As we all know, Neil Young has famously resisted the remastered reissue of his huge catalogue on CD because of what he feels is the format's less than stellar representation of analogue tapes' 'original sound' - and almost a full 20 years after 1989's first issue of "Gold Rush" on a dullard CD - it looks like the guy is having the last laugh - because this meticulously prepared tape transfer is GLORIOUS. It really is.
First to the details - "After The Gold Rush" was released in September 1970 on Reprise Records MS 6383 in the USA and RSLP 6383 in the UK (it went to Number 8 in the USA and Number 7 in the UK). This 2009 NYA OSR remaster (Neil Young Archives - Original Release Series) is Disc 3 of 4 and carries the HDCD code on the label and rear inlay (High Density Compact Disc). Until now, 2004's "Greatest Hits" set (which offered us three Gold Rush tracks remastered into HDCD sound quality) was the only real indication of just how good the album 'could' sound (this is the first time the 'entire' album has been given a sonic upgrade). The Audio Tape Restoration and Analog-To-HDCD Digital Transfer of the Original Master Tapes was carried out by JOHN NOWLAND (24-Bit 176 KHZ) with the Editing and Mastering done by TIM MULLIGAN - and they've done a stunning job.
The inlay faithfully reproduces the foldout lyric sheet with his black and white grainy handwritten lyrics and the print isn't cramped either - it's very readable. (The Harvest inlay has the textured feel of the original LP sleeve and lyric insert too - a nice touch).
Also - as these are the first four albums in a long reissue campaign - to identify them from the old CDs, the upper part of the outer spine has his new NYA OSR logo at the top and an 'issue' number beneath - D1, D2, D3, D4...on upwards of course.
However, the big and obvious disappointment is the complete lack of musical extras or any new info in the booklet; they're in "The Archives Vol.1 1963-1972" box set that's still sitting in shop windows at varying extortionate prices. Still - at mid price - this remaster of "Gold Rush" is great value for money and with this hugely upgraded sound - it makes you focus on the music as is and not anything else.
Some have complained that the sound is a little underwhelming after all the hype that has preceded these releases - I don't think that at all. The danger in remastering would be the cranking of everything, ultra-treble the lot - but I'm hearing ALL the instruments on this carefully prepared remaster - especially the bass and drums which now have a clarity that is so sweet rather than flashy. The sound is very subtle - there's no brashness, very little hiss.
So many highlights - the meaty guitars of "Southern Man" and the slyly lovely cover of Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" is great too. But then there's a triple whammy of "Don't Let It Bring You Down", the beautiful "Birds" (lyrics above) and the rocking "When You Dance, I Can Really Love". Each is so beautifully done but in different ways. They're not bombastic, nor trebled up to the nines, but subtle - the music is just THERE in your speakers to a point where everything seems new and up for grabs again. Fans will love it and feel like they're revisited long cherished old friends while newcomers will now understand what all the 5-star fuss is about.
The gold sticker on the jewel case of each of these issues says "Because Sound Matters" - and I think Rock's great curmudgeon has actually proved that point...
PS: I've reviewed "Harvest" also - just as good soundwise...