Thursday, June 12, 2014

One Man's Ultramagnetic Treasure...

I shouldn't have to tell you how amped I was when I first saw this pre-order pop up online. Black Pegasus was finally(!) releasing a real, vintage unreleased Ultramagnetic MCs recording on vinyl Limited to just 200 copies, this is a never-heard-before Paul C mix and edit of the great "Ain't It Good To You." As you can see, it comes in a nice looking picture cover, it has the instrumental on the flip, and at $35 a piece, sold out pretty quickly through Black Pegasus's bigcartel store.

So this is a new mix and edit; but there's a reason it's being phrased like that. This isn't a "remix" in the popular sense people think of remixes today, where it's been given a whole new instrumental with different samples and instrumentation. It's just been mixed differently. The biggest difference you'll notice instantly is that a very subtle percussion line on the album version (that rapidly and repeatedly goes "thudda thudda DUM!") has been super deepened. It's now like a big phat bassline. It also has a new intro, playing in with more of the softer sounds from the original sample's context. And the other elements have been pieced together a little differently. For instance, there's a part now on Ced's verse where all the music cuts out except for that one "DUM!" down beat at the end of each bar, like a Miami bass mega-drop, giving a cool emphasis to his delivery.

And just to be clear, this is not at all the "Ain't It Good To You" remix that was included as the B-side to "Simple Metaphor" on that mysterious bootleg release. That version is totally different.

Unfortunately, this release loses a lot of its luster once you actually put it on your turntable and get to listening. Not that I dislike this version, not at all. This new mix is dope, however the sound quality is pretty poor. The bass is all broken up. You know when you turn the bass up on your stereo to where the meters are in the red and everything sounds staticy and fuzzy? That's this. It sounds better if you turn your bass down so it doesn't totally blow out; but even then it's still not great because it's blown out in the recording itself. But if you don't lessen it, it blows out a lot worse.

More problematic still, the record plays too fast. It's a 45, but when you bump it up from 33, it's too much of a jump forward. The good thing is that you can correct this if you have a turntable with pitch control. I found somewhere around 4.5% to be the sweet spot to take it down to. I mean, you might be tempted to argue that it's meant to be a faster remix - in their description, Black Pegasus writes that this mix is sped up as if that's a good, intentional thing - but you'd only say that if you hadn't actually heard the record. It's just off, the vocals sound rushed and trashy; and once you slow it down, it sounds good and natural. That's the silver lining here. If you do have a turntable with pitch control (and many don't), you can correct this problem to the point where it's not a problem at all.

Unfortunately, that still leaves you with the muddy sound from the previous paragraph. And yes, the instrumental has the same issues.

I'm not really sure what the deal is here. The label credits "additional edits" to DJ Ves 120, who's down with Black Pegasus. So is this just some contemporary reworking of the original? Ves 120 couldn't have been working with Paul back in 1988, right? Is this another faux-vintage thing?* Or perhaps they did find a vintage re-edit, but because they thought it might not be different enough to capture fans' interest, they decided to mess with it more to distance it from the original? Or maybe the speed-up is a result of Paul just experimenting with the track for fun, never intending for audiences to hear his tinkering. But then that still leaves open the question of what Ves 120's additional edits actually are. ...Either way, I'm not mad at this edit (minus the fixable speed up); I just wish it was a better quality master of it.

So, anyway, this record is supposedly the first in an "Ultra 7" series from Black Pegasus. $35 was already excessively pricey for a 7" before we knew what the quality was like, and now I'm really wary of what the future volumes will be like. As it is, I can't recommend this to anybody except those of you who read all of this and are thinking "I don't care, I need it anyway!" I see you out there; I feel you guys. Hell, I might still pick up the next one. But I have to stress that, unlike some other records I write about here that more casual listeners might want to try dipping their toes into, this is for very seriously hooked Ultra collector fans only. Everybody else can just feel relieved that they're not missing out on much at all this time.

*TR Love specifically explains that this is vintage in their promo video, though.


  1. I heard a digitized version of the record. I know exactly what you talking about. Here is the only logical explanation for this.

    What you got here is a "work in progress" version. They recorded the track and in the mid had to left the studio to get sleep. Someone, probably TR Love, asked for a tape recording of the song to take it home.

    Thats the reason for the bad recording I hear, it was recorded in the red, which is the reason for the distorded bass you mentioned.

    The next day the song was finished, thats when they added the missing percussion you mentioned. Than the final mix was done we all know.

    So this is a real version where Paul C was involved, otherwise ther must be some multiracks. But as far as I know they where destroyed in the fire that burnt down studio 1212.

