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Another Bench Mark from IMPEX Records. The New 1STEP 35th Anniversary Reissue for Jennifer Warnes - Famous Blue Raincoat

01-12-2024 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 131

It's been five years since I organized and posted a shootout on this title. Click HERE if you would like to read that article. After several requests from readers for a comparison, three of my audiophile buddies joined me for a wonderful two nights of fun. This kind of thing might sound a little over the top, but it's hard to beat spending time with great friends, great music, a nice selection of local craft beer and Chicago deep dish pizza!

At that time, somehow we managed to pull together the original vinyl and CD releases and also several other extremely rare reissues. See the extensive list below from that shootout. For this review of the new 1STEP, I got all of my buds together again for another fun night and a second shootout. We focused on vinyl only. All of the vinyl releases were still in hand and ready for a second comparison - this time with the 1STEP too. We also dined on the delicious cheese burgers and custard from the infamous Kopp's Frozen Custard location in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One thing about the Midwest, we truly know how to enjoy our entertainment and our comfort food!

I also want to point out that Abey Fonn of IMPEX Records contributed to both of these events with some of the more rare releases, and was also very supportive throughout the process. It just shows you that Abey loves the music and the hobby as much as we do! She wanted all in on the fun too! There is no question that Abey is the real deal and that we are all very fortunate to have her as an important member of our vinyl community!

  • CD - Cypress Records YD 0100
  • CD - Private Music 01005-82092
  • CD - Attic (Canada) ACD 1227
  • CD - Cisco Music 20th Anniversary 24K Gold Edition GCD8011-2
  • CD - IMPEX 20th Anniversary 24K Gold Edition IMP8301
  • CD - Classic Records/Rock The House Gold RTH 5052
  • LP - Cypress Records 661 111-1 (33 RPM)
  • LP - Attic (Canada) LAT 1227 (33 RPM)
  • LP - Classic Records/Rock The House RTH 5052 – 1 (33 RPM)
  • LP - Cisco Music CLP7060-45 (45 RPM)
  • LP - IMPEX Records IMP6021 (33 RPM)
  • LP - IMPEX Records 35th Anniversary 1Step IMP6033-1 (45 RPM)

The Industry Standard For 1STEP Reissues

When it comes to the quality of their reissues, IMPEX continues to amaze me. The IMPEX 1STEP's are particularly well done and absolutely set the standard for the industry in my humble opinion. This is a 180 gram 45 RPM triple LP that is pressed at RTI on VR-900 Super Vinyl. The vinyl is cut using the original analog masters from the 1986 digital recordings by Bernie Grundman. These tapes were supplied by Jennifer Warnes from her personal, first-generation analog mixdown masters.

The Impex 1STEP process skips the regular father-mother steps, going directly to a single convert and then the pressing. This process relies on short, tightly controlled runs that require a new lacquer after each run of only 500 pressings—which is very expensive and time consuming. All of this provides the very best in vinyl sound quality! It's important to note, that after Bernie cuts the last lacquers, Jennifer's analog mixdown master tapes will then return to the vault for good. This reissue will be limited to 7500 numbered pressings.

Also featured is an amazing 24-page booklet that includes all of the acclaimed bonus material from the earlier Cisco Music 45 RPM edition. In addition, there is a series of new photos, hand written lyrics and personal notes that are housed in a textured paper-bound slipcase with a color-coordinated cover and foil stamping. The three 1STEP LPs are stored in a deluxe four-sleeve Monster Pack tip-on jacket with metallic accents and spot gloss applications.

Some Backstory

Early in her career during the 1970s, Jennifer Warnes toured as a backup singer for Leonard Cohen and this album was her personal tribute to Cohen and some of his most important songs. One key impetus for this album was the song entitled "Song of Bernadette," which was initially written by Jennifer. She approached Cohen for his help as this song continued to evolve, and the rest is history.

Produced by Roscoe Beck and Jennifer Warnes, Famous Blue Raincoat was originally released in 1986 on the Cypress Records label. Many of the musicians on the album were some of the best at that time. This included guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Lindley, and Robin Ford along with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Russell Ferrante on keyboards. Contributions were also made by arranger Van Dyke Parks and Leonard Cohen himself, who joined Jennifer on the track "Joan of Arc."

