Date: 97-05-12 10:19:06 EDT
From: (Steven Horwitz)
To: (AFV/CX1)

Hi all... I picked up all of the newly issued remasters (aside from the Retrospective and 2112 [I have the MFSL]) this weekend and have taken a good listen to all but PeW. Here are quite a few thoughts:

In general, the sound is noticably but not spectacularly better. The greatest improvements, not suprisingly, are on the first three albums. The tape hiss on AFTK and Hemi is largely, but by no means completely, gone. The original packaging is all back, including the original lyrics for FBN which were not on many of the later vinyl copies. The calligraphy lyrics for CoS are back too, but you'll need a microscope to see them! All the old photos are back, along with an insert of the old poster that went with Hemispheres (I gave it to Andrew!). The lyrics to Free Will have been corrected and, interestingly enough, Neil is now credited for the lyrics to "Different Strings"!!

Here are some comments about the sound: In most cases the differences don't jump out in your face. The best way to describe it is like getting a new monitor with a better dot pitch. The "resolution" on the sound is much clearer, particularly in terms of instrument separation. It is most noticable on the high end - the cymbals are very distinct and clear, as are the acoustic guitars. The low end is not as dramatic, although in a few places there's some new power to the music. AFTK, in particular, seems to be less "tinny" sounding. Neil's floor toms also sound fuller, for example in the Cygnus section of Hemispheres after the line "a stillness fell / a sudden peace..." where those big toms come in.

Disc by disc:

Rush - MUCH MUCH better. Less garage sounding with very noticable improvement on the instrument separation. The album sounds much more "professional". Rutsey sounds especially good - the cymbal work is much more clear. Just pop in on to track 7 and listen to "Before and After". It sounds very sweet. Even BK might want to listen to this disc now!

FBN - Also, MUCH better. Much clearer high end and an overall cleaner sound, esp. on the acoustic guitars. Check out "Making Memories" a true forgotten classic, in my book. "Rivendell" sounds great too.

CoS - Again, major improvement here. This disc really shows off the instrument separation with all the layered guitars all over the place. You can hear a lot of acoustic guitar work that you didn't really notice before. Of course, better "resolution" can also point out mistakes. For example, I really love the "Return of the Prince" section of The Necromancer. What's nice now is that you can really hear all 5 or 6 guitars layered there. But they also sound really "overdubbed". There's a certain coherence missing now - much like when a good monitor makes a picture look grainy.

AFTK - some improvement here. Better bottom end and crisper highs. Still a touch of tape hiss, but only with phones at a fairly high volume :). Lots of acoustic guitar work in the background is now up more in the mix. CTTH sounds prettier.

Hemispheres - The tape hiss is mostly, but not totally, gone. Otherwise, much the same as AFTK in terms of the sound.

PeW - just listened to TSOR and DS. TSOR didn't sound much different. DS sounded crisper on the high ends. [After later listens, it is also much better on the low ends too. More full and rounded.]

In general: These are definitely worth getting for the first three albums. As for the others, it depends on the price and how fussy you are, not to mention the quality of your system. I have a rather low-end system, so maybe there were improvements I didn't pick up. I got all six together and the salesman cut me a deal - 10.95 each (we don't have Best Buy up here!). It was worth it, certainly for the older ones.

One other thing: I hadn't listened to the old stuff all in a weekend like this and two thoughts jumped out at me. I've always loved CoS and now I think I know why. In many ways, it's their most "progressive rock" album. Lots of acoustic guitars and lots of song structures and chord changes that remind one of Genesis and Yes and others. The No One at the Bridge solo is very Hackett-ish, as Alex has admitted. But the last 30 seconds of Lakeside Park are also extremely prog rock sounding, as well as much of TFOL. The 3 albums that followed it honed in more on a straight rock feel and lost some of the wandering, classical motifs that I hear on CoS. I think the later albums are better because they were more focused and were more of what Rush really wanted to do, I think, But CoS is interesting to listen to in retrospect.

And...I have a conjecture about why so many people like TFE so much and why it feels more like the older music. It's the acoustic guitars. Go back and listen to those old albums. Very often there were one or two acoustics playing background rhythm, even in rather hard rocking songs. That softened the edge a bit and gave it a more rounded sound. It also made the music sound more complex by adding layers. That's exactly what I think is going on in TFE. There's lots of acoustic work on TFE, much more than anything in a long time (except for maybe Presto, but even there it's just a few tracks - which is why TFE also feels like Presto in places). Anyway, just a thought from an overworked mind.

The Prof (sing out choirs of cacophony...)