Friday, July 02, 2010

Days of Future Passed

That is the title of my current favorite album.

Let us be clear on one thing; my all time, Desert Island, Number One With a Bullet, House is Burning Down Only Have Time To Grab One Album is still Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary. But just like how in April my favorite album was Broken Bells, in May it was The Decemberist's Picaresque, and in June it was The Best of Buddy Rich (the LP I got for Record Store Day...that was a hard month because, as stated before, it's not available on CD or mp3 in album form though I could piece-meal it together I guess), this month it's turning out to be the epic concept album from 1967, Days of Future Passed by Moody Blues.

I know what you're thinking. Well, no, no I don't. But I can guess what some of you are thinking. And by some, I mean, I'm going to mentally divide all of my readers into three groups, each based on what I am guessing that you are thinking as you read this.

Group A: "Right on, man! Groovy!"

Group B: "But...that's kind of schlocky and gimmicky and pretentious...I mean, it ends with a poem about a 'Cold Hearted Orb that Rules the Night' and then a gigantic gong blast. What the hell?"

Group C: "Dude, I have no idea who those dinosaurs are. were alive in 1967? I knew you were old, but sheesh.

To those groups I say (respectively), "Totally," "Yeah but it's still so good," and "Duh, what do you think I did after the Boer Wars ended? That's when I got into music. That Tchaikovsky sure was a devilish whipper-snapper in his younger days. Oh, wait, jerk, I'm not even thirty years old yet, I just happen to have been raised on awesome music, much like my child will be."

The point Let me try and catch my train of thought. Now, let's see...favorite album...June...whipper-snapper...oh yeah!

The point is that whenever I listen to this album, strong images are conjured up in my mind. I remember my mother had this on tape and would listen to it and kind of lazily dance around the house as she went about her day. I have very vivid memories of her standing in front of the stereo (which was under the stairs at the time, which won't make sense without a detailed architectural history of my parents' house which I am not willing to go into at this point, though know that the stairs were white with brown carpeting for a time before they were stripped of carpeting and painted, inexplicably except so far as it was the late 1980's, deep magenta) and singing "Tuuuuuuues-day A-aaaaaaaaaaafternoooooooooon!" along with the tape. Eventually, we moved the stereo, got a CD player and even tore out the magenta stairs and put in normal stairs to a better floor-planned upstairs (the house is not on the market, yet here I am selling it to you). And with the CD player, my mother upgraded from tape to CD, and still continued to sing along.

So I know this album intimately, it's part of the geography of my musical mind. I like to think that if, for some reason you wanted to do this, you could crack my head open and find the part of my brain that remembers music, lower a stylus into the correct groove and you'd hear this entire album perfectly.

The only problem is, I haven't heard the entire album perfectly as it was originally released. You see, in 1978 the album was remixed, and that new mix has become the prevalent recording now sold and heard everywhere. The original was only ever released on vinyl and 8-Track tape. Since then, of course, we've had tape, CD, SACD, digital music...and it's all been the 1978 remixing. But people who are familiar with both mostly agree that the original mix is superior. Now, why don't they just record it from the original masters? They had deteriorated, which is why it was remixed in the first place. The only option now, and it's not one likely to see any official action, would be to find an original pressing on vinyl in excellent condition and transfer it that way. It's been done; many recordings from the early part of the 20th century were done direct to wax record, transferred to lacquer and (eventually) to vinyl, and that's the only form in which they existed until somebody came along to release a compilation (and I just heard a story on NPR about somebody doing this, but I can't for the life of me remember who, nor can I find a link to it on their music site). So, it could be done.

The only problem with that, of course, is that since the remixed recording has been around and dominant for 32 years, it's not easy to find a good copy of the original record. I think I've talked about it before, maybe not, how vinyl is a self-destructive medium; every time you listen to a record, you destroy it a little (and also the needle), and also every dust particle could wreak havoc on the quality, not to mention that vinyl is big and unwieldy and fragile (not a good combination). So the likelihood of a 33-43 year old record existing in excellent condition is not good. Add to that the relative desirability of this item; anyone who has it probably wants to keep it, any one who wants it and finds a copy for sale will likely snatch it up in a heartbeat. So I have yet to hear the original mix. Which is sad, because I want to incorporate the album into my novel.

That's what got me into the album recently; I was looking for some classic rock to incorporate into a scene and was scrolling through my iTunes (it's still much easier to keep music organized digitally than it ever will be physically, plus I have almost ten years' worth of downloads and CD rips that I am never going to fully replace with vinyl) and chanced on the cover art, which gave me a chill. Oh yeah, that's the other thing about this album; when we got it on CD, my mom would put it on I would sit in front of the stereo and stare at the cover art. Because this was cover art designed for a record, it's intricately detailed and kind of psychedelic. So I listened to it, all the way through. It's quite the album. It reminded me that alums like The Decemerist's The Hazards of Love and Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid (a fantastic and amazing album, one of the best of the year) have a rich lineage that reaches back to classical music. In fact, Days of Future Passed was originally commissioned to be a rock rendition of Dvorak's New World Symphony. But the band decided to instead continue their work on what was to be a stage show they had been kicking around for a while. They didn't abandon the idea of classical music, though; this album is rich in orchestral layers; strings, horns, winds, it's all there.

So, I got into it, and started doing some research, and found this discrepancy in the mix. It fits in perfectly with part of my storyline.

But now I feel like I need to hear the original release. But I won't let that stop me! Onward and Upward! On...onward and upward.

:::cries softly in the shower:::

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mGk said...

This post has me swimming in memories. I remember laying on the living room floor, just under the magenta stairs, windows open, eyes closed, listening to The Day Begins with the speakers on either side of my head. What a magical childhood it was, filled with some of the best music around.

Molly said...

Lazily danced? That was ballet, you twit. I'll bet you 5 bucks Marty has a copy of that mix on vinyl.

Molly said...

I left a message, where is it?