Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday, I Have Friday On My Mind

I'm hoping there are still a few of you who care about the compact disc. Back in the CD's heyday, the word "remaster" was almost erotic. It wasn't just "Compact Disc Guy" with his duct taped frames and bulletproof lenses, and his TV Guide and highlighter and his armful of Kinks LPs and Sharpie, (just in case he bumped into Mick Avory), that cared about sound and content. For a little while, everyone seemed to be waiting and drooling for their favorite artists catalogue to be upgraded with more songs and superior sound. Labels like Rhino, Sony Legacy and UMG have made this process a religion. But lately, a few smaller people have been putting their oars in the water. This is a good thing.

Wounded Bird and American Beat have been keeping the reissue alive with their no frills product. Licensing the material from all the major labels, these two companies have put out some solid releases, satisfying the collector with records that have either gone out of print, or in some rare cases, had never had a prior CD release. Neither Wounded Bird (check'em out HERE) nor American Beat (check'em out HERE) claim to have done anything with the sound. There is no boast of remastering, just a simple release, to keep some old faves, popular and obscure, on the market. Huzzah!

Then, there is Friday Music.

Friday Music has a pretty impressive roster and a website to match. What caught my eyes was their reissue campaigns for Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, and most recently Cheap Trick. As a fan of all three, I have purchased and repurchased the back catalogues, finally satisfied with 20 bit remasters from Japan that are now between 5-8 years old. Still, I would purchase again, (because I'm a nut) especially if the label posted "remastered from the original tapes" right there on the booklet. In the case of Hall & Oates, Friday is calling the H&O remasters "definitive." I dived right in, just like "Compact Disc Guy."

I purchased Hall & Oates' "Along The Red Ledge" and "Private Eyes," Todd Rundgren's "Second Wind," and just this past week, a nice Cheap Trick two-fer-one, "One On One" and "Next Position Please."


None of these "remastered" releases sound any better than the five and eight year old versions. The Rundgren was identical to the original. No amount of A-B-ing was going to change my mind...and it was an embarrassing amount of A-B-ing. As a matter of fact, the Cheap Trick sounded worse. It's muddy and quite frankly, sounds like the very first pressing on Sony from the year Gimmel.

Needless to say, I felt cheated. I decided to write to Friday Music. When I couldn't find any satisfying contact info on their website, I posted something on their Facebook "fan" page. To be honest, I can't remember my exact words, and I can't check. You'll see why. I do recall not being too much of an asshole. (No really.) It went something like this:

"Anybody keeping the reissue alive is a friend of mine. But, I do have a question. Are the CDs truly remastered? Just purchased the Cheap Trick and it actually sounds worse than the five year old Japanese remaster. Any info would be appreciated."

The comment was deleted. No response. I was just wiped off the discussion board.

I tried again, still keeping the snark to a minimum.

"Hi. Just wondering why my question was removed. Not trying to cause trouble, but can I please get a confirmation on the remastering?"

Deleted again.

I made a third attempt as, this time, the asshole. But I also employed some preventive maintenance, and after a couple of hours, removed the comment myself, saving myself from another ruthless deletion. I started thinking...sound quality is subjective, and I really have no way of proving that these releases are bogus, though the lack of response and brat-like moves on Facebook seemed to speak volumes. (And the type and pics in the booklets are blurry.)

Me thinks, Friday Music may be full of shit.

Anyone out there know anything about these guys?

I'd like my $58 back.


Troy said...

Sal- I've heard nothing good about the quality of these reissues. If they are going to be of poor quality, or at best the same as the original issue, I would rather fill in the missing pieces of my collection from sites like Recently I picked up CT's Next Position Please (I still have my vinyl copy) and the BoDeans second album (upgrading from my original cassette) for about a buck each, plus shipping. The sound may be "just ok" but for that price you won't catch me complaining.

Speaking of CT, I read recently that they are finally going to release the Albini version of In Color. Save your money for that. :)

Sorry to hear you ended up spending so much $$ on crappy product...better luck next time.

steve simels said...

I don't know about these guys, but I had a similar experience with Wounded Bird.

Their reissue of Fire Town's "In the Heart of the Heart Country" (a Butch Vig band before Garbage, late 80s) does not sound like it's from the master tape at all. Very disappointing....

Sal Nunziato said...

The difference though, Steve, is that Wounded Bird is not claiming to have remastered anything. They are straight reissues, probably from existing CDs. And that's cool if they just want the product back in stock.

Friday is all bells and whistles, using words like "definitive." Plus, they blew me off, so fuck them.

steve simels said...

Actually, that Wounded Bird Fire Town album sounds like it's from vinyl, but hey -- at least the thing's available.

Leslie said...

I saw your original post. When I read it I thought, "Oooh, they are not going to like that." But, I think you came across as a guy who knows his stuff and was looking for an informed, straight answer. AND you did put it on the disussion board, not plastered on the wall. I don't think you were out of line. The fact they are deleting your posts is suspect, indeed. I kind of want to join the group so I can post "Give Sal his money back." fifty times a day. I have the time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip. I wanted to pick up the Cheap Trick reissue. Their cowardly deleting of your inquiries will keep me supporting the label. A pity because they seem to have exquisite taste.

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Leslie. I appreciate the comments. I wasn't completely comfortable at first. My fear was coming off like Geraldo Rivera trying to expose the wrong doings without all the facts. I really just wanted an answer. Now I think I got it.

Michael said...

I've often speculated what the web might have looked like in the eighties. No further need to wonder.

Seems like their product quality is on par with their site design- retro, but not in a good way.