It sometimes gets to be a bore when a record company re-issues a collection of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons work without any apparent recognition of what the fan base might want……but sometimes the most un-inspiring collection of ‘mis-matched’ tracks can reveal something new.
This is the case with the mastering on Working My Way Back To You (2011) - Audio CD by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons Rhino BGJXT8
This CD which appeared in the UK in February 2011 had largely been ignored by us as it didn’t appear to contain anything new. As part of our CD Discography update our music detective and sound engineer Eliot Ness decided to take a closer listen. And he was surprised at the sound content.
Up to recent times we have all hung onto the fact that the original vinyl and the early CD re-issues was what captured the ‘original’ sound of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. After all Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio and the group set out the ‘sound’ in their original mixes and changing that surely amounts to ‘heresy’ and a distortion of the ‘truth’??. Well that may be some peoples opinion and is valid to some extent….but when a sound engineer is aware of today’s technology and production techniques and takes the time to bring the best out of the productions in a re-issue, then it makes the result an interesting listen.
That is what our ‘Sound Guy’ Eliot found and he was so impressed he did a comparison with the compilation re-issues since 2000 that represent the ‘modern sound’ of our fave artist(s). If you have this collection we feel sure you’ll find the detailed review by Eliot Ness (click here) a great compliment to your listening again to this CD.
The CD’s Mastering Engineer Nick Watson of www.fluidmastering.com is happy that we found this collection had some benefit for fans…..”I have to say it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that there are people out there appreciating the sound quality on a release like this, which must be just the latest in a long line of re-issues of the same material on CD.”
“I'm very pleased to know that you enjoyed the CD and think it compares well against others. However, it is not an album that I would necessarily make reference to in our promotion or website. I had sources of unknown origin that had previously been mastered (maybe several times), that were digital and didn't sound very good, and I had little time. Of course I wanted to get the best out of the material that I could, but I don't think the end result comes close to how good it would have sounded if I had had the opportunity to re-master this stuff from analog tapes! Then, we would have been talking about a dramatically better-sounding CD”
Of course we find in today’s CD market with the price of CD’s so low and the profit margins so meager compared to a decade or two ago that a job like this comes in with a tight budget, and we can be pretty sure that if Nick hadn’t been commissioned to do the job, then it would have been done by another rival studio that would have maybe simply normalized the levels but not done much else - whereas it is clear from Eliot’s analysis that time was spent eq-ing where necessary and fixing faults wherever they were significant (in most cases)
It is very likely that the sources where simply 16/44 mastered files sent by Rhino UK, and there is no way of knowing where each file originated from, except to say that they would have been from CDs in their catalogue. It is a very annoying development in today's record business, that record companies now have their catalogues archived as digital files which can be ordered up from a database (which of course saves the cost of proper archiving). This means that from the point of view of a mastering engineer, his options, and the information he has to go on when choosing the best sources, are severely limited.
It is clear from Eliot’s review that , in the case of the Four Seasons files used here, that much of what Nick had to do was about *Un-doing* some extreme and unmusical EQ and even compression that was evident in the source files. Many were (- to our ears in recent CD compilations -) too heavily EQd and heavily compressed. Correcting this to make them sound more 'natural' is what Eliot found in his review. Some have had some quite radical treatment which whilst overall gives a good set doesn’t work in every case. Perhaps this is due to the source material being beyond ‘repair’.
With regard to ‘flaws’ in tracks, Nick could recall only a little of this CD as many projects have come by him since….”All I can say is that if a flaw can be removed without compromising the recording, and it seems worth the effort, and isn't part of the original recording but is a result of later damage, then I'll probably remove it. Sometimes I'm surprised on mastered material that flaws haven't been taken out - but I guess mastering engineers who don't have restoration experience don't look for those things or don't have the tools to deal with them.”
We suspect that like many ‘corporate’ record company re-issues, the client wanted to send some files and receive back ASAP a double CD compilation, with minimum fuss. So from their point of view, that's what they got. However we as fans see it as a situation where the mastering engineer is working with some important and classic material under non-ideal circumstances!
We have to count ourselves fortunate that this mastering engineering recognized the importance of these tracks historically and responded with a very listenable collection. Obviously the visit by Frankie and TV promotion took sales into the top 20 CD’s at the time(11th place on the chart in May 2011) and the popularity of ‘Jersey Boys’ clearly helped.
The ‘modern sound’ of this CD may not include mixes that appeal to all long-standing fans but perhaps the sound is compatible with the stage show production approach.( i.e. maybe ‘louder’ and more ‘up-front’) The fact is that it continues to keep the group sound and profile available to today’s audience. To check out the whole back catalogue of CD issues visit our ‘mega’ CD discography at https://www.seasonally.co.uk/CDDiscog.htm
We’ve added more detailed reviews of the sound quality (click on the pictures with a colour code - ‘Green’ represents the best sounding) and check back in your collection to find the good, the bad and the plain ‘ugly’
This collection hits the ‘Green’ button!!
Some would say that this collection is still a ‘mismatch’ of tracks and we need a serious set of re-issue projects. So in case anyone in ‘high places’ wants to know what the fans want - here it is
- A collection of original 1960s 45 masters all re-mastered properly
- Sets of ALL of the STEREO masters for the 1960s albums to replace the ACE /Curb collections/Collectors Choice collections with flaws and missing tracks corrected
- The researching, re-mastering and issue of the large number of unreleased tracks at Philips, Motown and Warner Bros.
Now is that too much to ask????
Updated Sound Logs