Over the years, Mobile Fidelity has cemented itself as one of the leaders in the audiophile re-issue realm. From deluxe 45rpm box set affairs to more bare-bones remasters, the label has been known to go the extra mile to make every album sound its best. Two of their recent reissues have arrived at Second Disc HQ: the extravagant 45rpm One-Step remaster of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and the slimmed-down remaster of J. Geils Band's The Morning After. Both titles are sure to please that audiophile on your gift-giving list!
Admittedly, when MoFi announced their limited edition, 2-LP Ultradisc One-Step 45rpm remaster of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, there was some discussion about whether the world needed another go at the landmark album. Since its 1975 release, the album has been consistently reissued and remastered. Just how much better could it possibly sound? On the other hand, if there were ever an album worthy of an opulent, deluxe presentation that promised the best possible fidelity, it'd be this one.
So what makes MoFi's Ultradisc One-Step process different from other audiophile processes? First of all, the series uses a special Super Vinyl formula developed by RTI and Neotech that promises reduced noise floor and more sonic definition that results in an experience "indistinguishable from the original lacquer." And while traditional record pressing methods use a multi-step process involving a lacquer of the source material, two generations of converts, and finally the stamper used to press the record, MoFi's One-Step process starts with a lacquer, and just one convert that is used to press the vinyl. The company's press material asserts that by taking out the extra steps in the process, the resulting disc will have better sound quality.
Then there's the remastering. Krieg Wunderlich, MoFi's trusted mastering engineer, has gone above and beyond with this title. Comparing to a mid-'90s LP pressing and a 1975 U.S. original, the sound on MoFi's is a night-and-day difference. From the opening of "Tangled Up in Blue," the layers of guitars feel more spacious, the drums more articulate, and the bass more defined, with Bob's voice floating above. Dylan's performances, whether onstage or in the studio, have always been about subtleties. On "Simple Twist of Fate" and "You're A Big Girl Now," every melodic twist and turn, every nuance in his phrasing, and every impassioned holler rings out perfectly. No clicks or pops to interrupt the proceedings, just an enveloping music experience that allows every detail to be unveiled.
The highlight of the second side is, of course, "Idiot Wind." The almost claustrophobic sound of the original is its trademark and while the UD1S retains all the fury, aspects of the instrumentation rise above. Wunderlich's remastering also elevates the album's other epic, "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts," and provides more punch on "Meet Me in the Morning," with more detail in the drums and more spaciousness in the guitar overdubs. The closing trio of tracks - "If You See Say Hello," "Shelter from the Storm," and "Buckets of Rain" - have rarely sounded as passionate and raw as they do here. The mandolin, organ, and guitars on "Say Hello" are given their own space in the soundstage, with Dylan's perfect vocal more upfront and chilling. "Shelter" gains immediacy while the mournful bluesy "Buckets of Rain" feels even more desolate than before.
The songs on Blood on the Tracks are among the most beloved in Dylan's discography. Fans know every sound by heart, written on our souls indeed. Though they don't necessarily sound bad on the other LP pressings, these songs are given the lift on MoFi's UD1S pressing that we didn't know they needed. The result is so much more immersive and enjoyable, truly the ultimate sonic presentation of this masterpiece of an album.
Where the pricey set loses a couple points is in presentation. It's an extravagant package, no doubt. The two LPs are housed in separate jackets and placed in MoFi inner sleeves, alongside a print of the album artwork, all in a sturdy box with gold foil details and embossing. However, the two LP sleeves inside had some noticeable marks, likely from rubbing against each other during shipment. While this is a minor flaw, considering the premium price MoFi is asking for the UD1S box set (a steep $125), it's worth pointing out any possible disappointment. Perhaps a thin divider could be slid between the discs for future titles. Presentation issues aside, MoFi's UD1S pressing of Blood on the Tracks is a pure joy sonically. The label has done everything right in presenting the best-sounding version possible. Even if you already own a copy (or two, or three) of Dylan's masterpiece, your ears will thank you for investing in MoFi's latest version. Somehow, there are still copies available, so secure yours soon!
While the company's Ultradisc One-Step series has been in the news a lot lately, MoFi has also released a number of comparatively bare-bones remasters. One of the label's latest was their take on J. Geils Band's The Morning After. The 1971 album presents the band at their early, blues-rocking best; it's a perfect party soundtrack, a far cry from their sleek pop hits of the next decade. For their reissue, MoFi has pressed up 3,000 numbered copies on 180-gram vinyl made with their Gain 2 Ultra Analog cutting system that utilizes a custom Studer tape machine, precisely crafted amplifiers, and a refurbished Neumann VMS-70 lathe to make the half-speed mastered LP. You might wonder if a lo-fi bar band recording needs this treatment, but what isn't up for debate is the quality of the result. While Second Disc HQ didn't have any other copies to compare to, MoFi's remaster (helmed again by Krieg Wunderlich) is massively crankable, dynamic and detailed, raw and riveting, and just plain fun. Presentation-wise, the original artwork has been reproduced on sturdy board with a glossy finish, giving Stephen Paley's original photos a polished look to match the sonics within. Whether the audiophile on your list is a longtime fan of The Morning After or a new recruit to J. Geils Band's original sound, MoFi's affordable reissue is sure to please.
So place those orders and grab the wrapping paper because MoFi's remasters are a sure-fire gift that will keep giving this season and beyond. You can find full track listings and order links for Blood on the Tracks and The Morning After below!
- Tangled Up in Blue
- Simple Twist of Fate
- You're a Big Girl Now
- Idiot Wind
- You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
- Meet Me in the Morning
- Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- If You See Her, Say Hello
- Shelter from the Storm
- Buckets of Rain
- I Don't Need You No More
- Whammer Jammer
- So Sharp
- The Usual Place
- Gotta Have Your Love
- Looking for a Love
- Gonna Find Me a New Love
- Cry One More Time
- Floyd's Hotel
- It Ain't What You Do (It's How You Do It)