Thursday, June 2, 2011


It began as a facebook post.

My son, Vince, posted (for whatever reason) a youtube link for the Boston masterpiece "More Than a Feeling" on his wall, the familiar picture of UFO's that are actually flying guitars next to it.  Even the picture transported me to my size 5 jeans, with newly permed hair and rainbow t-shirt.

Amazing, but I decided to listen.  The most overplayed song of my freshman year seemed even more crisp and sharp than the record I listened to over and over again.  With the new digital mastering, the clear and precise representation of a piece of music from the original recordings can actually be better than the original.

There was once a time when I firmly believed in the saying "Don't mess with a classic", so the thought of remixing the original recordings seemed taboo.  Like remaking an Alfred Hitchcock movie, somethings were best left alone.

Since the original recording of "More Than a Feeling" was done on reel to reel tapes, the job of cleaning them and making them into the album was a task by the time Boston received their first recording contract.  Tom Scholz says that "Amanda", the oldest track on the Boston album, was so sticky by the time they took it to press it felt like there was jam on it.  Still, "Amanda", originally cleaned and pressed to the album eventually became a CD; later remastered and is now an mp3 file that I can download to an Apple ipod I can hold in the palm of my hand...and sounds much better than it did in 1976.

So much for not messing with the classics.  

In 2009 the Beatles Boxed Set was made available for purchase anywhere in the world.  Upon hearing the remixed version of "Nowhere Man", Paul McCartney said he turned around, "...expecting John to be singing over my shoulder."  The quote made me want to hear it, and it is true, the "s" in "please listen" sounds like John Lennon is in the same room....

At this point I have to check myself, since I begin to remind myself of an old fogey marveling at the precision of a fine point Bic pen, but it is a beautiful thing to improve a musical recording in a way that the classics may be kept for the next generation to hear.

Sometimes the brilliance and beauty of words sung in harmony can be lost from one generation to the next, even with the eternal quality that the Beatles brought.  Rubber Soul, the album of "Nowhere Man" was recorded in mono, and meant to be played on the phonographs of teens that could only turn it up loud enough to not disturb their parents in the next room.  If you compare it to the drum and bass trance music blasted in most clubs now, it stands as a recording worth giving to your baby daughter, tender and impressionable, and may as well be remastered in stereo.  The guitar riffs in "More than a Feeling" became the signature of 70's rock, where no good song was complete without the invitation to bang your head while a screaming electric guitar was played by a master.  The best stereo I ever had was in my Datsun B210, and it still doesn't equal the sound transmitted now through my computer and into my headphones.

The year Vince was born, Run DMC rocked Live Aid with a new spin doctor, and new music style called "rap".   I chronicled it it his baby book, knowing that like would never last.  I was wrong about both.  It wasn't until much later I sounded like my parents, lecturing my kids about "real music" and how they should appreciate all kinds.  I never got into Nine Inch Nails, The Cranberries, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony or  Smashing Pumpkins.  I wondered why they couldn't appreciate Tom Petty or The Beatles...  They did the same eye-rolling I did when my parents would say that about Beethoven.

Now I spend most of my music-listening time in the company of worthy symphonies performing Mozart, Vivaldi or Dvor├ík.  Even their music can be recorded in high resolution, downloaded in mp3 format and then listened to in pure amazement.  I know Antonio would be astounded at the sound of his own music digitally remastered.

I just finished listening to "I Tried" by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, though, who I now enjoy without praying that they won't steer my kids away from all things good and noble in the world.

The good stuff has a way of staying around, and only gets better.

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