5 out of 5
Label: Comedy Minus One
Produced by: Steve Albini (original; remix); Matthew Barnhart (remaster)
A brilliant album absolutely in need of a remaster: I’ve had the original in both cassette and CD, and both versions are tinny as heck. This seemed to be the case with several C/Z Records albums I’ve owned; dunno what the deal was. I’ve learned to appreciate the tinniness as part of the album’s sound – turned up loud enough, the energy (and Steve Albini’s roomy production) still come through, though it definitely still feels a bit “flat,” and this remix / remaster by Albini / Matthew Barnhart not only wholly fixes the general volume, but it inflates the music. It has depth now. All the youthful passion that poured through, despite whatever conditions resulted in the original’s minimized sound, is now accessible right from the start, meaning that turning the volume up gives you room-filling reverb. The vinyl edition manages to translate that to wax perfectly, but the CD (included with the LP; those cheekily kind Comedy Minus One chaps!) sounds just as good – having it on vinyl is just kind of a bonus in that sense, to give it that warmth that we might identify with the format. It definitely works well with the newly fleshed out remaster.
Also included (on the CD) are two singles which, while previously released and then collected on the Blind Chicken comp, are given a best context here: In The Bleak Midwinter is a great track which definitely sounds / feels like it was cut from the same session as In The West’s tracks, with producer John Goodmanson matching Steve’s style quite perfectly, and the slower take of Incanduce – Incanduce California – is, agreeing with a comment Tim Midyett makes in his notes, a superior version of the track. There’s also a live track: Halloween. This is a cover of a Dream Syndicate track, and I can’t claim to be familiar with the original, but it’s certainly given a very Silkworm-y vibe by the group, and is a testament to how truthful albums were to the group’s ability to rock and emote.
Also also, digital bonuses: demos and live takes. I have to admit to not having gone through these yet, but simply the inclusion of all of this stuff – CD + LP together; extra physical and digital tracks – is quite generous, when just having In The West remastered would’ve been enough to merit my dollars-spendin’.