People are ruing missing out on Glastonbury tickets again, there is talk of a super deluxe edition of George Michael’s vinyl grail ‘Older’ finally making an appearance and social media is full of photos of the first car boot digging hauls of the year. It must be spring! As the record shops start to receive boxes and boxes of limited titles ahead of vinyl Christmas on April 23rd, they would appreciate your help in making some space in the racks. If you need a little steer as regards figuring out which items to liberate, read on.

Freshly Pressed

Acid Jazz’s recent very fine run of form continues with a thoroughly absorbing labour of love from two legendary reggae producers, Nick Manesseh and David Hill, trading as Soul Revivers. Its striking monochrome cover image should ensnare plenty of casual purchasers, using a Charlie Phillips photo from a late 1970s Notting Hill Carnival which shows Lepke – founder of the Dread Broadcasting Company – setting up his sound system alongside the Westway. Situating this new music in an era from which a number of its guest stars hail is a nice touch and the whole album is alive with musical collaboration.

Ernest Ranglin’s distinctive guitar playing elevates ‘No More Drama’ and ‘Harder’, while Ken Boothe provides vocals on ‘Tell Me Why’. The highlights are many, with Earl 16’s performance on ‘Got To Live’ a slow-burning delight, revisiting a song upon which he worked in the decade captured on the record’s cover. Alongside the legends are stars of the current scene: KOKOROKO’s Ms Maurice guests on ‘Look No Further’ and ‘Down River’ with poised, lyrical trumpet playing, while Alexia Coley provides vocals on ‘Gone Are The Days’ and ‘Futile Cause’.

This infectious, absorbing project is obviously great from the off, but over a few plays it becomes clear that this is something truly special. Across two standard weight discs pressed at GZ, it sounds fantastic. There’s barely a hint of surface noise and the soundstage is very well marshalled, keeping the shape of the bass while affording it the necessary heft. Don’t miss out on this remarkable set.

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Caught in the current climate of digital version first, vinyl later supply chain chaos, ‘Motown – A Symphony Of Soul’ finally makes its 12inch appearance. Providing a melding of aspects of some of the label’s greatest tunes with new arrangements from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it is hard to resist the temptation, ahem, to give it a listen. It’s rather easier once it’s finished.

If you’ve ever wondered whether Marvin Gaye needed additional orchestral bombast behind him for aspects of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ then the answer is no. Indeed, it’s one of a number of tracks where the arrangements aren’t deviating massively from what we know and love. The overloaded propulsion of Motown production is a big part of why those remarkable songs endure and it is lost once those layers are altered. Somehow, much of the record sounds a bit thin. It’s peculiar.

It’s still pretty good – ‘The Tears Of A Clown’, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, ‘My Girl’, ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ and the like are untouchable tunes – but it’s really very hard to escape the question of why? There are a few concessions to modernity, with Mica Paris adding vocals alongside Jimmy Ruffin on ‘What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted’ and Beverley Knight accompanying Marv on ‘Abraham, Martin & John’, but all it did for Just Played was send us back to the racks for the originals. On a Pallas pressing that had only minimal surface noise, playback was good but production remained disappointingly thin.

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I don’t know about you, dear reader, but it struck me around the time of Metronomy’s last release, 2019’s ‘Metronomy Forever’, that they had become one of those bands whose records I routinely purchased but which then seemed to blur into one on the shelf as I browsed past them for ‘The English Riviera’. Now this may be a product of my limited imagination but, whatever the logic of my lazy approach, this sense has abated with their latest outing, ‘Small World’.

The production on this one is lovely, warm but precise from the off. The percussive giddy-up of ‘Things Will Be Fine’ is one of life’s pure pleasures and that somewhat languid confidence is all over these nine songs. Housed in an attractive gatefold with sharp typography, it feels more streamlined and expertly constructed than its slightly flabby predecessor. This column listened to the clear edition of the vinyl pressing, which has been cut by Matt Colton at Metropolis and manufactured through MPO. It is a delight, with near silent playback and a satisfying presentation of the wide soundstage deployed on tracks like ‘It’s Good To Be Back’. Recommended.

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Earlier this year, ‘Brightside’ by The Lumineers crept into the world. Produced by the always fabulous Simone Felice, this effusive folk has been sympathetically rendered for vinyl via a pretty much silent Optimal pressing that extends far out above the speakers. The organ sound is particularly noticeable, defined and insistent as in live performance. ‘A.M. Radio’ is a neat route in, while ‘Where We Are’ might offer some raggedy, rhythmic hope in dark times. A sturdy gatefold does what it can with fairly simplistic artwork but this is all about a decent cut that lets the music hold your focus.

