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Wait for (yet) another repackage - this one misses the mark
on 26 September 2011
Floyd / EMI really missed a chance here. This really could have been something truly incredible, but alas it's truly overblown and lacking in substance worthy of its ticket price.
Granted there may be a small percentage of fans out there that want a bit of memorabilia, there's nothing wrong with a bit of fun, but surely not when it's at the expense of the remainder of the package. I would imagine the vast majority of fans out there who are prepared to fork out the top dollars for a set such at this want quantity and quality, gimmicks I imagine would be well down the list.
In terms of what is provided here the live at Wembley set from 1974 really does sound astonishingly good, absolutely miles above even the soundboard recordings readily available for share from this era. However as this is also available as part of the 'Experience Edition', the question is what does one get that makes this upgrade worthwhile?
The 2 DVD's / 1 Blu-ray discs are chocked up with surround versions of the album and replications of the projections (concert screen reels) played on the big screen behind the band at the time. The fact that this is what makes up the vast majority of 3 of the 4 bonus discs (to the Experience Edition) is IMHO what lets the Immersion set down big time. Firstly the SACD version of the album is readily available and to my ears absolutely flawless. It simply has to be one of the best hi-res surround sound releases on the market, so i can't imagine there would be too many folk out there that would actually be excited by, or need further surround sound versions of the album.
The concert screen reels are pleasant enough, but can really only be seen as bonus material as there's no concert footage of the band playing to go along with them. What would have been ideal is to present a full DSOTM performance on DVD with these concert screen reels provided as a bonus angle. In fact this set is totally void of *any* footage of the band performing DSOTM (except for tiny snippets during a 25 minute doco that was made to promote the SACD release of the album back in 2003). What live footage we get is of Careful With That Axe Eugene and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, and this is so good it's actually heartbreaking that no further footage was dug up, restored and provided.
The set is rounded out with another CD, and it features an early mix of the album by Alan Parsons, presumably before Chris Thomas was brought in. It's an interesting listen and great for fans buying the box set as no doubt they all know the album back to front. It's an aural version of spot the difference. Speak to Me hadn't been spliced together as an overture yet, Clare Torry is absent from Great Gig and the track is 30 sec shorter. Hearing the naked version of this song really highlights what a lift it received from her vocal improvisations. The dialogue interspersed throughout the final mix hadn't been added as yet here so it's also interesting to hear the album stripped of that, but when one is so used to it, it's quite noticeable in its absence. No heart (drum) beats bookend the album, rather a Moody Blues-esque mellotron-like chord commences the album, and a fade out of the final chord of Eclipse rounds it out. Also apparent now is how much effort was put into the final mix in terms of building the suite of songs that finish the album to a full climax and release. The segues of Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage and Eclipse kind of limp together here, but on the final mix each songs entry packs an increasingly bigger punch building a memorable finale to such a deserved classic album! The early mix whilst solid enough shows the band making an obvious improvement on Meddle, but still trying to define themselves. There's no doubt had they released this early mix it would have sold well, but it would certainly not have taken the band into the stratosphere the final mix did.
The remainder of the bonus tracks on this CD are definitely worthy and warrant inclusion in this set. The Hard Way (from the aborted Household Objects project) which, whilst not pre-empting any of the sound of Wish You Were Here, sounds years ahead of its time. In fact if the track had managed to get a bit of a groove happening it could almost be a proto-Massive Attack sound. I can only assume the synth-like sound is actually the wineglasses that are often made mention whenever the band refers to the session. It's a great sound and alone makes this track worth listening to more than once!
Two demos are included: Us and Them is just Rick plonking away on the piano (without vocals), and Money simply Roger on acoustic guitar giving a very earnest vocal perfomance (which I actually love!) His original splicing of money and cash register noises is tagged neatly on the end. The true highlights of this disc are the 3 live tracks from 1972. The band at this point were such an amazing live band and these tracks really highlight the jam-nature of the band at this point free from the controlled song structure they imposed on themselves as they became a bigger phenomenon. The Mortality Sequence contains just one run through of the chord progression that became Great Gig, the remainder being a lovely chordal improvisation from Rick on the organ. Any Colour You Like is relaxed and has beautiful playing from Gilmour and Rick, then Nick starts increasing his frequency of drum fills and the song for 30 odd seconds is totally rocking! The Travel Sequence appears in both live and studio form, and I assume was dropped from the album in favour of On The Run (they both share 16ths on the hi-hats) and for being another instrumental. It would have been filler on the album itself but makes for a great outtake/bonus track!
However the high points of this disc again highlight what could have been! Why not another full set of DSOTM? Imagine if this box set contained the prototype live version (from 1972) as well as the aforementioned '74 Wembley set. I'd gladly trade my marbles and scarf for that!! Who in their right mind wouldn't?? The sound quality of the '72 tracks featured here isn't as strong as the '74 set, but I doubt there'd be too much complaint about that, it's still miles above bootleg quality and very enjoyable. I guess tellingly the 3 tracks supplied are all instrumental, so perhaps messers Gilmour and Waters vetoed their vocal performances from this particular gig. If that's the case that's a real shame, being a bonus feature I could live with the vocals being off mike, cutting out, or even being a bit out of tune. It definitely wouldn't be a deal breaker.
Finally the last real let down of the set is the booklets. The two booklets enclosed should have been reduced to one, and a further booklet should have been commissioned by EMI giving extensive interviews with the surviving members of the band (even interspersing handpicked quotes from Rick) and session engineers. There's no discussion of the live material (audio or visual) or concert screen reels, no discussion of the Household Objects project or the dropped Travel Sequence track... All of which would have made killer (not to mention essential) reading.
Genesis really set the benchmark for reissuing their back catalogue and genuinely giving their fan base what they wanted in terms of a value packed upgrade. 2 box sets issuing much in the way of live tracks and rarities, followed up some years later by solid sonic upgraded SACD surround sound mixes for each album that came with bonus DVD's of interviews/making of docos + TV appearances and concert footage (some broadcast quality interspersed with some bootleg quality, but at least a document for fans to enjoy) Those wishing to dive in for box sets were rewarded with further bonus tracks and DVD footage + essay booklets. All in all a pretty simple and satisfying benchmark to at least try and reach.
Alas with Floyd we have been given gimmicks and a just a taste of what could have been a truly worthwhile and immersing experience.