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This journey didn't need remastering
on 13 October 2009
'Tour de France: Soundtracks' was the 2003 follow up album to the hit single 'Tour de France', originally released in 1983. I've acquired a great bond with both releases - mainly because they both offer different interpretations to the visual aspect of the world famous race. Whereas the original single encapsulated the spirit and energy of rushing around on bicycles through fantastic synthesis and a more commercial feel, the 'Soundtracks' album is a progressive journey through different moods and energy levels, similar to the way in which a modern DJ may build his 'set'.
If you've listened to the original single, then you may notice that this album lists as having 'Tour de France' as the final track. Just to clear up any confusion, it is indeed that very track, but it was re-worked for the 2003 release. It follows a very similar time frame, structure, and of course keeps its melodies and synthesis, but it just sounds that bit more more modern and cleaner. The great news is that its just as good as the original, so you'll always have the option of which to listen to!
Although Kraftwerk have released plenty of albums, I've always felt that few of them took the listener on to a solid journey, leaving gaps as to fillers and genuinely fantastic tracks. 'Tour de France: Soundtracks' seems to clear this up because it has a genuinely honest and strong foundation. The race is one of courage, spirit, struggle and in-definitely requires the mind-set that your body is a machine to send it into a state of stable operation. The album reflects this completely.
Once the 'Prologue' is out the way, 'Tour de France Etapes' 1 through to 'Chrono' drive the album into gear (excuse these many puns) with their pulsating hi-hats, cleverly reflecting the bike chains, to the stabbed, hypnotic melody that pushes aside the outside world, leaving the cyclist focus on their goal. It is a continuous mix with no gap in-between the tracks, further encouraging your energy levels to peak and then relax once 'Vitamin' comes into play with its down-tempo rhythm and memorable 'A-B-C-D Vitamin' lyrics.
But rest is over - 'Aero Dynamik' and 'Titanium' build the minimalistic and almost monotonous feel of travelling down long, long roads, only to be saved by the gorgeous melody of 'La Forme', which sub-consciously tells us that the end is near. 'Regeneration', the instrumental version of 'La Forme' puts the listener into an odd state of headonism as the beautiful synth notes bellow out their glory, leading on to the almighty final track itself.
That's the album, but what about the product? Ahh... Thats why it gets 4 stars.
I'll hold my hand up and admit now that I should of known better than to rush out and buy this album. I did actually already own it, but the term 'remastered' signalled a light-bulb in my head that could only mean one thing - 'better'. Its a marketing ploy, and I fell for it. Had I of come to my senses and remembered two things;
A - All the Kraftwerk albums are being remastered. But the priority lays with cleaning up the older albums. This leads on to...
B - This album was made in 2003. It does not need remastering!
To add insult to injury, none of the tracks have been mixed down any differently or had frequency changes... All I can say is, this is surely just a complete, utter copy so that the whole whole collection of Kraftwerks albums appear 'better' than ever. However, their are two consolations to this product;
C - Its cheaper than the original release anyway
D - Theirs a rather nice little booklet inside with some album-inspired artwork. Oh, and theirs a slip-case...
If you're buying new, then its a no brainer to get this version, but if you already own the album, theirs absolutely no need to buy it again. As far as the album itself goes, this will surely be regarded as a classic by the band in the future as it rounds up everything thats made them great in the first place. The patience to build up a mood, the ideology to synthesise man-made objects, and to reflect emotion through individual sounds. I take my hat off!