Don Henley - Building
the Perfect Beast
by Greg Smith
I've seen a number of people gush in print about how wonderful Don Henley's Building the Perfect Beast CD sounds. I never have figured out why. While the sonics aren't really bad, I have always found them to be a bit flat and lifeless. But given how big of an improvement DCC made when they remastered the Eagles Hotel California, I suspected that there was a better version of Beast on the master tape, just waiting for the right mastering engineer. Mobile Fidelity has proven this to be very true, releasing a disc that deserves to be listed as a reference rock recording.
"The Boys of Summer" was one of my favorite songs on the radio when the single was climbing the charts. Listening to the original CD release, it's rather like a radio single; all compressed and fuzzy. It sounds like the master was a heavily processed multi-track monster that's lacking in depth. Switch to the MoFi disc, and surprise! It's not really a crappy studio creation after all. There's a hint of over-production, but it's far more alive and opened up. The cymbals acquire a new precision and the bass really fills out.
"You Can't Make Love" is flat and lacking in dynamics on the silver disc. The remastered version is none of those things. "Not Enough Love in the World" actually sounds considerably better than the previous tracks on the old CD; it's not nearly as dead. The MoFi version does deepen the low bass a bit, and the guitars are clarified. It's not quite as dramatic because the original isn't all that bad. When listening to the remastered version of "All She Wants to do is Dance", the synthesized percussion really jumps out of the mix in a way I'd never heard before. The interplay between bass instruments isn't a muddy mess anymore, either.
This pattern goes on for the rest of the tracks. Songs that sounded boring and mediocre on the original CD are given new life by Mobile Fidelity's remastering. The improvement is not subtle. Now that I've found a version that sounds this good, my old copy of Building the Perfect Beast is destined to join the pile of discs I keep at work, only worth playing on cheesy little computer speakers while I'm typing. If you're a fan of this album, I recommend you lay out a few bucks to upgrade to Mobile Fidelity's new version as well. And as Don says, don't look back.
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