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Four things I hate about digital remasters

I’ve been spending the money I got from selling my car, buying-up the world’s collection of jazz CDs. A terrible admission, I know. Blame YouTube. You find one track some random from fandom has posted because it’s the greatest ever, and before you know it, it’s morning and your bank balance is on empty…

Some purchases have been of later stuff I haven’t heard before, by contemporary artists I feel I ought to know about. By and large this has been a most enjoyable exploration. I feel encouraged by the present, even with Django Bates in it. Other purchases have been to replace the influential vinyl albums I owned in my angsty teenage years, that I listened to gauntly night after night, believing I had found the elixir of life – cherished albums long-ago consigned to beneath the sofa cushions of other people’s flats, or whose covers have been gnawed by rats.

‘Never look back’ was Lot’s wife’s motto too, and she’d have been equally underwhelmed to hear again, albums like Getz and Byrd’s ‘Jazz Samba’, which in its day I found brilliant and exotic, thanks to Byrd’s virtuoso guitar plucking and Keter Betts’ jolly samba rhythm, which now reminds me of a rather tedious journey in a slow elevator. It doesn’t sound at all the way I remember it. And to think I walked the mile and a half to the sorting office and back to collect it.

The smack of the letter-flap just now brought a lift to the heart, but as I broke open the Amazonian envelope my heart sank again. (My, we are full of up-and-down elevator metaphors this sunny morning.) I did not recall ordering the companion Getz/Gilberto album as well? Now I suppose I shall have to listen to it. Track One is… ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. Oh, God. What have I done, to disgorge this posset of musical Gerber strained carrot down my tie? (Okay, it’s not that bad. Better than the other one, anyway. Got some real Brazilians on it.)

Four things that really annoy me about digital remasters:

1 They are no longer the original performance recordings, breaking the direct mechanical link with the artist and his/her music. So what are they? (Ontological question. No answer: just musical noise.)

2 Some A&R Mormon appears to have overlaid on the remix a digital sample of Mantovani’s second-string section playing a completely different tune, ensuring that creative jazz musicians sound like Barry Manilow at the Copacabana.

3 Cheapskate record companies print facsimile versions of the original Nat Hentoff sleeve notes on the 5″-square insert leaflets, rather than transcribing them, thus reducing them to tiny, unreadable 1-point type. Happily, you can’t get the cellophane off in the first place…

4 Reissuers imagine we want ‘extra’ tracks added to familiar albums, to bulk-out to 70 minutes what was once a perfectly fine 38-minutes, two-sides analog recording. To do this, they throw-in takes the musicians originally rejected, as if they have some special archival merit: ‘So, Miles thought this version was crap. Now you can give us money to hear why!’

‘No, she just doesn’t see…’


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