Customer Review

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Impressed, 19 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Spunk (Audio CD)
I'll cut to the chase by starting with a couple of quick comments about the mastering of this CD.

In common with many modern masterings this disc is loud. Pushed to the limit. That said, it does remain just under "the point of no return", so suffers no clipping or digital distortion.

It carries a certain irony that the material on this "official bootleg" was not sourced from the mastertapes. It was copied from a previous digital issue, which itself was copied from a partially off-speed vinyl album. The main giveaway is in the same tracks running slightly too slow on each edition, whilst the only CDs I know which have the same material but taken from mastertape sources - Early Daze and Mini Album - play entirely at the correct speed and have a clearer sound. The lesser obvious giveaway is the occasional presence of vinyl clicks and pops on a couple of tracks, although these are really only noticeable through headphones.

A second irony is that the lower quality source used for this release is probably what allowed it to be mastered so loud and yet remain so listenable. A modern mastering from the original tapes would probably have been noticeably brighter, thus quite harsh or fatiguing to the ears when compressed to these same levels.

So yes, this is a loud mastering. But speaking as someone who has an almost natural aversion to loud modern digital masterings, it's very good for what it is. Normally with loud masterings I'm lucky to make it through an album once before losing interest. The other night I played this one 4 times in a row - which speaks for itself.

So enough about the mastering, what about the music?

This material on this CD consists of 15 demos recorded at three sessions in July and October 1976 and January 1977. They were taped in a cramped rehearsal room on portable 4-track equipment by the band's live soundman, Dave Goodman. A few overdubs were added later in a professional 8-track studio.

The first 12 tracks comprise the original Spunk bootleg, released in late 1977. The final 3 tracks, recorded at the same sessions, are a modern bonus.

Don't let the relatively primitive nature of the recording set-up fool you into assuming this is a scrappy low quality affair. Sure, it lacks the polished professional sound of Never Mind The Bollocks, but the sound quality is for the most part excellent. Very clean and very clear. Unfortunately the weak link during these sesssions was the man who's equipment captured that sound, Dave Goodman.

It's obvious from these recordings that Goodman didn't have a clue how to record drums. Paul Cook plays perfectly well, but he's let down by a very lightweight recorded sound, almost at times like he's bashing on cardboard boxes or biscuit tins.

Goodman also made some odd production choices with Steve Jones' guitar. On a number of songs he buried the lead solos in the mix to the point of being barely audible. Very strange. As regards Jones himself, at this early stage in the band's career he was playing with a surprisingly clean guitar tone. You wont find the signature Les Paul crunch of NMTB on these tracks - and some of the songs even feature flanged or phased effects.

And how about John Lydon? I get the impression that Goodman, despite during this period being at the epicentre of the birth of Punk, to some extent initially harboured dated Pop production sensibilities which viewed the band as being the vehicle for the vocalist. Consequently Lydon tends with these recordings to be mixed quite prominently to the fore, noticeably moreso than on NMTB. And much like Jones, Lydon at this stage was still not quite fully evolved into the performer we'd hear on NMTB. These demos find him vocalising in a relatively measured and well mannered style, the manic snarl is yet to arrive.

Bass duties are taken by Glen Matlock, who does a superb job. He really could play and adds a great dynamic to the tracks, a nice driving groove which is missing with the "wall of sound" of NMTB (bass there being provided by Steve Jones in the most rudimentary style). The Sex Pistols ceased to exist as a real band the day Matlock left and Sid Vicious joined, that's for sure.

So, to conclude. These are essential recordings for any fan of the band. But aside from the rather ferocious sound on a couple of the bonus tracks, you may find them somewhat "polite" in comparison to Never Mind The Bollocks. I know it took me at least 10 years to appreciate these Goodman recordings after having written them off as weak alternatives to the "real deal". Today I actually prefer them to NMTB.

So how will I grade it? Four stars out of five.

Why minus one star? Partly because the record company didn't get hold of the mastertapes for this album, and partly because they didn't think to correct the speed issue where neccessary.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Jul 2013 16:59:54 BDT
Dr Lapelle says:
Thanks for the "Early Daze" tip - bought it, and it's just the job!
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