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Great Music - Bad Sonics
on 4 January 2008
There are plenty of reviews about the music, so I thought I'd offer a review about the actual sound, speaking as someone who has many of these tracks where applicable on earlier issues of the albums (including the excellent remastered issues).
Well, here we have the tracks necessarily mastered again for this compilation album, by Tony Cousins. And unfortunately, he seems to have followed exactly the same route that just about all remastered music is being taken these days - the compression route!
It's just not quite as dynamic, doesn't quite pack the same punch as the earlier versions of the tracks. Compare the respective versions of 'Sledgehammer' to hear what I mean. The new one has a slightly deeper and louder bass end, but overall sounds flatter. The funky drums just don't have the same impact.
Ditto 'Rhythm Of The Heat'. The version on PG4 (Security) Remastered is excellent (improved upon the original IMO) with the much used tom tom drums really coming through. This later master seems to have taken things back a notch. Again, like all the tracks, it has more of a bottom end to it, but the drum rhythm doesn't punch through like before.
I find this state of affairs really sad, as I always hoped Gabriel was above this kind of crowd following - although to be fair, things such as mastering are usually out of the hands of the artists and under the control of the label (in this case EMI, the then parent company of Real World). It's still likely that this master was indeed approved by Gabriel though.
So there you go, in brief. I'm sure this review will annoy the hell out of a few people who don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm speaking as someone who until recently always looked forward to remasters or remixes as it usually meant some kind of sonic gain. In the last few years that seems to have changed; now it tends to mean louder and more compressed.
This album isn't the worst case that I've heard (far from it, to be fair), but it's still affected to a noticeable degree. All in the name of maximising the average volume of the disc.