Saturday, December 31, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd

Capitol/EMI SHVL 804 180g LP
Produced by: Pink Floyd
Engineered by: Alan Parsons
Mixed by: Chris Thomas
Mastered by: James Guthrie
Lacquer cut by: Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab



38 years after its original release, DSOTM continues to intrigue listeners. This review, originally posted in June of 2003 included coverage of the then new multichannel SACD issue as well as an AAA remix from the multitrack masters.

Dark Side of the Moon Yet Again? And Again?
by Michael Fremer
December 01, 2011

Another decade, another reissue of DSOTM, this one using the very fragile original two track master tape, again supervised by James Guthrie. Guthrie had determined that the tape was in fragile shape back in 2003, which is why he opted for a remix in the analog domain. That edition was very good and worth having, especially if you didn't have a very clean early UK pressing, but in retrospect it departs from the original much as the Mo-Fi does: the EQ is a bit much at the frequency extremes, which bleaches out the mids. As for the mix's micro-elements and how close Guthrie came to reproducing the original mix, I have to surrender that to the DTOTM fanatics, of which I'm not one.

This time Guthrie took the original tape and very carefully converted it to digital at 96/24 resolution. He then went on a quest to provide lacquer cutter Doug Sax with the D/A converter that best expressed what he heard from the analog playback and that's what Sax used to cut the lacquers for this reissue, which appears to have been processed and pressed at Rainbo.

While Rainbo has long been known as a "commercial pressing house," owner and industry veteran Steve Sheldon told me has was ramping up quality to produce audiophile level 180g pressings and based upon most of the 180s I've gotten from Rainbo, he's succeeded, though the record edges have a weird quality that makes it look and feel as if two 100g biscuits have been pressed together to produce one 180g LP. I'm sure that's not the case. It's just looks and feels like it is.

Despite the tape's age and the digital roadblock, this new DSOTM is clearly superior to the 2003 edition. It's more coherent sonically, especially in terms of the EQ, which is essentially what Parsons and mixer Chris Thomas produced. Rainbo's pressing is thick, flat and quiet, with but a hint of "non-fill" noise for the first half minute or so. The 2003 edition pressed in The Netherlands had the same issue, but even more so—at least my copy did.

This one comes with all of the posters plus an MP3 download. The packaging is first class too. So how can you go wrong? As for the music, it expresses the '60s exhaustion most young people felt by the second year of the '70s, which was a time when it seemed like civilization as we knew it was decaying and dying as was the dream of a grand rebirth at the hands of a young generation. Both were of course, and DTOTM mirrored that exhaustion. Poking around in 2011 leads one to the same morbid state, so let the decay begin! And what better soundtrack to the action than Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon?

What's below is the 2003 review

It is almost embarrassing to write about Dark Side of the Moon 30 years after its initial release. Can one add anything of substance to the books' worth of reviews and essays that have already piled up? Pink Floyd's musical ruminations on the "human condition"--whatever that is--is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and has attracted a worldwide audience that crosses every demographic, and has done so consistently for all 30 years. And now this hybrid 5.1-channel SACD has propelled Dark Side of the Moon yet again to the top of the Billboard charts. Amazing.

The lyrics are not all that cryptic. You gotta breath and try to relax, despite having no idea what this place is and what it's all about--except that death will come knocking one day--and who knows what that will bring, if anything. Despite our best efforts, or because of them, money rules and we spend most of our time trying to earn it. Time flies, though what time is, we don't know, but it's probably a spatial dimension we can't grasp. "Quiet desperation" is a worldwide phenomenon; it's not merely "the English way." And so on. Pink Floyd tackles the same big issues on Dark Side of the Moon that The Moody Blues did on In Search of the Lost Chord or On the Threshold of a Dream--minus the hokey spiritualism, the grandiose attempts at enlightenment, and the existential cornpone. The gritty ambiguity of the Floyd's message--and the brilliance of the album's production--explain why Dark Side of the Moon remains timeless and has continued to find new audiences with the maturing of every successive generation.

