Gounod: Faust Ballet Music
Bizet: Carmen Suite
Alexander Gibson, conductor
Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden
Pressing: US, Classic Records 33 rpm 180g reissue
Date first published:
Price range: $34-320 (mean $117) on popsike.com (stats include both 33 and 45 rpm reissues)
Comments: I am going to start by quoting Jonathan Valin's text, because his words very eloquently detail the sonic substance of this recording in its original shaded dog pressing:
"Widely regarded as one of the great RCA's, JB feels this celebrated disc is not as good as LSC 2225. Whether it's the equal of Witches' Brew or not -- and I guess ultimately I agree with JB -- this is still a fine recording. What does it sound like? Well, imagine a richer, more neutral sounding Walthamstow recording, then add a deep ground swell bass to what is already pretty tight low end and lightening strike dynamics and you may get the idea. No, this record does not have the full gold of Kingsway Hall; as a result strings are a bit drier and less voluptuous than I've heard them sound on other Deccas. On the other hand this disc does not have the often boomy bass of Kingsway. In fact it is slightly leaner, and (thankfully) clearer and deeper than your often boomy Kingsway strum. Transparency is superb. Ditto on imaging (which is very 3-dimensional). High end extension is simply outstanding - as good as the Facade, which is pretty damn good. A large cymbal is struck toward the beginning of the Funeral March of a Marionette, and I swear to you you can actually hear the flex of the metal as the ringing redounds across the instrument's surface. This is a remarkably realistic effect that I have ever heard on any other RCA -- in fact, I've never heard it this clearly on any other record. *But what sets this fine record apart in my mind is not the high end or the bass extension (which is deep), it is the incredible dynamic surge of the tuttis, where for once you almost feel as if you're getting the full weight of a symphony orchestra in your living room. I own no other RCA that exceeds this disc in this one quality. #6 on CBK's Top RCA list. (Contrary to CBK's assertion that there is just one pressing of this disc -- a 1s/1s -- I have a 6s side two)." Grading: 10++/NR/Very good to excellent.
While I have not had the pleasure or privilege of hearing the original (this is a call out to you, Meles and ejeden, who have both owned or still own this album, to comment and share insight), I'd like to think that the Classic Records 33rpm 180g reissue takes me pretty close to the aural bliss of this audiophile legend. This has long been considered one of the rarest, if not THE rarest, Living Stereo release, and as you can see from above, it also boasts one of the most impressive sound profiles of any classical recording. The reissue is dynamic as hell (no pun or allusion to the cover intended) with expansive soundstaging, extended highs and lows, and amazing imaging. What the reissue may also improve on the original is its sound/noise floor. The vinyl on this pressing is dead quiet, enabling a wealth of detail to emerge from a black background. I imagine that the original shaded dog must have a least some degree of low-level hiss, but I could be wrong. It's too bad that this is out of print, though used, near mint copies show up pretty frequently on E-bay. I'm curious to hear if anyone has heard the 4 LP, 45 rpm Classic Records reissue. The plum VICS reissue, which I used to own, is also pretty impressive.