January 14th, 2007
|06:00 pm - On the wire I will not fall...|
On a trip to the record store, I was completely taken by surprise: nice new Merciful Release/Rhino UK remasters of the three Sisters of Mercy albums (First and Last and Always, Floodland, and Vision Thing), complete with liner notes and bonus tracks. I didn't see these in England...
The bonus tracks for the first two albums are very nicely chosen: they do away with almost the entire "not on CD yet" list from the 1985 and 1987-8 eras. First and Last and Always has the single B-sides ("Poison Door", "On the Wire", "Blood Money", "Bury Me Deep", and "Long Train") along with a previously-unreleased early version of "Some Kind of Stranger"; Floodland has "Torch" and the remake of "Colours" from the "This Corrosion" single, "Emma" (!) from the "Dominion" single, and a full-length version of "Never Land" (though the original "fragment" is still included on the album in its proper place).
By comparison, the bonus tracks for Vision Thing are marginally less essential, simply because they're all already on CD, but they're still mostly nice to have if you don't want to hunt down old CD-singles: the hugely entertaining B-side "You Could Be the One" from the "More" single, the fairly superfluous extended version of "Doctor Jeep" from the single of the same name, and live-in-Hamburg versions of "Ribbons" and "Something Fast" from the German-only "When You Don't See Me" single.
The Vision Thing release also has a couple of errors: the spine gives the title as Visioin Thing, and the last track has some skipping. There's apparently a corrected pressing out there: I'll have to bug Rhino UK about getting that swapped.
One final note: the mix on First and Last and Always is the original 1985 version, where all previous CDs have been remixed (once in 1988, again in 1992). The most obvious differences, to my ears, are on "A Rock and a Hard Place" (different balance of instrumentation, with the guitars more in the background) and the title track (considerably less boomy and more trebly, with a sharply different introduction section). This discussion thread suggests that "Black Planet" and "No Time To Cry" are noticeably different, too: maybe I need to listen again? (Go ahead, twist my arm.) :-)
Edit: Two further quick comments:
1. The remastering itself isn't anything much to write home about. The new Floodland sounds slightly better than the old master to my ears, while the new Vision Thing actually sounds worse, with weaker bass. (As mentioned above, First and Last and Always can't really be compared to its predecessor, since the two aren't the same mix.) But then, I was never going to throw out my old CDs and vinyl anyway...
2. The early version of "Some Kind of Stranger" is more interesting than compelling, but the full-length "Never Land" is worth the price of the Floodland disc all by itself. Nearly twelve minutes in length, with previously-unheard lyrics (which, incidentally, suddenly make Andrew Eldritch's description of the song's genesis much more comprehensible), it's really a splendidly hypnotic thing. The production isn't as polished as on the final fragment: the drums don't have the same intricate slapback echo, and the music isn't as layered. But still, a great find.
Edit II: Exchanged Vision Thing for a fresh copy at the store; this one still misspells the title on the spine, but doesn't have the skipping problem on the live version of "Something Fast". Small victories...