First things first - the idea that The Blue Nile's 3rd album "Peace At Last" 'needs' to be remastered was to me ridiculous. I bought the original CD on Warner Brothers 9362-45848-2 in June 1996 - the day it came out - and it was (and still is) a beautifully crafted and produced album. So it was with a healthy amount of scepticism that I plopped Disc 1 into my snazzy Marantz this afternoon...
Well take me sideways with a can-opener from Mars - but they've only gone and done it again. Because like "A Walk Across The Rooftops" and the sublime "Hats" that were both remastered in 2012 - this is truly gorgeous return to the original tapes. There's undeniable sonic improvement on every track - especially in the background instrumentation. Here are the poets and typewriters...
UK released Monday 3 March 2014 (April 2014 in the USA) - "Peace At Last DELUXE SET" is a 2CD reissue on Virgin/Linn/Universal LKHCDR 3 (Barcode 0602537618071) and plays out as follows:
Disc 1: (44:56 minutes - 3 seconds longer than the original issue):
2. Tomorrow Morning
3. Sentimental Man
4. Love Came Down
5. Body And Soul
6. Holy Love
7. Family Life
8. War Is Love
9. God Bless You Kid
Disc 2 (29:42 minutes - 6 New Outtakes):
1. Soon – Laurel Canyon Mix
2. War Is Love – New Vocal Mix
3. Turn Yourself Around
4. Holy Love – Picture Mix
5. A Certain Kind Of Angel – Unreleased Demo
6. There Was A Girl
Original band members ROBERT BELL and PAUL BUCHANAN in conjunction with their long-standing Engineer CALM MALCOLM have remastered the lot.
The 16-page booklet housed within a foldout card digipak retains none of the original artwork (excepting the cover) and there's nothing on any of the inner flaps. It's massively disappointing and feels utterly superfluous to requirements. There's a title page - one page of bare-knuckle credits - followed by 15 pages of photos of the band sat in the studio or the steps of some building somewhere - none of which advance your knowledge of the album one jot. There's no liner notes - no personal explanations or insights - no lyrics - it's rubbish frankly. The only explanation I can offer is that the band is keeping with its previous minimalist approach to artwork. But I'd say - I think the mystery is common knowledge now boys and we could have done better. Back to the good news...
The opening track "Happiness" has a synth opening with a count in - it's crystal clear - and the slight hiss that was on the original hasn't been compressed or removed - just given more presence. But when the choir of Eddie Tate and Friends kicks in - it sounds HUGE - just glorious. "Tomorrow Morning" has always moved me to tears (lyrics above) - and today it has done so again. The strum of the acoustic guitars and the delicate piano - compliment Buchanan's aching vocal as the strings come pouring in halfway through - a superbly handled transfer. The wallop out of "Sentimental Man" is again to the fore - funky Rock at its best (I remember gigs when this slayed them in the aisles - especially the guitar solo). "Love Comes Down" sounds incredible and "Body And Soul" is so sweetly emotive. The piano of "Family Life" seems even more haunting - what a beautiful piece of songwriting - and the hurt in the words is like an open wound that can't be cauterized. "War Is Love" features that huge drum sound with a tight slap bass behind - it's somehow more controlled - you hear the acoustics and gorgeous keyboard fills. It ends on "God Bless You Kid" and "Soon" - both sounding renewed.
As to be expected the 6 new tracks that make up Disc 2 (3 versions and 3 new songs) are a mixed bag of the good and the dismissible. Both "Soon" and "War Is Love" are 'Laurel Canyon Mix' versions in which the synth fills and treatments clutter up the songs to a point where they interfere with the lovely melodies ("War Is Love" is the better of the two). We then get a pretty version of another album track "Holy Love" in the guise of a 'Picture Mix' that ambles nicely but never really takes off.
Better is the first new song "Turn Yourself Around" which sounds like an early run-through for "Love Comes Down". Featuring those impassioned vocals that make Buchanan so special - it could have been a sought-after B-side. The unreleased 'Demo' of "A Certain Kind Of Angel" could easily have been a "Hats" outtake with the same synth patterns and five-minute length. It's lovely. But best of all is "There Was A Girl" - as pretty a song as Paul Buchanan has ever written. At five and a half minutes - it's a beautiful melodic slowy that will make fans swoon and notice the pimples on their arms. It ends a patchy Disc 2 on a genuine and much-needed high.
So there you have it - a 10-star album in a 4-star repackage. But man when I play that new remaster and those new songs - I'm gone baby gone.
"Raise the children ...hold them to sky..." Paul Buchanan sang on "Body And Soul". I did and I still do.
