Wednesday, 27 April 2011

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?

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