Tuesday, 27 September 2011

"Obscured By Clouds" by PINK FLOYD (September 2011 EMI 'Disocvery Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster - and January 2016 Pink Floyd Records CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 300+ Others Is Available In My
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
CLASSIC ROCK & POP 1970 to 1974 - Exceptional CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)

"...Floating Softly On The Air..."

30 seconds into this 2011 remaster of Pink Floyd's "Obscured By Clouds" and little will prepare fans for the sonic assault that will hit them - it's incredible. Where has this sound quality been for the last 40 years? But I wish I could say the same of the truly naff and skimpy packaging. Still - to the details first...

Released 3 June 1972 in the UK on Harvest Records SHSP 4020 and 15 June 1972 on Harvest Records ST-11078 in the USA - original UK copies of the vinyl LP came in a round-cornered textured sleeve with a sticker on the front advising that it was "Music From La Vallee". The movie by French filmmaker Barbet Schroeder is about a group of young people seeking a mythical valley in Papua New Guinea which on maps is "...obscured by clouds".

1. Obscured By Clouds [Side 1]
2. When You're In
3. Burning Bridges
4. The Gold It's In The...
5. Wot's...Uh The Deal
6. Mudmen
7. Childhood's End [Side 2]
8. Free Four
9. Stay
10. Absolutely Curtains

This 26 September 2011 version (27 Sep 2011 in the USA) of "Obscured By Clouds" by PINK FLOYD on EMI 50999 028943 2 4 (Barcode 5099902894324) is a straightforward 10-track 'Discovery Edition' CD Remaster of that Soundtrack album and comes in a gatefold card sleeve with an 8-page colour inlay inside (total playing time 40:34 minutes).

Mastered by JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE at Das Boot Recording Studios in Tahoe in California in 2011 - the original 1st generation master tapes have been given a thorough going over (Guthrie is a Sound Engineer associated with the band since 1978). In fact - each song feels like these experts have spent a staggering amount of time worrying over every single nuance - because the audio result is truly impressive.

Highlights include the opening track "Obscured By Clouds" (the first of four instrumentals) which fades in with a synth and drum beat - and when it turns on the power at about 23 seconds - the audio is like a punch in the face - clear, warm and swirling around your speakers with amazing presence. "When You're In" is the same though this time with Gilmour's guitar to the fore. "Burning Bridges" sums up the languid feel to so many of the lyric songs - it feels like someone relaxing with a nice bottle of wine in rural France (lyrics above). The acoustic guitars of "Wot's ...Uh The Deal" are gorgeous while the clarity of "Childhood's End" has made me hear instruments I missed before (Gilmour's solo in particular comes at you with an energy it's never had before). "Mudmen" and "Absolutely Curtains" are the other two excellent instrumentals and even the hissy (but lovely) "Stay" hasn't had the air sucked out of it by some no-noise techniques - the two engineers have let it breath. It's all impressive stuff, it really is...

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 new generic artwork that's repeated in different colour variations throughout the series - a garish Red and Pink for "Obscured By Clouds", a sort of Turquoise and Pale Green for "Meddle" etc... It has no relevance to the original albums whatsoever (where's the original Harvest label they've used on other reissues or the colourful inner bag?) but also has no protective gauze sleeve so it will scuff on repeated plays.

The front artwork of the original LP is a soft-focus blurred picture of a man in a tree in the rain with the EMI/Harvest logo in the top left hand corner. This new variant drops the logo and has a darker looking picture that to my mind completely looses the aesthetic feel of the original. It just looks wrong somehow. In its favour - when opened the new gatefold shows a beautiful colour still of men on horses being greeted by natives and some other film shots background the lyrics (lead actress Bulle Ogier is on Page 3). But the skimpy booklet is a huge disappointment. Although it has the lyrics (like this is a major improvement), it has no history on the album, pictures of the band etc... The album produced 7" singles in the USA ("Free Four" b/w "Stay") as well as a myriad of European and Worldwide picture sleeves - but again no show. 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). And there's no outtakes nor DVD of the film either...

To sum up - we finally get five-star sound, but in skimpy 3-star presentation. 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.

"Obscured By Clouds" seems to have always been the runt of the Pink Floyd litter and I've never understood this - it's a cohesive work and contains some of their most musical compositions. For such a famous band it's a weirdly overlooked album when it shouldn't be.

Hopefully this flawed reissue will draw many newcomers in. I've also just listened to "Meddle" as well and it's even more astonishing - so audio-wise neither it nor "Clouds" are obscured any more. Onwards and upwards folks...

This CD was reissued January 2016 in the same packaging on Pink Floyd Records 

No comments:

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc