The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops
Release date: 30 April 1984
Label: Linn Records (UK), A&M (US)
Catalogue No: LKH-1, CS 6-5087
I have always wondered about this. I am sure some of you readers out there would have wondered along with me at some point in time. The question I always had in mind since I bought this album in 1985 was:
Does The Blue Nile album, A Walk Across The Rooftops, sound better on a Linn Sondek LP12 since it was engineered, cut and produced by Linn themselves?
This was Linn Products Limited’s first ever vinyl record and their introduction to the business of being a recording label. According to published sources, Linn’s objective was pretty clear cut; in order to showcase and demo their best products, they need some seriously good recorded material to play with.
Story was an engineer by the name of Calum knew the man himself, Linn founder Ivor Tiefenbrun, and asked him to install some Linn equipment in the studio he was working in. Upon installation, there was a band that goes by the name The Blue Nile were recording there and Ivor was impressed with the demos that he signed them up to his newly established Linn Records label.
The Blue Nile took nine months, not to record the album, but just to reply that they accept Linn’s record deal to start the whole recording process. From the onset, progress was going to be extremely slow and The Blue Nile’s output, how shall I put it, was slightly faster than a sloth trying to outrun an oncoming glacier…
When I bought the LP in 1985, I played it on my Sony PS-T25 direct-drive turntable (bought from a friend for $20). Amplification was through an Akai AA-A35 receiver and the JBL L-150A floor standers. I remembered adjusting the treble slightly as the overall sound was a bit bright.
In 1986, I received a Technics SL-6 linear tracking turntable for my birthday from my then Malay girlfriend (thanks, Maihizan!). Again, using the same receiver and speakers, the sound was bright overall. Again, I adjusted the treble to compensate.
The tracks that I loved pretty much the first time I heard them were ‘Stay’, ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ and ‘Heatwave’. The album was a slow creeper and in due time, I started to enjoy the other songs like ‘Easter Parade’ and ‘Automobile Noise’, which I earlier thought were weird sounding, slow (that word again…) and too sparse for my liking.
So, in 1990 I got a used, early version of the famed Linn Sondek LP12 with the SME 3009 Mark 2 tonearm and a Goldring cartridge. Amplification was from a pair of EAR mono blocks wired to a pair of Spendor LS3/5A speakers. I was ready.
There was only one small problem.
I had left my vinyl copy of A Walk Across The Rooftops in the States after graduating. I ended up buying a CD version which compounded the problem further. The CD sounded harsh, thin and bright as hell. I think I’d only play it a couple of times since the early 90’s.
I haven’t been able to get a vinyl copy since and I seemed to have forgotten how great the album was. Recently while digging through my collection of cassette tapes, I came across a TDK Metal tape that was recorded in 1986. I distinctly remember recording The Blue Nile album on this tape and the cassette deck I used was the legendary Tandberg 3014A. Source was an Ariston RD-40 deck with an Audio-Technica cartridge.
I tried listening to the tape on my son’s JVC Micro Component set that still provided a cassette player. The sound quality, much credit to TDK, did not deteriorate after 30 years. But one thing was certain though; it sounded as if someone had just turned the treble knob to 4 o’clock.
I am now waiting to find the 2012 re-issue (by Virgin) and put that to test against the 1984 original versus the CD I bought in the 90s. I will keep you updated and hopefully can put this to rest once and for all. Then again, progress may be a tad slow…
To be continued.