Intervention Records/A&M Records IR-030/B0027737-01
When I reviewed the Hybrid SACD reissue of Joe Jackson’s Body and Soul, I closed with the hope that Intervention Records would soon release the album on vinyl. Sixteen months later, I’ve gotten my wish. The Intervention vinyl reissue is, like the SACD, sourced from the original digital PCM files. Once again, Kevin Gray handled the mastering, and he cut the vinyl at 45 rpm for a two-disc, four-sided release.
Jackson recorded Body and Soul in Vanguard Records’ studio at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple in New York City, using a 3M 32-track digital recording system. The original 1984 release was mastered by Bernie Grundman as a standard 33⅓ rpm single LP. A sticker on the plastic outer wrapper of the Intervention reissue explains that it was “cut ‘wide open’ at 45 rpm with no added compression for maximum dynamics and fidelity.” Since the album is spread over four sides, at roughly ten minutes a side, the grooves are wider. The result is better stylus tracking, and at 45 rpm there is more speed stability as the stylus reaches the inner groove.
I started by playing the original LP in order to hear how it compared to the new pressing. I was immediately reminded that it has long been one of my favorites, sonically, and I wondered how Gray could improve upon it. But as soon as Gary Burke’s drums rang out on “The Verdict,” the album’s lead-off track, I could hear that they sounded bigger—fuller and more pronounced—on the new reissue. I could hear the attack on Graham Maby’s bass more clearly, and it was easier to follow the nuances of his playing. Burke’s kick drum was even more commanding, and his drums echoed firmly in the lively recording space.
I had expected this new LP and the SACD to be sonically similar, since Gray mastered them both. And the SACD was, as I noted in my earlier review, more revealing in some ways than the original LP. This new reissue had a significant edge over both. As well as that bottom-end slam—more even than on the SACD—other instrumental details were revealed more fully. The chiming effect on Ed Roynesdal’s keyboards had even more shimmer, and Jackson’s piano sounded bigger and more resonant.
Switching from the SACD to the new LP, I got a much stronger sensation of Jackson being in my listening room singing “The Verdict.” His voice was more holographic and immediate throughout the new LP than on the earlier pressing or the SACD. On “Cha Cha Loco,” the claves and güiro had more body and character, and the singers on the backing vocals were better separated. The reverb around Tony Aiello’s sax solo was more discernable and effective on the new pressing.
Maby’s bass popped on all three versions of “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want),” but it had truly impressive low-frequency power that anchored the track on Gray’s vinyl remaster. Burke’s snare drum during the intro and the break in the middle of the song echoed more robustly against the walls and ceiling of the Masonic Temple, and I got a much better feel for Vinnie Zummo’s picking technique and pacing during his guitar solo.
As much as I’ve enjoyed my original pressing all these years, I found myself marveling at the new things I was hearing in this reissue. Jackson’s piano notes on “Loisaida” were more sustained, and the overtones that followed added immensely to the melodic development of the song. It was easier for me to hear and appreciate the subtle phrasing of Aiello’s saxophone and Michael Morreale’s trumpet.
“Heart of Ice” begins with Burke tapping on the hi-hat, and the song becomes more intense and layered as instruments enter to build the arrangement. Aiello’s flute called out with more authority; when Morreale joined him on trumpet, each instrument was clearly presented, and I could hear the natural reverb of the recording space. The development and resolution of the song were even more satisfying on this pressing than on the SACD or original LP.
RTI pressed the two-LP set, and it meets the Camarillo, California, company’s high standards for silent backgrounds, flatness, and finish. The cover features tipped-on, laminated artwork on heavy-stock cardboard. The deluxe packaging gives the album the first-class touch it deserves.
Although I also own Joe Jackson’s Body and Soul on CD, Intervention’s SACD is the digital version I prefer. I have fond memories of my nearly 40-year-old copy of the LP, and when I compared it to this latest reissue, I still found myself enjoying it. However, the new vinyl pressing of Body and Soul is more dynamic, involving, and immersive, and will be the version I turn to when I want to hear this outstanding album.
. . . Joseph Taylor