Vinyl Reports: Tales From The Used Bin!

(Vinyl Reports is an AnalogPlanet feature aiming to create a definitive guide to vinyl LPs. Here, we talk about sound quality, LP packaging, music, and the overarching vinyl experience.)

Real-life used record shopping is as joyful as it is potentially frustrating. These days, I mostly find used record bins of previous decades’ detritus; however, a recent browse through Asheville’s Harvest Records yielded luck. Following are reviews of three of those finds, plus one used LP ordered on Discogs.

Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

Sire Records SRK 6093 LP (1st pressing)

Produced by: Brian Eno and David Byrne
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound

Music: 7
Sound: 8

Before Talking Heads’ Brian Eno-produced 1980 classic Remain In Light, Eno and David Byrne recorded the atmospheric My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, an experimental rock LP incorporating plunderphonics elements. However, sample clearance issues delayed its release until early 1981, several months after Remain In Light’s release. A trial run for that album’s textural subtleties, the structurally loose My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts finds Eno and Byrne folding samples of radio evangelists, Lebanese singers, and political talk shows into occasionally embellished, hypnotic loops. It’s singularly surreal, but at times redundant and artsy to a fault; it’s more about ideas than actual songs, and as such meanders a bit. Still, it’s a worthy listen that remains relevant today, and despite the initially lukewarm critical response it probably sounded stunningly fresh at the time (though Jon Hassell previously explored similar ideas in a more ambient fashion).

I have the original 1981 US Sire pressing (including the later-removed “Qu’ran”), mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. While it’s a bit compressed, it’s appropriately immersive with excellent black backgrounds. It also has Peter Saville’s original artwork, which the 2009 expanded 2LP reissue lacks; for that alone, I’d recommend seeking out this not terribly expensive original pressing.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart

Factory Records FAC 23-12B 12” (A4/B4 matrices)

Produced by: Martin Hannett
Engineered by: Chris Nagle, Jon Caffery, and Martin Hannett at Strawberry Studios
Mixed by: Uncredited (Martin Hannett?)
Mastered by: N/A

Music: 8
Sound: 7

Joy Division’s iconic 1980 single “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” released the month after frontman Ian Curtis’ suicide at 23, needs little introduction so I’ll jump to the point. For $4 in VG condition, I couldn’t turn down this UK Factory 12”, a circa-1984 pressing with A4/B4 matrices and no mastering credits. Having not heard the more expensive George Peckham-mastered original 12”, the A4/B4 pressing sounds decent “enough.” This 45rpm single lacks midrange weight and has seemingly softened transients, as if it’s cut from a “tired” tape or a second generation copy; however, it still has air and clarity. The B-side featuring “These Days” plus the earlier Pennine Studios version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” is more compressed and dull than the shorter A-side, but thankfully that’s not the main attraction. I also haven’t heard the recent digitally-sourced reissue mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road, though I’d guess it’s similar to this pressing and worse than the original.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Dazzle Ships

Virgin/CBS/Epic BFE 38543 LP (US pressing)

Produced by: Rhett Davies and OMD
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: Uncredited personnel (OMD?) at The Manor Studio
Mastered by: Arun Chakraverty at The Master Room (tape mastering?), uncredited Masterdisk engineer (US vinyl)

Music: 8
Sound: 8

Two years after their blockbuster 1981 LP Architecture & Morality, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark released Dazzle Ships, a dark and experimental work about the Cold War. The world didn’t rapturously respond—critics initially panned Dazzle Ships, which saw a 90% decrease from Architecture & Morality’s sales—though many now consider it OMD’s masterpiece. Building upon Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity (an album itself themed around nuclear radiation and radio communications), OMD intersperse conventionally structured songs with musique concrète pieces. Unmistakably synthetic sounds and bleak atmospheres complement dark lyrics about industrialization, societal failure, and communications systems, with Andy McCluskey’s vocal performances theatrically presented but deeply desperate. Layered and manipulated snippets of Eastern Bloc radio stations and Emulator samples further contribute to the record’s cold nature, which to say the very least has aged remarkably well.

I don’t have the original UK pressing or Miles Showell’s recent half-speed remaster to compare, but this 1A/1A Masterdisk-cut CBS/Epic American original Dazzle Ships is cheap (I paid $8 for my clean, VG+ copy) and satisfactory. Percussive attack isn’t as strong as you might want or expect, dynamic shifts aren’t greatly pronounced, and atmospheres aren’t super immersive, though this tonally pleasing pressing is better than the (quite decent) 2008 digital remaster currently streaming. The American foldover jacket doesn’t have the UK original or new reissue’s die-cut gatefold cover, but still includes a printed inner sleeve. I’ll eventually get the other pressings, though this CBS/Epic Masterdisk cut is a good starter copy.

