Vapor Trails Remixed (2013)


1.One Little Victory
2.Ceiling Unlimited
3.Ghost Rider
4.Peaceable Kingdom
5.The Stars Look Down
6.How It Is
7.Vapor Trail
8.Secret Touch
9.Earthshine
10.Sweet Miracle
11.Nocturne
12.Freeze
13.Out Of The Cradle

 

I'm always incredibly skeptical anytime I see an old music release in new packaging advertising itself as something such as "remastered" or "remixed". It seems like every few years, some of the more popular releases by older bands attempt to put a fresh coat of paint on the packaging and advertise the old release in this new sort of fashion. What is the difference? My ears can never really tell. Sometimes the music sounds a bit louder, but that's about it. My thought is, if it's supposedly has some sort of new, improved sound, why couldn't they have released it that way in the first place? I can see justifying something that was released back in 1972, but for the most part, I've always been a bit of a skeptic.

Well, for those who don't know Rush, may not realize that this puppy actually has some justification for being "remixed", and there really is, in fact, a new and improved sound.

When the original CD came out eleven years prior, it was a bit of a strange animal, and many of the reasons had nothing to do with the music itself. Drummer Neil Peart needed about five years to recoup from a personal tragedy, and when the guys finally reassembled in the recording studio, there was probably a lot of hurt and anger that went into the writing and recording, and true to the band's form, they were attempting to make things different musically as well.

Not a bad thing in shaking things up musically, but the problem with the original album is that the recording just never sounded proper. Not only was the music loud, cacophonous, and heavily distorted, but many couldn't even hear what it was that Geddy was singing. It was almost as if this record was made with all of the instruments crowding for space in the same room while being amplified through one amplifier of a busted sound system. Yes, there were many that liked the "raw" sound, but most, including the band, realized that the finished product was a bit of a missed opportunity. Fans chorused for a mulligan. Well, when don't fans let their displeasure be heard? Especially now that this internet thing is around. Of course, Rush has never been your average band, and they tend to surprise their faithful quite regularly, complying with the requests of their very vocal fan base. Plus, the band kind of agreed with them.

So a fella named Dave Bottrill was brought in to go through the tapes and try to make something of an improvement. He succeeds well. What's different? Well, mostly, the original sounds, vocals and instruments are exactly the same. Other than one added guitar solo (near the end of Ceiling Unlimited), everything is just as before. The main difference is that the recording simply sounds like it breathes better. The music sounds clearer, crisper and many of lyrics are actually understandable. This is truly how the record should have been done the first time. This record is a true testament that what goes on behind the sound board really can affect the finished product in many ways.

All these year later, the album still sounds very eclectic. The styles and arrangements were very new for them, and with the fresh treatment, actually sounds much more welcome. One wonders if they would have continued down this direction had the record sounded this good originally. Since the original recording was so botched, though, and since fans were lukewarm, the band really returned to more familiar territory with the follow up, 2008's Snakes and Arrows.

Those who were turned off by the original product really should give the new version a listen with fresh ears. The band felt so confident that they even redid the album cover slightly.

You could now listen to the thing without getting a headache.

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