[…continued from previous post]
Back in 2013, to herald the second [actually, third] coming of Visage, the great B-side “Frequency 7” was dusted off and reissued as a DL and CD-R. Two new mixes accompanied it, but the experience was bittersweet. I suspect that the release was mastered from vinyl. At the time I was happy to have something other than my vinyl 7″ of it to listen to, but the mastering of the driving and intense track was severely compromised. It sounded a bit dull; as if judicious noise reduction had been applied to the results, and worse of all, it had been brickwalled. Very, very strongly. When we cite brickwalling, here’s the reason why the plug-in was called that as depicted in the waveform below.Sound like this are why we can’t listen to some recordings as much as we might like the music and performances on them. As you can see, the sound has been artificially boosted to exchange dynamic range for sheer volume. Much of the waveform has been boosted to clipping range. Wow!!! Compare the listening nightmare above with the new remastering by Rubellan Remasters. The sound has been lovingly transferred from an actual master tape. Once can hear all manner of sonic detail here, and only a small percentage of the sound approaches clipping. The rest varies quite a bit in intensity. There are no details obliterated by broadband noise reduction,, and mastering engineer Scott Davies has adjusted the EQ to make for a dynamic and pleasing translation of the master tape. This CD is worth it, for me, simply with the inclusion of this track. But there are more delights to be had here.
The long sought “Night Train” 7″ remix had been promised countless times and only finally delivered on the “Wild Life” compilation three years ago. But not this well mastered! Then “Der Amboss” was included in the bonus tracks in a 4:37 edit [just like the original album had] that shaved about a minute from the scarce promo 12″ mix of Steve singing “The Anvil” in German. The last 25 years has seen “Der Amboss” getting a fair re-airing on compilations and the more copies of this track out in the world, the better.
Then a buried treasure that I only found out about in the last three years manifested in the flow. The 12″ of “Pleasure Boys” had the dance mix on it. The 7″ had the edit of that mix. Visage label US Polydor released a four-track dance mix EP in 1986 with cuts by Level 42 and Peter Godwin rubbing shoulders with the “Pleasure Boys [bonus beats];” a 5:50 aggressively percussive dub mix that was well named. DJs could probably cut a 20 minute version of “Pleasure Boys” in the turntablism era armed with this EP and the original UK 12″ single. I had yet to actually buy this record yet, so this CD was a real treat for the ears.
Finally, the last track from the “Night Train” 12″ single made its digital debut here, being “Night Train [dub mix].” The brash sax work of Gary Barnacle had helped to make this single the one dose of swagger on the largely dour and matte black “Anvil” album. The dub mix pumps up the energy levels even further with a great Rusty Egan drum solo lasting about a half a minute as he mutates and pushed the rhythm of the track into newer, jazzier, places. The three split second sax samples to release the tension at the end of the solo were pure excitement.
When Rubellan Remsasters released the “Visage” DLX RM in 2018, there was a clamor for more. The disc has sold out two pressings and a third [limited] pressing is on the way to be available again any day now. The idea was to also give “The Anvil” the love that it needed, and that arrived a little over a month ago with the still unbelievable release of “Fade To Grey: The Singles Collection – Special Dance Mix Album” right on its heels. These CDs are selling fast. Rubellan Remasters is a one-man operation who has to finance the licensing to make these CDs on his own. This means that these releases are not available in large numbers to begin with, but as the label experiences successful sales as it assuredly has with the Visage reissue program, the notion that many thousands more of these CDs might reach their audience in the future is not a pipe dream.
The market has spoken and Visage fans are now asking for new and improved copies of “Beat Boy” and of course, the “Beat Boy Special Cassette Remix” version. Then there was also the “Strange Cruise” album. The 2014 Cherry Red CD of this title is still on my want list, but I’ve heard people who do have it claim that it might be sourced from vinyl. Cherry Red does have this “problem,” but Rubellan Remasters could take a reissue of this to new heights I’m sure. So keep an eye peeled in their direction. They have had a busy 2020 in a tumultuous time to be reissuing CDs thus far and it is not slowing down yet. If you have any desire to own this special dance mix album, then buy in haste and toss any future regrets in the dumper.
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