February 1999

10cc - The Original Soundtrack
Mobile Fidelity UDCD 729
Originally released: 1975
Remaster released: 1998

by Greg Smith

Sound Quality ***1/2

Comparison Releases:

The Original Soundtrack
Mercury 830 776-2

Sound Quality **1/2

The Original Soundtrack
Mercury 532 964-2 (1996)

Sound Quality ***

10cc: Master Series
Mercury 536 896-2 (1998)

Sound Quality ***1/2

[Reviewed on Gold CD]I first stumbled on the music of 10cc when their CDs became available in the US near the beginning of the decade. The Original Soundtrack was the first I listened to, selected due to the mega-hit "I'm Not In Love." I cue'd up the disc and pressed play. "Une Nuit A Paris" ("One Night In Paris") is what I got, and boy was I surprised. Instead of the slick pop of the single I was familiar with, I instead found this really weird rock-opera about mayhem in a French bordello. If you had asked me what I was expecting from 10cc based on limited exposure to them at the time, I certainly wouldn't have predicted a bizarre set of lyrics involving hustlers, pimps, and prostitutes, all sung in an "outrageous French accent," no less (please pardon my over-exposure to Monty Python). But after a decade of listening to the band, I find myself craving the clever and bizarre parts of 10cc's music just as much as their popular work.

Accordingly, back in 1996, I was quite happy to find out Mercury was remastering The Original Soundtrack, to be released only in the UK with a deluxe package including bonus tracks. Perfect, right? Wrong. While it was definitely an improvement in many respects from the sound quality of the original, some bonehead decided to boost the treble on the recording far too much while remastering. I've listened to that disc exactly twice since I bought it; it's that obnoxious. So, obviously, I didn't buy any of the rest of their remastered catalog either. My only source for a good-sounding 10cc release was the wonderful DCC Two Classic Albums [DCC DZS-053] release. (an inexpensive aluminum disc, no less) that includes Steve Hoffman-remastered versions of the band's first two albums, 10cc and Sheet Music, along with the terrific bonus track "Waterfall." I think that one is out of print, but if you can still find a copy around it's well worth buying.

Anyway, my sparse collection of well-mastered 10cc got a big boost last year from two sources. The UK division of Polydor has been releasing a number of discs with the "Master Series" moniker. The idea is to have a greatest hits/discography highlights style of collection with a brief history of the band and some rarities, all remastered, and quite well at that. The first disc I picked up, from progressive favorite Camel [Deram 844 811-2], sounded fantastic. If you have the slightest inclination toward progressive bands like (earlier) Yes, (earlier) Genesis, King Crimson, or the like, you'll probably love Camel. That Master Series disc is an excellent introduction to the band. The 10cc Master Series release is also fabulous, both from sonic and a song-selection perspectives.

My other recent source of fine-sounding 10cc music was Mobile Fidelity, who remastered The Original Soundtrack last July. As I'm more of a fan of 10cc's complete albums than any singles collection, this is what I really wanted. And I was glad to get a chance to swab memories of the Mercury remaster out of my ears.

"Une Nuit A Paris"

  • Mercury Original: The big collection of vocals are very rough around the edges throughout the track. And the cymbals are rather shrill and unpleasant.
  • Mercury Remaster: There's a big improvement in the spatial presentation at the beginning. But by the time the lyrics really get going, the treble starts to get far too forward. When the cymbals start, they're painfully bright.
  • MoFi: This disc is at least 4dB louder than the rest. But even with the volume difference compensated for, this version gives a far deeper soundstage during the beginning of the track. You can hear remarkably more detail in the mumbled voices and sound effects that present Paris to the listener. The cymbals are finally realistic, without being overbearing, and the tambourines are similarly rescued from obscurity.

"I'm Not In Love"

  • Mercury Original: Lots of stuff to pick on with this track. There's almost no depth to the recording, there's bloated one-note bass, and there's some odd distortion during louder parts that sounds like clipping.
  • Mercury Remaster: The bass is filled out and the depth is much better. Surprisingly, the harsh edge to the older release isn't aggravated by this remastering. While there's still a hint of excess brightness on some of the harmony vocals, if this whole disc sounded like this track I wouldn't have been so dissatisfied with this CD.
  • MoFi: Compared with the previous two, MoFi gives a death-grip on the bass notes. Also welcome is an amazing improvement in low-level detail like the faint guitar during the opening.
  • Master Series: Another surprise: This track is quite competitive in quality with the MoFi version. Overall this version is balanced with a more immediate and forward presentation, but not overbearingly so. I rather liked it, actually. Which is more "accurate?" Tough to say, but both are very fun.


  • Mercury Original: The bass is better here than the previous two tracks, but things are still dull and undynamic. There's a return of the lackluster cymbals as well.
  • Mercury Remaster: The cymbals are still screwed up, but in a different, abrasive fashion. Yes, everything is most certainly brighter than the original, but that's not an improvement to my ears.
  • MoFi: There's not as much of a volume difference on this track as there was on the previous. There's also not quite as much of an improvement in sound quality. The bass guitar is quite a bit more solid, and some of the crunch to the guitars is restored.
  • Master Series: The bass sounds even better here than on the MoFi. Maybe it was "tweaked" during the mastering at Mercury, but it certainly works for me. But there's a clear loss in resolution for higher frequency material, so this isn't necessarily a better version overall.

Let's take our usual look at what comes with each packages. The original CD came with complete lyrics and liner notes. The Mercury remaster took away the lyrics, replacing them with an extensive documentary about the making of the album. There are also two mediocre bonus tracks, "Channel Swimmer" and "Good News." Mobile Fidelity includes the lyrics, typeset into a far more readable form than my older disc. There's also bonus LP artwork and pictures of the band. The Master Series discs include only a short history of the band. Since it also has numerous bonus tracks (including both mentioned above), it's worth buying even for 10cc collectors who don't care about sound quality.

So there you have it -- two 10cc discs I highly recommend. I knew the Master Series disc was a big step up from the crappy 10cc CDs I had before, but I hadn't realized that it was so competitive with the Mobile Fidelity version until I did a very controlled comparison. Either will be a stunning improvement to someone who's only heard the other versions of The Original Soundtrack. Those unfamiliar with the band's works will probably be better served with the Master Series collection as a start because it includes all the hits and gives a nice overview of the band's creative output. If you already know you like 10cc, the Mobile Fidelity release of The Original Soundtrack is the obvious choice. It serves to make what was already a fun album even more enjoyable.