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Monday, April 23, 2007

Turn My Headphones Up

Last week, Idolator gave a heads-up on a story concerning the ridiculous amount of times certain back catalogs get reissued. Since we've heard about the artists that have received this treatment over and over again, what about the ones who've never been given their proper due? So, I decided to do a list of albums I'd like to see get the reissue treatment once and for all:

Metallica's material up to the Black Album
Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and . . . And Justice For All are great records, but sound incredibly tame on CD. A commonly used word in describing non-remastered material is "thin." Well, that's very much the case here. Plus, maybe we'll finally hear Jason Newsted's buried basslines on . . . And Justice For All.

Neil Young's 70s solo material
Neil has released so many albums in his lifetime that his work in the 70s gets kinda lost in the shuffle. The deal is, albums like Harvest, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush are sublime. The problem is, sharply adjusting the volume knob between songs to hear their beauty royally sucks. And no, the single-disc Greatest Hits collection from a few years ago is not enough.

Tom Waits' Asylum and Island material
A record like Small Change demands the reissue treatment. So does a record like Rain Dogs. These records sound nothing alike, but both have a whole assortment of colors. Hearing something like "Kentucky Ave." or "I Wish I Was In New Orleans" with their orchestral arrangements in full bloom would rule.

The Replacements' Sire-era material
Aside from Tim and Pleased to Meet Me, the Mats' major label output is more or less mentioned as a footnote in their history. As evidenced by the 1997 compilation All for Nothing/Nothing for All, the Mats deserve the treatment regardless.

U2's material up to Achtung Baby
U2's secret weapon is Adam Clayton's basslines. When he kicks in on "Where the Streets Have No Name," the hair on my neck raises. The same can be said for a number of their tunes. The current CD version of their 80s output lacks the power heard on their Best of 1980-1990 collection.

The Pixies entire catalog
The Pixies catalog was reissued a few years ago, but not remastered for some reason. Sorry, but Joey's guitar, Charles' voice and Kim's bass and voice need a kick up in the regular volume department.

R.E.M.'s '80s material
If anything, we should have a better chance to understand just what the hell Michael Stipe is singing about on Murmur.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's material before Springsteen went solo
Again, this is a case of tons of colors on records. Born to Run got the deluxe reissue treatment last year. Now, how's about a reissue of stuff like Darkness On the Edge of Town, Nebraska, The River and even Born in the U.S.A.?

Red House Painters' 4AD material
Mark Kozelek and band accidentally pioneered what has been dubbed "slowcore." Wouldn't it be great to feel the distorted guitars when they kick in on "Mistress"?

Weezer's Pinkerton
I don't care how embarrassed Rivers Coumo was about this record when it was initially considered a commercial disappointment, this record deserves a two-disc reissue. The b-sides found on the "El Scorcho" and "The Good Life" singles are worth the reissue treatment alone.

Jawbox's Grippe
Dischord did a fine job with remastering Jawbox's second album, Novelty. But the album that deserves the remastering treatment is their debut. Sounding like an unmastered rough mix by today's standards, crucial elements of their sound (ie, Kim's bass) are impossible to hear at normal volume.

A number of albums in the SST catalog
This is apparently a dicey issue. SST is still functioning, but there have been many reports of overdue/delayed royalty payments with some of their biggest bands. So, I don't know if this will ever come to fruition. It would rock if I could finally hear Double Nickels on the Dime and Flip Your Wig with a lot more clarity.

The Beatles' entire catalog
The announcement about this happening is rumored to be any day now. The deal is, this is at least seven years late. Compare the remastered cuts on 2000's 1 to versions found on the CDs released in 1987. There's a difference and they deserve this treatment.

So, what's the deal with all this remastering? Well, as someone who listens to recorded music in a variety of ways, the one spot where I really notice the difference is in my car. It's not like I blast my music, but I hope to never listen to my copy of Neil Young's Decade ever again in there. Nothing like turning the volume way up on "Broken Arrow" and then having to turn the volume way down if I want to hear a different CD. It's about having consistent volume. And it's not about ripping fans off.

6 comments:

Scott said...

The Springsteen catalog is a joke, in particularly his labums from 80-88. One need only listen to the Tracks box set to hear how great his albums should sound. I predict that he will gradually remaster every album up to The Rising.

Nice job.

Eli said...

Hey - actually, the songs on the Beatles '1' collection were *not* remastered again - check it - no remastering credits and mid-80s copyright dates in the liners. If you A/B the tracks, they sound the same. Now, the totally remixed tracks on 99's "Yellow Submarine Songtrack"... THOSE sound incredible.

Good post! Totally agree about Tom Waits. "Kentucky Ave" is one of my favorites. I'd kill for a deluxe "Closing Time"...

Eli

thevitaminkid said...

I for one did not care for the Yellow Submarine Songtrack. Compared to the clarity of the late 80-s mastering of Sgt. Pepper, Help, and Rubber Soul (the last two were listed as SPARS code "ADD" on the back, I don't know whether Pepper was ADD or AAD), the Songtrack selections seemed to lack a certain clarity.

On the other hand, even mp3's of the remixes on last year's LOVE album were quite impressive in the clarity of the individual parts.

So I will wait and see. Remasters may be wonderful, but they might muck it up yet. If George Martin's son engineers the remasterings, I would be hopeful.

Mark said...

I doubt the Beatles remasters will ever happen, legally anyway.

You may have heard of the Dr Ebbetts collection? Somebody with really high end vinyl equipment has ripped lots of Beatle albums, and the results sound better than the CDs.

http://isohunt.com/torrents.php?ihq=beatles%20ebbetts&ext=&op=and

Mulberry Panda 96 said...

Back in the fall of '05, a music critic who used to work at my newspaper told me he had written liner notes for the reissue of the Replacements' "Tim." The plan was for Rhino to reissue the Sire albums and Ryko to reissue the Twin/Tone albums and for the two companies to somehow release a box set with all the albums. Each reissued album would have two discs, or a disc and a DVD. This critic said that the reissue project kept being delayed, then pushed forward, then delayed again (obviously, because as of April 2007 there's no word on a release date). There was apparently a lot of red tape to get through concerning money that Sire felt the Replacements still owed them, the Replacements wanting to make sure they finally made some money this time, etc.

I would hope that something can be done about the tinny sound on "Tim" for the reissue. Even Westerberg complained about Tommy Ramone's production.

Rob Smith said...

Scott brings up a good point -- Springsteen's outtakes sound better than the albums they were left off. The River is particularly egregious, and always has been -- even the vinyl sounded thin. I can't for the life of me figure out why he's never done ANYTHING with those records.

Rob
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