Top critical review
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so called "deluxe" treatment
on 25 July 2011
It looks like Universal are going to sort out the glitch after all:
Thank you for your email regarding Mike Oldfield's Incantations.
The new re-master of Incantations is faithful to the original analogue master tape. These tapes included an edit point at 12:37 on Part 4 of Incantations which can be discerned as a small jump in the track. Following feedback that this has affected the enjoyment for some listeners, a new master has been prepared and approved by Mike for all subsequent pressings. If you would like us to send you an amended disc please let us have your address details and we will send you one. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for CD and email@example.com for vinyl.
If you have any further enquiries please don't hesitate to contact us: on:firstname.lastname@example.org
As we all know the course of true love never does run smooth - and so it seems with these Mike Oldfield re-releases/remasters.
Firstly the packaging.
Clearly things must be getting tight at Universal Music as we no longer get the clear plastic shroud to protect the digipack - instead we get a tape wrapped around the bottom of the product sealing the flaps shut.
Don't worry it comes off easy enough but then you have to throw it away - which is probably a clever marketing ploy - because on that piece of tape you have just thrown away is the only place where it says this is a "deluxe" product!
There is a big black sticker over the rather nice new photograph of the Minorca beach proclaiming the new 2011 remaster with 5.1 mixes and rare and previously un-released material - again this comes easily enough off and you get to throw this away too - Hmmm - a pattern is emerging here.
After having gone through the discs I can see why these "stickers" are so placed and so disposable. I'm almost tempted to throw the whole thing away after going through it all.
On the positive side the booklet is good - the notes are informative and do offer up a few bits and pieces not normally regurgitated. Interestingly they still can't mention "Don Alfonso" - Its still referred to as "a single" when the "For Maureen" version of In Dulci Jubilo is bought up!
The 2011 "remaster". Incantations has always sounded bright and clear on its previous incarnations - perhaps a little too bright on some systems. No danger of that on this release though. There is definitely a dampening filter put across the recording. It tones down the brightness of the sound - cymbals and glockenspiels are more muted and there is sense of a blanket being placed over the speakers. Some people may well prefer this. I do not. Listen to the start of Part 3 - usually a cacophony of crashes and tinkles - its quite dull on this version with the shaking tambourine almost disappearing entirely.
Unfortunately there is still an annoying high pitched whine at various points in the recording - most noticeably right at the start of Part One - Incantations has always had this so I'm guessing its on the master but you'd think this could be filtered out now using today's technology.
The little wobble in the beginning bit of Part 2 has finally gone however horror of horrors it has been replaced by the most unforgivable of sins - a glitch jump in Part 4 around 12:37 just at the start of the wonderful marimba section.
tagged at the end is a "remaster" of Guilty - the single version. Only here its running noticeably slower. 14 seconds slower - and it sounds dreadful.
I'm at a bit of a loss to comprehend what the purpose of including the "new" pieces was. They are pleasant enough but really do not seem to add anything to the Oldfield canon.
Diana is nice but just meanders with no sense of purpose and just fades away to nothing.
Northumbrian is clearly an out take or cut from an improvisation - you can see why it didn't get used anywhere.
Piano Improvisation - is exactly what it says - a sketch of an idea - only notable to hear where part of Platinum came from.
Hiawatha is painful. The vocal has been auto-tuned - very badly. And again the "mix" does not add anything of particular note.
Canon for 2 Vibraphones - sounds just like its lifted straight from the master - nothing new and nothing of any particular note.
Thank goodness for the short singles being on here with no problems - its good to finally get Pipe Tune & Wrekorder Wrondo on CD with no tweaking. Tho its a pity they didn't include the Incantations excerpt that was the B side to Guilty - It's even acknowledged in the booklet!
The new mix of the extended version of Guilty is actually ok! Its missing the double drum hits right at the start but it has a good sound scape and feels a bit more polished - until the new twiddly guitar bits at the end which frankly sound amateur and distracting. The abrupt fade out at the end is disconcerting.
Then the disc closes with Diana Desiderata. Again its pleasant enough but without a decent end or being in context with the rest of Incantations it just doesn't hold its own. The addition of the Stephen Hawking voice is off putting and un-necessary.
The pieces that were on Disc 2 but now in surround - really I don't know why he bothered! Diana is probably the best of the bunch but for all the other pieces the surround really does not add anything.
Again Guilty is the best track - the surround works well for this - until you get to the ridiculous guitar at the end which just sounds too loud and clearly just plonked over the top of the original.
The videos of William Tell & Guilty suffer from the same issues as the videos on the previous re-releases. They have put thin black bands top and bottom of the picture reducing the size of the image and the videos suffer from artefacts and banding whenever there is a jump cut - as if the video level is too high and the processing peaks and cuts out.
So overall I have to say I am very disappointed. This is not what I would call a "deluxe" product - and I seriously doubt I will be playing anything from it again bar the short singles on Disc 2.