I have bought the Pink Floyd catalog too many times. First on cassette. Then on vinyl. Then came CD because it was finally OH SO FUCKING CRYSTAL CLEAR. Then 24K CD because THAT was even more crystal clear and I was a sucker. Then the early ’90s box set because it FINALLY included the singles I only had on scratchy bootlegs. THEN AGAIN only a couple years ago because, hey, the catalog was re-released! And then, earlier this year, I heard the band was remastering and re-releasing the whole dang thing AGAIN.
This time around I was going to win. I’ve spent countless thousands of dollars on Floyd recordings so THIS time around they owed me! And, amazingly, their label agreed, and sent me the latest iteration of Pink Floyd’s remastered and re-issued catalog. (Well, except, for some odd reason, A Saucerful Of Secrets and More. So if the label’s reading this, please send me those. To all the rest of you, that gap in my collection doesn’t really impact my larger view on this re-issue. And here’s why.)
The twelve albums I listened to were amazing. OK, I’m lying, nothing can make The Division Bell amazing; that disc should just die and lie under a tombstone that reads “Dave Gilmour and his wife like this but no one else does, not even the always affable Nick Mason.” But the rest? Amazing.
Now, I have railed against re-issues and remasters and desperate label cash grabs in the past. And truth be told I expected this to be the same thing all over again. But I sit here stunned and pleasantly surprised, and I like to think I’m just as cantankerous and critical as I’ve always been so let me try and make my case here.
Let’s start off with an audiophile’s concerns. When albums get remastered and re-released that usually just means they’ve been made louder but by no means better. The remastering on these discs works the seemingly impossible and ups the levels artfully, without overly compressing the sound. This has the effect of increasing the quieter discs to a volume that can compete with most modern albums without simultaneously coming off as shrill. It’s obvious this was done with great care, for once. (Those of you already dozing off, I’ll be done soon.) For instance, “Atom Heart Mother” weighs in with a symphonic metal heft I hadn’t heard in my own 25+ year experience with that album and “Echoes”—oh man “ECHOES” —now carries some insanely otherworldly funk within it I was only privy to through hints and glimpses on my original gatefold pressing of that disc.
Audiophiles. This is the shit. Get it. NOW.
Outside the aural tweaks, here’s my worry. Pink Floyd has finally released expanded versions of Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here with material we (largely) didn’t know existed. Some of it is good (the Dark Side Of The Moon stuff in particular) and some of it reminds us why The Floyd eschewed this path or that (the unreleased “Household Projects” outtakes). However, what this stuff DOES show us is that they have the vaults and there IS shit in there we want to hear! Hell, even Nick Mason recently admitted there was material that’s been widely bootlegged that warrants an “official” release. So who’s to say this isn’t a trapdoor that would lead to yet another set of re-issues?
But it looks like this is probably the last one as far as extensive Pink Floyd reissue campaigns go. No joke. The recording industry is crumbling beneath it’s own feet and, to Pink Floyd’s credit, they’re trying to leave on a high note (though, Mason, work on that REALLY unreleased stuff for us, and get it out on separate discs, OK?). And this really is a high note. Speaking as one that fell for the 24K CD ’80s craze I can readily admit these reissues sound SO much better. But if you’re on a budget, confine yourself to the expanded editions of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here that are out now and we suspect The Wall will be worth it when it’s released next year. (And let’s all petition for a Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking box set including the demos meant for Pink Floyd to record as a band. That would be wicked, no?) And Obscured By Clouds, because that’s the classic Floyd disc that is nigh perfect yet overlooked by almost everyone.
So there you have it, overall the current crop of Pink Floyd remasters gets it right. It really, and this really shocked me, does! The band won’t be able to top this, so if you’re looking to refresh your collection, or build it from the ground up, this is an excellent starting point.
And seriously, if you buy no other album from this reissue, buy Obscured By Clouds. It’s like the perfect marriage of all stages of Floyd.