on 26 August 2009
Viva Dead Ponies is the only album I've ever bought twice on CD. Well, fair enough, you might say, since there is an additional 2nd CD "best of" included, this is not just a straight reissue. Well, yes, but then I had all those tracks too. So why did I buy this and why am I very glad I did? Good question, thanks for asking.
Well, there is one slight difference with VDP itself: the version of Chemical Cosh here is not the one from the original UK release of the album, but instead the much more muscular version recorded for the Hive EP (though I believe some later pressings of VDP may have also included it? By the way I hope you're taking notes, there will be questions later).
But I really bought this album in the fervent hope that VDP had been remastered. The original album was unquestionably a wonderful record but seriously marred by thin, weedy, lousy sound, as a result, presumably, of poor mastering or pressing (if CDs are indeed 'pressed', don't ask me).
Thankfully, although the current booklet/packaging makes no mention of it whatsoever, VDP, and the "best of" tracks, clearly have indeed been remastered (or reEQ'd, or something), and the uncredited technician responsible has done an excellent job. Plenty has been gained and nothing lost. Consequently, all the fantastic music on these 2 CDs now SOUNDS fantastic. Now as loud, full-bodied and rich sounding as it was surely intended to be, VDP roars out of your speakers, whereas previously it pretty much dribbled out. At times it's almost like listening to a completely different record.
As hinted earlier, the 2nd CD tracks have also been remasterd to the same high standard. The Valhalla Avenue tracks (originally also cursed with ropey sound) benefit most but even the Lost in the Former West selections sound better than before, and they sounded great to begin with.
Ok, so enough of this anally retentive sound quality stuff, what about the music? Well, I could write a thousand pages about the wonderful music on these CDs, but my fellow reviewers have raved long and hard already. Believe them, they are wise. Suffice to say that from the visceral rage and fury of Blues for Ceausescu, Angel's Delight, Look What I Stole for Us, Darling etc. to the desolate beauty of Behind the Moon or Wilderness on Time, this set contains some of the finest music you will ever hear. Those of my friends and acquaintances who sneer and mock at my claim that the Fatima Mansions were the greatest band of all time will soon find themselves subjected to these CDs. Oh yes. They'll thank me for it one day.
The Best of CD has been well compiled. Ok, personally I'd have tried to make room for Something Bad, The Day I Lost Everything, Ray of Hope, Stigmata and Brunceling's Song and would have probably eschewed You Won't Get Me Home, Nite Flights, Humiliate Me and the remix of The Loyaliser, great though they all are. But, overall, no real complaints.
Newcomers to the band should of course start here. Since no other Fatima Mansions records are currently commercially available they would probably be hard pressed to start anywhere else anyway. Which begs the obvious question: when is the band's entire back catalogue going to be made available? If and when that happens let's hope that it will all sound as good as this reissue.