Archive: October 2010

Big Thing, Notorious remasters lift a middle finger to Duran Duran fans

The brouhaha over the special edition remasters of Duran Duran and Seven and the Ragged Tiger must have rankled the brass over at EMI. There was enough outcry that the label had to make a statement, but then stood by their work, which, when analyzed in a sound editor, isn’t all that great.

Of course, I was too bedazzled by the demos to notice the remastering.

After a few delays, special editions of Notorious and Big Thing are now available. This time, EMI opted not to boost the levels to the point they were squashed, but they still are squashed.

I noticed right away the mixes were pumping — soft parts would get loud, and loud parts would get soft, even though the overall level remained constant. So I fired up Sound Forge to confirm my suspicions — the transients were all cut off in the remasters. The result is something that may sound "louder" but isn’t.

That certainly addresses an issue from the previous special editions, but it also loses the spaciousness of the original mixes. Compare the Big Thing and Notorious special editions with some tracks from the Singles 1986-1995 boxed set, and you’ll hear the disparity.

The Singles 1986-1995 tracks are boosted significantly, but they don’t do a bad job of preserving the proportion of peaks. Not so with the special editions. They are flat, flat, flat.

The outcry from this set is going to be something fierce.

Greg Kot: Ripped

I knew going into it that Greg Kot’s Ripped covers a subset of what was already detailed in Steve Knopper’s Appetite for Self-Destruction. Perhaps Kot had something else to say about the period of time overlapping both books — the rise of the Internet in hastening the downfall of the major labels.

Ripped does indeed cover much more than just the effects of file sharing on the recorded music industry. Kot mentions how Youtube and Myspace boosted the careers of OK Go and Lily Allen. One chapter focuses on how protest songs against the Iraq War got squeezed out of radio but found audiences on the Net.

An overly long love letter to Radiohead covers the emerging marketing techniques used by major artists abandoning the label system, while another chapter briefly mentions artists who decide to remain in the system that fed their careers.

Kot takes a wide snapshot of the various ways creating and selling recorded music happens in the first decade of the 21st Century. But that’s all it is — a snapshot.

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Favorite edition 2010: Quarter third

A few third quarter releases and some straggling second quarter discoveries finally rounded out the favorite edition list for 2010.

I’ll admit I’m not entirely passionate about the second half of the list as I am the first half, but I’m glad I’ve encountered enough new releases to stave off the avalanche of catalog that’s been dominating my playlist.

While Tokyo Jihen has a strangehold on the top spot, I would like to mention my pick for single of the year: "Nirai Kanai" by Cocco. That mix of Okinawan chanting with her classic hard rock sound just pushes all the right buttons for me.

I’m not seeing anything spectacular on the release calendar for the rest of the year, so this list might be it.

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The Slush Pile, or adjustment period redux

It’s been three months since I started my new job, and I think the upheaval of such a change is just starting to settle down. (Evident in the fact I’ve made a virtual avalanche of posts.)

The job is busy enough to keep me off of social media for most of the day, and I actually like the fact I’m writing on my own time. Of course, it’s usually at 3 a.m. on those nights when I conk out on the futon too early.

The backlog, however, has gotten bigger these past months. I was proud when I managed to get it under 60 hours a few months ago. It’s sky-rocketed back up to 80.

So it’s time to clear out the slush pile.

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Duran Duran: Seven and the Ragged Tiger (Special Edition)

By the time Duran Duran recorded Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the band had turned into international superstars. Touring kept them out of the studio, which meant little in the way of archival material.

The special edition of Seven and the Ragged Tiger does not hold any surprises for diligent fans who snatched up the singles boxed set from 2004 or the 12-inch compilations from the late ’90s.

"Is There Something I Should Know?" suffers from something of an identity crisis. US fans probably associate the track with the band’s self-titled debut, which shoe-horned the track in a 1983 reissue that came in the wake of the success of Rio. (I, for one, keep expecting to hear it after "Careless Memories".)

The track appears as a bonus, along with two versions of the B-side "Faith in This Colour". Of course, there’s "Secret Oktober" and the dance mix of "The Reflex", which is far superior than the album mix.

Very familiar territory for the schooled Duranie. That leaves the videos, which is where the true value of this reissue lies.

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Duran Duran: Duran Duran (Special Edition)

Here’s how far I’ve fallen as a Duranie: I didn’t know there was a controversy surrounding the expanded reissue of Duran Duran’s self-titled album.

Yes, I thought it was odd the camera clicks at the start of "Girls on Film" cut out, and I thought I just made a faulty rip to my computer, until I discovered it was actually on the recording itself. I shrugged it off as a bad pressing but didn’t think too much of it.

I still have the remastered version of this album from 2004, and my aim in purchasing this reissue were for the extras — demos and videos.

Then I read EMI’s statement admitting to the glitch and standing by it. Andy Taylor, who left the band twice, gave his indignant reaction, and given what I know about Duranies, I didn’t bother to comb any Internet fan communities to gauge the consumer outrage.

Me? I’ve bought this damn album multiple times, and I have no shortage of versions to which I can listen. I’m not lacking in "Girls on Film" or "Planet Earth".

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Alarm Will Sound: a/rhythmia

When I was studying music in college, the history course emphasized the evolution of harmonic language, from the dominance of the perfect fifth in the Middle Ages to the unresolved cadences of Richard Wagner.

Then in the 20th Century, the harmonic language broke down. Dissonance was in, and at the time, it seemed that history would be rebooted to chart the evolution of dissonance.

It’s ten years into a new century, and it’s too soon the determine what the 20th Century really contributed to that continuum. The general sense seems to indicate dissonance was a dead end. If the 20th Century rebooted anything, it was the approach to rhythm.

Alarm Will Sound understands this idea, and the ensemble dedicated an entire album exploring it. a/rhythmia sounds like a total mess, and yet, the musicianship required to navigate through its rhythmic right angles is supernatural.

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