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There are those who think that Band Of Horses’ second studio album, 2007’s Sub Pop release ‘Cease To Begin’, is something of a low-key masterpiece and that their subsequent signing to Columbia marked a slight dilution of their appeal. Ben Bridwell’s distinctive vocals remained a force with which to be reckoned, but the music seemed a little bigger and a little smoother. After a quick diversion via Universal for 2016’s ‘Why Are You OK?’ they have found a new home with the always-recruiting BMG.

‘Things Are Great’ is pretty musically uplifting despite its blatantly sarcastic title and it recaptures much of that early magic. The keening chorus of ‘Tragedy Of The Commons’ is beautiful and the positioning of the acoustic guitar sound across the majority of the record is much more present than on those major label albums. The typography for the titles on the sleeve aside, which looks like a temporary option awaiting a decision next to their distinctive logo, it’s a striking cover.

Pressed at Microforum in Canada, Just Played listened to the translucent rust coloured edition. A few patches of light surface noise were present but didn’t overwhelm the music and the mastering is solid if unspectacular. Lower-mids are pretty well defined, but the highs feel quite congested. Still, it’s lovely to hear them in such fine songwriting form.

In momentous news, Komparrison’s ‘You Say She’s Satisfied’ EP became the first title to be manufactured at Middlesbrough’s much vaunted new vinyl pressing plant, Press On Vinyl. Naturally, your columnist felt we should all be along for the ride and pre-ordered a copy some months ago. The vibrant pink disc sits pretty flat on the turntable and plays with only a little light surface noise on Side B, most noticeable during the quieter track ‘Dancing With Demons’, which has a bit of a Lorde feel to it. The other three tracks are indie-rock of varying tempos, with excellent opener ‘And Again’ managing to be a strident statement of intent while also starting with a curious echo of Hanson’s ‘Mmmbop’. It’s a fine release and a promising first effort from a plant looking to help smaller labels to do runs in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

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All Kinds Of Blue

There are no prizes for anticipating the sound of Grant Green’s ‘The Latin Bit’, given its direct title. However, you might like to know just how remarkable the sound quality is for the new Tone Poet edition. As ever, Kevin Gray has worked his magic with the tapes and delivered a cut that is staggeringly three-dimensional. You would think that regular listeners might get used to these RTI-pressed all analogue releases being sensational but, given the varying quality standards and mastering approaches taken for almost all other records, they still stand out dramatically whenever the stylus hits the groove.

The percussion is vibrant and seductive, offering a little sensory tickle with its precision. Green’s guitar playing is full-bodied and nimble, evoking the image of his fingers on the strings. Bass reverberates but doesn’t dominate. Not that you might need that much persuading, but ‘Besame Mucho’ offers a fine demonstration of this pressing’s majesty. As ever, the sturdy gatefold offers some session photography and the main image of a between-performance Green is stunning. They’re not cheap, but the Tone Poets continue to deliver.

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Sticking around the £20 mark is the Blue Note Classics series, which continued this month with Bud Powell’s ‘Time Waits’ and Milt Jackson’s ‘Milt Jackson With The Thelonious Monk Quintet’. The former is a 1958 release that possesses an infectious energy, assisted by Sam Jones’ magnificent bass playing. Its distinctive cover is crisply rendered, with the original sleevenotes on the reverse, as ever. Powell’s pace on ‘John’s Abbey’ is a joy and Kevin Gray – who also cuts these all-analogue Classics titles – has captured it splendidly.

Both are pressed at Optimal and housed in poly-lined inner sleeves. It’s another month without any notable non-fill issues and these discs let the music stand centre stage. The Milt Jackson title features further blistering performances, although the 1955 recording is a little thinner than on the Powell set. The presence of his vibes is a little recessed and it doesn’t feel quite as punchy as a mono recording can sometimes be. This is fairly low-level nit-picking, however, as playback is quiet and the top end is open without being shrill. The talent involved is unquestionable and these performances are well worth seeking out.

Snap, Crackle and Pop

Sea Girls recently rode the crest of a variant wave to land in the Album Chart Top 3 with their second outing, ‘Homesick’. Sounding a little like Keane paying tribute to The Killers without the limited emotional heft of either band, they appear to have found the insipid anthem niche. Rather overblown production is applied to songs that feature some of the worst lyrics you’ll have encountered in some time.

