Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reissue! Repackage! Re-evaluate the (masterings)!

Unless you've just emerged from a cave, I'm sure everyone is aware of the recent activities in Smithsworld regarding catalog remastering.

I've had a chance to audition the 7-disc CD box set and in a word, they're stunning.  Johnny Marr has talked about how one of the goals was to strip the garbage off laid on the tracks in their 80s CD masterings, and while I'm not entirely sure what he means by that, if he means revealing detail previously obscured, he succeeded.  For the most part, the 2011 masterings (by Marr and Frank Arkwright) are revelatory. Even in comparison to original Rough Trade vinyl - and I say that as the Analog Loyalist.

These are, of course, modern masterings.  But by no means are they a brickwall travesty - they are limited, as one would expect, but not ridiculously so.  For the guitar detail revealed in these, I'll take some gentle mastering compression/limiting any day.

Here's a case in point:  "Is It Really So Strange?" taken from the 1987 ROUGHCD 255 Louder Than Bombs, and the same track from the new box set's issue of the same album.  (Volume level of the ROUGHCD 255 version has been matched to the new issue, for better comparison.)  Marr's twangy descending guitar part, starting at approximately 0:15, is nearly obscured on the 1987 mastering but gloriously clear here on this 2011 mastering.

So I post the obvious question:  while my blog mate and I are committed to finish what we've started, do you think we should carry on with sourcing from Rough Trade product, or start lifting from these new Marr/Arkwright masterings?

Please comment.  Have you heard the new box set?  Do you like the overall sonics?  Do you like what we've already posted better than the same tracks in their 2011 mastering guise?  Is the box set version better than any given track we've done so far (obviously only tracks that are common to both)?

My opinion, as objective as I can be, is that for the most part what we've posted so far is in the same ballpark as the 2011 masterings.