Top positive review
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Surprising journey in tones and textures
on 2 January 2013
I was not expecting much from this release. I bought it because it was cheap, because there was an unreleased track on it and because I wanted a well-mastered CD copy of the rarer versions of the New Order tracks which are part of this compilation and which I had until now only owned on the original vinyl.
I listened to it in my car during a long and boring drive. Classic New Order has always been my favourite soundtrack for long journeys. It turned a boring drive into a journey of the mind and a lovely potted history of my favourite group.
I am well accustomed to hearing beautifully remastered versions of most of these Joy Division tracks as they have been re-released on so many different compilation albums over the last ten years, so no surprises here, but I thought the JD tracks - and indeed all of the tracks on this album - were very well chosen and the remastering at least as good as any that has so far been achieved.
The restoration on the older New Order tracks was startling. This compilation includes rarer original versions of the songs which have been largely overlooked since their vinyl releases in the early 1980s as the songs were subsequently re-recorded by the band with more poppy production. The production on these versions is cruder and the performance less honed, but the tracks' lack of commercial slickness reveals the raw spirit and soul of the songs. The digital remastering process has provided us with beautifully restored recordings rich in texture and raw detail. It's the aural equivalent of leaving an old coin in vinegar and pulling it out bright and shiny a few hours later, or watching an art restoration specialist painstakingly cleaning a classic painting to reveal new intensity and detail in the tones and colours.
I suddenly feared for my hearing as I realised that Blue Monday was next up. My eardrums had been fair grated by the freshly scrubbed textures of the old tracks and I was expecting my head to be blown apart by the new rendering of that oh-so-familiar disco beat intro... but I was wrong. It was there, clear and present, but well matched to the preceding tracks. The dynamic range had not been mashed into the upper decibels but the remastering engineer had instead gone to work on the tones and textures of the track, treating it as a song rather than a disco stomper. Refreshing.
Where the compilation starts to founder of course is when the original production becomes too slick and bland and digitally refined to make any difference on this re-release. Basically from "Regret" onwards. The original production is so saturated and compressed that there is nothing the remastering engineer can appreciably do except match the levels to the preceding tracks.
The final track, previously unreleased, was a fruity, liquour-soaked cherry on the otherwise slightly bland sugar frosting of New Order's post-Factory tracks. I like the newer albums well enough in their own right, but included on this compilation it sounds as different to Factory-era New Order as New Order does to Joy Division. But that era needed to be represented and the tracks were a strong, if obvious selection.
I like it. Looking forward to The Lost Sirens now!