What are people's thoughts on remixing older albums?


#1

There is going to be a remixed version of The White Album by The Beatles that is going to be available for purchase on November 9 of this year. I bought the 2017 stereo remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band last year because I was interested to hear how it sounded. Initially, I really enjoyed the mix, but after a few listens I felt that the bass was way too loud and the master was too compressed.

I don’t think that I like the approach of remixing an older album in which the folks try to just recreate the mix of the original, a la the 5.1 mix of Moving Pictures by Rush, because in the attempt of recreation the differences of those mixes really stand out in a bad way to me. The only remix that I heard of that works for me in this regard is the stereo mix of Pet Sounds.

I like the concept of remixing that Steve Albini did for his 2013 mix of In Utero. Basically, Steve Albini and the two remaining members of Nirvana said, “Let’s do another mix of this album.” I like that approach to a remix because it seems more honest to me than trying to recreate some other mix. What do you think about remixing older albums?


#2

It’s interesting that you bring up the stereo mix of Pet Sounds because at some point in his life (probably at the peak of his Phil Spector idolization), Brian Wilson didn’t like the idea of stereophonic sound. Separating the sounds does, I guess, go against the ~“Wall of Sound”~, so I see where he’s coming from. But seeing as how he oversaw the 1997 remix and being that 2004 Smile is in stereo, something must’ve changed his mind.

Comparing stereo and mono, there are some interesting things here and there like how that dissonant guitar sound at the beginning of the song Pet Sounds doesn’t ring as much in the latter, making it almost more of a percussive hit; and sure, at times stereo’s a little spatially distant, but I’m not gonna listen to an album with headphones in mono in the year of our Lord 2018.


#3

The only thing that really drives me up wall is when a remaster is presented as the “definitive, canonical” version of an album. I’ve never heard a remaster I’m totally over the moon for, but if you gotta do it, just let me be able to easily buy the original. The Iggy Pop mix of Raw Power fucking sucks and I want nothing to do with it, okay?


#4

iirc, Wilson’s issue with stereo partly stems from his hearing being impaired in one ear. Also, I think he remarked that - on a speaker set-up - you’d have to stand in the middle of the room to get the proper experience, which may answer the question of his opinion having changed: sixties stereo is often very novelty-ish super-hard-panning (seemingly just to show off the idea of stereoscopic sound), whereas it’s generally a lot more subtle now.


#5

They should remix all albums by The Beatles as headphone friendly and put them out there separately, because they are not pleasant to listen to now.

And unless things sound real crummy, like The Beatles discography on CD before the 2009 remasters, there isn’t that much reason to remix and mess about, as far as I am concerned.


#6

The weird thing about not making different masters of albums available for purchase is that in digital storefronts there should be little to no issues with shelf space.


#7

I listened to the Let It Be… Naked album on youtube yesterday and that is a good remix album to me. I especially loved the remix to The Long and Winding Road.


#8

In a perfect world, we would have easy access to any potential mix/master of an album, rather than having new editions push old ones out of circulation entirely. I don’t mind remasters, but it can be weird to listen to the original mix and instantly hear and feel differences that change how you experience the album, or vice versa. Even more interesting is when you have albums remixed to play to the tastes of the markets in other countries, or to take advantage of the strengths and limitations of formats like vinyl.

There’s been a few physical releases in the past few years that have provided 3 to 4 different mixes, including ‘needle drop’ recordings of initial vinyl pressings of albums from the 70s! It’s really the best way to go, in order to preserve the cultural artefacts the album represents, as well as giving listeners a new way to hear an old favorite.

Coming back to revisit The Beatles’ discography with the 2009 remasters and hearing everything so clean and in stereo was super crazy! But at the same time, they were different from how I remembered them, and I wish the old releases were more readily available. They don’t completely erase the original masters out of existence, but they effectively achieve the same thing as far as the market is concerned.


#9

I wish that the philosophy of remastering older albums would be to try to emulate the way that the original vinyl master sounded like, using the analog gear (or an emulation of it) that was used to make that master as well.