Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. To start things back up after a short break, we’re taking a look at a recent release from London’s respected Gearbox Records.
Although jazz-rockers Butcher Brown hail from Richmond, Virginia, their latest effort is loud and proud about its London basis. There’re no points for successfully concluding where ‘The Camden Session’ was recorded (live to disc, no less) and, with one of the album’s four compositions again named after the area, it’s clear that the city played something of an influence on the record. Having said that, the group’s taut grooves and assured, confident playing bring to mind a raft of influences, almost all of which are American. The, at times, frenetic jazz-fusion of Frank Zappa’s mid ’70s lineups come to mind on opening cut ‘Flat’, whilst the subtly swaying groove of ‘Camden Square’ nods towards the understated rhythms often found on Herbie Hancock’s output. These reference points are all well and good, but it’s credit to Butcher Brown that they’re able to play with their own voices throughout ‘The Camden Session’. The band have their own way of doing things and no one player stands out from the crowd here, the group instead opting for a more democratic kind of jazz where everyone gets a chance to shine. It’s a fleeting set at only half an hour, but quality is certainly accentuated over quantity here, as both musicianship and recording quality is excellent throughout.
London label Gearbox Records have gained something of a reputation for high quality, bespoke sonics on their releases. As mentioned before, ‘The Camden Session’ was cut straight to disc through various pieces of high quality equipment, and this definitely shows in the rich, detailed soundscape produced. Large portions of the album are quiet and, as such, a clean pressing is even more important than usual. Pressed by Optimal Media, our copy is thankfully every bit as quiet as you would want on an album like this and certainly ranks amongst the best pressings that we’ve heard from this, at times, patchy factory. The noise floor is minimal and sound is very clean across both sides. We didn’t pick up on a single pop or click and noticed only a few rare and minimal background crackles every now and then – certainly nothing to distract from the great sonics on this release. The disc isn’t perfectly flat, but finding a modern LP which is can often feel like winning the lottery and tracking is not affected in the slightest. This pressing gives plenty of headroom for the overall sound, allowing the instruments to breathe and results in what we have no hesitation in calling one of the best sounding new albums of 2018. It’s an excellent pressing, then, and one which we would have no trouble recommending to the curious.
Packaging and presentation on ‘The Camden Session’ is simple but effective. The cover is a standard quality non-gatefold design, printed on mid-weight cardstock with an average width spine. Although not remarkable in terms of build, it is very solid and we have no complaints; there’s a pleasing and rather uncommon matte finish to the sleeve and print quality and colours are really nice throughout. If we were to nitpick, we would say that we’d have liked to see the barcode on a sticker rather than printed directly onto the sleeve but this is far from a major issue. Rather than being shrinkwrapped, the sleeve is sealed in a resealable plastic sleeve – which is likely to prove popular with those who argue that shrinkwrap can damage the sleeve if left on permanently. The LP can be found inside a high quality polylined inner sleeve, which is a big bonus and always earns extra marks from us.
‘The Camden Session’ is an excellent title from an interesting jazz-fusion group, and this Gearbox vinyl release is equally solid. It’s a great pressing with top sound and the presentation – though not extravagant – does certainly tick many of our preferred boxes. Those who appreciate their jazz with more than a dash of rock and funk will surely find a lot to enjoy here.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!