I owe it to you to be as transparent as possible with this record review: This album means a great deal to me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I used to work for the late, great Arif Mardin at Atlantic Records (co-producer here, as well as horn and string arranger) and I know how much he enjoyed working on this record because we talked about it. I also know, and won’t get into detail, about his feelings regarding Rhino’s CD re-master of this album years ago. Let’s just say, in my opinion, they should have consulted with at least one then-living original producer (and Mr. Tommy Dowd, Mr. Jerry Wexler, and Arif were all alive when it was released). So when I heard QRP’s pressing for the first time in the Dartzeel/Playback Designs/Wave Kinetics room at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest last year (on the Wave Kinetcis table – wow) I literally ended up in tears. Tears of joy: My wife too! I was so grateful that she was there to experience it with me. It was her first RMAF, and she knew Arif as well. So, needless to say I had to get a copy for review!
Next thing I know I’m on a headphone panel at T.H.E Show Newport this year. As we were getting deeper into the discussion of headphone listening Jonathan Tinn walked into the room (of Playback Designs, Wave Kinetics and Dartzeel – who’s also a dear friend of mine) and plunked down a brand-new, still-sealed copy for me right there on the table! I was speechless, and if you know me well, you know that’s a rarity. All of the sudden I could care less about the panel, I just wanted to get home and drop this record onto my Luxman turntable! We had just bought theUnison Research Simply Phono tube phonostage, so I was psyched to bask in this new listening experience. The Luxman/Unison Research combo sounded so damn good I was like a junkie waiting for a fix. I literally ran through the house to drop the needle on this one. Later, I ended up using the VPI Traveler turntable w/ the Simply Phono. I was in analog heaven.
So, of course the tears flowed again, especially when “Son of a Preacher Man” came on. That song touched my heart in such a deeply rooted way, even though it was thrusted into the forefront of pop culture via Pulp Fiction back in 1994 (when you couldn’t escape it) because I knew how proud Arif was of that particular song. He wrote the horn arrangment! I just melted into my listening chair. Now: If this pressing had been substandard I would have been pretty pissed off, but, to be honest I probably wouldn’t have said anything publicly out of respect for Mr. Dowd, Mr. Wexler and Arif. I just have to admit that, right or wrong. Thankfully, that wasn’t a concern as this pressings sounds fantastic! It’s got a terrific sense of depth, of air in and around Dusty Springfield and the instruments. Harry Pearson calls this “dimensionality”, and there couldn’t be a more perfect word for it. You feel like you’re there, experiencing the Memphis soul sound right in front of you!
The vocals drip with soul, and are as lifelike as any I’ve heard on vinyl. It’s a dual 12″ 45 rpm set, mastered from the original master tape. Hats off to Kevin Gray atCoHEARent Audio. I’d put this level of work up there w/ something Bob Ludwig or Ted Jensen would do. It’s engaging, yet smooth as silk. I think sometimes mastering engineers get so caught up in making everything loud that they can lose the heart of the music. Sometimes the most magical elements, even in popular music, are in the quiet moments, where you get a a true sense of realism. This is what “presence” means to me. I know the word is tossed around far too much in audio reviewing these days. This pressing has that in spades. The sound may be a little laid back, but they managed to accomplish that while making the horns pop, the strings soar, and Springfield’s voice is simply captivating; seductive and gorgeous. I think all three original producers would be proud of Quality Record Pressings and their effort here. If you’re a Dusty Springfield fan and you enjoy the audible bliss that great analog provides, do yourself a favor and grab this up while you can. You won’t regret it.