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CLUES - PAPER SLEEVE - CD VINYL REPLICA DELUXE
Sorti pile au début de la décennie, l'album Clues va devenir un des symboles de la légèreté revendiquée des années 1980. Avec son profil d'Anglais élégant et détaché, le discret Robert Palmer avait le charisme suffisant pour séduire une époque qui se cherchait de nouvelles idoles qui soient en même temps des jeunes gens d'apparence moderne.
« Johnny and Mary » avec son clavier et sa boîte à rythme typiquement eighties est bien sûr la chanson emblématique du disque. Ce refrain plaisant et sautillant va accompagner en France durant une vingtaine d'années les publicités de la marque Renault et garantir le succès des futurs best of de Robert Palmer.
Hormis ce titre indispensable, Clues vaut surtout pour « I Dream of Wires » qui avec l'apport du clavier de Gary Numan se rapproche de la synthpop et pour la reprise du peu connu « Not a Second Time » de The Beatles. Cette chanson signée Lennon/McCartney est présente en 1963 sur With the Beatles et se voulait un hommage à la soul de Smokey Robinson, Robert Palmer la convertit à son style hybride à coups de synthétiseurs et lui fait franchir d'un bond deux décennies.
Clues comme l'ensemble de la carrière de Robert Palmer est placé sous le signe d'une sympathique nonchalance et a gagné le droit de faire partie de la discothèque idéale de ces années 1980 riches en tubes et en illusions musicales. - Copyright 2016 Music Story
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Novateur pour l'époque, l'album a dérouté le public US mais a cartonné en Europe, notamment grace aux 2 tubes "Johnny and Mary" et "Looking for clues". Même 20 ans plus tard, il ne parait pas trop "daté". Toutes les compositions sont excellentes, avec une mention particulière à "Woke up laughing".
A moins de 8 euros le CD, c'est une affaire !!!
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If you care about the quality of sound in your music and are a fan of Robert Palmer's catalog you would be doing yourself a disservice by getting these 2011 editions. I suggest you hunt down the original Island Records compact discs from the early 90's. They still sound quite good. I know because I went running back to them after hearing these.
"Clues cemented Palmer's palce in New Wave and he would continue to explore that on 1982's Maybe It's Live and 1983's Pride. More importantly "Clues", like OMD's Architecture & Morality, showed that electronica didn't have to be emotionally distant and removed. Far from it, "Clues" is warm, funny, and very engaging!
#1: Online music forums are buzzing at the moment with fans claiming that Edsel's recent Island-era Robert Palmer reissues show signs of being mastered from an MP3 source.
Using sound editing software such as Audacity, audiophiles often like to `look' at the sound of tracks via waveforms - it's a way to check the state of the mastering. Some fans of the late English singer have been doing just this with the latest reissues and are unhappy with what they see. "There is absolutely no musical information above 16 kHz, which is a dead giveaway" stated one person - the implication being that this was an indication of an MP3 source. Many fans have emailed us in the last 24 hours asking if they should not buy the reissues and if we knew whether there was any truth in these claims.
So we put these allegations to Edsel label manager Val Jennings and he was adamant that the masters had been nowhere near an MP3 file.
"We were given flat transfers by Universal for all the albums and bonus tracks, on CDs with Universal's Belsize Road Tape Library inlays. Since they came directly from the tape library, I can't see how MP3s would come into it. The CDs certainly don't have MP3s on them", he said.
When pushed about the actual source and details around the transfers themselves he told us:
"I can but assume that they would have been new transfers from the tapes with no extra EQ. They were done in 2006 for Universal's very own catalogue team, who were all set to reissue the albums, until the whole project was shelved for reasons no-one involved can remember".
Clearly frustrated with the situation Val added, "I really don't know what else to say. It's shame that people can't just be glad that someone has reissued the records, instead of trying to find or invent faults."
#2: When Edsel Records reissued Robert Palmer`s Island era albums on CD, we were delighted. Regular SDE readers will know, we rate the Yorkshireman's diverse '70s output highly and like many fans were frustrated with the lack of activity around his catalogue.
Although the (Edsel)reissues that came out at the end of August were budget conscious combo-packs, with two albums in each set (three, in one case), the packaging itself was excellent, with slipcases, thick booklets, essays, lyrics and some great archive photography and scans of sleeves and record labels. Most of the albums also came with bonus tracks.
Unfortunately, enthusiasts who'd purchased these sets started reporting in online music forums that the sound quality was not what you might expect from an original tape transfer. Some were stating that the albums looked like they'd been mastered from MP3s.
