Where Have You Been? (A masterpiece re-mastered)

I remember it vividly. I was on a school bus driving from Limassol to Berengaria Primary School and the driver had BFBS radio playing (I can still remember that bloody jingle!) when it happened. I heard a song which, though in itself it amounts to little more than a pop song, would introduce me to what is now called ‘Progressive Rock‘. The song? Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2.

It was some time before I delved further into either the genre or, in fact, the album from which the song came but, when I did, I was hooked. I was a teenager by this time and had already succumbed to an addiction to all things ‘prog’ thanks to a healthy intake of Genesis from my music teacher and Marillion from the late, great, Tommy Vance.  My Mother’s partner had recently died and I was pushed along the path to ‘geekdom’, ‘nerdiness’, ‘musical outcast’ by my next-door  neighbour in Falkirk, an ex-Forces man who befriended me after hearing the likes of Supper’s Ready, The Musical Box, Fugazi and Grendel bursting from my bedroom walls.  He introduced me to King Crimson, Camel, Hawkwind, Barclay James Harvest and a plethora of other gems.

A few years later again and I returned home from school to learn that Ian, my musical guide, had died suddenly. His wife, whose name I can’t remember for the life of me, had decided that I should inherit Ian’s record collection.

It was then that I discovered the true wealth of the Pink Floyd catalogue. Yes, I’d heard Wish You Were Here (the song), I owned The Wall both on vinyl and the VHS of the film, and I knew much of Dark Side… But I now owned original copies of the vinyl albums, gatefold sleeves and everything! Umma Gumma, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, I’d heard nothing like them. And I loved it!

In the years since then I’ve fallen in and out of love with Pink Floyd. A Momentary Lapse of Reason confused me, The Division Bell astounded me but regardless of how I felt about the band, I loved 3 of their albums consistently. I purchased the remasters in the early nineties, I bought the DVD-A, SACD and all other versions of them as they became available. Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall have each remained in my list of favourite albums since I first heard them.

Fast forward to 2011 and there’s a big announcement and subsequent campaign from both EMI and Pink Floyd, called Why Pink Floyd?, announcing the remastered re-release of their entire catalogue. and not only that you could get them in a whole host of different versions! There’s the Discovery version, the Experience Version and the almighty Immersion Box-sets. Each of these includes a fully remastered version of the original album, with the Experience version including a second disc of previously unreleased material (unless you own certain bootlegs) and the Immersion Box-sets including an absolutely ridiculous amount of paraphernalia and memorabilia… But they come at a price. The box-sets are just shy of £100 each and, when announced, I was disgusted (although tempted!) by this. I’d already heard remastered versions of the albums, I’d seen live footage, I’d heard live versions. So what?

Public opinion was mixed, not least as the first of these albums, Dark Side of the Moon, landed smack bang in the middle of what was affectionately known as ‘Progtember’ with new releases from the likes of Dream Theater, Steven Wilson and a whole host of others. I fell on the same side as Tim Hall and felt the price for these (even the Experience editions) was just that bit too much to justify, until now…

I succumbed to the Experience Edition of Wish You Were Here. A 2 CD set included the newly remastered album on one, 3 live tracks from Wembley in 1974, a track from the doomed Household Objects project and two alternative versions (Have a Cigar and Wish You Were Here) on the second.

I haven’t listened to them on the home stereo yet. Neither have I played them in my home studio. I have, however, ripped them to lossless format and played them through both headphones and through my car stereo. And this is what is so amazing; I know these albums, I’ve literally grown up with them, late nights with headphones in my bedroom, walkman on walking through the streets, DVD-A in my living room, you name it, I’ve listened to them that way and yet, even after all these years I noticed new nuances, further depth to the structure and arrangement even on my first listen.

The turning on of the ‘machine’ at the end of Shine (Pt 1-5) can be heard that little bit earlier. It’s not been changed, it’s just… there. The synths at the start of Shine have a space, an openness that was never there previously, the oscillators in Welcome to the Machine are crisper, and then there’s the guitar. I can’t explain it, I’m not even sure how to try. There’s just something different and yet, it’s still the same album. And I think is what makes this all the more special. On many remasters there is something done which removes the original lustre of the analogue recording, replacing it with a modern, sometimes digital, sheen which dilutes the experience.

In the case of this album there is still that organic feel/sound you only got in the days of tape recording, experimentation and progressive attitude which is so often lacking in today’s recordings. The album is truly enhanced by the work carried out, it’s brought to life, and I can’t recommend it enough.

If you’ve got them already you may be satisfied with the Discovery Edition (1 Disc), I loved the additions on the Experience Edition in this case and would recommend heading in that direction or, if your budget can stretch that far then spend the £100 on the whole thing. If the additional video and audio is anywhere near the quality I’ve experienced from this album it will be an amazing experience.

Now, I’m off to try and justify the £100 for the Immersion Edition of The Wall to my wife…

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One thought on “Where Have You Been? (A masterpiece re-mastered)

  1. Hi Graeme, Great read. I heard that the remastered Dark Side has Great Gig in the Sky but just on piano without vocals so I’ll be investigating that purchase this weekend.
    As for justifiying the £100 purchase cost. I reckon, from reading the blog, that you’ve already convinced yourself that it’s a worthy investment. That’s right, an investment, not a purchase.
    I’m sure that Mrs Tennick will agree once she’s heard it too.

    Slainte

    Ralph

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