I’ll start this review by saying what won’t be in it: a review of ELP’s first album. There is too much literature out there already on one of the greatest Rock albums of all time. An album that stretched the boundaries of Art Rock (as Progressive Rock was called at the time), mixing everything from Jazz to Classical to Folk to Rock in equal measures and with mind-blowing technicality, finesse, bombast and great songwriting. I have been waiting impatiently for this to come out, knowing that Steven Wilson (No-man, Porcupine Tree, remixing engineer and producer) had a hand in this reissue. So this review IS about this reissue and what I feel are the important points to take note of – is it worth the purchase of this classic album once again?
The short answer is… er, there is no short answer.
There are three discs in this set. Two are CDs and one is a DVD. Let’s start with CD 1.
CD 1 contains a remaster of the first album, just as it appeared in vinyl form. The remastering is very good – clean and detailed with a good balance in the mix. I compared it to my favourite reissue on the Sanctuary label from some years ago, and I think this new remaster is a little warmer sounding and the instruments have more equal weight in the mix. However, it does not blow away the Sanctuary CD.
This new reissue was remastered by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham and contains no remixing – just a good transfer from the original master tapes. My opinion is if you are looking strictly for a better stereo remaster, and you already have the Sanctuary version or another that you are fan of, you might want to think about spending money on this whole set.
CD 2 contains Steven Wilson’s 2012 stereo mixes approved by Greg Lake. The sound is wonderfully rich and dynamic and an improvement over any versions I have ever heard of this LP. Do you hear a “but” coming? The “but” in this case is that Steven Wilson could not remix the complete album due missing tapes – the second and third parts of “The Three Fates” and “Tank”. Thus he decided to insert other pieces and/or versions to keep the flow of the album going. It is very cool and worth hearing for sure, but just to be clear – it is not the entire, original album. I was personally disappointed in this development, and though I would have purchased this anyway, I feel a little let down because my hopes were quite high that I would, at last, have a totally remixed version of one of my favourite LPs.
The DVD contains Wilson’s 5.1 mix of the CD 2 version of the album. It also has high -resolution stereo mixes. The sound is, of course, incredible in 5.1. But again I want to emphasize that you do not get an original album version on the DVD in any form.
The booklet is written by one of the greatest Rock journalists of all time, Chris Welch, and there is a lot of info about ELP as well as specific insight into the mixing done by Steven Wilson.
So, for collectors, I think this is a no-brainer, as the extra tracks (alternate takes of “Take a Pebble”, “Knife Edge” and “Lucky Man”) are cool and not inconsequential. But it all comes down to what you are looking for. A true remix of the original tracks would have been perfect, and I think the information about the album should have been made more obvious to fans like me.
Release Date (UK) August 27: