Commemorating Pearl's 50th anniversary in collaboration with SME/Legacy Recordings, mastered from the original master tapes, cut at 45RPM, pressed on MoFi SuperVinyl at RTI, and limited to 8,000 copies, the iconic audiophile label's UltraDisc One-Step reissue takes Joplin and Co.'s stupendous performance to newly transcendent levels. Boasting reference-setting fidelity that further magnifies the singer's passion and producer Paul A. Rothchild's clear production, this pressing benefits from jaw-dropping spaciousness, presence, fullness, detail, dynamics, and openness. The wider grooves allow more information to reach your ears, and MoFi SuperVinyl means the noise floor is as absolutely low as possible.
Visually, the lavish packaging and gorgeous presentation of the UD1S Pearl befit its select status. Housed in a deluxe box, it features special foil-stamped jackets and faithful-to-the-original graphics that illuminate the splendor of the recording. No expense has been spared. Aurally and visually, this UD1S collectible exists as a curatorial artifact meant to be preserved, touched, and examined. It is made for discerning listeners that prize sound quality and production, and who desire to fully immerse themselves in the art – and everything involved with the album, from the images to the finishes.
Indeed, Joplin's husky, strong, and penetrating singing has never sounded more vibrant or made deeper connections. Warm, organic, and free of any artificial ceilings, this version lets you step into Sunset Sound Recorders with the performers, such is the degree of realism and authenticity. And few, if any words, describe Joplin better than "authentic." Her spirit comes to life on this reissue in sublime fashion. Like its headliner, this pressing leaves it all on the floor.
While Joplin's electrifying vocal prowess is universally lauded – she's deservingly recognized as the greatest white female blues singer the world has ever seen – her mix of compassion, confidence, and charm play as large a role in attracting listeners and keeping them ensnared more than four decades after her tragic death. And on Pearl, she burrows into deeper stylistic veins, teasing out sides of her persona and craft she'd never previously displayed. Her signature desperation, sadness, and vulnerability remain – the harrowing, lonely wail that begins her soul-ravishing take on Jerry Ragovoy's "Cry Baby," underlined with a Wall of Sound-like piano accompaniment, could only come from a person severely scarred by loss and disappointment – yet Joplin also reveals a sense of humor and beatnik innocence that helped propel the album to the top of the charts for nine straight weeks.
Playfully introduced as "a song of great social and political import," the a capella "Mercedes Benz" reflects Joplin's throaty timbre as well as her enhanced, sunnier mood. Similarly, her definitive read of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" signals a laidback demeanor and a move into country strains, with the delivery as natural, carefree, and loving as any in the rock canon. As she does throughout the record, Joplin invests her all in the narrative so that there's no line between the performer and the song. She makes everything on Pearl feel autobiographical, and by extension, gut-wrenchingly honest and devastatingly intimate. Joplin achieved these feats often during her brief career, yet there are differences on Pearl, chiefly among them her balance of impeccable timing and raw emotion. Heart-aching anthems such as "A Woman Left Lonely" offer both grit and control, subtlety and attack, resulting in cathartic releases distinguished with originality, personality, and instinctual passion.
Pearl remains Joplin's finest hour, with credit also owed to the Full Tilt Boogie Band – the only group she ever considered to be her own – as well as the Doors alum that sat behind the boards. Joplin and Rothchild both admitted to sharing a common bond and understanding, with the latter inheriting the role of teacher and Joplin, a willing student ready to discover how she could use her voice in new, more expressive ways. The fruits of the pair's labors fill Pearl, be it the guardedly optimistic "Get It While You Can" or assertive, fleet-footed "Move Over."
Experienced in the new light brought to fore by this definitive Mobile Fidelity UD1S box set, Joplin's swan song is no longer about a masterpiece that its creator never lived to see finished. Rather, it's about a once-in-a-lifetime vocalist realizing mammoth potential and wringing passion out of every note. It's not a tragedy, but a triumph. Get it while you can.
More About Mobile Fidelity UltraDisc One-Step and Why It Is Superior
Instead of utilizing the industry-standard three-step lacquer process, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's new UltraDisc One-Step (UD1S) uses only one step, bypassing two processes of generational loss. While three-step processing is designed for optimum yield and efficiency, UD1S is created for the ultimate in sound quality. Just as Mobile Fidelity pioneered the UHQR (Ultra High-Quality Record) with JVC in the 1980s, UD1S again represents another state-of-the-art advance in the record-manufacturing process. MFSL engineers begin with the original master tapes and meticulously cut a set of lacquers. These lacquers are used to create a very fragile, pristine UD1S stamper called a "convert." Delicate "converts" are then formed into the actual record stampers, producing a final product that literally and figuratively brings you closer to the music. By skipping the additional steps of pulling another positive and an additional negative, as done in the three-step process used in standard pressings, UD1S produces a final LP with the lowest noise floor possible today. The removal of the additional two steps of generational loss in the plating process reveals tremendous amounts of extra musical detail and dynamics, which are otherwise lost due to the standard copying process. The exclusive nature of these very limited pressings guarantees that every UD1S pressing serves as an immaculate replica of the lacquer sourced directly from the original master tape. Every conceivable aspect of vinyl production is optimized to produce the most perfect record album available today.
Developed by NEOTECH and RTI, MoFi SuperVinyl is the most exacting-to-specification vinyl compound ever devised. Analog lovers have never seen (or heard) anything like it. Extraordinarily expensive and extremely painstaking to produce, the special proprietary compound addresses two specific areas of improvement: noise floor reduction and enhanced groove definition. The vinyl composition features a new carbonless dye (hold the disc up to the light and see) and produces the world's quietest surfaces. This high-definition formula also allows for the creation of cleaner grooves that are indistinguishable from the original lacquer. MoFi SuperVinyl provides the closest approximation of what the label's engineers hear in the mastering lab.