Thursday, 16 June 2011

“Shake It Up” by THE CARS. A Review Of The 2010 Mobile Fidelity Audiophile CD Reissue.

"…Liquid Whispers…"

By the time "Shake It Up" appeared in November 1981, The Cars had produced a stunning self-titled debut album in 1978 but followed it with two albums "Candy-O" (1979) and "Panorama" (1980) which left some fans feeling cold and cheated. "Shake It Up" restored some of that original faith (it peaked at Number 9 in the USA). I bought it on holiday in New York at the time and have played the thing to buggery ever since.

Which brings us to this expensive and exclusive MFSL Original Master Recording issue. Released late January 2010 in the USA on Mobile Fidelity UDCD 788 (40:53 minutes) – it features mini-LP repro artwork (a hard-card gatefold sleeve) and is a limited numbered edition (numbered in gold lettering on the rear). It’s been mastered from the 1st generation tapes by BOB LoVERDE at Mobile Fidelity’s Sound Labs in Sebastopol in California using their patented GAIN 2 SYSTEM. The disc is a GOLD ULTRADISC II CD - itself housed in a gauze inner sleeve for protection. This is then cleverly wrapped in a black and gold gatefold card-protector (the wording on both sides explain MFSL’s remastering process and the company's 30-year history in Audiophile Pressings). Beside that is an 8-page booklet - which essentially mimics the inner lyric bag of the original Elektra Records LP.

Cars fans will know that only 4 of its 9 tracks have been remastered before – "Shake It Up", "Since You’re Gone", "I’m Not The One" and "Cruiser" on the 1995 “Just What I Needed” 2CD Anthology. The 5CD mini box set issued by Rhino in 2010 didn’t carry a remaster either – this is first time the entire album has been given a sonic overhaul and it sounds fantastic.

I have a real problem (like many listeners) with Eighties over-production, but this MFSL remaster sweeps all that aside – it’s clean, warm and beautifully subtle in its quiet power. My favourite track has always been "A Dream Away" (lyrics above) which had a mastering glitch at the beginning – it’s been fixed by MFSL – and it’s sweeping 'liquid' feel is at last given the reproduction its always deserved. The punch out of "I’m Not The One" is fabulous – when the guitar slides in about 25 seconds in - it’s so clear. It’s not all genius of course ("Cruiser" and "Maybe Baby" are hardly great), but there are others on here that I can’t live without like the frantic "Think It Over" and the opener "Since You’re Gone" (neither sounded this good before). And of course a huge fan favourite is "Victim Of Love" which has a lovely feel to it now - the layers coming at you from every angle. I’ve been disappointed by Audiophile issues before, but this is a superb remaster.

Niggles – some have moaned that the card repro is gimmicky and won’t stand the test of time with regard to wear and tear (once out of the shrinkwrap, there’s no outer plastic sleeve to protect it like Japanese repros have). They argue that MFSL should only use jewel cases with lift-locks to keep these expensive CDs properly protected. It's a good point and one well worth making. Personally I like the repro artwork, but I think Mobile Fidelity must address this issue - make some kind of MFSL outer plastic for protection that could act as a generic outer wrapper for old and future issues. Outside of that minor minus, I’ve loved rehearing this album in such sonic clarity…

"Shake It Up" is never going to be mentioned as a 'masterpiece' in any league table anywhere - but like "Heartbeat City" – I’ve always loved it – and I’ve always had a soft spot for The Cars and their layered slices of pop brilliance. If you love this album (originally produced by Chris Thomas Baker), then expensive or not – you need to own this stunning Limited Edition of it.

Recommended.

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