Luke's Stones SACD Sampler Review

These comments were originally posted here, on the Steve Hoffman website.

Images of the sampler disc. Click on each image for a larger version.

The CD itself
The CD itself

The cover of the digipak
Cover of the digipak

Inside of the digipak
The inside of the digipak

Contents of the press kit
Contents of the press kit

Press kit folder
The press kit folder
Ok, folks. Thanks to a friend of mine at the newspaper I used to work at, I was able to procure a copy of the ABKCO press kit, which obviously includes the sampler disc, simply entitled "The Rolling Stones - Remastered". As has been previously mentioned, there are 21 songs (stereo unless otherwise noted):

  1. It's All Over Now
  2. 2120 South Michigan Ave (long/complete version - 3:38)
  3. Get Off Of My Cloud (mono)
  4. Satisfaction (different stereo mix)
  5. Under My Thumb
  6. I Am Waiting
  7. Ruby Tuesday
  8. Miss Amanda Jones
  9. Paint It, Black
  10. Dandelion
  11. She's A Rainbow
  12. I'm Free (mono)
  13. Jiving Sister Fanny
  14. Brown Sugar
  15. You Got The Silver
  16. Monkey Man
  17. Jumping Jack Flash
  18. Wild Horses
  19. Factory Girl
  20. Midnight Rambler (live)
  21. Honky Tonk Women

NOTE: I have (thus far, anyway) only listened to the CD layer on this disc. I have NOT been able to listen to the SACD layer to see how much better that really is.

I'm sure the question you're all asking is, "how does it SOUND???" Well, I think my most basic description would be "pretty good". I think certain things could have been done better, but I think in general it sounds pretty solid. I think perhaps some things could be a bit more "relaxed", but I'm still pretty happy (so far!). Ok, time for specifics.

It was mentioned early on that some felt the set was overly bright, based on impressions from the Home Entertainment Show. In general, I don't really hear that at all. I was expecting a spiked treble - I'd say in most cases that is NOT the case. I haven't been able to A/B everything yet, but my basic take on the EQ is more bass, and a *slight* harshness in the midrange. Now, I thought perhaps some tweaking had gone on in regards to the mids, but I just compared Under My Thumb to the version on the London Hot Rocks 1 CD, and they don't really sound that different.

I'd say one song that *does* have a fair amount of EQ added is Paint It, Black. The copy on my old Hot Rocks vinyl sounds very similar to Under My Thumb EQ wise, while the version on the old London CD sounds a tad midrangy in comparison. For the SACD, it sounds like they tried to make it more like that LP - a bit less clouded, as it were. One slightly annoying thing about Paint It Black - when the sitar is playing in the right channel, the left channel is brought down in level quite a bit, and then when the drums come in, the left channel is quickly brought up and the right quickly brought down. I suppose this was to make the hiss less noticeable - I think this is probably the most hissy recording on the set (no NR here...).

I must say I was eagerly awaiting the "new" mix of Satisfaction. Unfortunately, I think this is really the low point of the disc. As I'm sure you'll all remember, the old stereo mix has the rhythm track mixed hard left, the vocals center, and the acoustic guitar and piano hard right. The rhythm track is way too low in the mix. Well, this mix is *totally* different. Vocals and rhythm track dead center, with the acoustic guitar and piano split left and right, fairly low in the mix. [When I say "split left and right", I mean the same thing is left and right, only with a delay. I *don't* mean the guitar is in one channel and the piano in another.] I've never really been a fan of this type of mix myself. Also, the vocals seem to be a bit thin and harsh - some of the vocals distort in places where they never did before. Like the "hey hey hey - that's what I said" bits. These *seem* to be problems with the mix rather than the mastering.

I Am Waiting Is not as wide as on the London CD. MUCH wider than on the old ABKCO CD, but still folded in a tad. The new version doesn't sound bad, but I actually think things (especially the vocals) are a bit clearer on the old London CD.

Ruby Tuesday sounds good, but does have the little pop during "say" in the intro that David Goodwin has pointed out. Although, I just noticed my London HR CD has it too, so... I'd tend to say this song is a tad clearer on the new CD than the old London.

Compared to the old London CD of Beggar's Banquet, Factory Girl sounds STUNNING. While the London CD is very hissy and a bit indistinct, the new CD is clear as a bell and has FAR less hiss. It sounds like it also runs a bit faster, which seems to agree with what we've been told by ABKCO PR. If this is how all of Beggar's will sound, I think we'll be in for a treat.

As has been previously mentioned, 2120 S. Michigan Ave is the long/complete version, which has only been released on a German LP before, to my knowledge, where it was in mono. The complete song has never shown up in stereo - until now.

It does seem as if the two Chess tracks have a hint more high end than other CDs, but not enough to be distracting, IMO.

So, yes, in general, I'd say ABKCO did a pretty good job. IMO they made a few boo-boos (Satisfaction, the intro to Paint It Black, I A Waiting), but nothing that is going to make me throw this out the window. I don't think this will be the last word on some things (it seems as if the London CDs will still hold the edge in some places), but on others it *will*, and I think as a whole we've got a good package.

Some more random thoughts/notes after listening to the disc a little bit more:

- the two Chess tracks (It's All Over Now and 2120) seem to sound just as good as on the London CDs. Keep in mind that 2120 has never been in stereo on CD before, so this is a real treat (as will be the rest of the 5 By 5 tracks on the 12x5 LP).

- the folding in on certain tracks is a bit disheartening. It's not overly noticeable, but of course that begs the question, if you're only going to change it a little, why change it at all? It seems very arbitrary, as some songs are slightly folded in (I Am Waiting, Dandelion, etc) while others are not (Ruby Tuesday, Under My Thumb). Why worry about extreme stereo separation when the Chess tracks are as wide as they come (and they were not futzed with)? Luckily things are NOWHERE near as bad as they were on some of the older ABKCO issues.

- most of the crackling during Midnight Rambler has been removed.

- I don't like that new mix of Satisfaction any more than when I first heard it.

- I like the fact that they tried to make Paint It, Black sound like the LP (rather than the somewhat clouded EQ of the London CD version), although something doesn't *quite* seem right about it.

- I think in general the EQ is sitting better with me now than it was when I first put the disc in. Monkey Man is still a tad glaring, but I think perhaps that has more to do with the original recording than the mastering. I don't have a copy of Let It Bleed handy to compare. You Got The Silver (from the same album) sounds great, IMO.

While I do think the EQ could be better in places, I don't think it is anything to get worked up about.