A Knight in SHM Armor – Paul McCartney on SHM-CD

 

What on earth are SHM-CD’s?

Well, that’s a good question.

SHM-CD stands for Super High Material Compact Disc and was developed in Japan by Universal Music Japan and are made of a higher quality material that supposedly enhances the sound quality of the compact disc format.

Another CD format, seriously?

Well if you’re reading this blog you know I how I feel about physical media and fortunately for collectors Japan still has a healthy appetite for physical media such as compact discs and vinyl – thank goodness.

Now hear’s the rub – these discs are only available as Japanese imports in the States and are limited in quantity, expensive and are sometimes a pain to track down.

(Note: Thank goodness I’ve never let reason get in my way or this blog would be completely blank right now.)

While quite a few audiophiles and music aficionados think that SHM-CD’s are just snake oil and they sound exactly the same as any standard pressing of the CD (as long as it’s not a new mastering) I beg to differ … go figure.

Also SHM-CDs are usually packaged with the collector in mind (anyone in the room raising their hands but me!) and are immaculately packaged and often are released in what’s called a Mini-Lp style.

Mini-Lp style CD’s mimic the way the original vinyl issue of the disc looked right down to replicas of all inner sleeves and posters that came with that first vinyl release (I love miniature replicas!)

And of course as a true blue collector (hoarder?) I have indulged in quite a few SHM-CD pressings and unlike most of my fellow music enthusiasts, it seems, I’ve found them to be uniformly excellent in the sound department.

Now it may just be Jedi mind tricks or some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy or delusion (did  I really pay that much for these?) but on my system at least I can hear a difference when playing these discs.

Okay, I can see quite a few eyes rolling but I swear I do.

The biggest difference that stands out right away to me is the bass.

The bass seems to be more solid, more fluid or more present. I don’t know how else to say it. The bass on these discs just thunders along and seems to jump out of the speakers more vividly than on the regular US pressings I own of this same material.

Okay, it’s not a night or day difference but it is there.

The other thing I notice about these SHM-CDs is that the stereo separation seems to be more distinct and the background vocals also seem to leap out a bit more.

Again, not a night and day difference but it’s as if the slight distortion on some of this music has been lifted or smoothed out and the clarity has been amplified just every so slightly. At least that’s what I tell myself.

If nothing else these discs sure are purdy to look at!

I have included a gallery of ten Paul McCartney Archive Collection CDs I own that have been released in the SHM-CD format in Japan.

Five of the discs I own are 2 CD versions that came out when McCartney was with the Concord label and five are 2017 Mini-Lp CD versions that just came out this past December.

(Note 2: I just have to say that the mastering on these McCartney Archive releases is uniformly excellent and should be checked out whether you can locate SHM-CD versions or not.)

I’ve really enjoyed playing these discs and as I’ve said I find them to be better sounding than their US counterparts but again while not a night and day difference they do sound sweet.

Above are some photos of the discs for those who have never seen them.

I’m just glad I haven’t caved and bought one of the Super Deluxe monster Paul McCartney Archive SHM-CD sets that have been released in Japan!

At least not yet anyway. If I do I’ll be sure to post it here so folks can get a glimpse before they cart me away to the funny farm!

So until our next therapy session, enjoy and RAM ON! (so to speak)

 

 

 

 

 

Cinco Vision – Through the Looking Glass … Instant Replay times five

Seeing multiples you say?

Well, you’re certainly not having double vision.

Cinco vision perhaps?

Maybe you’re just experiencing an “Instant Replay”. That’s it, that’s the ticket!

Today here in my own personal vinyl land we’re celebrating The Monkees first platter released as a trio. Yes, for all you Monkee fans who dropped out after their fifth album, there is no Peter Tork on the cover of this album for a reason – he left!

In February 1969, The Monkees, now a trio, released their last Top Forty album (until 1986’s “Then and Now – The Best of The Monkees”) called appropriately enough “Instant Replay”.

Not only does this album contain some of my favorite Monkee music but hands down this is my favorite Monkees album cover. I love the bright multi-colored shots on the sleeve and have stared at it incessantly for over forty years now.

Anyway, as time has gone on this has also turned out to be one of my most played and most enjoyed albums by any group. Yes, and that includes many of the albums put out by many of the more respected groups of the era.

BUT at the time it came out, I had quite a different reaction.  I thought it was a bit … strange.

Of course I was only four years old (there is actual home movie footage of me getting this album as a gift for my fourth birthday in 1970 – seriously!) and I was used to the more happy/poppy sound of “More of the Monkees” which I had played to death even by this young age.

It was quite a leap from “I’m a Believer” from the “More” album to Micky Dolenz’ epic five minute ode to his cat “Shorty Blackwell” or the pure country of Mike Nesmith’s “Don’t Wait for Me.”

Not to mention the tough rocking “You and I” written by Davy Jones that dealt with the fleeting fickleness of fame (“In a year or maybe two, we’ll be gone and someone new will take our place, they’ll be another song, another voice, another pretty face”) as well as Dolenz other pop confection the minimalist “Just a Game”.

Of course there were also a slew of delectable pop nuggets such as the “Last Train to Clarksville” recycled cousin “Teardrop City” as well as “Through the Looking Glass”, “A Man Without a Dream” and “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her”; it’s just that all the pop songs now took on a much sadder and mature tone then on earlier Monkees records.

As an adult I absolutely LOVE this more mature (some say downer) feel of this material but at the time it came out I was puzzled by it.

What’s interesting is that a lot of these tunes were leftovers from earlier Monkees recording sessions as far back as 1966. These older recordings were mixed with newer songs that Dolenz, Nesmith and Jones had written and surprisingly they work well together and make a very nice collection.

They feel as if they belong together even if they were probably more haphazardly selected to fill out an album.

So, I thought today I would share five different pressings of “Instant Replay” that I own from around the world – three US pressings (from 1969, 1985 and 2012) and two 1969 mono pressings, one from the UK and one from Brazil.

(Note: I love foreign pressings of Monkees albums especially when they’re reworked a bit like the cover from Brazil.)

I know these two mono pressings are just fold-down mixes (not true mono but stereo folded down to make mono) but they are a fun listen nonetheless.

“While I Cry” in mono from the UK just sounds so different in this mono version and the Brazil mono version of “Shorty Blackwell” is truncated, missing the dramatic instrumental opening on all other versions.

All of these pressings of “Instant Replay” sound really nice and there’s just something special about hearing the clicks and pops of the vinyl as that’s the way I grew up listening to this record and it does bring back sweet memories!

As usual there’s a photo collection above of all this groovy vinyl. Take a look and if you’ve never seen the one from Brazil I absolutely love how this one looks and I’ve rarely seen photos of it online.

Enjoy and until next time – Monkee on!