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. Today, we’re rounding up our series on the recent Janis Ian reissues, which we’ve focused on for the past few weeks, with a look at her 1979 effort ‘Night Rains’.
1979’s ‘Night Rains’ marks something of a change of approach for Janis Ian. Broadly speaking, the five or so preceding albums all carried on in much the same vein. At its best, Ian’s work was effective and immediate during the period, painting a vivid image through sharp lyricism. Even so, the cumulative impact of the moods and ideas being dissected over multiple years worth of albums was somewhat dulled by repetition. If not a 180 degree turnabout, then ‘Night Rains’ does at least find Ian tackling familiar topics from a new – and oftentimes more powerful – angle. Musically the album is mostly upbeat and the hints of disco which inflected 1977’s ‘Miracle Row’ are more overt and fully formed here. Though the familiar topic of heartbreak does appear on the album, Ian’s lyricism feels more focused and refreshed than on her previous couple of outings, and the smartly arranged backing does a lot to make this one of the most enjoyable albums in Ian’s discography.
Those who’ve seen our previous four Janis Ian Vinyl Corner features will know that we’ve been mostly impressed with the quality of the pressings on these 2018 Sony/Legacy reissues, a few minor issues notwithstanding. Fortunately, not only does the quality of our copy of ‘Night Rains’ continue the trend, it actually betters it. With a nigh-on-silent noise floor and a clean soundscape mostly free of even quiet surface noise, this reissue of ‘Night Rains’ really impresses. As with the other reissues, the wax is pressed by GZ Media, a company whose output varies from excellent to acceptable from case-to-case. It’s not altogether surprising that the band-based songs sound excellent – they’re loud enough that surface noise would have to be unusually loud to cut through the music. On the piano-based ballads, however, we were half expecting some noise to come through. Luckily, even these moments remain impressively quiet. We picked up on a touch of faint static and noise here and there but nothing loud or intrusive. Sonically it sounds really nice and the slightly overbearing bass on some of the other reissues in the series is not an issue here, making it perhaps the best sounding release of the lot.
Packaging and presentation is on par with the other Ian reissues we’ve looked at. It’s certainly more than acceptable and the lyric inner sleeve is a welcome inclusion. The cover is decent quality and fairly well made – card is a touch on the thin side but not to the point of feeling overly delicate and it’s entirely functional. Print quality is a touch blurred if we’re being critical (though the back cover text is sharp as a pin) but that’s not really an issue as far as we’re concerned. An easily redeemable download code is also included, which is always a welcome bonus.
‘Night Rains’ is one of the stronger albums we’ve looked at from Janis Ian and this reissue suits that well, as the pressing is also perhaps the cleanest of the lot. It sounds great throughout and offers an easy, high-quality alternative to hunting down a comparatively clean original.