As much as that might sound like hyperbole, allow me to present exhibit A: “She’s older now, she’s really fit. She’ll always be the last girls you kissed,” from opener ‘Hometown’. Exhibit B comes from ‘Sick’: “I’m sick of your friends, they’re all fucking boring. I’m sick of myself. I’m sick of The Beatles.” Sorry, but I had to share. One more? Oh, go on then. From ‘Sleeping With You’, “Though I’m sleeping with you, I never forget her, never forget her. All your drugs are in my room, but I never forget her, never forget her.” Be honest, you quite fancy listening to it now, don’t you?

Well, if you choose to, I wouldn’t take a risk on the standard vinyl pressing that Just Played sampled. Made at GZ and housed in one of their perilous shiny paper inners, it arrived with the white lines of doom – paper and glue detritus – and a cluster of mini-scratches which added some notable pops to proceedings. On the plus side, that noise offered a few moments of distraction.

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Going Round Again

Every so often, Universal gets a taste for doing its sizeable folk catalogue justice. Some readers may recall the all-analogue Optimal-pressed delights of a quartet of Island classics, including John Martyn, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny and Richard & Linda Thompson, from 2014 that were must buys. On occasion since, some RSD titles have taken the same approach while many have been far more standard fare with a little skimping on the production and manufacture. There has seemed no particular rhyme or reason to it all.

For a new reissue of Richard Thompson’s excellently titled rarities set ‘(guitar, vocal)’, archivist and reissue maestro Andrew Batt has overseen the remaster. The spot-varnish gatefold offers a pleasurably tactile first impression and the cut from Optimal – though digital – delivers. Vocals feel fully three-dimensional and musical nuances float before you. Mixing work from Fairport, his collaborations with Linda and some solo material, it’s a fine set.

Sandy Denny’s presence on three tracks on the first side is inevitably hypnotic while the longer pieces which occupy the majority of the second disc, ‘Night Comes In’ and ‘Calvary Cross’, are fully immersive. With barely a hint of surface noise across the four sides and a sense that these jewels are there and waiting to be reissued, it makes the desire for a folk equivalent of the current Blue Note reissues all the more profound. It’s hard to imagine there not being a very keen audience wanting plenty more of this sort of thing.

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The uncharitable might suggest that Blink 182’s ‘Greatest Hits’ could be released on a 7”, despite a double LP set bearing that name emerging this month. The 2005 release has made it to vinyl on a few previous occasions, but this latest gatefold edition on standard black discs is no slouch. Mastering is surprisingly good for music from the height of the loudness wars and ‘All The Small Things’ will still put a smile on your slightly reluctant face.

Manufactured in the Czech Republic at GZ, it benefited from a clean to remove some minor sleeve detritus but it then played back with only a little light noise from low-level clicks here and there. It has to be said that the artwork is more than a little lazy, seeming to tile pages from the original CD booklet across the inside of the gatefold. However, if what you’re after is a solid pressing that allows you to blast out ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and ‘Adam’s Song’ at considerable volume then this will do the trick.

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For the majority of this column’s lifespan so far, it has been tracking the comprehensive and superlative PJ Harvey reissue programme. Aiming to replicate each original album with a thoroughly satisfying eye for detail, while offering up accompanying demo records where possible, it is the gold standard for how to do this sort of thing. Crucially, the team behind them ensured that sound quality was treated as seriously as finding the right weight for the cardboard of each outer sleeve. Posters, alternative artwork and liner notes are lovely, but sonically impressive black vinyl is sadly less common than it should be. Not here though, and Just Played is only too happy to recommend the whole lot to you.

However, it is ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ which brings this whole shebang to its conclusion. Thankfully, the slightly too floppy gatefold sleeve of the 2016 edition has been fortified and, crucially, this is an Optimal pressing that lacks the bonus surface noise of the GZ original. Coming after ‘Let England Shake’, its somewhat raucous edges were less of a surprise than when its predecessor cut loose.

It was recorded before audiences as part of an art installation in Somerset House and not entirely warmly received in Washington DC after quoting a description of a school in Ward 7 as “a shit-hole.” ‘Near The Memorials To Vietnam And Lincoln’ is curiously catchy for a track with so unwieldy a title and melody abounds, despite much critique of American foreign policy and reflections on global responsibilities. Its demos are an engaging bonus listen, though not quite as revelatory as with the preceding album. You’ll want to make sure your cartridge is carefully aligned and anti-skate perfectly set to avoid a little inner-groove distortion on these complex tracks, but this series bows out having never slipped from the quality with which it launched. A rare pleasure.