The message here is "Why try to explain what this is? Why bother?" Better off to scream like Doris Troy. In fact, if you look around at what's happening in the world today--and especially in America--and you don't scream, you've got your eyes closed.

Dark Side of the Moon is as much a producer's album as a musician's. The music, after all, is not that challenging, intricate, or original. In fact, you could argue that the music slogs along at mid-tempo on folk/rock chords that sound downright pedestrian. The magic is in the performances, the production, the arrangements, and the engineering.

The whole story is the remixing and remastering. For this edition, the longtime Floyd engineer James Guthrie went back to the 16-track analog work tapes. In the original production (and thus in the two-channel mix), two machines were synched together and elements were combined and bounced back and forth to free additional tracks. For this mix Guthrie chose to go back to the original, first-generation pre-mix elements, all of which fortunately still exist in the EMI vaults. He was also determined to remain in the analog domain until the bitter end, insisting that this was, after all, a distinctly analog-sounding production. That decision created enormous technical difficulties, as the elements did not often stay in synch due to speed variations between machines. It would have been easier to dump the elements to digital and then synch them, but that would have defeated the purpose of the exercise, and in these enlightened sonic times, Guthrie felt doing so would have detracted from the final sound quality. It wasn't so many years ago that most engineers would have been anxious to get into the digital domain as soon as possible for the very same reasons! How far we've come from that muddled thinking!

There will always be "the original is still the greatest" types, who will prefer an original UK EMI/Harvest vinyl pressing, but be prepared to pay for a truly early edition (solid blue pyramid on label, -1 lacquer, mother #1, and early stamper code). Mo-Fi's Japanese-pressed half-speed LP was super quiet, but EQ'ed to emphasize the frequency extremes, and the small-sounding gold CD is hopelessly outdated sonically. That leaves as contenders for the best available version this SACD reissue and the new vinyl version, mastered by Doug Sax and Kevin Gray at Acous-Tech from the original stereo mix, plated at RTI, and pressed in The Netherlands. According to RTI's Don MacInnis "We sent 2 "A" and 3 "B" side nickel Mothers, each protected by the first stamper, to Record Industry in Holland. Any additional stampers would have been made there.

As has been reported elsewhere (including in John Atkinson's piece in the June 2003 Stereophile), the CD layer on this SACD has been foolishly compressed. Still, it sounds pretty good, but a bit "hot" on top. Guthrie's ultra-dynamic 5.1-channel mix is the most effective multichannel mix of a record with a two-channel history that I've yet heard. Part of the reason is the nature of the material. It's laden with sound effects and voices that work well when spread around the room, and Guthrie's mixed it with both skill and good taste, avoiding the temptation to make things "pop" in the rear channels.

Instead, the effect he's created is that of an enormous three-dimensional space, with most of what formerly sat across and behind the stage now forward and around it in an enormous "U"-shaped arc that extends well past the sides of the front speakers. He's also avoided larding up the center channel with too much discrete information. The result is a brand new Dark Side of the Moon that, one could argue, truly fulfills the original intent of the band.

I auditioned it in my home theater on Sony's XA-777ES SACD player via an Arcam FMJ preamp/processor and FMJ multichannel amplifier driving a pair of Audio Physic Virgos, an AP Avanti center channel, a pair of AP Brilon surrounds, and the Minos subwoofer. I can't imagine anyone reading this would be anything but thrilled by the sound--especially the deep-bass textures and the enormous, enveloping, superbly integrated 3D soundstage. The EQ is still a bit "hot" on top for my tastes, but below the very top, the textures are rich and fulfilling and the bottom end is muscular and well controlled.

