As a huge T.D. fan who who originally heard the soundtrack on cassette in 1981, bought the Elektra record, the 85' Virgin cd import, and the 1995 Virgin import cd reissue, 'Thief' is and will always be a special classic that changed my life. It began my musical and recording career, and I consider it sacred scripture. I can say without hesitation, that 'Thief' is one of the greatest movies ever made, due in large part to the soundtrack. This version still isn't complete,(parts from 'Thru Metamorphic Rocks' and the M.J.Y./Wille Dixon tune), but includes the long left out 'Confrontation'.
First, let's get this out of the way. THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST SOUNDING VERSION EVER RELEASED. FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTERS.
The original master tapes from 'Thief' were flawed(very common), with a bunch of dropouts and a pop, click, hum, hiss, or two, which were on all the previous versions and are present here. Most of them were masked by the murkiness of the previous mixes, and have been exposed by the clarity of this one. The little dropout at 10 seconds on 'Beach Theme' is still there. 'Diamond Diary' always had issues with dropout and flutter, it was just so subtle that it sounded like an effect. 'Igneous' had the same problem, it was just under the surface.
I believe that previous cd releases were possibly made from a dupe or second generation master, which spliced out some of the more obvious dropouts and flutter. Previous cd song lengths are slightly shorter. But all the flaws were always on the original master. And this version was taken from that original, unedited master. Yes, these are the real diamonds! Flawed as they may be. This would explain the lack of clarity, detail, and lower energy level of previous versions(from generation loss). Maybe this is a new 2 track master taken from the original 24 track and previous versions used an inferior, edited 2 track. Whatever the exact circumstances, there are a few short dropouts and flutter that weren't on previous cd versions. Likely they're on the original record. This is a deluxe reissue of the Elektra version, not the Virgin import.
Sometimes dropouts are caused by bad batches of tape, poor care, or even the recording heads themselves. Overall they are very minor. Could these problems be fixed with mastering and modern technology? Sort of, but it most likely would sound strange and artificial. Kind of the way the re-released 'Star Wars' movies fixed scenes with CGI. It's either the Dream or DSP. This version chose a more purist attempt. This is music, not magic. There is also what sounds like a false start caused by tape bleed-through on 'Scrap Yard', which isn't on the 1995 version, but I seem to remember it on the original cd.
Despite some of the problems mentioned, the overall mastering is quite good. Sounds are way cleaner and clearer, the drums are punchier, the synths and effects can be heard more easily. The overall level is louder( the original is quite low), which in turn raises the noise floor. Not a big problem, as you can only hear it in quiet passages. Again, the mastering engineer could have removed it digitally, but that would still alter the overall sound. One area of possible concern is 'Confrontation'. Maybe it's just the guitar pick, but it sounds as if it was taken from vinyl(either the master or a copy in good shape), and you can hear a little, what sounds to be crackle and static from the needle, at the beginning. The overall tonal quality of the song sounds like a record, a bit tinny and sharp in the mid range, probably enhanced slightly with DSP. It still sounds good, but it is something to keep in mind. Maybe that was the only remaining source for the song. Subjectively, the mastering sounds a bit more clinical than the previous releases, with more clarity and no muddiness in the mix. Some of the tonal quality of the synths and guitar may sound a little different, due to the new found clarity (flaws and all). It's something like watching HD for the first time, you suddenly see the news anchor has bags under their eyes and a complexion that looks like the surface of the moon. This is definitely the HD version of the soundtrack.
The packaging itself is great(finally!), the cover art is crisper, the liner notes are interesting and very informative. The disc itself and packaging are made to look like the original album. And thankfully, no blaring typo's like the last reissue. One quibble, the very outer rim of my disc has a tiny missing spot on the lacquer and print layer. This could a devastating flaw if it were anywhere else on the disc, but is well out of the read portion. Something to keep an eye on.
Overall, about as good as can be expected, given the circumstances. If some of the dropouts and minor flutter bother you,(many people won't notice them) maybe opt for the 1995 Virgin import, but that version isn't as clear or loud, has many typos, and is like watching a non HD version of a movie. I have both, so I'm quite happy. 4.5 stars.