Vinyl Reissue Cures Fever for ‘More Cowbell’

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' anniversary reissue of Blood Sugar Sex Magik on vinyl exemplifies aspects of why music enthusiasts are turning to the format.

Vinyl Reissue Cures Fever for ‘More Cowbell’
The limited-edition reissue of Blood Sugar Sex Magik features striking red vinyl.
Arlen Schweiger · December 28, 2011

A few of the many reasons I’ve gravitated to vinyl over the last couple of years are exemplified by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 20th anniversary reissue of Blood Sugar Sex Magik in the format, which arrived at my house for the holidays.

1) It’s part of a growing trend of vinyl-reissued music that was made during a time when vinyl LPs seemed as dead as ... well as dead the hairband rock whose coffin was being sealed by Nirvana et al in the early 1990s. Stuff that didn’t make it to vinyl the first time around for obvious reasons, now has the format breathing new life into it. Other recent anniversary reissues included Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and also this year, U2’s Achtung Baby to name a few.

2) The double album, at least for the limited edition release (mainstream release comes next year), features a pressing in Ferrari (well, close to Ferrari—the color in the above picture is a bit off) red vinyl. It looks really slick being played on the Pro-Ject Essential USB turntable I’m currently reviewing, which has a red plinth. Vinyl in different colors than the standard black is kind of a novelty, but very cool.

3) The Chili Peppers released the reissue for Record Store Day on Black Friday—basically a part two this year for the revival event that celebrates independent record stores, whose passion for the format is part of what’s made it thrive in recent years. The event’s main day is in April, so it was nice to have a second day’s excuse for bands to deliver more albums whose release coincides with it.

4) With the Red Hot Chili Peppers it’s an interesting case because the band’s latest record I’m With You seems to have given listeners more reason to purchase the vinyl edition over the CD, whose release format has been criticized for loudness and compression issues. Apparently the vinyl release used a different mastering process and does not suffer from those byproducts. And the Chili Peppers seem to care quite a bit about the vinyl format, having already re-released most of their catalog in the format a couple of years back.

5) “I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!” While Christopher Walken made that sentiment famous on Saturday Night Live, it’s funny just how many songs you can hear cowbell as part of the percussion. It’s been my listening experience that vinyl’s dynamic range, dimensionality and instrumental definition perhaps call out bass and drums/percussion more than anything else within a rock recording, and the Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith are among the best at what they do. Their thumping grooves totally drive Blood Sugar Sex Magik—but I couldn’t help but chuckle while listening to the percussion-laden “Breaking the Girl” and hearing crystal-clear cowbell out of the right channel much more pronounced than the hundreds of times I’ve listened to the CD version.

Walken would be proud, and on a coincidental note, followers of the band have noted the uncanny resemblance between Smith and Will Ferrell, who bangs the cowbell with hilarious enthusiasm in the SNL sketch.

The only downside to the reissue? CE pros will want to check with prospective clients before using some of the tracks, no strangers to the use of F-bombs, as demo material. I always thought it was a stunningly clean and dynamic recording on CD, and anyone selling turntables or who is interested in vinyl should check it out. The popular “Under the Bridge” is ripe for demoing, with its one-by-one instrument introductions and building from quiet passages to crescendo.

  About the Author

Arlen Schweiger is managing editor of CE Pro, Commercial Integrator and Security Sales & Integration magazines. Arlen contributes installation features, business profiles, manufacturer news and product reviews. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Arlen at [email protected]

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