The Blue Nile people - God is jealous of them - and he's God...
on 23 January 2003
This album is nothing like Hats or Walk Across The Rooftops. Those albums were beautiful and sad but this one is uplifting, Church on Sunday music. If you haven’t heard The Blue Nile then you’re in for a treat but be prepared for Paul Buchanan’s heartbreaking vocals. You could argue this album isn’t as good as the last two but when the group spend seven years on a record then you really have to give the music time to grow on you. This album shows another side of The Blue Nile equally fantastic and lovingly made. This band is something very special and all their albums worth buying.
on 4 March 2014
First off let me state that I am a massive fan of the Blue Nile but I'm left feeling a little let down with this recent purchase.Now it is possible that I have a defective cd but I would have thought not considering the problem seems to be at high energy points and only on one track (my favourite mores the pity) . I Cant believe that they made a mess of family life's remaster, my copy distorts at the loud vocal parts just about 2 mins in. I'm an audio engineer to trade and I am flabbergasted that no one spotted the over heating and digital distortion in the middle of this track. I'm listening to to it through a D-Command Pro tools desk playing on big Genelec 1031A's speakers so it should be crystal clear, thought it was maybe a problem with the desk or the Marantz cd player so tried it on a small boom box that I have in the studio and my car stereo and the exact same happened... Really surprised and disappointed... Rest of the album seems fine tho. Might just be a dodgy copy of the cd, does anyone else have the same problem?
on 30 June 2001
This is a wonderfully mellow experience altogether! The opening number "Happiness" is one of those songs that immediately chills you out and takes you somewhere a whole lot calmer. Acoustic and rhythm guitars are prominent during the stronger first half and drive some great tunes, "Love Came Down" and "Body and Soul" being standouts. The second half is perhaps a little too wondering, but nothing ever outstays its welcome. As for those awaiting Blue Nile's fourth album, they should meanwhile check out band member Nigel Thomas's "Quiet City - Public Face, Private Face", a very impressive debut that features involvement from most of Nile's other members
"Peace At Last" was The Blue Nile's third album, and their most American-sounding. The sparse but lush soundscapes of the previous two albums are pushed aside for more twangy guitars here, and sadly the songs are a little below par, but are still good. The undoubted highlight of the set is "Family Life", a devastating piano piece where Buchanan's voice sounds on the verge of tears, as though he's reached an emotional edge, and it is heartbreaking to listen to, often reducing me to tears (once listened to it in the car, which was a bad idea.) There are a few dud tracks here, such as "Holy Love" and "War Is Love", but the likes of "Happiness", "Tomorrow Morning", "Sentimental Man", "Love Came Down" and the aforementioned "Family Life" make up for them.
The remaster sounds a little cleaner than the original album but doesn't add much. There's still a fuzzy moment in "Family Life" which I'd hoped they would have cleared up but it's still there, which is a shame. It's also worth mentioning that if you own the original album all of the booklet artwork is different here for some reason.
The bonus disk doesn't really add much, half of the tracks being remixes of three of the lesser tracks from the album, but the other three songs are previously unreleased. They're nice - it's always good to hear new Blue Nile songs - but none of them are classics.
All in all it's a good album, if not a classic (and nowhere near as good as "Hats"), but if you've got the original CD it's not really worth upgrading to this unless you're a completist.
on 8 October 2003
"A Walk Across The Rooftops" is a story of teenage infatuation and the discovery of dating. "Hats" tells the tale of heartbreak, growing up and finding the right girl. "Peace At Last" is a document of adulthood, to put it as simply as I can. As with many other people, I feel this is the most moving collection of music I have ever listened to - it has made me more of a man. This is my personal interpretation of this fantastic album.
The glorious first track, "Happiness", speaks of the wishing, hoping and uncertainty you go through when you hope you have found the right girl - you want to treat her right, but will it last? It does last. "Tomorrow Morning" explains that if there is love and that little something extra then you're on the right track, the future is everything. "Sentimental Man" tries to explain what that little extra something is: nobody is perfect, money isn't everything, love can be the key. "Love Come Down" encapsulates the moment when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with the person you have found - you want to be married. After this, "Body And Soul" is almost a song of wedding vows - about being happy together forever, about starting a home and raising a family. "Holy Love" speaks of the joys of wedding night intimacy. "Family Life" is possibly the most emotional song, speaking of the trails and tribulations of being a husband and father. It can be very hard sometimes, even bad in places but you must always look for the good in these difficult times - hope will prevail. "War Is Love" goes further to describe how these difficult times can be overcome also by love. "God Bless You Kid" describes the desire to rekindle youth by having children. "Soon" speaks of becoming one with your children, growing to love them more over time. A happy ending.
That's pretty deep for me!
on 15 March 2014
Oh dear. Waiting for my 'Peace At Last' Remaster to arrive in the mail I read the reviews posted on Amazon mentioning distortion on 'Family Life'. I hoped it was a CD pressing error and not source material related.
The CD arrived, I put my headphones on and began at the beginning and was more than happy with 'Happiness.' The mastering seems to have a diligently applied greater amount of compression adding thickness, warmth and improved cohesion of the sound and an overall less brittle sound without being overly loud and mushy.