Haruomi Hosono - Hosono House

Light In The Attic/King Records LITA173 limited edition haze/marbled clear colored vinyl LP

Produced by: Haruomi Hosono (original album), Yosuke Kitazawa (reissue)
Engineered by: Kinji Yoshino, Masaki Nomura, and Haruomi Hosono
Mixed by: Kinji Yoshino
Mastered by: Dave Cooley (digital) and Chris Noel (vinyl) at Elysian Masters

Music: 7
Sound: 8

Following Happy End’s dissolution at the end of 1972, bassist/songwriter/producer Haruomi Hosono moved to America Mura in Sayama, Saitama Prefecture. An American-style community built for military families during the post-war occupation of Japan, America Mura was America without the overwhelm, and in the early 70s became a hub for Tokyo creatives needing a cheaper retreat. Shifting from Happy End’s tightly produced city-themed folk rock, Hosono recorded his 1973 solo debut Hosono House in an unused bedroom; engineer Kenji Yoshino captured the core band (guitarist Shigeru Suzuki, keyboardist Masataka Matsutoya, drummer Tatsuo Hayashi, Hiroki Komazawa on steel guitar, and Hosono primarily on bass) using a 16-track Ampex MM1100 tape recorder and a custom-made Sigma mixing console. Hosono House’s country rock isn’t the musical shape-shifter’s most unique work (Hosono later derided it as “virtual American country,” and in 2019 released the electro-lounge revamp Hochono House), but still has its moments: the jazz-folk of “Rock-a-Bye My Baby,” the melancholy-tinged romantic hopefulness of “Boku Wa Chotto,” and the brief slickness of 19-second closer “Ai Ai Gasa.” Despite the record’s stylistic and compositional setbacks, Hosono House’s homemade charm remains unique in Hosono’s discography, and shows him amidst one of many transformations (after this, he released his exotica-flavored “Tropical Trilogy” and led the collective Tin Pan Alley before starting YMO in 1978).

Original Bellwood/King pressings will set you back a few hundred dollars, and later Japanese reissues aren’t cheap either. As part of their 2018 Haruomi Hosono Archival Series, Light In The Attic released Hosono House outside of Japan for the first time. This reissue, digitally remastered by Dave Cooley and cut by Chris Noel at Elysian Masters, has some digital glare but is naturally EQ’d; this never was a traditionally “audiophile” recording anyway. LITA’s reissue comes in a new gatefold jacket (the inner gatefold features a picture of Hosono and company outside the Hosono House, which now seems to be a parking lot), and a 12-page booklet includes a translated profile of Hosono and engineer Yoshino, new liner notes from reissue producer Yosuke Kitazawa, photos, and translated lyrics. My copy is the “haze/marbled clear” LITA online-exclusive vinyl well-pressed at RTI, and the direct-to-board gatefold jacket is sufficiently thick. LITA’s black vinyl edition appears to be awaiting repress, so don’t pay absurd aftermarket prices for it.

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor, music obsessive, avid record collector, and art enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter: @MalachiLui and Instagram: @malachi__lui)

COMMENTS
Static's picture

What can I say about this album. First of all ..like most of the 90s bands that were recording at the time we were using ADAT or something like it..an odd combo of digital and tape. Almost every thing was "perfect" cd quality. What I can say about the recordings I was involved with in the late 80s..1/2 inch tape to 1/4 inch tape= beautiful full sound....then came the 90s and ADAT. Those recordings still have a really nice sound not analog but not modern digital. Why do I talk about this? Well...U2 recorded this album in 90s digital sound...it will always be that way..like most groups of the time..even most oftodays groups upsample from 24/44.1 because -as musicians- most dont think you can hear the difference. I have been listening to AB for the past few days considering the vinyl purchase...why...the mix is perfect on the original disc...its a low res (by todays standards) recording and there are no analog tapes...and no hi res files to cut the vinyl.
Regarding U2 as recording artists.
As a fan since October..all I can say is thank goodness that U2 changed ..there are actually 3 stages involved here.
IMO none are bad and none should be conpared. Its like comparing early beatles to sgt peppers and abbey road...you can try ...but you will never win the argument because its all great.
Thats all...
PS: as a vinyl fanatic who never gave in to the cd sound revolution...I cant see the need to purchase this...IMO.