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Demon Records is firmly ensconced in the second wave of Britpop for this month’s Nineties dust-offs. First up, come the two albums from the initial lifespan of London four-piece 3 Colours Red, who come on like an edgier Feeder, if you can imagine that. A Creation band, they had decent record sleeves and were a consistent presence in the weekly inkies at the time. Their catalogue hasn’t especially grown in value over time, so this pair of reissues is more for the casual fan than the desperate completest.

The original digital masters of both ‘Pure’ and ‘Revolt’ sound very tinny, no doubt in line with the times but rather exposed in the current era. For these red pressings, done through Takt and featuring only mild surface noise, bottom end has been restored but, perhaps, excessively and it feels a little bloated. This then restricts the clarity of the vocals a touch, but remains preferable to the discouragingly thin alternative. ‘Beautiful Day’ remains a belter and ‘Sixty Mile Smile’ is a potent burst of nostalgia for those longing for a more optimistic age.

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But that’s not all. Demon have also been digging in the Heavenly Recordings vaults. The lighter side of the Britpop landscape was awash with Northern Uproars. NME whipping boys from the off, it’s interesting to reflect on the rapid transformation from the straightforward, unvarnished bunch-of-mates-in-the-garage feel of the self-titled debut to the almost focus-grouped Shine compilation DNA of its follow up, ‘Yesterday Tomorrow Today’. Such a comparison is now much easier thanks to clear vinyl reissues of them both, again pressed through Takt.

The percussive intro of 1997 single ‘A Girl I Once Knew’ was pretty much straight from the first chapter of the jolly indie handbook of the time. It is still rather pleasant, regardless of its by-numbers endeavour. The presence of James Dean Bradfield on production for elements of the debut and Mike Hedges on parts of the follow up, along with enduring member of the MSP family Dave Eringa on main duties, suggests a certain thrall to one of Wales’ finest bands. However, these songs are musically much more like an amalgam of Dodgy, melodic Oasis and the slew of tunes that kept the Evening Session in cider and peanuts once the big guns had got bored.

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When the first four of Broadcast’s studio albums and 1997’s compilation ‘Work And Not Work’ were reissued in 2015, there was much rejoicing as those essential but increasingly hard to find titles were restored to the racks as high-quality, affordable cuts. Capturing the shifting sound of the band in the era prior to the tragically young passing of lead singer Trish Keenan in 2011, they initiated new fans and delighted the faithful in equal measure.

As well as ensuring fresh stock of those editions is available again, Warp have dusted off a selection of curios from the band’s history for a further trio of catalogue delights. A double album of BBC Sessions is accompanied by a number of previously CD-only tour releases. ‘Microtronics: Stereo Recorded Music For Links And Bridges’ 1 and 2, from 2003 and 2005 respectively, take a side each of an LP. Leaning into the library music strand of their sound, it’s a diverting and often endearing whistle-stop tour through melodic bursts and burbling noodles that are free of the need to develop any further than the original idea. An absorbing option for those a little tired of neo-classical as their palette cleanser.

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The ‘Maida Vale Sessions’ 2LP set captures four different visits to the Beeb, three for Peel and one for the Evening Session. Each has its own side, ranging from late 1996 to the imperious ‘Ha-Ha Sound’ era of 2003. The previously unreleased ‘Forget Every Time’ and a faintly unhinged cover of Nico’s ‘Sixty/Forty’ are the gems here, although the performances are universally excellent. Frustratingly, the first side is particularly sibilant and no amount of tinkering with settings could do much to tame it.  

That said, there are no other sonic complaints across all eight sides of these Calyx cut and Optimal pressed editions, the highlight of which being the EP ‘Mother Is The Milky Way’. A patchwork of demos and scratchy interludes, it was originally released to accompany their 2009 tour and is beguilingly multi-faceted. From the song titles in – ‘Elegant Elephant’, ‘The Aphid Sleeps’ and ‘Never Trust A Rusty Bolt’ – it’s clear that this is entirely on their terms and crafted in the knowledge that it was intended for the keeners who would invest in it their time. The term psychedelic-drone-folk might not fully do it justice, but it should whet your appetite sufficiently. With beautifully rendered artwork and aforementioned silent vinyl, not to mention free lossless downloads, these have been done with love.

