Yet another new feature. Right On Track is going to be the place for me to review Springsteen's official releases and shows I've seen him do. First up, the European re-issues of the Japanese LP reproductions on CD.
The announced Japanese paper sleeves have hit the European market a weeks back for only 10 Euros a pop, about 15 dollars. "The River" and the live box are slightly more expensive, but come in very reasonable prices going for 15 and 25 euros respectively. Since I own the bulk of my Springsteen collection on worn down vinyl I figured it couldn't hurt to replace a couple on digital format. Especially since these paper sleeves are exact reproductions of the original LP. I managed to put some restraint on myself, only purchasing "The River", "Nebraska" and "Tunnel of Love". I left "Darkness on the Edge of Town" behind since I'm still hoping on a 30th anniversary release. What's taking him so long to deliver the goods anyway. I've left the live box behind as well. There still has to be something to be looking forward to buying right? The paper sleeve edition is a bit hits and misses. They are very nice looking reproductions of the original vinyls with a very solid eye for detail. Problem is of course that the original artwork needed shrinking down. This means the original liner not have become unreadable without a magnifying glass, which is not delivered in the purchase. To compensate however a lyric sheet is provided in both Japanese and English. Nice, if you want to brush up on your languages. Together with the Obi strip that's wrapped around the sleeve, these new releases are exact copies of the Japanese collector editions issued in 2005. I'm not sure why Sony chose to do this. The new releases were, to my knowledge, printed for the European market. Maybe they simply like to piss off the collectors who payed the big bucks for them three years ago by making this new cheap edition indistinct from those expensive earlier releases.
Another detail that's bothering me is the actual CD. The only part of the release that hasn't been made to look like a vinyl, they're the red Columbia discs we've grown accustomed to. It would have been nice if they would have followed the concept all the way. I must complement Sony however on the protective plastic sleeves that come with the CDs. Sliding you CD in a cardboard sleeve always leave you risking scratches. With the plastic sleeves they are nicely protected. The major plus is the sound however. I had expected them to be an upgrade over my bruised and battered LPs of course, but not as much as they actually are. The subtleties that come shining through on "Nebraska" actually have me doubting the home demo background of the album. There are clear glockenspiel and guitar overdubs that have much more finesse than you'd expect from a demo recording. Could be though that Springsteen is simply as much of a perfectionist with his demo tapes as he is with the actual masters. I compared the sound to earlier CD releases as well. If you've still got the old releases you bought when they were first digitalized than these CDs are definitely worth spending a few bucks on. Though they haven't been remastered, a higher bit rate can do wonders as well. CD technology has advanced much since the mid eighties and is paying off. It's not just "Nebraska" that sounds clearer, "The River" and "Tunnel of Love" win in depth as well. The sound is much warmer than those earlier CD releases with the added bonus that the synthesizers on "Tunnel of Love" do not sound quite as shrill as they used to. The sound improvement alone makes these release more than just an effort to get rabid fans like me to give up their hard earned money for nothing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run back to that record shop to treat me to the live box as well.
Get the complete set through Badlands UK.