Factory Records FAC XXV-FAC 25-1980/81
Original UK Pressung 1980, Original GER Pressung 1981, Reissues 2007, 2020
In Mint Magazine No. 34 of February 2020, Frank Wonneberg takes on Joy Division’s first album “Unknown Pleasures” in his usual professional manner. In this wonderful essay, Frank distils, to my great surprise, the German first edition as the measure of all things. Among other things, he speaks of a “maximum of atmosphere, of details and sharpness of location”. I am immediately alarmed.
A look in my record cupboard reveals a black hole in the German Joy Division pressings. Apparently, decades ago the German edition was replaced by an original English “Porky Prime Cut”. Well, I immediately rectified this shortcoming and got myself the German first edition (no longer quite so inexpensive in near mint condition). My listening test yields the following result: The UK pressing sounds dry and crisp, as I expect from a British pressing, but a little tight. The German pressing, on the other hand, sounds airy, sparkling and rich in detail.
This immediately brings to mind the second album by the band Closer. How do the Closer pressings sound in comparison? A search in the record cupboard reveals an English third pressing and the two reissues from 2007 (UK and US pressings, the true nerd must have both). And….what luck, in my flea market box there is still a German edition and…even more luck….the German first pressing. The cover has a small tear, but the vinyl is in top condition. The immediately scheduled listening test results in a direct hit. The German Closer first edition sounds just as charmingly good as the German first edition of Unknown Pleasures. The comparison with the English third pressing is not only unfair, it sounds like it. The English edition goes down mercilessly. So, in order to do it justice, the English first pressing is needed.
The endeavour does not turn out to be so easy. The Closer first edition was produced in three different pressing plants, always by the same father but by different sons on different machines. These differences can be seen in the texture of the label and partly also in the texture of the LP material. “Translucent red” proves to be a holy grail, at least in terms of price. To find out the press-measure of all things here, I would have to (expensively) purchase the three pressings. I will therefore limit myself to the pressing from the Tranco pressing plant. A deep reach into my wallet will one day allow this British first edition of the Closer (in “translucent” red vinyl, of course) to make its debut on my turntable. And what can I say…. The result is similar to the comparison of the British and German editions of Unknown Pleasures. However, I like a song like Passover rather dry and a song like Heart And Soul rather brilliant. Therefore my conclusion: you have to have both pressings!
It should be noted that the US and UK reissues from 2007 are worth listening to. The sound is rich, almost a little fat. Obviously, low frequencies were added in the lower range, it was slightly compressed and it was mixed a bit more in the middle.
The current reissue from 2020 on colourless, transparent vinyl is said to have been remastered by Bernard Albrecht himself. The recording actually sounds pleasantly fresh and airy without having lost the rich sound. It’s really fun to listen to this recording.