That said, for transparency, texture, harmonic complexity, and the display of subtle dynamic gradations, the new LP can't be beat. I compared it to a later UK Harvest pressing and to a Japanese Toshiba/ EMI "Pro Use"-series LP, and while the UK Harvest was somewhat richer in the mids and not quite as "hot" on top, this deluxe, well-packaged reissue is worth having even if you have a clean original.

EMI has apparently decided to support DVD-Audio in the future. Given the enormous success of this hybrid SACD (I've been told it's been selling upwards of 20,000 copies per week), perhaps the company will reconsider. How eager are consumers going to be to buy a disc they can't play in their cars or boom boxes, or portables--and which will only play in a compressed format (Dolby Digital) on standard DVD players? (The DVD-A folks have announced plans to issue double-sided discs in the future: CD layer on one side, DVD-A on the other. That solves the compatibility issue, but would you want to be handling such discs in a portable environment?)

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

©2011 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Permission

Vinyl Record News & Music Notes

not big on getting on a soap box and addressing a lot of subjects on the CVR Blog, but being a former drinker, please, what ever you do, do not drink and drive - designate a driver!!

Have A Safe And Happy Start To The New Year!

fantastic story from the AP, vinyl lovers doing well!

Vinyl collectors help album industry

By Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — The sound may not be crystal clear. They can be scratched and skip from time to time. It’s not a very mobile music form.

But they are growing in popularity.

Vinyl record sales have grown steadily over the past six years, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

David Bakula, a senior vice president at Nielsen SoundScan, said 2011 sales of new LPs, or long-playing records, are almost 3.5 million year-to-date compared to 2.8 million in 2010. LP sales are also bucking the downward trend in the industry; overall album sales dropped 13 percent in 2010, but sales of vinyl increased by 12 percent during the same period, according to Sound-Scan.

“It’s not like we’re just breaking last year’s record, we’re killing it,” Bakula said.

That’s good news for local record collector Glen Wheeler. The former record store owner estimates he has between 50,000 and 60,000 records stacked and boxed, filling his Springdale home.

“It’s really making a comeback, which is great for me,” Wheeler said. “People have questioned my sanity for about 10 years now. I really believed in vinyl and I think I proved to be right.”

Columbia Records introduced the LP in 1948. Wheeler believes the format is what made the music business.

“Rock ’n’ roll really took off,” he said.

He called the 12-inch LP format the perfect art form, allowing 20 to 25 minutes of music on each side.

Read the rest at


this out of the uk (and i would agree, in the states these albums have little value, the market is glutted with this crap and the goodwill bins are full as well....

Bottom of the Pops! Rod Stewart and Abba in top ten least wanted LPs

Pop music buffs will find it hardly surprising that nobody these days wants to take home a vinyl copy of T’Pau’s debut album Bridge of Spies. But it is rather remarkable that a top ten of least-wanted LPs also includes such household names as Elton John, Rod Stewart and Abba. Others to feature in the league of shame include Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Culture Club, Paul Young, Dionne Warwick and Sky.

All the unloved albums were released between 1977 and 1987, spanning the years either side of the advent of compact discs in the mid-1980s. The list was compiled for the music magazine Mojo by Ben’s Collectors Records of Guildford, Surrey, which has been selling vinyl for 25 years.

Read the rest at


interesting write up about the scorpions at

Scorpions on Their New Album and Why They're Saying Goodbye

by Jason MacNeil

Last year, German hard rock band the Scorpions announced that 'Sting in the Tail' would be their final studio album with a farewell world tour to follow. Yet with the tour booked well into 2012 and 2013, the group led by founding guitarist Rudolf Schenker and singer Klaus Meine, recently managed to release another album called 'Comeblack.'

Some have criticized the group – garnering a surprisingly younger legion of fans lately – for releasing another album after proclaiming 'Sting in the Tail' to be the last, but Schenker is adamant it's not the case.

"We said it would be great to make a project because we see it as a project, not an album like a real Scorpions album," he tells Noisecreep. "We stayed true to our word saying that 'Sting in the Tail' is our last studio album. But this is a project for us because as a band we never went into cover versions so much."