That got us thinking. If the new Edsel releases are indeed less-than-optimum, then what is the best way to listen to Robert Palmer's Island albums? Exactly which CDs sound the best? Are the Edsel reissues, really that bad?
There are a number of different masterings, and rather than heap amateur analysis on top of amateur analysis, we asked mastering engineer Nick Watson to give us his professional opinion. In his 23 year career Nick has worked with bands like Faith No More, The Kinks and The Libertines and he co-owns (with Tim Debney) of Fluid Mastering in London.
We gave Nick three versions of Palmer's 1976 album "Some People Can Do What They Like" and asked him to analyse them. One was the new 2013 Edsel CD, the second was an original Island CD from the 1980s, and the final disc was the 2011 remaster from US label Culture Factory. To keep things simple this comparison is based on the first track of the album "One Last Look." Here's what Nick had to say.
The spectrogram image show(ed) clearly that there is no useful audio data on the CD above 16kHz, and the blocky nature of the display is consistent with the audio having been subjected to some form of data compression such as MP3 or AAC or similar. The sound of the disc is also consistent with this, with the top end of the recording appearing to switch on and off, the stereo image flinching, and some twittering artifacts in the top end, as one would expect from low resolution data-compressed signal. As a test, using a clean uncompressed version of the same track as a control, I found that a reduction of the bitrate to about 192kbps was required to reduce the perceived quality to something similar to the Edsel CD (see this image to illustrate).
Apart from the data-compression artifacts, the album sounds quite thick and bloated (too much low-mid) and very closed off in the top end, although this latter point will be partly to do with the data-compression.
This CD sounds exactly as one might expect for a reissue done at this time. The EQ is quite thin and the sound is slightly brittle - although once the listener has adjusted to this there are no unusual or distracting artifacts. The stereo image is open and consistent. This sounds like an album that could do with being properly remastered, from the original tapes, with a little extra warmth and bass in the EQ and the more natural and transparent sound of good quality modern A to D conversion.
Looking at the spectrogram, (I could) see that the frequency response continues upwards from 16kHz and there is none of the blockiness of the Edsel image. Another interesting point is at the extreme high end you can see the response tails away smoothly, but rapidly, at about 21kHz. This would probably be due to the more aggressive filters used in A to D converters in the 80s and early 90s.
The spectrogram on this version has no blockiness and no rapid rolloff of the high frequencies. This would demonstrate that as far as digital processing is concerned, this version has suffered the least degradation, i.e. it has not been data compressed and was converted from analogue to digital using more recent technology.
The sound of this version however is dreadful. The tone of it would suggest that at least 8 dB of boost has been applied at around 2kHz giving it what you might describe as a telephonic kind of brightness, and the stereo image swerves from side to side wildly and seemingly at random, with the left channel becoming so loud at times that clipping distortion is audible. Given that no engineer in his right mind would do this to a recording (and I'm allowing for the fact that plenty of engineers do some pretty awful things in the mastering world) I can only assume that on this occasion the guy left the room and WHAT WE HEAR ON THE Culture Factory CD IS THE RESULT OF THE CAT WALKING ACROSS THE CONSOLE. All of which is a real shame as it's a great album, and one that I would enjoy listening to for pleasure.
Given the choice between these three CD editions, the hands-down winner for me is the original '80s Island reissue - which, for all its faults (faults it shares with pretty much every other reissue of that period) it at least doesn't suffer from strange sonic artifacts or appallingly harsh EQ.
Coming back to the much discussed Edsel reissue finally, one might wonder how such a thing could have happened. Well, I'm not going to speculate about that and can only talk about what I find on the disc itself. However, in general terms, I can perhaps allude to the fact that before computers and music became so closely intertwined, mastering was something that could only be undertaken by professional engineers. Today, however, anyone with a computer, whether they work in a studio or an office, can pick up a disk or download a file, and do stuff with it. Not everyone for instance knows how to make a 1:1 copy of a CD, and might load it into some freeware in order to attempt to do so, perhaps resulting in some inadvertent degradation. I even know of record company employees who do things to audio masters using applications such as iTunes, without really knowing what they're doing or why, other than it being something that they have been shown how to do by someone else in the office. It's almost akin to say, 20 years ago, them taking a master tape out of the box, and unravelling it and then editing it using scissors and sellotape. Except that that would never have happened.
(by Nick Watson, minor edits by me)