Glowing gem with some missed opportunities
27-02-2020 Many Bodine-fans will have noticed the release of the CD-box Anthology by Pseudonym records in November 2019, including the three original Bodine albums and an extra disc with demos and studio-outtakes. Several months have passed to digest this release. For those of you who have time to read in the middle of the corona pandemic, here’s a review.
Prefer to jump to conclusions? Go ahead!
A very nice unboxing video and a review has been posted by Phil Aston on YouTube.
Check it out!
Regular Rocker was approached by Pseudonym records to write the liner notes to this release. As it happened, I had a rough outline of a biography on the shelf and it felt as if an appeal was made to the knowledge I have gathered about Bodine during the webmastership of regularrocker.nl. My possible involvement would result in the first Bodine release in a 23-year period--an opportunity not to be missed. Indeed, it felt as an honour to be able to contribute to Bodine’s musical legacy. I do not see any perspective on another Bodine release in the future, considering the fact that so many years have passed already. In retrospect, there was hardly any other decision possible than to go along. My involvement, however, is no excuse to be complacent.
What can the fans expect? The box contains 4 discs, including the 3 original albums and a bonus disc. The albums are shelled in cardboard sleeves, in the same layout as the original LPs. Each album contains the original track list, all extras are included on the bonus disc. The box also contains a 40-page booklet including a biography with some previously unpublished anecdotes and photographs. It is printed on glossy black paper with white fonts and makes a stylish impression.
Leafing through the pages, though, one has to notice that there is a little coherence between the images and the text. Most photos could have been embedded in the text with references to why they are picked and in which context they were made. I attribute this to lack of communication between the editor and the publisher.
According to the sleeve notes, the recordings of all three albums have been remastered. To compare the outcome, I have played back several tracks with the Wavepad audio editor app on my Mac over a Sony WH-H900N headset connected via bluetooth, switching back and forth between original and remastered tracks. Also, I’ve listened to the remasters on my home stereo system (set up around a 1969 Sony STR-6040 receiver).
Bodine (disc 1)
The debut album in the box sounds just as good as I was used to. My hearing is too limited to perceive any difference between the original and the remastered recording. If I’d have to guess, I’d say that the bass guitar has become a bit more prominent, but it’s rather subtle and I could be completely off the mark. It’s a good thing that this disc only contains the original track list, it saves trouble of having to turn off your CD-player before it starts playing the tedious 1981 studio outtakes and radio jingles. They have only one-time fun value, though I wouldn’t have minded having Rock Doctor and Regular Rocker with Jay van Feggelen to be included on this disc (even if they are from another recording session). Luckily, these tracks can be found on the fourth disc (keep reading!).
Remastering is a process intended to improve the sound quality of (usually) analogue music recordings. It might be justifiable considering the fact that some music is played on different sound systems as those that were around at the time of the original release. Remastering is not the same as remixing a studio recording, a process which requires the original 12- or 24-track studio master tapes and allows for changing the output balance between various tracks (such as instruments and vocals). Usually, the source material for remasters is the (2-track) stereo tape which was made by the studio producer for the record manufacturer, and thus almost comparable to the music on record or CD album.
If you’ve ever messed around with an equalizer to change the balance between sound frequencies, you will have noticed that changing the sound balance in favour of one frequency range will go at the expense of another frequency range. The outcome depends on the taste of the listener, in my opinion.Notorious are recordings where loudness is preferred above sound quality, dynamics are lost and all instruments and voice are pushed to the same output level: the so-called loudness war.
I know a couple of examples where the remasters compromised the original recordings or made little difference and I would still prefer the original release. Music, after all, is also a matter of remembering and experiencing. An example of a good remaster, in my opinion, can be heard on the 2019 edition of the album ‘Racing Time’ by Canadian band Santers. I realise, though, that it is really a matter of taste and others may think different.
Bold As Brass (disc 2)
The effect of the remastering on Bold As Brass is barely audible for me as well. I have to leave it up to the judgement of the listener whether this turns out satisfactorily. Armand van der Hoff has said about the original recordings that, much to Gerard’s regret, Rheno’s guitar sounded too condensed due to the application of sound limiters and compressors and that, as a result, the album in its entirety sounded too soft... For the sake of track list integrity, Breaking Out was re-included this release--contrary to the 1996 edition by Pseudonym. In the current version, this song sounds a lot better than the unpolished version on the original album from 1982. The mistake to issue this song as a rough mix is hereby largely compensated for in my opinion and this should be considered as sound engineer Peter van ‘t Riet’s merit. This diamond is finally polished!
