Meddle is, and always was, a superb record that holds me spellbound. Not quite a masterpiece and indeed not their musical zenith. But certainly, as a Floydian sound, it is THE point of departure from the Floyd of before. So sonically focussed and successfully executed that arguably they never dared to abandon its sonic template for any other ever again. This is quintessential Floyd right here.
It follows then that such exquisite musical craft as this should be presented on the most suitable format so it sounds as its best.
And this is where I begin to tackle the point which stimulated my need to get off my sofa, upon completing a listen to Meddle on remastered CD, and write this.....
Consumers of remastered and re-released Pink Floyd are, I believe, most likely to fall into one of the following categories:
A) Those under 40 years of age whose experience of recorded music has been predominantly on CD until the last six years or so when a track became a file on a small gadget listened to in traffic or on train journeys etc.
For them, the remastered Meddle on CD will be perfect.
In fact, they may not even be aware that it is perfect. It just is what it is.
B) Those who are over 40 whose experience of recorded music began with vinyl records at a time when there was no better option quality-wise. When the CD format arrived, they abandoned the vinyl and embraced the new pristine, crisp and crackle-free sound which CD enabled them to enjoy.
For them also, the remastered Meddle on CD will be perfect.
But as well as that, it is preferable to what had come before. These people unlike those in category A,can make the comparison between vinyl and CD and the qualities aforementioned ensure that for them the new format wins hands down. For them, THIS is soooo much better....
C) Those who are also over 40 whose experience of recorded music also began with vinyl records at a time when there was no better option quality-wise. And likewise, they embarked upon a CD collection along with those in category B.
BUT unlike those in category B, these people suspect something is amiss.
Having enjoyed Meddle at the time of its release they will be able to transport their mind back to the sound they enjoyed then and somehow this new product does not quite deliver the same deal.
From here, those who populate this category of person split apart into two camps: those who don't know why something is amiss and those who do.
Those in the latter camp will have heard about mastering and how it utilises a process called compression and also that the industry standard of compression in modern mastering for CD can often minimise dynamic range drastically when compared with the mastering used in the 70s. This is just the way it has evolved....deal with it! (mind you, some people have....check the small print of Elbow's Seldom Seen Kid CD).
The people in this partition, like myself, will also be able to detect what that problem is.....here's the detail.....
Anyone associated with Floyd, from Dave Gilmour to the boy making the tea for the assistant engineer, will of course be utterly expert at what they do. Dave would insist upon that.
And so, I do not doubt the expertise and technical brilliance of those involved in the remastering of Meddle and what's more don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy listening to this CD.
And yet.....and YET.....I KNOW that this is not as enjoyable for me as the vinyl album was (which I still have and can put on now if I wish).
There are two major symptoms as a result of this modern mastering for this format...
Firstly, the dynamic highpoints of One Of These Days, Fearless and of course, Echoes are still satisfactorily there otherwise there'd be uproar from any discerning listener but they certainly do not bloom and swell through the room as I remember.
Despite its pristine polish and the blemish-free sheen of the CD's sound quality, those moments simply do not expel the same air and bluster that I remember when hearing the LP as a child.
Meanwhile at the other end, the quieter moments (as in Pillow Of Winds) sit more intimately before you, in your face, rather than slightly distanced.
So in summary the effect of all this is not unlike having someone at the volume control all the time slightly turning it down for the loudy bits and slightly up for the quiety bits...imperceptibly but evidently....all the flipping way through.
Secondly, it is typical of modern mastering that, to these ears, it tends to highlight a certain higher frequency. That frequency which matches the one produced by expelling air through the front of your upper and lower sets of teeth when clenched together...."ssssssss".....and naturally for convenience and consistency, this is set by the mastering experts, globally across the entire duration of the album.
As a result, Nick Mason's cymbals which sit on that frequency are more prominent than you remember them to be at moments where it is not desired and like-wise Dave Gilmour's piercing but awesome bird-like wailing in the ambient mid-section of Echoes pokes out just a little too stridently..etc.etc...
Once these things are noticed, the listening experience is compromised....much like the compromises made in the mastering process itself.
And we just learn to accept it. Like everything else these days!
In summary, then.....well ok, buy it, it's great.
But I am dropping it one star for reasons set out above.
I have said enough. Thanks for reading.