Thursday, 29 September 2011

"Wish You Were Here" by PINK FLOYD (September 2011 EMI Reissue and Remaster and January 2016 Pink Floyd Records Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…Lost Souls Swimming In A Fish Bowl…"

I've reviewed the 2011 remasters of Pink Floyd's "Meddle" (1971), "Obscured By Clouds" (1972) and "The Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973) – all of which are sonically amazing - but hugely disappointing on the packaging front (miniscule booklets that exclude original details and don’t expand your knowledge a jot). It's pretty much an identical story here. But let's get to the details first...

1. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1 to 5) [Side 1]
2. Welcome To The Machine
3. Have A Cigar [Side 2]
4. Wish You Were Here
5. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 6 to 9)
The LP "Wish You Were Here" was originally released 12 September 1975 on Columbia Records PC 33453 in the USA and 15 September 1975 on Harvest Records SHVL 814 in the UK.

This 26 September 2011 single-disc version (released 27 Sep 2011 in the USA) on EMI 50999 028945 2 2 is a straightforward 5-track remaster of that studio album. 

A 2CD 'Experience' Edition and a 6-Disc 'Immersion' Box Set both arrive on 7 November 2011 (see images below). 

This single-disc 'Discovery' reissue comes in a gatefold card sleeve with a newly laid-out 12-page inlay inside (total playing time 44:18 minutes).
[Note: original UK copies of the vinyl LP came in a 'black' shrink-wrap with a centered circular 'clasping-hands' sticker obscuring the cover underneath (US issues had 'blue' shrink-wrap). This new issue doesn’t feature either of those, but instead simply uses the now familiar artwork underneath - two men shaking hands (one of them on fire).]

Like all the other albums in this 14-title reissue series - JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE have remastered "Wish You Were Here" at the Das Boot Recording Studios in Tahoe in California (Guthrie is a Sound Engineer associated with the band since 1978). The original 1st generation master tapes have obviously been given a thorough going over because it truly feels like each segment has had a staggering amount of time spent on them - worrying out every single nuance possible. The audio result is truly impressive.

On original 1975 vinyl and even later Audiophile represses, this most loved of their albums has always been a sonic disappointment – and frankly the 1994 remastered CD wasn’t a whole lot better either. That’s no longer the case. Little will prepare fans for "Have A Cigar" (sung by fellow Harvest Records label mate Roy Harper) and "Wish You Were Here" (the two opening tracks on Side 2). The funky keyboards and choppy guitars of "Have…" are unbelievably clear – huge in your speakers - while David Gilmour's acoustic guitar lead that comes in at about 1:10 minutes on "Wish…" is simply gorgeous (lyrics above).

The power of the synths on "Welcome To The Machine" still thrills, but the album's centerpiece has always been the 9-part "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" which is spread across both sides of the album (Parts 1-5 opening Side One, Parts 6-9 ending Side 2). Suddenly it's as if a fog has been lifted off the recordings – by the time it hits Dick Parry’s astonishing sax solo at 11:10 minutes – I'll admit to having the same chills I had when I first heard it - all those innocent years ago. Another surprise is how good Parts 8 and 9 on Side 2 are – superb keyboard work from Rick Wright and often forgotten in favour of the more famous Parts 1 to 5 on Side 1. It's an impressive remaster, it really is – Guthrie and Plante are to be praised for their work here.

I wish I could say the same for the staggeringly unimaginative packaging. The 'Pink Floyd' logo you see in all the photos advertising these new reissues turns out to be a sticker on the outer shrink-wrap that gets lost the second you unpeel it. The card sleeves are like The Beatles 09/09/09 EMI reissues - glossy and flimsy - so they smudge with finger prints the second you open them and are easy to bend and crease. The CD itself has the new generic artwork (the sticker design on the outer packaging) repeated in different colour variations throughout the series - a sort of Turquoise and Pale Green for "Meddle", a garish Red and Pink for "Obscured By Clouds", Black and Gray for "Dark Side…" and for "Wish You Were Here" we get Blue and Green. But where is the beautifully designed sticker that graced original album sleeves on both sides of the pond - or the superb logo on the original label? This ludicrous new design has no relevance to the original and speaking of the disc itself - there’s no protective gauze sleeve for the CD either so it will scuff on repeated plays. They’ve put the postcard that came with original albums as a centre-spread in the booklet instead of printing it separately – one of the biggest bands in the world and we get this cheapo shit…

But the skimpy booklet is the biggest disappointment. Although it has the lyrics (like this is a major improvement) it seems little different to the 1994 issue. It has no history on the album (it was about Syd Barrett and the music industry), no pictures of European and Worldwide 7" sleeves for "Have A Cigar" (the single lifted off the album), the different US album artwork etc. There are a few pictures of the band in the studio; the gatefold has the man swimming through sand (newish), but naught else to get your teeth into. OK - it does look nice and does the job adequately - but that's all. It's a lazy-assed approach on behalf of EMI and undermines the sterling work done on the sound front. I hate to come across like some nick-picking fan boy here, but it would have been nice to actually 'discover' something on this so-called 'Discovery' version (docked a star for that). And the superb 17:32 minute Parts 1 to 7 'Edit' of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" on the 2001 2CD Best of "Echoes" is A.W.O.L. too. 

To sum up – I’m thrilled to say we finally get five-star sound for this truly unique album, but sadly only 3-star presentation in my book. Still - with the truly beautiful sonic upgrade - the casual listener is advised to dig in, rediscover and enjoy...

Die-hard fans however might want to wait for the Japanese Editions that will inevitably arrive in 2012 on the far superior SHM-CD format (a better make of CD playable on all players). With their faithfully reproduced artwork and audiophile reproduction - they may give your bank manager a cold sweat - but they will absolutely be the ones to get if the best is all you'll accept. 

On hearing this - "Meddle", "Obscured By Clouds" and the magnum opus that is "The Dark Side Of The Moon " should be your next port of call. I suspect many will feel exactly the same...

PS: fans of memorabilia should note that for this launch - HMV London is giving away a titled banded-envelope containing 6 colour postcards in the same style as the one in the original LP (a girl diving into a lake) for customers who purchase 2 titles in this reissue campaign. They’re gorgeous and will probably become future collectables.


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