IIITR (disc 3)
Also, on Three Times Running, the sound differences between the original (1983) release and the remaster are negligible. Personally, I think this is good news. Overall, although the sound images are notably different, the hearing experience, in my ears, isn’t--except for Breaking Out, of course. Also, on my home stereo installation I could not perceive any differences.
Here are two comparative examples of amplitude images as displayed by Wavepad:
New York City Streets 1981/1996 version
New York City Streets 2019 version
Aragorn 1982/1996 version
Aragorn 2019 version
The images clearly show that the volume was increased on these tracks. In my experience, this did not lead to distortion or loss of quality.
Bodinism (the fourth disc)
The fourth disc opens with six tracks from the Bodine Mk-I period, revealing one song that was unknown thus far: “Find The Road”. Were these the demo recordings that twisted Alfred Lagarde’s proverbial arm to arrange a record deal? From that point of view, they could be very interesting! If so, when were they recorded? Who recorded them? Alas, the info in the box does not provide any background information about the provenance of these tracks.
Regrettably, it is clearly audible that these demo tracks were pitched too fast, which results in Jay’s voice sounding too high and too thin. I suppose that these tracks were dubbed on cassette players running at different speeds. With a bit more attention, these tracks could have been tuned to the right tone and they would have sounded better. If you possess sound editing application: try playing back these titles at a slower speed and listen to the results! All the other songs on this disc have been released before in 1996, including Rock Doctor and Regular Rocker. The original album lacked these two tracks, providing the necessary wink to give the album a spark of cheerfulness.
A radio interview with Alfred Lagarde is a novelty for those who haven’t found it on regularrocker.nl.
Simultaneously with the box release, all Bodine tracks were published on Spotify. It is great that the music is finally released from the vaults! Finally, all compositions of Bodine can be heard by music lovers all over the world. Who knows what it may lead to? Perhaps upon a time, a professional rock band will muster the courage to cover a Bodine track and release it officially.The fact that this hasn’t happened until now may mean that the challenge is too big, which may say something about the bar that Bodine has raised. Nonetheless, a cover-version could be a part of the recognition Bodine still deserves to earn and perhaps even rekindle some attention for the music, which remains timeless.
Something direly missing from this release are some fleshy live registrations, notably the gig recorded on Countdown Café radio show on 6 January 1984. Bodine was broadcast more often, though, also as Mk-I at Heipop in Bussum on 27 June 1981.Further, there are no lyrics in the booklet. It would have been nice to finally have music and words together in one release, however, the will to achieve this was missing. The rights to Bodine’s music are obviously dispersed among too many parties, who are rather indifferent to this piece of musical heritage. In a manner of speaking, some prefer to keep it locked away rather than sharing with the public. It’s a pity that regularrocker.nl is still the only spot where you can find the lyrics. :ast but not least, the five songs that were recorded in 1991 with Oscar Holleman, Erik van der Ven, Gerard Haitsma, Jeronimo and Jay van Feggelen are not included either. These tracks reveal an entirely different Bodine, but will only be heard on regularrocker.nl for the time being.
ConclusionTo sum it up...The end result remains somewhere in between a gem and a missed opportunity. The CD-box is visibly a labour of love, but I think Bodine would have deserved a bit better. The finish is top notch, but the missing elements show marks of a rush job. Hopefully, someone will retrieve some live recordings somewhere and find the courage to release them, before all Bodine fans are dead or out of money. The thought that this again may take decades is utterly frustrating. Hopefully it's not a lost opportunity.
In comparison to the 1996 editions, this CD-box may still be considered a stark improvement. The albums are complete and the sound quality has stayed the same, or even improved for some tracks. There are more tracks on this box than on the 1996 CDs which have become some sort of a collector’s item. If you are not willing to pay (the equivalent of) € 50 - € 80 a piece for those editions, you are much better off getting this version.