Reissuing Joe Jackson’s I’m the Man: It All Started with Two Men and a Box of Tapes …
In the summer of 2015 the waiting was over and boxes of tapes arrived at Cohearent Audio in LA for mastering. And I mean three boxes bursting with tapes! Of course boxes of tapes are quite the proverbial box of chocolates- you really have no idea what you’re getting until you spool ‘em up and listen!
So the first two days of “mastering” consisted of Cohearent’s Kevin Gray and I spooling tape after tape and finding out what I’d really won in having over a dozen titles cleared for mastering. And true to box of chocolates form, several titles were put on pause after we’d already spun up and evaluated the tapes, and eventually cancelled. Nevertheless, seven titles were full speed ahead, three Joe Jackson titles among them. And all three had spectacular sounding safety copy analog tapes!
There aren’t words for what it’s like to spin up an analog master tape of a classic album and hear that sound. Outside of being at the original sessions this as close as anyone can ever get to original performances that are now immortal, and it simply takes your breath away! These analog “safety copies” were made in the mid 1990’s and according to the label are the best remaining sources for these albums.
Kevin and I were excited (and truth be told relieved!) these tapes were in such amazing sonic shape. The top-end energy that was a hallmark of the original pressings was fully preserved but there was a bass foundation on these tapes that no one ever heard on the original vinyl! Knowing fans would hear details of these amazing performances they’ve never heard before was a thrill! But knowing you’ve nailed the audio is just where a great reissue starts …
A demarcation point among reissue labels is the lengths to which they’re willing to go to recreate the original album art. IR’s goal is jacket art that’s distinguishable from the originals only to the extent that it's improved.
I’m the Man was originally released with a single jacket with an insert with pictures of Joe and the band and lyrics. IR’s graphic artist Tom Vadakan, working from art provided by Universal from a CD reissue, rebuilt this jacket into a gorgeous gatefold with the original inner’s content as the gatefold interior. Since the text supplied was optimized for CD art, Tom painstakingly hand typed all of the lyrics in the interior.
Tom’s electronic work was handed off to the wizards at Stoughton Printing Co. in LA, along with my own personal jacket samples from original UK pressings. The CD art we had been provided was crisp and pure black and white. While the original jacket's back cover was also black and white, Stoughton’s Rob Maushund noticed the front cover wasn’t just black and white that had yellowed naturally; there was a tint on the original he could see with a jeweler’s loop when looking closely at the original screening. Jack Stoughton, Rob and several others then worked, adjusting and re-running the cover art until the tint on the front was a match for the original and the bright orange lettering was spot on!
Since the art we were provided was for a CD release, Tom had to create and work from high-res scans of the original A&M LP labels to create IR's labels. The trickiest part of this was matching the original’s dot pattern and the “fade” in the big A&M letters. Tom did what he could in the digital domain and my partners at Dorado Packaging used their own brand of magic to match the complex patterns on our labels to the originals. The results are stunning!
I hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes at the making of this LP reissue! While I lead these projects, I stand on the shoulders of the finest artists and artisans at every level, and my desire to create the finest quality reissues would mean little if my partners weren’t willing to match that commitment. Stay tuned, as we release more LPs we’ll offer more and more peeks behind the curtain!