Static's picture

I have this version in beautiful condition...thanks to SA90 tapes. LOL.
Matrix / Runout (Runout A - Variant 1): FAC 23 A4 Rc
Matrix / Runout (Runout B - Variant 1): FAC 23 B4 Rc
Both sides sound fantastic...and compared to the Substance reissue..they are better and I believe they may be different versions (side 1) Also Love will tear us apart on Substance reissue seems to be different from the version originally on Substance. The version on side 1 of this single is IMO the best version out there..sound wise I may be wrong ...

RinziRadio's picture

A few years ago I cleaned up my original, bought-at-the-time UK pressing of Dazzle Ships and was blown away, both by the album itself (which I hadn't listened to in years) and the sound. Definitely worth seeking out a UK copy. It's so interesting to read your take on records which I grew up with, in particular My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I would rate it higher than you do: at the time it seemed like a whole new adventure in pop music, and along with Peter Gabriel's fourth solo album (Security) and then Paul Simon's Graceland, the influence of world music on the pop mainstream was here to stay. Speaking of Eno, it remains an almost criminal oversight that his late masterpiece, Another Day on Earth, has yet to be released on vinyl.

Michael Fremer's picture
My reaction to M's review was that this is a case where not having been there when it was released doesn't allow him to fully understand both what you wrote it being "a new adventure in pop music" along with that it perfectly captured the ominous zeitgeist of the time when these TV preachers with wholly political agendas were really beginning to gain traction. That record then and now creeps me out. I can't expect a near 16 year old to get that....
MalachiLui's picture

i definitely see why people like 'my life in the bush of ghosts,' it just doesn't click with me as much personally. however, think of it this way: if those TV preachers with dangerous political motives were gaining traction during that time period, my generation has been desensitized to that sort of thing because it continually gets worse, no matter how it manifests itself (televangelists, trump, qanon, it's really all different extents of the same thing). therefore, the album's unsettling nature might feel tame compared to the constant overload of unfortunate information we now receive 24/7.

Anton D's picture

If the album is of its time and its impact is only able to be fully appreciated by people who were there in the moment, then rating it a "7" seems too generous.

I guess we could also say that since some of us old farts were past our prime when Kanye hit the scene, we should shut up and let Malachi decide its proper context and impact for us. ;-D

If you've seen Get Back, your post sounded a bit like Paul talking down to George, my esteemed fellow old fart!

Anton D's picture

At the stroke of midnight on new year's eve, my wife and I play and dance to "Avalon" by Roxy Music, then "Last Night Of The World" by Bruce Cockburn, and then finish the string of three with Eno's "Just Another Day."

I love that album, it may be my most cherished Eno album.

It is number one on my vinyl wish list!

Thank you for triggering me, man!

(The entirety of your post was wonderful, by the way.)

DietChapstick's picture

Arun didn't master the U.S. pressing of Dazzle Ships. He did the UK version and the U.S. label just copied over the credits. I have both pressings and would give a slight nod to the UK version. The UK version also has a nicer die cut gatefold jacket. One of my favorite albums of the 80s...

MalachiLui's picture

though i still put his credit there because it was printed on the inner sleeve. i also wouldn't be surprised if he made a production master that was sent over to the US for masterdisk to use...

Anton D's picture

I am familiar with 3 out of the 4, all worthy collection additions!

Now that you know these records, you'll find their influence all over the place!

hans altena's picture

Well, I won't try to comment on how this revolutionary record now sounds to a young one in these boringly overloaded with bullshit times, I work at school and am scared by the oblivion the youth is exposed to now. Let me tell you how I, already not too young anymore (23), and used to constantly amazing developments in the music of those times, was struck by this masterpiece. Sampling? These guys were at there at the birth of it! And seldom anyone has come close to the impact this scary album had. And soundwise, and in terms of hypnotic songs, I dare anyone to beat this. I try to listen to Kayne, I understand, he's the new thing. Than why does he bore me so? I'd rather pick up some jazz, or things in the vein of Autechre (a band that really crosses borders). But, keep posting boy! Music is relevant and inspiring.

MalachiLui's picture

you're right in that this is an early example of "sampling," though not in the same sense as other early works with sampling (like YMO's 'technodelic' from november 1981).

'my life in the bush of ghosts' is a bit unsettling, though my favorite unsettling album is danny brown's 'atrocity exhibition.' still, that record isn't ominous and unsettling in the same way as 'the bush of ghosts,' though that's my personal taste.

not that the artist formerly known as kanye west has anything to do with any of this, but i can't see how someone could call his work "boring." i can see why people don't like it, but his lyrical craft and production choices/choices of producers is, at the very least, a spectacle designed (and successful at) captivating listeners.

autechre does a lot of interesting stuff... sometimes really great and listenable, sometimes more interesting than actually good imo.

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