Wednesday, 27 April 2011

It's just like you said it would be... sort of.

Will someone somewhere give "The Lion And The Cobra" by Sinead O'Connor a remastered reissue?

The original CD is grotesque in it's flaws. The worst of which being on the key track "Troy". Listen to it. See that distortion there. It's not right. I've heard some people think that was intentional! If it was then why is it not present on other releases of that track? That is a mastering flaw if ever there was one. The audio never reaches the 0dB line, it's relatively quiet so at which point of the mastering this distortion was introduced is beyond my knowledge!!!

Thank goodness for the "So Far... The Best Of" compilation. Many years ago I lifted "Jackie", "Mandinka" and "Troy" from this release and combined them with the remaining album tracks from the original CD. Meta-normalized them to match the levels (the newer best of CD of course being louder) and that's how I listen to "The Lion And The Cobra", once again, an album that gets my "Private Remaster" treatment. The "Troy" taken from this release is perfect, and certainly free of that horrible, horrible distortion!

So please, please, please, let me get what I want (bit of The Smiths there...) and remaster this album, properly!

Un, deux, trois, quatre!

I've been meaning to rave about the two Wire remasters I own for a long time.

Blame Minor Threat, of all bands for putting Wire in my direction. Oh, and "The Holy Bible" era Manic Street Preachers. Minor Threat covered "12XU". I loved it. It's available on their much required to any collection "Complete Discography". But I never went further into finding out who Wire were. And then, many years later fell head over heels for "The Holy Bible" by the Manics. And digging deeper upon the joy that is the interweb I found them list their influences at the time as post-punkers Magazine, Wire, The Skids, PiL, Gang of Four and Joy Division. It was time to find out who Wire were.

"Pink Flag" is essential as an introduction to Wire. The 2006 remaster grinds the songs along perfectly. Apparently Wire hated the previous CDs which had bonus tracks after the albums, they felt they corrupted the intentions of the original albums. So these are the pure, unadulterated, the first track to the last track as originally intended. I kind of like that. I'm not averse to bonus tracks, but I know where they're coming from. "Reuters" opens the album with that pulsating bass note, then the chiming guitar chord rings over and over and then that snare drum hit resonates to indicate the band are here and they are playing.

I like "Pink Flag", it's a great debut. But sometimes the songs, with their slightly insular sound and lack of colours starts to bleed the 21 (yes 21) tracks into one. But's it's interesting to note that only six songs make it over the two minute mark. "Lowdown" is the highlight. "THAT'S... THE... LOWDOWN!" Beautiful. Post-punk before most people even realised what punk was?!

Wire jumped leap years in band terms in the space of months. "Chairs Missing" was a logical and much needed expansion of elements their debut. Thing is Wire made that progression, and they made it quickly. Shame most of the 1977 'punks' didn't.

"Chairs Missing" is perhaps the pinnacle of the first three Wire albums (though I'm yet to hear the third of the trio "154"). It's one of those albums that takaes a while to grow on you, lacking tht instantaneous catchyness of the debut, but those albums ALWAYS reap longer rewards. It's beautiful, brutal.

Sound wise? The remasters seem to be worthy of a well done, pat on the back. I often dig out "Chairs Missing" when testing newly acquired pieces of audio kit. It's not a reference album, with bells and whistles and overblown, pristine production. It just sounds honest. I like it. I have copies of the earlier CDs and while not vastly different, the new remasters have a sound that says that some care went into them...

Pick them up when you can, I got mine for a fiver each, once again from Fopp but that was a good while ago. Nevertheless worthwhile additions...

Surf's up!

I have a thing about remasters.
They either do it right (or reasonably so) or they do it wrong. Brickwalled with extra treble and bass anyone? No thanks.

So, I picked up Blondie's debut for three quid in Fopp, Union Street in Glasgow the other day. It's the 2001 remaster, bonus tracks and liner notes, et al...

Always loved Blondie's first album. It's probably my favourite out of all the Blondie albums I have, along with their next album "Plastic Letters".

So Blondie was born out of a scene that produced Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads, The Ramones. Credible bands, with credible looking fans. But Blondie were the bastard children, I mean how could you mention a band that went all 'disco' (the anti-thesis of 'punk') with "Heart Of Glass" in the same line as those revered bands? Well, this album draws the gap, just a little. But people expect too much. It's not out and out 'punk rawk'. It is new wave, what ever that is. Strangely for new wave it sounds like it owes more to the girl groups of the 60s. And Blondie's pop sensibilities shine out from the get go.

Mike Chapman, producer of "Parallel Lines" didn't really rate Blondie when they started recording their pop masterpiece. I remember him saying they were so all over the place he has to get Clem Burke to play every drum separately! Grrr... Personally I don't get it. Clem Burke is the powerhouse of power drumming. Driving every song along with thumping beauty. An underatedly wonderful drummer! Chris Stein's guitar sounds masterful at one moment and ringing like a chiming bell... this remaster helped me hear his genius. Jimmi Destri gets a good hearing on this album. Mostly on organ, with additional weird and stabbing noises moving over tracks. And is that early analogue synths I hear? Put to nice use. And Gary Valentine on bass is keeping it all together with Clem making a taut but unintrusive rhythm section. And throw Debbie into the mix. It just all seems to work. It fulfils a certain excitement around the New York CBGBs scene. Live, Blondie at this time were explosive. This album was just a taster of that excitement.

I've still got my US import CD of the album. OK, it's quieter (no surprises there), and it had no bonus tracks. I bought it in HMV, somewhere in central London, with my dad when I was still in my early teens. It must've been prior to the 1994 remasters. I remember it cost a lot (for me at the time)...

Upon ripping the new CD to my computer, donning my PX 100s and loading up the tracks in Foobar, it didn't seem to take long to realise "Hmm, this sounds pretty good", and I was noticing things I hadn't previously. It had been a few since I last intently listened to this album so perhaps it was just that fact... Nevertheless, the 2001 was such an engaging listening I sat and went through the whole album transfixed, it sounded detailed and fresh.

Afterwards I quickly queued up the original CDs tracks with the new remasters. Yep, quieter, but not necessarily worse. I was now hearing all the things the remaster made aware to me. BUT I also believe that when you know something's there, you REALLY listen out for it. In my vote the remaster has the edge and the extra 'air', a really gripping listening. The bonus tracks are interesting, but not essential. The single versions of "X Offender" and "In The Sun" differ mostly in vocal takes and the fact that they both seem to be mono.

For £3, a MUST buy. I ordered the 2001 "Plastic Letters" remaster straight away from Amazon for £2.99. Bloody hell I love bargains like that. OK, OK, I have the 1994 remaster, but surely it was worth adding to my collection, again?