The first time I heard a compact disc was around 1986. The Magnavox CDB-650, a top recommendation of the audiophile press at the time, was the source. My father had bought one at a local electronics store that's long out business now. On the way home, he picked up a single CD to play on his new toy, which was obviously the disc spun as soon as it was connected. Blood Sweat & Tears: Child is Father to the Man was the recording. At the time, this didn't mean anything to me. After all, the album came out three years before I was born, so I certainly don't recall when it was popular on the radio.
Compared with how bad some early digital discs sounded, my dad made a pretty good choice. The original release sounded nice, especially compared with some of the other CD atrocities Columbia was spewing at the time. Sony started correcting the flaws of many of these earlier releases during the tenth anniversary of the CD in 1992. The introduction of their Super Bit Mapping process for converting 20-bit digital samples into 16-bit CDs was accompanied by a set of limited-edition Mastersound releases of many classic titles. While the mastering quality of those discs varied, one in particular stood out as the best of the series. The SBM Mastersound Child is Father to the Man was an essential purchase. Yes, there was some improvement in sonics, making an already decent recording sound even better. But the real clincher was that an extra six tracks from the band's demo session, before John Simon was involved as producer. One of these songs, an instrumental titled "Refugee From Yuhupitz," was cut from the album and never made public before.
The Sony release was so great all around that when I heard Mobile Fidelity was remastering the title with their new GAIN 2 technology, I knew they had some serious competition already on the market (albeit out of print).
I'll Love You More Than You'll Ever Know
My Days Are Numbered
The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes, and Freud
This is about the longest song title I know of.
The SBM Mastersound packaging is as good as I've seen for a CD. The liner notes fold out to a 3" x 3" array that reproduces the original LP artwork in full size. One addition is a brief note from Al Kooper about the historical circumstances under which the bonus demo tracks were recorded. Mobile Fidelity's booklet doesn't have the same quality of artwork inside, but it does include all the lyrics instead.
I like being able to end these reviews with clear recommendations, but there's little of that to be found here. The original CD release of Child I mentioned briefly at the beginning is no slouch, and causal fans who spin this title infrequently shouldn't feel too much pressure to upgrade. Die-hard audiophiles definitely want the Mobile Fidelity version, as it improves everything about the sound of the disc at least a bit, while giving substantial differences on some tracks. Fans whose preferences lean toward music rather than sound should get a copy of the Sony SBM version in order to get the bonus material. While out of print, some copies were still available from The Elusive Disc the last time I checked. People stuck in the middle like me who want the best sound quality and the most material should feel obligated to empty their wallets to get both releases. But do note that I recommend using a better CD player than the Magnavox CDB-650 no matter which version you choose to listen to.
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