A Garden Tapes feature
by Eddie Edwards
The Garden Tapes » How The West Was Won » Remastered Edition
Given that the master recordings date from 1972 and the original How The West Was Won was released in 2003, what could we reasonably expect from a remastered edition in 2018? Improved sound quality? Bonus tracks? Perhaps even a completely new mix featuring a different selection of material from the two shows?
Let's start with bonus tracks, as that's an easy one. There aren't any. Both performances of "Tangerine" remain locked away in the vaults along with the unused "Whole Lotta Love" medley numbers and the additional LA encores "Louie Louie", "Thank You" and "Communication Breakdown".
A new mix with different material? No joy there either. The original mix has been re-used, with exactly the same cuts, patches and mellotron import from Hampshire, but with one notable alteration. At 9:59 in the "Whole Lotta Love" medley, Marylou is nowhere to be found. Her absence has not been officially explained but an artistic decision seems unlikely as her 2:08 cameo was deemed perfectly acceptable for the original release. Led Zeppelin fans are a romantic lot and will be dismayed at the notion of "Hello Marylou, goodbye heart" being supplanted by "Goodbye Marylou, hello £££££" but there seems little doubt that royalty issues were responsible for the lady's demise.
So, nothing new under the California sun. Quite the opposite, in fact, as there is actually less music on this remaster than there was on the original. So what about the sound quality? This is of course a highly subjective area. The Garden Tapes view is that the difference is marginal, bordering on negligible. This is hardly a surprising discovery - after all, how much could be done in 2018 to enhance a 1972 recording that could not have been done in 2003? That said, there are places where bottom end clarity seems slightly improved, possibly as a result of a little restraint on the compression and the volume level being capped just below the clipping limit rather than squeezed right up against it as is the case on the original.
Ultimately, then, any preference for one edition over the other will be determined by the result of a delicate weighing operation, with your views on the sound quality differential at one end of the scales and your fondness for Marylou placed in the opposite pan. Whichever way that tips, The Garden Tapes politely suggests that you pays yer money, takes yer choice and spends a significant portion of the rest of yer life enjoying this glorious live album. Burn that candle evermore.
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