Read the rest at


and in an expanded music history for december 31st, 2011:

In 1929, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians played "Auld Lang Syne" as a New Year's Eve song for the first time.

In 1940, as a result of a dispute between the radio networks and ASCAP (the American Society of Composers and Publishers), the radio industry was prevented from playing any ASCAP-licensed music. The ban lasted for ten months.

John Denver (born Henry John Deutschendorf) was born on this date in 1943 (died in 1997).

In 1952, country legend Hank Williams died en route from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Ohio.

In 1955, based on record sales as well as radio and jukebox plays, Billboard magazine named "Unchained Melody" by Les Baxter and his Orchestra, the number 1 song in the US for 1955.

In 1956, on New Years Eve, Elvis Presley appeared on Wink Martindale's local TV special in Memphis.

In 1961, appearing on New Year's Eve at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Concert at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, the Beach Boys play their first show under that name. Prior to this, they called themselves the Pendletons and Carl And The Passions. The gig paid them $300.

In 1961, Janis Joplin sang in public for the first time in Beaumont, TX.

In 1962, 27-year-old John Phillips marries 18-year-old Holly Michelle Gilliam. The marriage was her first and his second, and would produce one child, Chynna Phillips, vocalist of the 1990s' Pop trio Wilson - Phillips. The pair would later co-found The Mamas and Papas, but divorced in 1970.

In 1963, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, later of the Grateful Dead, played music together for the first time.

Also in 1963, the Kinks performed live for the first time in London.

In 1965, John Lennon's estranged deadbeat father, Alf, released the single "That's My Life (My Love And My Home)," designed to ride his son's coattails and be a sequel to the Beatles "In My Life." John reportedly instructed manager Brian Epstein to make sure the single was blackballed in the UK. It was not a hit.

In 1965, the Beatles single "I Feel Fine" and album "Beatles '65" are certified Gold.

In 1966, the Monkees topped the Billboard Hot 100 with the Neil Diamond composition, "I'm A Believer". Because of over a million advance orders, the single went Gold two days after its release and has now sold over ten million copies worldwide. Its reign at #1 lasted for seven weeks.

In 1967, Sonny and Cher were barred from Pasadena, California's Tournament of Roses Parade for speaking out in support of the 2,000 demonstrators who protested a year-long campaign by sheriffs and police to clear the Strip of 'loitering' teenagers. Known as "the Sunset Strip rioters", the group mainly consisted of 15-year-olds with long hair and acne who were confronted by several hundred riot-helmeted sheriff's deputies.

In 1968, for the first time ever, Americans spent more than $1 billion on records. According to Billboard magazine, album sales were 192 million units and singles sold 187 million units.

In 1969, at a New Year's Eve concert at the Fillmore East in New York City, Jimi Hendrix introduces his new side men, bassist Billy Cox and former Electric Flag drummer, Buddy Miles. The concert is recorded for the live album, "Band of Gypsys", which will reach #5 in the US and #6 in the UK.

In 1969, a BBC-TV special declared John Lennon to be the "Man Of The Decade," on the same day that Rolling Stone magazine named him "Man Of The Year," while the music newspaper New Musical Express quoted him as saying he was thinking of leaving the Beatles.

In 1970, with Melody Maker magazine reporting that the Beatles are looking for a new bass player, Paul McCartney files suit to dissolve the Beatles' corporation. It would take until 1974 for the split to become final.

In 1971, singer David Clayton-Thomas made his last appearance with Blood, Sweat & Tears (until their brief reunion four years later).

In 1972, Dick Clark's first Rockin' New Years Eve airs on ABC-TV, starring Three Dog Night, Al Green and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Also in 1972, The MC5 play their farewell show at a New Years Eve bash at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. Their take for the night was $200.

In 1973, Journey made their live debut in San Francisco.

