*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2013 PLATINUM SHM-CD REMASTER ***
What with Blu Spec 2, Blu Ray Audio and SHM - it's hard to know your formats these days (I remember when Quadrophonic LPs bothered my Garrard). Well here comes another one to replace the 30-year old basic CD - the PLATINUM SHM-CD - as championed by Universal in Japan. And they might actually have something this time to genuinely rave about because this disc has beautiful sound quality (if not a little too clinically clean for some ears).
Here are the gory technical details...
The Platinum SHM-CD version of "Dire Straits" by DIRE STRAITS was released 25 September 2013 in Japan on Universal/Vertigo UICY-40008 (Barcode 4988005782182). It's listed as up for deletion in April 2014. The debut vinyl album was originally issued on Vertigo 9102 021 in June 1978 with a CD remaster in June 1996 and a further Japan-Only remaster onto SHM-CD in 2010.
Tape research for this reissue was done by PETER MATTHEWS and then DSD flat transferred from the original UK master tapes by RICHARD WHITTAKER at FX Copyroom Studios in London in 2013. It was then edited into DSD by MANABU MATSUMURA and 176 4kHZ/24bit transferred by YUMETOKI SUZUKI at Universal's Studios in Tokyo. The disc is a HR cut (High Resolution) and comes in an outer presentation box which has the album's artwork and a full box-sized wraparound Obi strip. Inside the box is a 5" card repro of the album artwork (itself with an Obi) with the album's original inner lyric sleeve. The 16-page booklet is the usual plain white Japanese affair with liner notes in Japanese and the lyrics in English with some mastering details. The CD itself as you see from the photo is a garish almost blue-ice colour kept in a gauze sleeve (a list of other titles in this series is below). The repro is beautifully done - even down to the texture of the sleeve and inner bag. Their Japanese price is 3800 yen so they're not cheap - about £26 to £30 depending on exchange rates. Even though they won't fit on a conventional CD shelf, aesthetically you'd have to say that these 'mini box sets' are a very sweet thing to look at indeed - luxurious even (I've uploaded photos above) and concentrating at the moment on hugely collectable titles and classic rock bands.
I owned the 2010 SHM-CD of "Dire Straits" which has fabulous sound quality - but I'd have to say that this 2013 version is better with incredibly clean sound - the rhythm section particularly pronounced on almost every track to a clarity that its never had before.
The opening misty horn on "Down To The Waterline" is eery and when the track hits 2:50 minutes you'd swear the bass and drums are going to kick your speakers in. There is the hiss that was there before but its not so pronounced that it would detract. Then you get the first of two slices of audio and musical heaven - "Water Of Love" is the first - the other is "Wild West End" (lyrics from it title this review). You can hear the squeaking of Dobro strings and the rhythm guitar is definitely more pronounced on "Water" and the steel guitar on "Wild West End" is simply glorious. What a beautiful song it is - and here it finally gets the sonic muscle and clarity its always deserved.
Again on the slick "Six Blade Knife" (such a great track) - the rhythm section of bass and drums seem suddenly alive. I always thought it was my vinyl album that made "Southbound Again" so gruff (being at the end of Side 1) - but here its even gruffer - so it was on the tapes all along. The big hit "Sultans Of Swing" sounds amazing as does the left-side rhythm guitar on the slinky "In The Gallery" (another album highlight). My only real criticism is that at times I found it all a little 'too' clinically clean and even restrained in places. I had to give some tracks a bit of welly on my Marantz CD and Amp combo and when I did - wow! I suspect that you will not need high-end gear to hear the very real difference here - quality all the way.
So to sum up - it's a must own if you're a fan of this superb debut album. Part of me hates this because now they've got me thinking I need "Sticky Fingers", "What's Going On", "Who's Next", "Every Picture Tells A Story"...the list goes on (most remastered in 2013 for this format). As you can see from the list below, Platinum SHM-CD reissues are already gathering pace.
My bank manager will be pleased...