Then, I jumped to Track 7 'Family Life' and what a shame it is to hear the distorted moments others have written about. I, for the life of me, cannot understand what has happened. Has the master tape been damaged or oxidized and not baked properly before transferring to digital? Having read interviews with the band over the years covering the care Calum Malcolm took as engineer for recording the band's albums I would be astounded, as he has personally remastered this album with Robert Bell and Paul Buchanan, that these imperfections have made it through to the final product. If the tape was irreparably damaged you'd think an explanation on the sleeve would be warranted.
Ultimately, a 2014 remaster of a 1996 recording should use the intervening 18 years of technological advance and skill development to produce a marked improvement on the sound of the original album release and that simply isn't evident here.
'Peace At Last' has always been my least favorite Blue Nile album, with a touch too much religious imagery and lyrical content for my taste, but I have never really let that prevent me from enjoying the many beautiful, moving moments on it. I will never forget the first day I listened to it laying on my lounge back in 1996, with an impossible, insatiable amount of anticipation, and the beauty of the opening track 'Happiness' reducing me to howling tears (I wasn't particularly happy at the time). With my other favorites, 'Sentimental Man,' Love Came Down,' 'God Bless You Kid', and 'Soon' I had hoped that this remaster may have raised my appreciation of the entire album a notch, but that is not to be. Due to the problems with 'Family Life' on this remaster it must be said that the original 1996 master is the one to stick with.
So what of the supplementary disc?
'Soon - Laurel Canyon Mix'- makes for a curious space-age listen with its swirling bleepy electronic additional sounds but only serves to make one appreciate the sparseness of the album version all the more.
'War is Love - New Vocal Mix' - Feels like an early or alternative arrangement when the band was still finding the most suitable sounds to use on the song. As for 'new vocal mix' - the album vocal is superior.
'Turn Yourself Around' is a worthy addition here, if perhaps unremarkable, but I actually think this would have sat better on the original album at the expense of 'Holy Love' that, all these years down the track, still jars with me and doesn't seem to belong on the album.
'Holy Love - Picture Mix' - Feels like an early jam session demo with additional and/or alternative arrangement (without guitar) that is ultimately redundant. The jazzy guitar on the original was the songs redeeming feature (for me).
'A Certain Kind of Angel - Unreleased Demo' actually sounds pretty good but it's one of those tracks you can understand not making an album as it lacks the requisite Blue Nile magic.
'There Was A Girl' - has some really good elements to it and is the best extra on the disc ('Turn Yourself Around' a close second).
The tracks on this second disc are of the calibre that you will listen to them the day the CD arrives, only to be archived away as part of your Blue Nile completest collection, rarely to be revisited.
There was no reason to rush this release so the mind boggles as to how on Earth a Blue Nile remaster could be released with audio problems!
Do you need to own this if you have the original CD? No.
Are you a Blue Nile fan? You have to own this.
on 23 November 2004
I had found The Blue Nile on a sampler some years ago, bought "Hats" and a "Walk Across The Roof Tops" and kind of marked them down as "good but needs time and space to enjoy them" and filed them away at the back of the CD collection. A few years later my partner of the time bought "Peace at Last", and if there's one album that ever hit an emotional chord, it is this one.
There's not too many words that do justice to "Happiness". It is extremely uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. But that's the beauty of this whole CD. The whole thing is like a freeze frame on someone's life. The songs lend themselves to looking at what might be, is everything going to work out for the singer?
If you have not got this in your CD collection then buy it. It forms a great reference point for what one group can achieve and allows you to compare how other artists treat the same issues. Outstanding!
on 3 March 2014
This is the album that was not universally loved by the fan base. I must have been one of the few to absolutely adore it. From the uplifting Happiness to the heartbreaking Family Life and the fantastic God bless you kid I can't honestly hear anything weak here. Yes it's different from Hats and Walk across the rooftops but so what it's still glorious. The only minor quibble is the frustrating lack of recording info or comments from the band themselves, but we've lived with that for the last 30 odd years so no change. All that matters is how glorious this album is and on that matter it's a no brainer. LOVE IT.
on 6 March 2014
4 stars for this reissue.
My guess is that the label has run into licensing issues. What Blue Nile fan wouldn't want the alternate version of War Is Love, plus the amazing songs O Lolita and New York Man on the bonus disc here?
I'd like to say it's a baffling bonus disc, but I am truly beyond baffled here - if it is indeed a selection - and not, as I suspect it is: whatever the heck the label was allowed to mop up and re-digitise.
I like the remaster - it's earthier than the slightly pristine original, the stereo is a bit more widescreen, the bass is dryer and less blobby. Yes, it is a fine, fine remaster.
The sleeve. Like Basil Fawlty's suits in Fawlty Towers, this sleeve art looked ridiculous at the time - but it hasn't dated. It looks just as daft now as it did then. (See also the booklet that accompanied 'High'.) Kraftwerk coyly clothed their remasters in cardboard slipcases with remixed/ updated sleeve art, which kind of defeated the exercise. The sleeve is genius, glad it's not been messed around with.
All in all - a must buy for fans of the band. Disc 2 will make a fine coaster.