In 1973, Australian band AC/DC made their live debut when they appeared at Chequers Bar in Sydney.

In 1974, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were invited to join Fleetwood Mac, marking the band's tenth line-up change since 1967.

In 1974, after abandoning an earlier concept of an album that was to be recorded entirely with household objects, Pink Floyd began recording their landmark album "Wish You Were Here."

In 1975, Elvis Presley performed a New Year's Eve concert before 60,000 fans at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. He earned $800,000 for the night, a then world record for a single show by a solo artist.

In 1976, the Cars made their performance debut at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In 1978, Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco closed its doors for good after the Grateful Dead played their 48th concert there, a New Year's Eve show with the Blues Brothers as the opening act.

In 1979, at a New Years Eve concert in Cleveland, Bruce Springsteen's cheek is ripped open by a fire-cracker thrown onstage from the audience.

In 1982, in New York City, the club Max's Kansas City closed. It had been a career launching pad for artists including Bruce Springsteen, the New York Dolls, and the Velvet Underground.

In 1982, singer/musician/actor/radio host "Little Steven" Van Zandt married Maureen Santora at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen was best man. After rock 'n' roll pioneer (and Reverend) Little Richard performed the ceremony, entertainment was provided by a wedding reception band consisting of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Gary U.S. Bonds, Little Milton, and the wedding band from the movie "The Godfather." Percy Sledge sang "When A Man Loves A Woman."

In 1984, on New Years Eve, Def Leppard's drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm after crashing his Corvette while racing another driver on a UK highway. The arm was re-attached, but had to be removed three days later. His right arm was also damaged, but he eventually re-joined the band using a specially adapted drum kit.

In 1985, rock and roll legend Rick Nelson was killed while en route to a New Year's Eve show in Dallas, Texas. His private DC-3 (which was previously owned by Jerry Lee Lewis) crashed in a field near DeKalb, Texas. Early press reports erroneously suggested that drug use, namely freebasing, might have played a role in the crash that killed Rick, his band, and his fiancée Helen Blair (the pilot and co-pilot survived). In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board's 1987 report determined that the fire began in a malfunctioning gas heater.

In 1991, Ted Nugent donated 200 pounds of venison to a Salvation Army soup kitchen in Detroit with the message "I kill it, you grill it."

In 1991, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers shared the bill at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

In 1997, pianist Floyd Cramer, who scored a Billboard number 2 hit in 1960 with "Last Date", died of lung cancer at the age of 64. As a session musician, he played on many major hits for a variety of artists, including Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel". In 2003, Cramer was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1999, the Manic Street Preachers set a record in Europe for the biggest indoor concert when they played for 57,000 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

In 2004, for the first time in the last 32 years, Dick Clark wasn't in New York's Time Square to celebrate New Year's Eve. The 75 year old TV host and producer was forced to watch the show from his hospital bed after suffering a mild stroke on December 6th. A spokesman said that Mr. Clark had been doing some rehab and that doctors were encouraged with his progress.

In 2005, although he wasn't actually in Times Square and his speech had slowed due to the effects of a stroke he suffered in December, 2004, Dick Clark made a return to his New Year's Rockin' Eve TV show.

Also in 2005, the John Lennon song “Imagine” was voted England’s favorite song a quarter of a century after his death. A U.K. radio station conducted the poll of 7,000 listeners. The Beatles were voted into second and third place with “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.”

In 2010, Joseph Jones Jr., known as "Little Joe" of the group The Tams died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 64. Although he joined the band eight years after their Billboard Top Ten hit "What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am", Jones stayed with the group for 36 years before retiring in 2008.

birthdays today include (among others): Andy Summers (Police) (69), Donna Summer (63), Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) (60), Paul Westerburg (Replacements) (52), Jeff Johnson (Jason & the Scorchers) (52), Scott Ian (Anthrax) (48), Bob Bryar (My Chemical Romance) (32) and Burton Cummings (Guess Who) (64)