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After 2021’s superb ‘Coral Island’ comes a deluxe reissue of The Coral’s self-titled debut. Marking its twentieth anniversary, this double vinyl set is fully remastered and expanded to included the contemporary b-sides, pre-album EP ‘The Oldest Path’ and several excellent and previously unreleased nuggets: ‘She’s The Girl For Me’ and ‘Tumble Graves’. A booklet of original artwork and lyrics is a pleasant addition, although some enlightening sleeve notes would have been ideal.

The new master sounds excellent, comparing very favourably to the Music On Vinyl pressing from 2011which used the original plates. Cut at SST and pressed at Pallas, one might expect this release to be free from issues. This was certainly true of the red vinyl Dinked edition that your columnist purchased, but reports have been received of issues with the standard black edition and also the indies’ white variant. Good copies definitely exist, although the considerable range of versions probably hasn’t helped in the search. There are even two different picture discs, one featuring aspects of the artwork and the other deploying a zoetrope effect.

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A further pair of Precious Recordings of London 2×7” BBC Session sets emerged in March, this time presenting the late-Nineties endeavours of Hefner. Peel and Lamacq get one release each, delivered in the now-familiar colour-coded gatefold sleeves with fresh notes and arty postcards. A degree of GZ roulette comes into play here as one disc this column played was rather noisy but the others played with barely a light click anywhere.

Darren Hayman pens two fine mini-essays, explaining how the band’s relationships formed and marking the importance of meeting BBC producer Miti Adhikari on the day of the July 1998 Lamacq session: he would subsequently produce three of their albums.

Hayman’s clear love of Peel and reflections upon a willingness to provide exclusive songs for those legendary programmes make for a hugely endearing read. Three originals and a cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone’ capture Hefner as they were finding form, a vibrant snapshot that reminds you of the importance of this series of archive presentations. More, please!

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At The Front Of The Racks

As the days lengthen and we head towards summer, you’ll be listening to a number of Teenage Fanclub albums, right? ‘Grand Prix’ and ‘Songs From Northern Britain’ are both near perfect in their tone and execution, elevating the listener’s mood within seconds of the stylus hitting the groove. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more of that, perhaps with a sprinkling of prime Prefab Sprout too? Well, if you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing the music of The Pearlfishers before, Marina Records have made the experience all the more tempting with three beautiful gatefold vinyl releases.

1999’s ‘The Young Picnickers’, 2001’s ‘Across The Milky Way’ and 2007’s ‘Up With The Larks’ are all making their much-anticipated debut on the format but, be warned, there are only 750 copies of each title so caution is absolutely not advised. Such uncharacteristically reckless instruction on your columnist’s part should have conveyed already that these are excellent releases, all pressed at Optimal and cut at Calyx. In need of an open but nuanced soundstage so as to capture the human warmth at the heart of these majestic songs, these editions do the music justice and then some.

Each set spreads the original album across the first three sides and adds a fourth of bonus tracks. The artwork has been lovingly rendered for the larger format and the traditional care seen on all Marina Records projects radiates from these records. From the sugar-high delirium of early corker ‘We’re Gonna Save The Summer’ to the more measured delights of ‘London’s In Love’ from the latest of this trio of albums, the tunes are intoxicating. Given their relative scarcity, and their splendidly coordinated spines, this might well be the most effective aural bang for your buck released this month.

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All of the titles reviewed above were cleaned before playback using the ultrasonic record cleaning machine, Degritter. A full review of its capabilities can be found in a previous column and you can find local dealers at www.degritter.com

Words: Gareth James (For more vinyl reviews and turntable shots, follow @JustPlayed on Twitter)

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Sheffield's Leadmill venue is set to close in 12 months.

The venue is a hub of the city's music scene, boasting countless truly seminal gigs over the years.

A key aspect of Sheffield's creative communities, its importance ranks amongst the best venues in the whole country.

A cruel blow, with Leadmill confirming that they will be forced to shut their doors in a year's time.

Sadly, it seems Leadmill's time is coming to an end. In a short message, shocked staff explained that "our landlord is evicting us and forcing us to close."

The venue launched in 1980, transforming an abandoned warehouse into one of Sheffield's true cultural landmarks.

The news has caused instant uproar online, with fans using #WeCantLoseLeadmill to express their disapproval.