It takes something uniquely special to inspire–and my lack of posting recently reflects an acute lack of inspiration on my part.
Well, today, I arrived home to something special. So it’s time for another post.
I can’t think of a record I’ve been anticipating with as much excitement since it was announced as Universal’s all-analogue, deluxe master tape box replica set of Nick Drake’s 1972 masterpiece Pink Moon.
Fans of Nick Drake have long bemoaned the lack of a proper, all-analogue re-issue of his records. The sparse, ethereal, intimacy of Pink Moon is particularly deserving of a pressing from the original analogue tapes.
But, for the last few decades, any re-issues of Drake’s records on vinyl have been digitally sourced (including the Simply Vinyl and Universal “Back to Black” versions of Pink Moon I own).
Unfortunately, as representatives of Drake’s estate and Universal (who own the rights to the Drake catalogue) have consistently maintained, the now 40-year old master tapes are not in any condition to be used regularly to cut lacquers for vinyl without a degradation of the tapes.
Hence fans being stuck with buying digitally-sourced re-issues or hunting down original pressings costing hundreds of dollars if they wanted the record on vinyl.
Until 2012, that is. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Pink Moon, Universal tasked John Wood (who originally engineered all three of Drake’s studio albums) to oversee a re-master using the original analogue tapes. The mastering took place at Abbey Road in July 2012 and the record was pressed to vinyl at Optimal Studios in Germany.
The box set itself is exquisite. The outer master tape box replicates a worn version of the cover of the record.
On the underside of the front of the box you get a replica of the recording details.
There is also a replica print of the analogue tape.
On the backside of the tape is the release, mastering, and pressing details as well as instructions on how to retrieve digital downloads of all three Nick Drake records in FLAC or mp3 (digitally remastered in high res audio at 24/96).
The box also contains a large poster.
Another cool piece of memorabilia is Nick Drake’s own handwritten lyrics for the first four tracks.
The record is inside a high-quality gatefold jacket.
The 180-gram vinyl is pressed flat and deadly quiet. Listening to this record as it was meant to be heard is an enthralling experience. If I close my eyes, I could swear Nick is sitting in the room with me. Every note of every chord is acutely present. The soundstage is full, both deep and wide. The sound quality is, simply, fantastic.
I have to say, I can’t recall many other occasions when I’ve been as pleased with a re-issue as this. The last one that left me similarly awestruck is the Omnivore replica test pressing box set for Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers. All other things being equal, this is exactly how re-issues should be done.
Indeed, it should please audiophiles and Nick Drake fans alike. The box contains many wonderful pieces (e.g., the poster, the lyrics, the mastering sheet), the record is cut all-analogue and sounds amazing, the pressing is pristine, and there is even a hi-res digital download should you ever want to listen with the convenience of computer audio.
Apparently this deluxe set is only available in limited quantities. And it does cost anywhere from $40-60 CDN, depending on where you can find it. But, trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.