Top critical review
8 of 8 people found this helpful
on 15 March 2014
Oh dear. Waiting for my 'Peace At Last' Remaster to arrive in the mail I read the reviews posted on Amazon mentioning distortion on 'Family Life'. I hoped it was a CD pressing error and not source material related.
The CD arrived, I put my headphones on and began at the beginning and was more than happy with 'Happiness.' The mastering seems to have a diligently applied greater amount of compression adding thickness, warmth and improved cohesion of the sound and an overall less brittle sound without being overly loud and mushy.
Then, I jumped to Track 7 'Family Life' and what a shame it is to hear the distorted moments others have written about. I, for the life of me, cannot understand what has happened. Has the master tape been damaged or oxidized and not baked properly before transferring to digital? Having read interviews with the band over the years covering the care Calum Malcolm took as engineer for recording the band's albums I would be astounded, as he has personally remastered this album with Robert Bell and Paul Buchanan, that these imperfections have made it through to the final product. If the tape was irreparably damaged you'd think an explanation on the sleeve would be warranted.
Ultimately, a 2014 remaster of a 1996 recording should use the intervening 18 years of technological advance and skill development to produce a marked improvement on the sound of the original album release and that simply isn't evident here.
'Peace At Last' has always been my least favorite Blue Nile album, with a touch too much religious imagery and lyrical content for my taste, but I have never really let that prevent me from enjoying the many beautiful, moving moments on it. I will never forget the first day I listened to it laying on my lounge back in 1996, with an impossible, insatiable amount of anticipation, and the beauty of the opening track 'Happiness' reducing me to howling tears (I wasn't particularly happy at the time). With my other favorites, 'Sentimental Man,' Love Came Down,' 'God Bless You Kid', and 'Soon' I had hoped that this remaster may have raised my appreciation of the entire album a notch, but that is not to be. Due to the problems with 'Family Life' on this remaster it must be said that the original 1996 master is the one to stick with.
So what of the supplementary disc?
'Soon - Laurel Canyon Mix'- makes for a curious space-age listen with its swirling bleepy electronic additional sounds but only serves to make one appreciate the sparseness of the album version all the more.
'War is Love - New Vocal Mix' - Feels like an early or alternative arrangement when the band was still finding the most suitable sounds to use on the song. As for 'new vocal mix' - the album vocal is superior.
'Turn Yourself Around' is a worthy addition here, if perhaps unremarkable, but I actually think this would have sat better on the original album at the expense of 'Holy Love' that, all these years down the track, still jars with me and doesn't seem to belong on the album.
'Holy Love - Picture Mix' - Feels like an early jam session demo with additional and/or alternative arrangement (without guitar) that is ultimately redundant. The jazzy guitar on the original was the songs redeeming feature (for me).
'A Certain Kind of Angel - Unreleased Demo' actually sounds pretty good but it's one of those tracks you can understand not making an album as it lacks the requisite Blue Nile magic.
'There Was A Girl' - has some really good elements to it and is the best extra on the disc ('Turn Yourself Around' a close second).
The tracks on this second disc are of the calibre that you will listen to them the day the CD arrives, only to be archived away as part of your Blue Nile completest collection, rarely to be revisited.
There was no reason to rush this release so the mind boggles as to how on Earth a Blue Nile remaster could be released with audio problems!
Do you need to own this if you have the original CD? No.
Are you a Blue Nile fan? You have to own this.