“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…”
A common enough saying, if there’s nothing wrong with a certain thing then why change it? Yet in the music industry there seems to be a propensity of remixed and remastered versions of older releases, why is this?
I suppose the technology today means that the songs can be tinkered with to produce what the artists originally wanted and there might not have been enough money in the coffers originally to release the desired versions of the tracks?
For whatever reason there is a plethora of ‘breathed on’ new versions of old releases around at the moment and last October Drifting Sun gave us a new version of their 1999 release ‘On The Rebound’ and the band’s main man, Pat Sanders, has asked your intrepid music journalist to review it.
Here’s the artwork for the original release:
I asked Pat why the band decided to remix and remaster the album and here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak):
“The album was originally recorded and mixed/mastered at a time when we didn’t have much experience in this sort of thing, and lack of a proper budget basically forced us to take care of the mix and mastering ourselves, which wasn’t handled as best as it could have been, and that has always been in the back of my mind all these years.
Therefore, I recently decided to give the album a new lease of life and have it remixed and remastered by our sound engineer Jon Huxtable. He has done a great job bringing the songs back to life, really this was more than just a simple remix… we literally pulled the tracks from the raw files and started from scratch there.
While we were working on the mix, I thought that another thing that wasn’t showing the record in its best light either, was the cover, and so I did brand new artwork for it, as well as redesigning the entire booklet too. So there you have it, ‘On the Rebound’, Circa 2016, brand new mix, brand new master, brand new artwork!”
The band’s line-up on the original album was Pat (keyboards), Chris Martini (vocals), John Spearman (guitars), Manu Michael (bass) and Tobin Bryant (drums).
There is a rich sound to the newly remastered songs and it doesn’t sound like an album from the end of the last century, there’s a real modern sound to the music which is evident from the opening bars of The Charade, a really up-tempo neo-progressive track with a multitude of twists and turns throughout its thirteen minute duration. The keyboards and up front and centre and the drums have a real vibrancy to them and Chris Martini has a very expressive and expansive vocal style, almost theatrical in its delivery. A nicely harmonised chorus adds to the stylish feel and there’s a really intricate keyboard solo that puts a big smile on your face. John’s guitar finally loses its cloak of subtlety and becomes more forceful as we move further into this impressive track, I have to admit it has really surprised me, I wasn’t expecting a 17 year old release to sound this vibrant and dynamic. Swan Song opens with a powerful guitar run and Chris’ almost operatic vocal, a much more serious and sober track with an emotive vibrancy. It ebbs and flows superbly and the keyboards and guitar have a real tete a tete, playing off each other brilliantly before there’s a cracking guitar solo full of fire and brimstone that will have you pulling out your air guitar and joining in. A cracking track that shows just how neo-prog should be done.
A sophisticated vocal and delicate acoustic guitar open Drifting Sun with style and panache and draw you into its cultured embrace. The vocal opens up more and the music adds verve and tenacity and, along with Pat’s 80’s sounding keyboards, give you a rather elegant piece of music. Once again John’s skill on the guitar comes to the fore with a tasty solo, it doesn’t get much better than this. There are hints of Marillion but this talented band have their own identity right at the core, sit back and enjoy the music. Another cultured introduction opens Long Nights and there is definitely and 80’s feel to this song with the chiming keyboard notes and elegant bass lines. The vocals are heartfelt and earnest and the track seems to glide elegantly across your aural synapses with its hypnotic beat. There’s a feel of treading water, a calmness and serenity to everything as this mesmerising song continues. About half way in things take a darker turn and an aura of unease covers everything. The guitar fires up and goes on an intricate, quick fire journey, aided and abetted by the slightly discordant keyboards and driven along by the dynamic drums and bass, a proper progressive intervention into the composure and harmony of what went before. The song ventures into a more elaborate form with mysterious undertones, asking questions that you don’t have answers too, it’s very clever and really piqued my curiosity, I just love the freshness of the free-form and free will guitar section towards the end.
Heaven’s Eyes is a more straightforward song with a beautiful piano opening and Chris delivers another warm, sincere vocal performance. Almost a ballad but one with more depth than your usual fare, it is stirring and touches your soul with its earnest emotion. It stirred thoughts and sentiments inside that I thought were long gone and left me thoughtful and musing on the world we live in today. Minstrel is an intriguing track, it has many layers of subtlety and, as you peel them back, you are gifted with little nuggets of wonder. There’s a fantastic vocal from Chris that reminds me of some of the great frontmen that progressive rock has seen, almost a cross between Peter’s Gabriel and Hammill with a little bit of Fish thrown in for good measure. A proper ‘progressive’ track in every sense of the word and one with a penchant for a bit of showmanship at times. It’s a song for late night, lights down low, headphones on and a glass of deep red wine in your hand. As the song title would suggest, there is a touch of the troubadour about Chris’ performance on this song and he is the main focus, backed up very ably by these talented musicians to add a patina of theatrical artistry to every note.
The final track, Mon Masque, is a fitting ending to the album, full of pomp and circumstance, emotion and sentiment, it has real fervor to it. I’ve used the word ‘theatrical’ in this review and you do get that feel that you could be in a West End musical, it is more than just music, there is a heart and soul to every word and every note and the band are really putting on a performance for their audience. To hear these songs played live would be pretty special I’m sure. I keep losing myself in the myriad twists and turns that envelop this song, like a musical maze that you’re quite happy to be lost in.
I loved Drifting Sun’s last release ‘Safe Asylum’ and the praise I gave that album is well justified by this remastered version of ‘On The Rebound’. An entrancing, theatrical musical experience that draws you in and leaves you sated with its dexterity and brilliant tracks. Whether it was broken or not, this ‘fix’ has produced something rather special.
Released 1st October 2016