Graham Parker on CD

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MK
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Graham Parker on CD

Postby MK » Sat Aug 07, 2004 8:58 pm

I picked up two CD's today: the 1996 20-bit remaster of "Squeezing Out Sparks" + "Live Sparks," re-issued by the original label Arista Records, and the "Ultimate Collection" CD from 2001 issued by Hip-O Records.

BTW, isn't it a blatant rip-off to name your reissue imprint Hip-O with a hippopotamus as the logo, i.e. a variation on Rhino Records? I digress.

Ultimate Collection was maximized to death. Mastered by Erick Labson, there's a ton of compression, and real bright and grainy like many of Labson's masterings in the last few years. The squashed sound with that in-your-face bottom end is the worst. Too bad because it's the only comprehensive single CD compilation.

I know Rhino issued a two-CD set called "Passion Is No Ordinary Word" back in the early 90's, including almost all the same material, most importantly the single-only releases "I Want You Back" - the Jackson 5 cover - and "Mercury Poisoning," both great releases. I haven't heard Rhino's disc, but it's got to be better.

The compression on "Ultimate Collection" was confirmed when I compared it to "Squeezing Out Sparks," the 1996 re-issue. Greg Calbi mastered this, and he's had an inconsistent track record. It's great just to have it for "Live Sparks" as the bonus material, which fills out the disc to 79+ minutes.

I have not heard any other CD, and I wonder if this reissue of "Squeezing Out Sparks" is on the bright side from the mastering or if that's the nature of the original recording. I guess it's a moot point because it's not nearly as bright as "Ultimate Collection" and is a lot more open, it breathes a lot more so if there is any compression, it's minute compared to what was done to "Ultimate Collection."

So there you have it.

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Rspaight
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Postby Rspaight » Sun Aug 08, 2004 1:26 pm

I've got the 1993 Rhino "Passion" you mentioned, mastered by Inglot/Perry. It sounds OK to me, though I have no other Parker on CD with which to compare. It's a very nice package at any rate.

What's up with Labson, anyway? For my money, he's worse than Astley or Mew. He wasn't always this bad. Did he just get seduced by digital compression tools?

Ryan
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MK
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Postby MK » Mon Aug 09, 2004 1:00 am

There's really no way you can complain about that Rhino package. I think 99% of everything I've heard mastered by Ken Perry has at least a 3 decibel treble boost with maybe a few other EQ moves, but unless you want to buy all the CD's in Graham Parker's sprawling career, there's no other alternative to getting a compilation as comprehensive as that two-disc Rhino set.

Yeah, totally agree with you on Labson. As soon as compression became the standard, he jumped right in. He's always whitened the sound a bit, but he's gotten so bad. The Impulse! Coltrane remasters, the Chess remasters from their 50th Anniversary, and the Buddy Holly remasters all had a small boost in the treble region, but it was easily fixed with CoolEdit. Now he compresses the crap out of everything, and there's no way to undo it.

In fact, I agree, he's now worse than Astley and Mew. At least those two have backed away from compression and to a certain extent NoNoise/CEDAR. Compressing the crap out of something is worse than NoNoising. If you're a Waylon Jennings fan, check out "Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line: The RCA Years" and "RCA Legends," both two CD compilations. The former is mastered by Glenn Meadows who brightens up the music after processing it through CEDAR, the latter is compressed to death by Elliot Federman. I don't think the latter has any noise reduction, but the former is so much easier on the ears, especially after a little CoolEdit EQ.

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Rspaight
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Postby Rspaight » Mon Aug 09, 2004 8:10 am

Same here -- I'll take a no-noised disc over a squish-o-rama any day.

Ryan
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Postby JohnS » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:26 am

Rspaight wrote:I've got the 1993 Rhino "Passion" you mentioned, mastered by Inglot/Perry. It sounds OK to me, though I have no other Parker on CD with which to compare.

The track 'Stupefaction' sounds infinitely better on the Rhino set than on the Stiff Records 4CD box set from years ago; I couldn't believe how improved it was, like hearing it with a whole layer 'stripped away' compared to the box set version - I kept comparing the two sources when I first got to hear 'Passion,' it was one of the first times I realised just how different a track can sound on different CDs.
(Admittedly, the Stiff set was a masterer's nightmare, what with the, er, esoteric nature of the label's roster, and being compiled from a variety of sources including needle drops)

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Postby Ess Ay Cee Dee » Fri Sep 30, 2005 4:43 pm

The Rhino set is outstanding. What's especially nice is that it cherry-picks the good tracks off of the post-Squeezing Out Sparks LP's so you don't have to waste your money on them.

Oddly enough, the early Mercury/Vertigo CD's have never been remastered AFAIK. I think the ones out there now sound fine, though.

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MK
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Postby MK » Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:31 pm

I found a copy of the old "Squeezing Out Sparks" CD. I also have the remaster with the "Live Sparks" promo Lp as a bonus. The remaster was done by Greg Calbi around 95, 96, I forgot.

Anyway, the remaster is almost twice as a loud, with a little bit more EQ to make it a bit sharper, harder. Not too bad, but it's definitely not an improvement. They say the original master tape was used, and it's very possible the old CD used the same tape because the general quality is 'roughly' the same, no veil or extra hiss or anything.

The "Live Sparks" bonus tracks are cool though, and the remaster is easily had through BMG while the old CD can be tough to find in stores. This was the first time I ever saw it, but if you see one, it should be all right.
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