Sunday, 5 February 2012

"Can't Buy A Thrill" by STEELY DAN. SHM-CD Releases in Japan in 2008, 2010 and 2011 - Info On The 'TWO' Versions.

"…Turn That Heartbeat Over Again…"

There are TWO VERSIONS of this SHM-CD that requires some detailed explanation so that you choose the right issue for you – so here goes…

First is the 25 June 2008 SHM-CD of Steely Dan's debut album "Can't Buy A Thrill" on Geffen/Universal UICY-93515. Issued as a limited edition in Japan-only - it comes with MINI LP ARTWORK that repro’s the original October 1972 American gatefold sleeve on ABC Records ABCX-758. This version was then 'reissued' last year 29 Dec 2011 (again in Japan only) with the same catalogue number, the same mini repro LP artwork and the same Barcode 4988005518293.

The 2nd version is also a SHM-CD - but it was released 22 December 2010 on Geffen/Universal UICY-20122 in a STANDARD JEWEL CASE with the Barcode 4988005639240.

Both SHM-CD versions have the foldout inlay that came with the 1998 issues (the lyrics, Fagen and Becker’s caustic “A Farewell To Flatbush” liner notes) and a separate Japanese booklet with a Japanese essay and some notes on the SHM-CD format. If you copy and paste 'either' barcode into the search bar on Amazon for instance – you will get the different entries – and their varying prices. They are of course available on eBay and the cdjapan and yesasia websites - among others.

SOUND - both versions are the Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and Gary Katz’s 1998 remaster – just on a SHM-CD – neither is a new remaster. Some tracks are better than others – "Fire In The Hole" and "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" both feature instrumentation that is suddenly 'there' when most of it seemed buried in the mix before. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's guitar solo on "Change Of The Guard" is right out there now - David Palmer's Vocals and Jerome Richardson's lovely Sax work on "Dirty Work" are now so clear too – as is the lead in organ and rhythm section. Elliott Randall's blistering guitar work on "Reelin' In The Years" fills your speakers as do the solos on "Do It Again" by Denny Dias (Coral Electric Sitar) and Donald Fagen (Keyboards). The rhythm section on "Midnite Cruiser" is very pronounced - Jim Hodder's soulful vocals the same while "Skunk" puts in another great solo. Perhaps loveliest of all is "Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)" – David Palmer's vocals and Baxter on Steel Guitar – so sweet. It’s a staggeringly accomplished debut album – and it sounds just peachy here (see also my review for their 1973 follow-up "Countdown To Ecstasy" on the SHM-CD format).

What is a SHM-CD and does it sound better than the standard 1998 issue that’s available very cheaply? Some say yes, others say it’s a con. It was developed in 2008 by JVC as a brand new form of CD with far better retrieval capabilities. The problem is that they are ONLY available in JAPAN and usually at considerably higher cost. Also one of the biggest arguments put forward ‘against’ them is that you need a high-end player to get the best out of these CDs – I don’t agree. I had an old (but good) Denon CD player for 15+ years, which I played this and others on and they sounded great – way better than my standard versions. I recently purchased a new Marantz CD 6004 (What Hi-Fi’s 2011 Award Winner) for £250 and it sings like a bird. £250 is hardly audiophile cost – and as I say it sounds gorgeous. I own about 8 of these beauties and the sound on all is more than impressive – it’s in the musicality – it’s in the details. I would say however that if the remaster is recent – and its on SHM – and you’ve a half decent player – then the combo of all 3 will produce wonderful sonic results (see my recent review for James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon” on Japanese SHM-CD).

To sum up – yes these suckers are pricey – and they really should be domestically available at a much cheaper price – but if you’ve any love for this stunning Seventies band – then you owe it to yourself to indulge in one.

Problem – you’ll probably want the rest too – and your bank manager will definitely want your guts for garters…

PS: summary of the two versions of SHM-CD

1. SHM-CD Standard Jewel Case Issue on Geffen/Universal UICY-20122 - Barcode 4988005639240 (released 22 Dec 2010)

2. SHM-CD Mini LP Repro Sleeve Issue on Geffen/Universal UICY-93515 – Barcode 4988005518293 (25 June 2008 release, reissued 29 Dec 2011)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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