Some people compare this to Blood on the Tracks because it was written when Dylan's divorce was going down while BOTT was written when his marriage to the same woman was on the rocks. Both albums were written in private at Dylan's home in Minnesota. When Dylan wrote BOTT, he was having a relationship of sorts with another woman, I think her name was Ellen Bernstein; four years later, a different woman accompanied Dylan when he was writing the songs that wound up on Street-Legal. Both women were his only companions during these private stretches in Minnesota, away from the music business. A lot of parallels there, but the disparity in quality is enormous, and the ratio of heartbreak and regret to bitterness and anger is pretty much reversed on Street-Legal. Instead of a man dealing with a crumbling marriage he wants to fix, we get songs from a man pissed off from his divorce with a whole lot of bitterness that, quite frankly, comes off as sexist on a few songs. That's really half the album, the other half isn't bad.
What about the sound? Well, I thought Hoffman's response to the remix was interesting. No, his preference for the original isn't surprising, but the points he made actually have plenty of weight.
Steve Hoffman wrote:Listen to the first 10 seconds of the first song "Changing of the Guard." On the old CD using the old mix Dylan's vocal breathes and has dynamics. On the remix it's squashed and not loud enough in the mix, buried under the newly discovered and proud EQ'd to death instruments; a modern approach to mixing. I don't care what the drums sound like, I want Dylan to sound like Dylan and in the new mix he's almost an afterthought. That right there for me is a no-brainer; the original mix for all of the faults sounds better to me.
Do I like the sound of the old Dylan Street-Legal CD? No. It needs some good mastering. But, it's THE mix for me. If you want to help your old CD of Street-Legal along and you have a Parametric, try this:
+1@50, +1@6k, +1@10 or 12k. That should get it going for you.
I don't have the original mix on CD, but I had access to Greatest Hits Vol. 3, mastered by Vic Anesini, whch has "Changing of the Guards." I also have Biograph which was remastered by Greg Calbi in 1997 and includes "Señor." The remixing is more noticeable on "Changing of the Guards." I can hear what Hoffman's talking about, each instrument is a lot more noticeable and clearer, but each one also has more EQ, and the engineers/supervisor usually went for a pinched sound on the new mix. Dylan's voice is clearer but definitely less lifelike, there's more compression applied to it. I think he's wrong about Dylan's voice being mixed too low in the new mix, but the old mix definitely 'breathes' more and sounds less processed.
Having said that, the new mix is still preferable, IMO. The EQ is frustrating, it's pinched, but the old mix is just, I dunno, like a limp pile of spaghetti. Despite the 'audiophile' problems with the new mix, every instrument still manages to stand on its own, it actually seems like a sturdy mix. Unfortunately, some of the music just plain SUCKS, and I don't care what 'Dylanologists' say, it's NOT a case of bad recording. Some of those arrangements will always suck, no matter who's at the board, how tight the band's playing, or how free and relaxed Dylan may be to sing his best, the music on "No Time To Think" and several others sucks.
So here's "Changing of the Guards" in mp4 format for comparison. One is from the original mix, mastered by Anesini, the other is the new mix, mastered by Calbi for the new hybrid SACD.
The original crap mix:
hxxp://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?a ... 0217AD181C
The new pinched mix:
hxxp://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?a ... B773115D87
And if you want more, here's "Señor":
The original mix:
hxxp://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?a ... D43599555B
The new mix:
hxxp://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?a ... 7B2149279A
(Change "hxxp" to "http" if you want the links to work. Duh...)