Friday, July 17, 2009

Michael Fremer Review

I am very proud to continue our new feature (look for this every Friday), music reviews that are written by the senior contributing editor of Stereophile magazine- Michael Fremer. It has been a pleasure to speak with Michael and learn more about audio sound and equipment. In fact, his new DVD, "It's A Vinyl World, After All" has hit the shelves and is selling out very quickly. This is a must have for anybody who loves vinyl, it is a true masterpiece.

Additionally, make sure to stop by his site, and bookmark it for further exploration. I certainly want to thank Michael for the exclusive rights to reprint his fantastic material.

The Ramones (reissue)
It's Alive
Sire/Audio Fidelity AFZLP2-60 2 180g LPs
Produced by: T. Erdelyi and Ed Stasium
Engineered by: Ed Stasium
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman at AcousTech

Review by: Michael Fremer

I know people who actually think that The Ramones were a “joke” band—sort of a punk version of Sha Na Na. I’m not kidding. I know people who thought The Ramones were a sloppy outfit goofing around on stage. I know people who think Joey Ramone was a screamer. But then I live in the suburbs.

If you think The Ramones were anyof those things you haven’t heard this great live album recorded in the UK at The Rainbow New Year’s Eve 1977 by Ed Stasium and produced by T. Erdelyi A/K/A Tommy Ramone.

Stasium gets a good line on Joey’s voice in the excellent mix and also zeroes in on Tommy Ramone’s rock-solid, knowingly simple drumming, particularly the dual splash cymbals—one left channel, one right— that’s his trademarked go-to accent.

Everyone sounds thrilled to be in the UK and the band’s musical connection to The Clash, minus the political accent, of course, is obvious.

Pay attention to Joey’s singing on “Blitzkrieg Rock” and note his perfect, compact phrasing, mini-vibrato used to perfection and the round tone he manages as he barks out the staccato, often repetitive lyrics. The guy never got the respect he deserved. The lineage to the great doo-woppers couldn’t be clearer.

The only problem with what’s written above is that the guitar, bass and vocals were re-recorded in the studio. Only Tommy’s drums were “live.” Oh well.

Don’t let that stop you from getting and enjoying this set of 28 great tunes, mostly taken from their first three albums. They also cover “Surfin’ Bird” and “California Sun.”

I compared this reissue to my UK Sire original mastered at Strawberry Studios (owned by 10CC’s Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman along with Peter Tattersall (road manager for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas). They had a great lacquer cutting system there. Ironically all of the money that funded the gear upgrade that made it great came from a deal to record Kasenetz-Katz (“Yummy Yummy Yummy, etc.”) bubblegum music there using the 10CC boys playing backup!

When I interviewed the boys in the early ‘70s they referred to themselves as “three Yids and a Yod” (Stewart was the Yod—the only non-Jew in the group). Later I suggested Gouldman (who wrote “Bus Stop” and many other hits for The Hollies, The Yardbirds, etc.) to write the songs for “Animalympics” the animated film I co-wrote and did voices on. You can find in YouTube by the way!

Anyway, the original UK pressing is more distant, somewhat finer textured and definitely weaker in the bass, but it sounds like what you might hear live, whereas this reissue is more like what you’d hear in the studio. Given that this wasessentially a studio recording, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the reissue is closer to the tape, while the original was “doctored” to sound live! Or maybe not!

Whatever. This is a great “live” album from one of the great punk bands of the ‘70s. So much fun. So long ago!

SOURCE: Reprinted By Permission

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