Her third album Easter brought Patti Smith her commercial breakthrough. But which first pressing from 1978 sounds better, US or UK? And which is better suited for radio?
A few thoughts on Patti Smith Group – Easter
With Easter, Patti Smith reached a broad radio audience for the first time. After the previous album Radio Ethiopia had flopped, her label Arista desperately wanted a single with hit potential for the third album. Producer Jimmy Iovine asked Bruce Springsteen if he could spare a suitable song. Springsteen was also working on the album Darkness On The Edge Of Town at the Record Plant Studio in New York like Patti Smith and actually had an idea. There was this half-finished title he could imagine for Smith’s voice. The structure and melody were ready, the only thing missing was a lyric. The lyrics – Smith tells us – came to her in one go and the rest is history: Because The Night is still the best-known piece in Patti Smith’s repertoire.
It is easy to forget that the album has other fan favourites on offer, such as Privilege (Set Me Free), Rock’n’Roll Nigger or 25th Floor.
How good are the pressings of Patti Smith – Horses?
In both cases, it is 140g vinyl that has been produced without any discernible defects.
What else stands out about the Patti Smith – Easter pressings from the US and UK?
My US copy was most likely used by radio station WQBK-FM in New York State from March 1978. Who else would handwrite “WQBK-FM: 3-22-78” on the cover? On the back, someone crossed out tracks that they didn’t think were suitable for radio. Elegant pieces like “Ghost Dance” or “Babelogue”, for example, but also the rocking “25th Floor” as opposed to “Rock’n’Roll Nigger”, which surprisingly made it into the radio programme despite of its rather provocative lyrics (“Jimi Hendrix was a n*****, Jesus Christ and Rimbaud too”). And the record has already taken a beating: a corner is missing from the cover, the laminate is largely rubbed off, the vinyl shows more than one visible scratch. And yet it plays like a charm. After all, 42 years, many of them in radio use.
How are the pressings of Patti Smith – Easter equipped?
Both have a laminated cover and were delivered with a four-page insert with lyrics and photos. Whereas – only fragments of the laminate of the US pressing are still where they should be. One is hanging away in shreds.
How good do the US and UK pressings of Patti Smith – Easter sound?
The US all-discs pressing is more compressed and limited than the UK pressing (see screenshot). Producer Jimmy Iovine always placed the utmost importance on his productions punching through in the narrow playback spectrum of a car radio. Seen in this light, the US pressing is entirely in the spirit of its inventor. It is completely optimised for pressure and assertiveness. On a good system, it sounds a bit superficial, details fall by the wayside. But it really pops. The drums, in particular, jump out of the speakers in a lively manner. The quieter passages are a bit louder and more present (good for the car radio), but the effect is a bit less when the band pushes harder again.
The UK pressing seems somewhat quieter in direct comparison, which it is not in reality (see screenshot). On a car radio, this may have been a disadvantage in the 70s. Played on a modern system, the European version offers more dynamics and also a few more details that disappear in the background in the general bustle of the US version. The differences are not very big but still audible.
How do the levels and frequency response of the US and UK pressings differ?
Both versions are very heavily compressed, and many peaks in both pressings end at the “limit” of what the limiter still allows. But for the US pressing, they went even further with the lacquer cut and made even the quieter passages almost as loud as the tracks before and after (see marked area).
The stronger compression of the US pressing also leads to a louder bass range. This can be seen in the larger orange areas in the frequency range below 250 hertz.
Which first pressing of Patti Smith – Easter is the better one?
That is a matter of taste. From an audiophile point of view, the less compressed UK version is to be preferred. Here there are more dynamics and also a few extra details appear. On the other hand, the US pressing is very much to producer Jimmy Iovine’s liking. And the record rocks! Still far away from the “Loudness War” of the 90s, Iovine simply gets out everything he can with his sound ideas. By the way: Speakers’s Corner has released an audiophile version of Patti Smith’s debut album Horses, which we also reviewed here (English version coming soon).
- Till Victory
- Space Monkey
- Because The Night
- Ghost Dance
- Rock’n’Roll Nigger
- Set Me Free
- 25th Floor
|Artist||Patti Smith Group|
|Catalogue number||AB 4171,||SPART 1043|
|Revolutions/minute||33 1/3||33 1/3|
|Cover||Single Sleeve||Single Sleeve|
|Add-ons||Four-page insert||Four-page insert|
|Laquer cut by||Not specified||Not specified|
|Pressing plant||All Discs Records||Not specified|
|Matrix-Runout||AB-4171-SA 1 STERLING 77 AB-4171-SB – ZUG ISLAND – STERLING 77||SPARTV1043 A//1 TO 1 2 1 0 SPARTV1043 B//1 TO 1 2 1 0|
|Country of manufacture||USA||Great Britain|