Monday, 3 March 2014

"Peace At Last" by THE BLUE NILE - A Review Of The 2014 2CD “Deluxe Set” Remaster and Reissue.

Here is a link to the "Deluxe Edition" on Amazon UK (with the best price also):

“…Could Be Singing…Could Be Together…”

First things first - the idea that The Blue Nile's 3rd album "Peace At Last" 'needs' to be remastered was to me ridiculous. I bought the original CD on Warner Brothers 9362-45848-2 in June 1996 - the day it came out - and it was (and still is) a beautifully crafted and produced album. So it was with a healthy amount of scepticism that I plopped Disc 1 into my snazzy Marantz this afternoon...

Well take me sideways with a can-opener from Mars - but they've only gone and done it again. Because like "A Walk Across The Rooftops" and the sublime "Hats" that were both remastered in 2012 - this is truly gorgeous return to the original tapes. There's undeniable sonic improvement on every track - especially in the background instrumentation. Here are the poets and typewriters...

UK released Monday 3 March 2014 - "Peace At Last DELUXE SET" is a 2CD reissue on Virgin/Linn/Universal LKHCDR 3 (Barcode 0602537618071). Disc 1 is 44:56 minutes (3 seconds longer than the original issue) while Disc 2 offers up 6 New Outtakes (29:42 minutes). Original band members ROBERT BELL and PAUL BUCHANAN in conjunction with their long-standing Engineer CALM MALCOLM have remastered the lot.

The 16-page booklet housed within a foldout card digipak retains none of the original artwork (excepting the cover) and there's nothing on any of the inner flaps. It's massively disappointing and feels utterly superfluous to requirements. There's a title page - one page of bare-knuckle credits - followed by 15 pages of photos of the band sat in the studio or the steps of some building somewhere - none of which advance your knowledge of the album one jot. There's no liner notes - no personal explanations or insights - no lyrics - it's rubbish frankly. The only explanation I can offer is that the band is keeping with its previous minimalist approach to artwork. But I'd say - I think the mystery is common knowledge now boys and we could have done better. Back to the good news...

The opening track "Happiness" has a synth opening with a count in - it's crystal clear - and the slight hiss that was on the original hasn't been compressed or removed - just given more presence. But when the choir of Eddie Tate and Friends kicks in - it sounds HUGE - just glorious. "Tomorrow Morning" has always moved me to tears (lyrics above) - and today it has done so again. The strum of the acoustic guitars and the delicate piano - compliment Buchanan's aching vocal as the strings come pouring in halfway through - a superbly handled transfer. The wallop out of "Sentimental Man" is again to the fore - funky Rock at its best (I remember gigs when this slayed them in the aisles - especially the guitar solo). "Love Comes Down" sounds incredible and "Body And Soul" is so sweetly emotive. The piano of "Family Life" seems even more haunting - what a beautiful piece of songwriting - and the hurt in the words is like an open wound that can't be cauterized. "War Is Love" features that huge drum sound with a tight slap bass behind - it's somehow more controlled - you hear the acoustics and gorgeous keyboard fills. It ends on "God Bless You Kid" and "Soon" - both sounding renewed.

As to be expected the 6 new tracks that make up Disc 2 (3 versions and 3 new songs) are a mixed bag of the good and the dismissible. Both "Soon" and "War Is Love" are 'Laurel Canyon Mix' versions in which the synth fills and treatments clutter up the songs to a point where they interfere with the lovely melodies ("War Is Love" is the better of the two). We then get a pretty version of another album track "Holy Love" in the guise of a 'Picture Mix' that ambles nicely but never really takes off.

Better is the first new song "Turn Yourself Around" which sounds like an early run-through for "Love Comes Down". Featuring those impassioned vocals that make Buchanan so special - it could have been a sought-after B-side. The unreleased 'Demo' of "A Certain Kind Of Angel" could easily have been a "Hats" outtake with the same synth patterns and five-minute length. It's lovely. But best of all is "There Was A Girl" - as pretty a song as Paul Buchanan has ever written. At five and a half minutes - it's a beautiful melodic slowy that will make fans swoon and notice the pimples on their arms. It ends a patchy Disc 2 on a genuine and much-needed high.

So there you have it - a 10-star album in a 4-star repackage. But man when I play that new remaster and those new songs - I'm gone baby gone.

"Raise the children ...hold them to sky..." Paul Buchanan sang on "Body And Soul". I did and I still do.

The Blue Nile people - God is jealous of them - and he's God...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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