Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones can sound quite excellent. Or, if you’re unlucky enough to listen to the wrong vinyl edition, also very bad.
Which versions of Beggars Banquet are being compared?
The Japan pressing dates from 1988. The release is part of the Japanese Rock Nice Price series, as the OBI, the apron above the cover, already reveals. In Japan there is a price fixing for records. Instead of the usual 2,500 yen, Beggars Banquet cost only 1,800 yen here. In this series you will also find most of the other Stones albums that were released before 1988.
We compare with a 2018 Anniversary Edition that hit stores 30 years later than the japanese pressing for the 50th anniversary of Beggars Banquet’s initial release. The remastering was done by Bob Ludwig, Sean Magee cut the laquer.
Some background on Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
After the psychedelic previous album Their Satanic Majesties Request had left the band and their fans with mixed feelings, the Stones returned to their roots in electric blues with Beggars Banquet. And coinciding with the start of recording in February 1968, the era of collaboration with producer Jimmy Miller began. At the same time, it was the last album in which Brian Jones participated. A real upheaval began. Together with Miller, some of the most popular albums of the Rolling Stones were created in the next years until 1973.
Beggars Banquet not only contained two big hits with Sympathy For The Devil and Street Fighting Man, which were subsequently played at almost every concert. Deep cuts like Parachute Woman, Salt Of The Earth or Prodigal Son pass the test of time extremely well.
How are the records equipped?
The Japanese comes in the usual gatefold cover with OBI and a four-page insert. In it you will find the lyrics in English and Japanese as well as references to the 25th anniversary of Stones, which was celebrated in 1988.
The Anniversary Edition comes with two covers: the original Toilet cover is in a slipcase, which shows the “defused” cream-colored cover. In addition to the album, there is a 12″ disc with a mono version of Sympathy For The Devil on one side and an unrecorded second side with the Toilet cover etched into it. A flexi-disc with an interview with Mick Jagger from 1968 completes this nice package.
How does the sound of both pressings of Beggars Banquet compare?
Immediately noticeable is that the Japanese version is especially loud. Much louder than the Anniversary Edition. Mick Jagger’s voice in Sympathy For The Devil thus gets a cutting undertone. At the same time, the rattles clang much too far in the foreground. The Anniversary Edition sounds warmer and more balanced. The voice is integrated into the band sound and doesn’t float above things.
The second thing that stands out is that the Japanese pressing is tuned about a quarter tone lower. The reason: When mastering the Anniversary Edition, the master tape ran a bit faster. A trick often used in the 1960s to give recordings that little extra drive. We had already noticed the same thing with Help! by the Beatles. On Beggars Banquet the tempo differences of side 1 add up to 49 seconds, side 2 still runs 28 seconds longer in the Japanese version. This corresponds to a pitch correction of about +4% (side 1) and +2% (side 2). All songs are equally affected by this. It’s quite possible that the preferred tempo was set and noted down by producer Jimmy Miller during mastering. Anyway. Facts are, the Japanese master editor did not touch the pitch control.
Further weaknesses of the Japanese pressing are revealed when the level is adjusted. The sound image only consists of mids and trebles – basses can only be guessed at. The Anniversary Edition, on the other hand, has a defined and deeper fundamental sound, which is good for all songs. Street Fighting Man gets more pressure, Factory Girl or Stray Cat Blues get a much needed foundation.
The most serious flaw, however, is the absence of dynamics. The overall loudness of the 88 results in a loss of musicality and detail. Salt Of The Earth exhibits plenty of nuance on the Anniversary Edition: The strums of the acoustic guitar, the phrasings in the vocals of Keith and Mick. The track builds and plays with loud and soft. On the Japan pressing, everything is kind of equally loud. This is not a fun way to listen.
How do the level and frequency response of the both pressings differ?
The waveform diagram for Sympathy For The Devil underlines the listening impression. The Japanese Beggars Banquet not only has a much higher level, it also doesn’t allow any dynamics. Shortly after the intro, the level peaks reach the limiter’s stop and also hold this level until the end.
In contrast, the Anniversary Edition builds slowly and still picks up a bit by the end. That’s how the Stones played it. That’s how we want to hear it.
Due to the higher overall level of the japanese pressing, the individual frequency ranges are also louder here, which can be read from the orange areas, for example. A closer look at the frequency spectrogram for Sympathy For The Devil confirms the listening impression here as well: In the upper diagram, everything happens in the mids. Below about 100 Hz there is mostly silence. The Anniversary Edition has a lot of low end below 100 Hz.
The waveform chart for Salt Of The Earth again shows the lack of dynamics of the Japan pressing and the strength of the Anniversary Edition. In the first quarter of the song, the average level of the 2018 edition is about half as high as in the last quarter. Musically, this is intentional – the track ramps up. The Japan pressing keeps the level the same from start to finish.
Which pressing of Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet is better?
The prejudice of many collectors about Japanese pressings is: no bass, too many mids and highs. Here it is completely true. The lack of dynamics has an aggravating effect. Probably the 1988 edition is based on an early CD master file, where the sound engineers wanted to achieve maximum loudness above all. In the car radio, the music thus asserts itself better against the ambient noise.
But if you listen to music on a good hifi-system instead, you will be rewarded by the Anniversary Edition with sufficient bass, timbres and dynamics in abundance. There are two sides to the truth: The Japanese pressing does not sound good. On the other hand, the Anniversary Edition convinces all along the line with audiophile quality. This remaster of the Rolling Stones is exemplarily successful.
- Sympathy For The Devil
- No Expectations
- Dear Doctor
- Parachute Woman
- Jig-Saw Puzzle
- Street Fighting Man
- Prodigal Son
- 25th Stray Cat Blues
- Factory Girl
- Salt Of The Earth
|Label||London Records||London Records|
|Catalogue number||L18P 1808||00018771851615|
|Revolutions/minute||33 1/3||33 1/3|
|Cover||Gatefold||Gatefold in slipcase|
|Add-ons||OBI, Insert||Single sided 12″ with Sympathy For The Devil in Mono, Flexi Disc|
|Cut by||Not specified||Sean Magee|
|Pressing plant||Not specified||GZ Media|
|Matrix-Runout||L20P-1019A A-1- 1 1 1 L20P-1019B A-1- 1 1 1||7185171-A 175517E1/A 7185171-B 175517E2/A|
|Country of manufacture||Japan||Czech Republic/USA|