Sometimes, I manage to hold up a conversation with normal people, the kind who buy their stereo equipment at Circuit City, their CDs at Sam Goody, and their speaker cable at Radio Shack. It's both difficult and uncomfortable trying to explain to non-audiophiles that I routinely drop upwards of $30 buying a CD title that I already own. But no matter how inexpensive someone's audio system is, I find they all recognize one thing: the regular CD release of Jethro Tull's Aqualung sounds awful, and paying more for a better version is a very good idea.
I last looked at Tull on gold CD two years ago, with a review of DCC's version of Aqualung. You can consider that a prerequisite to this article because I talk at length there about what's wrong with the official Chrysalis CDs, material I find too painful to revisit here. Since then, two newly remastered Tull CDs have caught my attention. DCC has brought out Original Masters, a good greatest-hits collection from the band, and Mobile Fidelity just released War Child, remastered with their original GAIN system. I loaded them both in the changer with some of the rest of my Tull collection. The regular silver disc of Original Masters from Chrysalis is this month's whipping boy. And I also added MoFi's older Thick as a Brick, from their Ultradisc II series. Note that Mobile Fidelity has several other Tull titles recently available, including A Passion Play, Living in the Past, and Songs from the Wood.
Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day
Bungle in the Jungle
Thick as a Brick
For those unfamiliar with the album, "Thick as a Brick" was conceived for the LP format, with two 20-some-minute long sides. The old Original Masters CD abbreviated that to a three-minute single version that included the most recognizable portion of the album, the opening (minus the countdown at the beginning). Mobile Fidelity's CD includes both full-length tracks, as you'd expect. Imagine my surprise when listening to the DCC version of Original Masters, waiting for the song to end, and discovering it didn't! Yes, they've included over 22 minutes of "Brick," the entire first album side, considerably extending the amount of music you get on their remastering of this hits collection.
Didn't they use this one for a beer commercial? I hate it when that happens. I still haven't gotten over my overdose of Clapton's "After Midnight" when that was a recurring TV ad; those bums ruined that song for me.
Let me do my usual run through packaging. Chrysalis includes almost no liner notes with their Original Masters release. I know -- you're shocked. DCC doesn't include a whole lot of info above the basic song information, but they do have a nice picture of the master tapes. Mobile Fidelity reprints the entire Thick as a Brick newspaper, shrunk to CD booklet size but still quite legible. Their War Child booklet includes full lyrics and a couple of pictures. And DCC's Aqualung is a deluxe package with calligraphic lyrics and full LP artwork intact.
What would I recommend? Depends on how much of a Tull fan you are. If I were picking a single disc from the band, it would be DCC's Original Masters. It's got most of the songs people know from radio play, with full-length renditions and sound quality as good as Tull gets. If I were getting two discs, they'd be DCC's Aqualung and MoFi's War Child, both of which sound fantastic considering the source material. And if I wanted three albums, I'd ignore all these titles and instead add Stand Up, with the ethereal instrumental "Bourée." Mobile Fidelity released that one on gold CD as well, but I was foolish enough not to have picked up a copy when it was in print.
For more information about what's available from Tull on CD, I recommend www.collecting-tull.com. And if you'd like to know about what's on gold CD from just about anybody, run to John Harp's excellent Audiophile Music Site, the best resource I've found on the topic.
GO BACK TO: