Monday, 26 December 2016

"Meddle" by PINK FLOYD (September 2011 EMI 'Discovery' CD Remaster and January 2016 Pink Floyd Records CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Climb The Hill In My Own Way..."

As the four longhaired Prog Rockers of Pink Floyd sat on a bench holding hands up to their faces and giggling as the camera snapped their hidden visages in 1971 – I doubt any of them would have thought then that they’d end being a 'limited company' in the future - the decidedly English lads now just as corporate as the machine they so raged against throughout the whole of the Seventies. Which brings us to the mighty "Meddle" album and its "...I'll Climb The Hill In My Own Way..." brand of music now re-issued yet again on CD in 2016...

UK re-released 8 January 2016 – "Meddle" by PINK FLOYD on Pink Floyd Records PFR6 (Barcode 5099902894225) is a straightforward 6-track reissue CD in 2016 using the Remaster from 2011 and in fact the same barcode. It's once again housed in a gatefold card digipak, has a stickered sleeve (on the outer shrinkwrap) and 12-page colour booklet (48:51 minutes).

The original version of this Remaster was released 26 September 2011 as a 'Discovery Edition' single CD on EMI/Harvest EMI 50999 028942 2 5 (Barcode 5099902894225) – this 2016 version on Pink Floyd Records uses that 2011 remaster and the same artwork. The 'Discovery Edition' sticker is gone as is the horrible 'green Ds' reinvented CD artwork that came with the 2011 issue – that's thankfully been replaced on the CD with the Cow's Ear cover artwork of the original LP.

1. One Of These Days [Side 1]
2. A Pillow Of Winds
3. Fearless
4. San Tropez
5. Seamus
6. Echoes [Side 2]

ROGER WATERS – Bass, Guitar and Vocals
DAVID GILMOUR – Lead Guitar and Vocals
RICHARD WRIGHT – Keyboards and Vocals
NICK MASON – Drums and Percussion

Released 30 October 1971 on Harvest Records SMAS-832 in the USA and 13 November 1971 in the UK on Harvest Records SHVL 795 - original UK vinyl copies of PINK FLOYD'S "Meddle" came in an untitled textured gatefold sleeve. American issues were titled and featured reversed artwork on a hard-card sleeve - the back of the UK cover put on the front.

JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE have carried out the remaster on this and all 14 albums in their catalogue at the Das Boot Recording Studios in Tahoe in California (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 song has had a staggering amount of time spent on them worrying out every single nuance possible. The audio result is truly impressive. Those Discovery Edition Remasters have been reused for all 14 of the January 2016 reissues.

On the 1995 remaster - the six-minute opener "One Of These Days" took ages to arrive and even when it did it was somehow dull and lacklustre. How things have changed - when the huge synth riff kicks in about 2:50 on this 2011 version - the sound is incredibly clear - allowing you to hear crashes and bangs going on in the background that I've never heard before. Then the sort of Piltdown Man voice says "One Of These Days I'm Gonna Cut You Into Little Pieces..." and all Hell breaks loose - Gilmour's guitar indeed sounding like a musical chainsaw. It's revelatory genius and in that uniquely peculiar Pink Floyd kind of a way. 

But even that is trumped by the awesome clarity of the forgotten and hugely underrated "A Pillow Of Winds". Put simply - it sounds 'beautiful'. The jaunty "San Tropez" and the rather pointless ditty that is "Seamus" are both the same - so clear and renewed. The 23:25 minute Side 2 opus "Echoes" has hiss as it opens on sonar pings - but luckily Guthrie and Plante have allowed it to breath instead of using some no-noise dampening technique. So when the funky break takes place at about seven minutes (now being used by Dance DJs in the UK as a mix in sets) it sounds just HUGE. It's impressive stuff, it really is.

But on this album my heart has always been with "Fearless" - issued as a B-side to "One Of These Days" in the USA and other European territories. It seems like I've waited literally 40 whole years to hear this fabulous song in such clarity (lyrics above). It's a genuine wow - and reminds me of a club I used to go to in Dublin called The Grove in the Seventies when they actually used this song as a 'lurch' (a slow tune in Ireland). As it fades out to the Liverpool Football Club fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" (a no.1 UK hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers in 1963 and adopted by them as an anthem) - I'm in floods...

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 Discovery CD label with its pointless generic artwork (a sort of Turquoise and Pale Green for "Meddle", a garish Red and Pink for "Obscured By Clouds" etc) has thankfully been replaced with an artwork picture CD (no Harvest Records logo) but again it has no protective gauze sleeve so it will scuff on repeated plays (I’d suggest you protect it with a paper inlay).

But the skimpy booklet is the biggest disappointment. Although it has the lyrics (like this is a major improvement) it seems little different to the 1995 issue. It has no history on the album, pictures of European and Worldwide 7" sleeves, the different US artwork etc. OK - it does look nice and does the job adequately - but that's all. It's a lazy-assed approach and undermines the sterling work done on the sound front. And there are no outtakes either...and man would they have been worth a listen.

Still – with the truly beautiful sonic upgrade – Floyd’s "Meddle" finally gets the five-star sound the album has always deserved - albeit housed in 3-star presentation. 

But at least these 2016 reissues have a decent price (under eight quid in most places for a single CD) and come accompanied with their VINYL variants for the first time in decades – each beautifully reproduced 180-gram Vinyl LP featuring fully restored artwork and also reasonably priced compared to what Near Mint originals would set you back.

Unique music from a unique band. A pillow of winds indeed...

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