Revinylization #32: Analogue Productions’ UHQR Are You Experienced LP
Those of you old enough to have heard it when it was new will recall when you first experienced the music of Jimi Hendrix. I was 13, in 1967, when I came home after school with a friend bearing an LP of the just-released US Reprise Records pressing of Are You Experienced. My dad had a floorstanding, monophonic record player. He’d built some of the parts of himself. Somehow, we got the output from that player plugged into my Vox guitar amplifier, the kind the Beatles used on their US tours. My parents weren’t home, and we cranked that thing up as loud as it would go. I don’t even recall which friend I was with, but boy do I recall that sound! I’ve heard the album many times since then, but it has always paled by comparison.
Fast-forward. We are well past the Golden Anniversary of the first release of Are You Experienced, a cornerstone, era-defining album with a tangled history of formats and editions. Now, in 2022, from Chad Kassem’s Analogue Productions, we have a no-expense-spared, Ultra High Quality Record (UHQR), 200gm, 33 1/3 stereo LP, remastered by Bernie Grundman, with “remastering supervision by Janie Hendrix and John McDermott for Experience Hendrix, LLC,” pressed on Clarity Vinyl on a manual Finebilt press at Quality Record Pressings.
This Are You Experienced is luxe, as in all the AP UHQRs. Each record comes in a deluxe hardcover slipcase with a new, 20-page booklet, a certificate signed by Kassem, and a copy of the LP in a numbered gatefold cover. Mine is No.001382 out of a pressing of 20,000. That’s a lot of copies for an audiophile reissue.
The initial British LP release, May 1967 from Track Records, was mono. Reprise Records RS 6261, released in August 1967, was remixed, in stereo, by Eddie Kramer. The sources for mixing were the four-track session tapes, recorded in three London studios over a five-month period. When Kramer came onboard, he began recording Mitch Mitchell’s drums in stereo, using a third track for bass, with rhythm guitar parts on a fourth. These four tracks were “premixed” over to two tracks on a second four-track machine, leaving tracks 3 and 4 open for lead guitar and vocals. Extensive redos and overdubs were done during the 5-month recording period. There’s a lot of documentation out there about the sessions; particularly telling are the noise complaints the recording studios received. The music sounds loud because it was loud. Limiting and compression would have been required.
The first thing on the minds of audiophiles into vinyl reissues is, what was the source? Kassem’s point-blank answer: “Bernie Grundman remastered from the original master tape for this edition.” Okay then.
Analogue Productions and a few other vinyl-oriented labels are indeed pursuing sonic excellence with their reissues. Done right, this requires attention to every facet of the audio and physical-media production chain. My new copy of Are You Experienced is immaculately flata fully flat profile is one of the virtues of the Clarity Vinyl processand visually transparent, with a well-centered spindle hole. Surface noise is almost nonexistent, contributing to outstanding detail and texture. Those black backgrounds viscerally enhance the huge dynamic range of this recording and the resulting impact.
I did a three-way vinyl comparison: my original Reprise stereo copy from 1967, the 2010 stereo version remastered by Eddie Kramer, and this new UHQR issue. The tracks on Are You Experienced vary in the amount and depth of bass due to choices made during recording and mixing. On this new UHQR LP, when the low end is there, it’s just beautifulas at the beginning of “The Wind Cries Mary.” Another big winner is the sound and definition of Mitch Mitchell’s drums; his jazzy attack on “Third Stone from the Sun” is a shining example. When Jimi leans in, as he does on “Foxy Lady,” it doesn’t just sound like he’s bending a string; it sounds like he’s tying his guitar into knots.
Are You Experienced is the fifth release in the UHQR series; to date, three out of five are from Hendrix. The only other one I own is the much-praised Kind of Blue. I’m all in for praising that, too: I have never heard that album sound so good. So it is now with Are You Experienced.
You want a good seat at that show? A good bottle of wine with dinner? It will cost you, and so will this record ($125). Is it worth it? For me, absolutely. On the system I have now, with this pressing, I can experience at least a heavy echo of the energy I felt when I first encountered the album all those years ago.
We all have regrets. One of mine is not having heard Jimi perform live when I had the opportunity. On his last tour, in 1970, he played the Berkeley Community Theater, better known to me back then as my high school auditorium. I could have gotten on my bicycle and pedaled there that night. Jimi was playing great, and Mitch Mitchell was back playing drums where he belonged.
By the time we graduated, in 1971, Jimi had passed. Seniors were given a T-shirt with his picture on it. The caption read, “The Soulful Class of 1971.”
For me, it’s not a matter of liking or not liking this music. It’s in my blood, part of who I am.
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