additional clips:

Clip #5: DMM to MFSL to DMM: End DMM-MFSL-DMM-cr.aif

Clip #6: DMM to MFSL to DMM: Every DMM-MFSL-DMM.wav

Lots of great choices, then:  Original D LPs, original N LPs, and several 1980s reissue LPs, all in the good-to-great range (IMO).

How about CDs? Here’s a clip that starts with the best-sounding of the official CDs (the 1998 UK boxed set CD) and transitions into the 1984 DMM LP: BlameClipUK98-DMM.wav  That CD may be a little tipped up on top, but overall, it’s clean and clear, with no fake reverb.  Not bad.

If you’d like to track down a copy of the DMM LP from 1984, here’s how to differentiate it from the more common -- and also excellent -- UK non-DMM version:

Such a great album!  Get yourself one of the good-to-great editions and just enjoy the music.

--Matt Lutthans

September 19, 2014

Update, October 24, 2014:

I’ve been trying to force myself to love the sound of the DMM as much as I like the sound of the MFSL LP, and I can’t quite seem to do it, so I’m standing by my opinion that the best sounding version is the MFSL LP, but the best-sounding version without the dropouts is the DMM LP, and I’ll leave it at that.

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