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 get our funk on with a great slice of cult ’70s disco from experimentalist Yan Tregger.
Of all the musical trends of the ’70s, few are more famous (and, at times, divisive) than that of disco. For all those late ’70s hits which dominated the charts, however, the existence of far less famous and often more experimental examples of the style have passed-by all but the most diligent of collectors. French artiste Yan Tregger crafted a string of such albums during the ’70s, releasing his debut LP in ’72 before shifting towards the nascent sounds of the dance floor by the end of that decade. His 1978 LP ‘Catchy’ has been a niche but sought-after release for quite some time now, and mint copies have been known to sell for in excess of £300. Giving the album a whirl, it’s clear why it has gained the kind of hungry fan base that it can lay claim to. There’s an undeniable sense of groove here, with tempos balanced just-so to allow maximum dance floor potential. Rather being straight disco record a-la the poppier hits of the time, ‘Catchy’ is struck through with a strong element of pure, straight-ahead funk (see the pristinely tight rhythm guitars of ‘This Time’) and even a dose suave soul-strut, such as on the coolly confident groove of the string-heavy ‘Slow Zoom’. It’s beguiling stuff, played with the effortless ease of experienced library musicians and composed with an almost retro-futurist aesthetic. Such a unique mood allows ‘Catchy’ to be both a charming product of its time and also an album strikingly fresh to contemporary ears, and therein lies much of its appeal.
Considering the wallet-obliterating price tag of the original pressing (not to mention its 40 year vintage), it should come as no surprise that we’re looking at a reissue of the album for this Vinyl Corner. Hastings’ BBE Records are the ones to pick up the gauntlet of rereleasing ‘Catchy’ (alongside its 1979 follow-up ‘Ducks And Drakes’ – more on that tomorrow), and this is a reissue of typically sterling execution. Germany’s Pallas pressing plant ranks amongst the best in the world in terms of consistently high quality output, and it is they who’ve handled the manufacturing of this reissue. As involvement of such high pedigree names would suggest, sound is simply excellent throughout. The noise floor is really subtle on this pressing and even the run-ins boast clean sound, with only a subtle background whoosh completely drowned-out by the music. In terms of general surface noise, the situation is similarly commendable. Playback is almost entirely free of any sort of unwanted noise and only in a few infrequent spots did we pick up on any background crackle. Even when we did, it was minor enough to not distract from the music itself – and infrequent, to boot. Our copy is also entirely free of pops, clicks or other such instances of overt unwanted noise, and sound is generally really tidy. The unfussy professionalism with which so much library music was recorded and engineered means that many such albums as this still sound great, even by modern standards (if anything, it’s not unusual for these vintage records to eclipse the quality of those made today). As such, it’s not altogether surprising that the fidelity and sonics on this reissue are top-notch. Drums walk a fine-line between analogue crunch and clarity; they boast the punch and depth of vintage, valve-recorded sound whilst maintaining striking definition. The same can be said for the effects-laden lead guitar work and the expertly performed bass and keys, leading to a sonically impressive soundscape which doesn’t feel polished to point of losing its innate soul, but does benefit from a good sprucing-up nonetheless.
Packaging and presentation is well executed on this reissue. The sleeve takes shape as a chunky gatefold, featuring high quality replication of the original album art on both the front and back covers. In addition there are brand-new liner notes and rare images on the inner gatefold spread. Image quality is impressive throughout – the vibrant, dramatic reds of the artwork look great here and print quality is sharp and defined, as well. The spine looks excellent, with bold, colourful text that makes the album an easy one to locate on a packed shelf. One minor issue is the lack of a polylined inner sleeve – the one included here is plain paper – however that can easily be replaced, so there’s no real harm there. The labels are presented with a similarly slick art direction, which goes a good way towards reproducing those of the original pressing. While details such as label names and copyright dates are understandably altered, the broad art direction is much the same and certainly gives modern audiences a chance to own something not at all unlike the original pressing.
Yan Tregger’s ‘Catchy’ is a highly intriguing disco-funk LP likely to be of great interest to both enthusiasts of such music and also collectors of the ever-elusive phenomenon that is library music. This BBE Records reissue is really high quality and an excellent opportunity to secure the album without breaking the bank. Sound is great throughout, and the presentation similarly leaves little to be desired.
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!