    1. Yeah, that sounds pretty right to me... except why does Ves 120 have credits for additional edits then?

  2. Werner Von Wallenrod, let me explain to you about this version of "Ain't It Good To You"!! Ves 120 is credited with additional edits on this Paul C. edit/mix which was soley produced by Ced-Gee & T.R. Love of UltraMagnetic MC'S. First of all this was a mix that was recorded by the Ultra's that was never intended to be released!! If you are a true historian of Ultra's official an unofficial releases you will remember the original version of "MC Champions" which (Tim Westwood played on Capital Radio in the U.K.) was much faster then the final version that appeared on the "Funk Your Head Up" album. They would sometimes demo a track and do it again and sometimes make changes!! Nothing was rushed lyrically in the vocal booth either, so kill that noise!! Ced-Gee in particular was not into rushing records they took there time!! The Critical Beatdown version was slower simply because they pitched down the SP1200, and re-tracked the beat and did a different mix which ended up on Critical Beatdown!! When this alternative version was presented to Black Pegasus, it was super bass heavy and slightly muffled!! Ves 120 took some of the bass out and cleaned it up so the mastering cut would not come out distorted, and would sound good on wax!! We wanted to keep Paul C.'s art the way he left it as much as possible!! This was a two track mix that was already mixed by the late great Paul C. If you know anything about engineering you will know you can't add drops to a two track mix the way Paul C. did it without having all the tracks separated on the board!! So please stop the guessing and speculating! Come to the source and find out and get the scoop first hand. If it weren't for T.R. Love you wouldn't have known this record exist!! Be thankful that Paul C. still had music with Ultra that could be shared with the world!! Record Collectors magazine in the U.K. praised this record for it's rawness and sold out in 3.5 weeks!! I have personally played this joint out in clubs with a major system and it bangs!! I see a lot of hate about the price, and it not being this and that! Go fuck yourself because Ultra & Paul C. are legends of hip hop!! You are not getting this shit for free or cheap!! You have to pay for it!! Wait until the next Ultra 7 joint drops, it's gonna cost $100 bucks a pop!! Now run tell that!!

    1. Civility lapse? Well, okay, I'll be mature and won't tell you to "go fuck yourself" back. It's not a sentiment I'm feeling anyway, since I haven't got anything personally against anyone. Plus, it seems like some of your hostility may be based on a simple misunderstanding of what I've written here. So maybe if I clear it up, we'll all be on better terms?

      You said, "Nothing was rushed lyrically in the vocal booth either, so kill that noise!! Ced-Gee in particular was not into rushing records they took there time!!"

      I certainly wasn't saying anything was rushed in the vocal booth. The vocals sound excellent on the LP version. And these same vocals are simply playing too fast on this 7". In other words, the original vocals (as recorded in the booth) were perfect and I have no criticism of them. The playback of them has been sped up for this mix, and that's what I was referring to. As I said in the post we're commenting on, if you pitch the 7" down, you can get to the point where you hear the vocals sounding perfectly natural, as recorded. I certainly don't accuse Ced or any of the guys of rushing the recording of the song. The only time I use the word "rushed" is when I was referring to the effects of this mix, because they've been sped up for the version we hear on the 7"
      ...I'm sorry if that was a bit repetitive, but I wanted to be explicitly clear, as I could there was a misunderstanding in the first place.

      And I do thank you for explaining the Ves 120 credit. I appreciate Ves/ Pegasus did the best they could with what they had (as you say, without all the original elements separated on the board). Unfortunately, it still sounds bass heavy and muffled, and it's best played with the bass turned down, all as I wrote above. But it also sounds like you hear it too, so we're not on opposing sides of an argument here. I can only imagine how bad the recording was before it was worked on! And it's just a sad fact that it's the best available recording that we've got. Again, it sounds like we agree on all that. And I DO appreciate your clarifications on how this final mix came about.

      Anyway, I'm sorry to hear that about the price of the future records. If I could offer a contrary suggestion: Pegasus could increase the number of 7"s pressed (since we've seen how fast the first sold out) and keep the price the same, so more Ultra fans can get it without missing out, and Pegasus would still make more money. But it's all obviously out of my hands. I just hope (as I'm sure you do) that the sound quality is better on the upcoming entries!

  3. I appreciate your response Werner but like I said the original version of the instrumental that Ced and Keith layed vocals on was faster then the version that appeared on the Critical Beatdown. After the vocals were layed, they (Ultra & Paul C.) slowed the beat down and toned down on the Bass. This is the same way they originally recorded "MC Champions" (which are three different mixes) on demo and later slowed the track down for the "Funk Your Head Up" LP. IMO the track is not that muddy. I have played this throughout Europe this summer and it sounded great! It's not the original speed and clarity that appears on Critical Beatdown but it still is a classic in it's own right. You are totally entitled to your opinions and I have to respect that but when you start insinuating that this could be a possible "contemporary re-working" to almost fool people I have to chime in and correct that! I was just happy l just to have some work left behind of Paul C.'s and Ultra's sessions, let alone be able to release it!! I wanted to keep everything in tact how Paul C. left his art on tape, but still providing a quality product for the consumer. The first person to receive a copy of this record was Paul C's widow and she gave it thumbs up and it was all good!!

    Anytime you have a question or not sure please feel free to notify me and we can build on it!!

    Much love for the support of Black Pegasus!!

  4. $100 for a 7"!?!??!? Hopefully, the spund quality will match that price. Thank god for the euros and japanese market huh?