Titles released in Japan on the PLATINUM SHM-CD format so far (as of 14 Dec 2013):
1. At Fillmore East - THE ALLMAN BROTHERS (25 Sep 2013, 2013 remaster from US tapes)
2. Asia - ASIA (30 Oct 2013)
3. Blind Faith - BLIND FAITH (30 Oct 2013)
4. Singles 1969-1973 - THE CARPENTERS (due 26 Mar 2014)
5. A Love Supreme - JOHN COLTRANE (27 Nov 2013)
6. Ballads - JOHN COLTRANE (27 Nov 2013)
7. Disraeli Gears - CREAM (1 disc, Mono & Stereo Mixes + 6 Bonus, 27 Nov 2013)
8. Fresh Cream - CREAM (2 disc set, Mono & Stereo mixes + 12 bonus, 18 Dec 2013)
9. Wheels Of Fire - CREAM (2 disc set + 4 bonus tracks, 18 Dec 2013)
10. Relaxin' With The Miles Davis Quintet - MILES DAVIS (30 Oct 2013)
11. Layla... - DEREK & THE DOMINOES (25 Sep 2013, 2013 remaster from US tapes)
12. Dire Straits - DIRE STRAITS (24 Sep 2013)
13. Love Over Gold - DIRE STRAITS (27 Nov 2013)
14. Waltz For Debby - BILL EVANS (30 Oct 2013)
15. Ella and Louis - ELLA FITZGERALD and LOUIS ARMSTRONG (27 Nov 2013)
16. What's Going On - MARVIN GAYE (25 Sep 2013 plus 6 bonus tracks)
17. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - ELTON JOHN (2 disc set, 27 Nov 2013)
18. The Look Of Love - DIANA KRALL (27 Nov 2013)
19. Carmen Fantasie - ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER (27 Nov 2013)
20. Tubular Bells - MIKE OLDFIELD (Plus 2 Bonus Tracks, 30 Oct 2013)
21. Meets The Rhythm Section - ART PEPPER (30 Oct 2013)
22. We Get Requests - OSCAR PETERSON (27 Nov 2013)
23. Regatta De Blanc - THE POLICE (27 Nov 2013)
24. Synchronicity - THE POLICE (18 Dec 2013 with "Murder By Numbers" bonus track)
25. Queen 2 - QUEEN (18 Dec 2013)
26. A Night At The Opera - QUEEN (25 Sep 2013)
27. News Of The World - QUEEN (30 Oct 2013)
28. Difficult To Care - RAINBOW (18 Dec 2013)
29. Saxophone Colossus - SONNY ROLLINS (30 Oct 2013)
30. Sticky Fingers - THE ROLLING STONES (30 Oct 2013)
31. Exile On Main St. - THE ROLLING STONES (25 Sep 2013, 2LP set on 1CD)
32. Goat's Head Soup - THE ROLLING STONES (27 Nov 2013)
33. It's Only Rock `n' Roll - THE ROLLING STONES (18 Dec 2013)
34. Black And Blue - THE ROLLING STONES (27 Nov 2013)
35. Love You Live - THE ROLLING STONES (2 disc set, 18 Dec 2013)
36. Some Girls - THE ROLLING STONES (30 Oct 2013)
37. Tattoo You - THE ROLLING STONES (25 Sep 2013)
38. Never Mind The Bollocks... - SEX PISTOLS (12-track version, 2013 remaster, 27 Nov 2013)
39. The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle - SEX PISTOLS (18 Dec 2013)
40. Aja - STEELY DAN (25 Sep 2013)
41. Gaucho - STEELY DAN (30 Oct 2013)
42. Every Picture Tells A Story - ROD STEWART (27 Nov 2013)
43. Breakfast In America - SUPERTRAMP (27 Nov 2013)
44. The Original Soundtrack - 10cc (Plus 4 Bonus Tracks, 30 Oct 2013)
45. Who's Next - THE WHO (25 Sep 2013 - no bonus tracks - 2010 remaster)
46. Quadrophenia - THE WHO (2 disc set, 18 Dec 2013)
47. Argus - WISHBONE ASH (Plus 4 Bonus Tracks, 30 Oct 2013)
48. Talking Book - STEVIE WONDER (25 Sep 2013)
49. Innervisions - STEVIE WONDER (30 Oct 2013)
50. Fulfillingness First Finale - STEVIE WONDER (27 Nov 2013)
51. Songs In The Key Of Life - STEVIE WONDER (2 disc set, 18 Dec 2013)