As you can tell from the above list of reissues, Famous Blue Raincoat has been an audiophile favorite for many years, but it is much more than a demonstration recording. The creativity and emotional impact of Cohen's songs are much to be admired as they can still tug at your heart strings even today. They still feel relevant and quite stimulating. Jennifer is at her best here, and her vocal instrument is arguably as good as it gets for these interpretations. This is a match made in heaven! 


The listening and evaluation process was not all that sophisticated. I know that this will disappoint many, but again, the main objective was to just have some fun and not get overly serious. No, we did not use any kind of formal blind ABX comparison. 

Also, as you can tell from the long list of pressings, it would have been impossible to listen to each LP from beginning to end, and then over and over again when comparing. We focused on three tracks, and we bounced back and forth between various pressings when we needed additional confirmation. We used the following tracks for the comparison.

  • Track 1 "First We Take Manhattan"
  • Track 2 "Bird On A Wire"
  • Track 4 "Joan of Arc"


As stated above, the quality of this 1STEP pressing is very impressive. There continues to be some mixed feedback on the sound of Super Vinyl when it has been used across the Industry for both 1STEPs and standard pressings. Of course this is just one data point, but my copy of the IMPEX Famous Blue Raincoat 1STEP is perfectly flat and extremely quiet. This greatly adds to the sound quality and overall satisfaction from this recording. The 1STEP process can truly make a difference when utilized properly!

Lets be clear from the get go. Famous Blue Raincoat is an exceptional recording with some incredible genes and an indisputable foundation to work from. The original vinyl release and all of the reissues sound fantastic! You may be more than satisfied with any of these vinyl pressings if you own a copy already. But, if you want the very best, read on.

One point of clarity if you might be confused by some of the various record labels. There is a connection between Cisco Music, IMPEX Records, and Elusive Disc that should be explained. Cisco Music closed their doors in 2008. IMPEX Records (short for Import Export Records) was established with the same Cisco Music management team in 2010. IMPEX Records and Elusive Disc joined forces in late 2016 in order to expand the label. This allowed Elusive Disc to handle all the distribution and marketing and allowed IMPEX Records to focus on artists, titles, production, and quality control.

Back at our initial shootout, the end result came down to a vote on the two best pressings based on all of our evaluations and discussion at that time. Interestingly, there were three votes for the 33 RPM IMPEX reissue and one for the 45 RPM Cisco reissue. Many might be surprised by this considering the reputation of most 45 RPM reissues and their supposed superiority. I was the one and only vote for the 45 RPM. We must remember, that subjectivity is everything when it comes to anything audiophile. Evaluated on their own, none of this changed the ranking between these two reissues during our second shootout. Please see the original article for more information and insight.

When considering the final results of this second shootout, there is no reason to go through all of the analysis and results here. There was a complete consensus by all four of us that the 1STEP was the ultimate pressing of this album. The deep black quiet background, the extreme transparency, and the expansive soundstage and three dimensionally of all the instruments and Jennifer's vocals took a clear step forward. Bass performance was thunderous. Highs were beautifully reproduced and well extended. Mids were glorious. Tone, timbre and pace were more realistic than ever!

These improvements were immediately apparent and did make a difference! There was so much information and musicality to this pressing, that I could not get if off the turntable for several weeks. I was hooked! If you ever need help to communicate what an audiophile pressing is all about to a beginning hobbyist, this is the pressing to do it!

Final Thoughts

Congrats to Abey Fonn and her entire team for another wonderful audiophile reissue! These folks really pay attention to their customer's feedback and guidance when it comes to a 1STEP offering. They do listen! I love the simplicity and compactness of the slip cover and internal packaging. The tip-on jacket and the included booklet are of the very best printing quality and production. New information and insight is presented about the artists and the recording that really enhances the entire experience. Most importantly, the sound quality of this pressing sets a new standard for the title. I can't wait for the new IMPEX Getz/Gilberto 1STEP to hit the shelves! Highly recommended!

IMPEX Records


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