Evaluated by Claude Lemaire
Rating: 8.3/ B
Category: New Wave / Synthpop
Format: Vinyl (180g at 33 1/3 rpm)
- Ric Ocasek – rhythm guitar, lead vocals on 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9
- Elliot Easton – lead guitar, backing vocals
- Greg Hawkes – keyboards, backing vocals
- Benjamin Orr – bass guitar, lead vocals on 5, 7, 8
- David Robinson – drums, percussion
- Written by: Ric Ocasek
- Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker
- Engineered by: Ian Taylor for R.T.B. (Audio-Visual) Productions U.S.A.
- Assistant Engineers: Walter Turbitt and Thom Moore
- Recorded at Syncro Sound Studios, Boston, U.S.A.
- Originally Mastered by: George Marino
- Remastered and Lacquer-Cut by Rob LoVerde for Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Sebastol, CA, U.S.A.
- Pressed at RTI, CA, U.S.A.
- Cover Design: David Robinson
Inside the record is housed in their flexible anti-static rice paper 'Original Master Sleeves'.In addition, a folded light carton with 36 album covers and various products brings further record protection. The 180 gram heavy-weight LP is pressed at RTI in California. It was flat, black and shiny. As per usual with MoFi, the new label does not try to reproduce the original (in this case Elektra) but instead is plain black with silver lettering. The original U.S. and Canadian pressings are typical of 1980s' low standards, fitting in the cheap 'floppy disk' 100-120 grams category. Visually there is no contest. Simply put, the MoFi makes a mockery of the original Elektra.
Contrarily to The Cars' 1978 debut album which I knew held promise for good sound, I was more skeptical regarding this later release, fearing the usual '3D syndrome': the dreaded digital decade. Then again, it was recorded in 1981 and not 1984 when the full onslaught 'flourished'.
I started out my evaluation with the Elektra (the original from now on) cueing the first track "Since You're Gone". As expected it was lousy; sounding thin, compressed, lacking weight, poor vocals pushed up in the mix, peaky low treble, lack of refinement, overtly cool and hints of early digititis. In other words quite typical of the first and mid part of that decade. Having to rate the original, I would be hard-pressed to give it more than a 4 out of 10.
The title track displayed the same major improvements on the MoFi, discovering anew this oh so familiar hit. To partially paraphrase an old standard: 'What a Difference a remastering Makes'.
Same goes for "I'm Not the One" which oddly was posthumously released as a single after being included on their 1985 Greatest Hits album.
Side two simply reaffirms the pleasant sound balance with "A Dream Away", followed by "This Could Be Love". This song could easily pass for a Gary Numan composition a la "Cars" (no pun intended) or even "Are 'Friends' Electric?" but with Bowie taking charge of the vocals. It is probably the most New Wave track of the album, closer to "Good Times Roll" from their debut and perhaps the best sounding track of the LP.
"Think It Over", a faster paced New Wave has double handclaps that reminds me of The Tourists' 1979 cover of "I Only Want to Be With You" and Altered Images "I Could Be Happy" from 1982. In the end it segues from the right channel panning left into..."Maybe Baby", the closing song. Good bass and an energetic rambling rhythm support vocals resembling The Cure's Robert Smith.
Both sides played perfectly noise free, devoid of any ticks and pops; this despite the lower cutting level that could have proven more problematic than the original had the pressing not be flawless. On the other hand, the rather constant levels encountered on this type of recording are more forgiving in nature than Beethoven's Fifth.
Summing up, it is one thing to reissue a fifty plus year old 'Golden Age' recording that always impressed audiophiles with incredible warm sound and invite never-ending debate on the merits of remastering such a classic–nothing original there. It is quite another to take the gamble of remastering a 1980s new wave-synthpop recording that never showed any sign of promise and then disproving categorically the saying "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". Mobile Fidelity has and kudos to engineer Rob LoVerde for finding the appropriate equalization settings to produce this worthy 'make-over' full of warmth and zero listener fatigue; now that's something I rarely encounter in current recordings and CD's even more so.
I think Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab may have already figured that out.
Postscript: Winner of Enjoy The Music.com's Blue Note Award