Sunday, 2 October 2011

"The Dark Side Of The Moon" by PINK FLOYD (September 2011 EMI 'Discovery Edition' 1CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…All That You Love…All That You Hate…”

I've reviewed the 2011 remasters of Pink Floyd's "Meddle" (1971), "Obscured By Clouds" (1972) and "Wish You Were Here" (1975) - all three are sonically amazing but hugely disappointing on the packaging front (miniscule booklets that exclude original details and don't expand your knowledge a jot). Its pretty much an identical story here...

The vinyl LP "The Dark Side Of The Moon" by PINK FLOYD was originally released 10 March 1973 on Harvest SMAS-11163 in the USA and 24 March 1973 in the UK on Harvest Records SHVL 804.

This 26 September 2011 single-disc version (released 27 Sep 2011 in the USA) on EMI 50999 028955 2 9 (Barcode 5099902895529) is a straightforward 10-track remaster of that Number 1 studio album. 

A 2CD 'Experience' Edition and a 6-Disc 'Immersion' Box Set are also released Monday 26 September 2011 (see separate entries for details). This single-disc 'Discovery' reissue comes in a gatefold card sleeve with a newly laid-out 12-page inlay inside (total playing time 42:59 minutes).

1. Speak To Me
2. Breathe
3. On The Run
4. Time
5. The Great Gig In The Sky
6. Money [Side 2]
7. Us And Them
8. Any Colour You Like It
9. Brain Damage
10. Eclipse
[Note: original copies of the vinyl LP famously came with 2 posters, 2 stickers and a titled 'Pink Floyd The Dark Side Of The Moon' sticker on the front - this new issue doesn't feature any of these original items, but instead simply uses the now familiar untitled ‘prism' artwork]

JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE at the Das Boot Recording Studios in Tahoe in California handled all the PINK FLOYD albums in this 14-title reissue series – including "The Dark Side Of The Moon" (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.

God knows how many times this 'cash cow' of an album has been reissued on CD - and yet another version will probably make even the most die-hard of fans yawn and even feel a little angry. But - outside of the amazing SACD version of 2003 - this new 2011 'Discovery' edition is absolutely the best it's ever going to be for those of us with a lesser budget. The now famous opening heart-beat and 'loony' voices of "Speak To Me" sound extraordinary - which in turn lead into the sonic wall of "Breathe (In The Air)" - and it's a WOW. The remaster hasn't dampened anything or over-amplified it for the sake of volume (the dreaded loudness wars so many talk of) - it's just 'there' - all the instruments present and swirling around your speakers in superlative clarity. 

And while "Time", "Money" and the lovely "Us And Them" were always going to be audio wonderland with their myriad effects and top-drawer Alan Parsons’s production values - it's the last track on Side 1 that impresses the most. The truly gorgeous and innovative "The Great Gig In The Sky" is on the 'Immersion' mega box set in its original bare-bones state - later beefed up with the incredible Acapella Vocal of CLARE TORRY - and what a smart move that was. Even in its very quiet opening and ending passages - it sounds BEAUTIFUL - and not for the first time brought a tear to a weary eye. I also love the "Any Colour You Like" instrumental on Side 2 (some DJs have been mixing it in with Dance and Funk 12" in their sets) and by the time "Eclipse" finishes this concept of concept albums (lyrics above) - it's very hard not to be impressed at the work Guthrie and Plante have done 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", Blue and Green for "Wish You Were Here" and here - Black And Grey for "Dark Side..." But where's the beautiful band poster, the two Hipgnosis-designed stickers, the deep blue triangle/prism Harvest label of the English LP? 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. The inner glossy gatefold could easily have featured these - instead we get two useless sepia-tinted pictures of the pyramids - how imaginative...

But the skimpy booklet is the biggest disappointment. It has the lyrics of the original album (which were on the inner gatefold) reset in the new booklet against a background of god-awful Storm Thorgerson images. Of the millions of words written about this most famous of rock records, there isn't even a history on the album. There's no pictures of European and Worldwide 7" sleeves for "Money" and "Time" (singles lifted off the album), no pictures of the band, no 7" edit versions etc - naught 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 fanboy here, but it would have been nice to actually 'discover' something on this so-called 'Discovery' version (docked a star for that).

To sum up - the remaster is gobsmacking - a stone five stars - but sadly we get mediocre presentation that completely undermines the original power of the vinyl album when you got it in your hands all those decades ago. Still - with the truly beautiful sonic upgrade thrown in - the casual listener is advised to dig in, rediscover and enjoy.

Despite my gripes about presentation - "Meddle", "Obscured By Clouds" and the wonderful "Wish You Were Here" should be your next port of call. I suspect many music lovers 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 "Wish You Were Here" LP (girl diving into a lake) for customers who purchase 2 titles in this reissue campaign. They're gorgeous and will probably become future collectables.

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 "Wish You Were Here" LP (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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