June 1999

John Hiatt - Slow Turning
Mobile Fidelity UDCD 741
Originally released: 1988
Remaster released: 1999

by Greg Smith

Original Quality ***1/2
Remaster Quality ****

[Reviewed on Gold CD]One of the nice things about reviewing CDs from Mobile Fidelity is that the company rarely remasters an album that's a dud musically. When you've got a fairly limited target market to sell to even under the best conditions, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to work on re-releasing tunes that sucked the first time around. Normally, the remasters I review are ones that I've had for years and listened to hundreds of times. When I saw John Hiatt's Slow Turning on the list of new releases, I decided to review it even though I'd never actually heard the whole recording before. I had a source available for the original CD, I recalled the title track as being a decent song from radio airtime, and I thought it would be nice to try out some new music instead of rehashing old favorites.

"Drive South"

  • A&M: The clean production here is no surprise when you note industry veteran Glyn Johns was involved. The bottom-end is a little thin, leading to a somewhat tinny overall presentation.
  • MoFi: There's a significant increase in the realism of the acoustic-guitar parts. The bass is fattened up a bit, which helps the tonal balance flatten out, albeit still being somewhat thin.

"Sometime Other Than Now"

  • A&M: This really sticks out from the rest of the tracks on the original with its full frequency extension and dynamics.
  • MoFi: Kicks things up another notch in general impact, especially in the low frequencies. There's better spatial delineation of the many instruments as well.

"Slow Turning"

Would you believe that the last time I heard this song, when it was popular in the late '80s, I didn't realize who Charlie Watts was? After seeing Charlie up close and larger than life during the IMAX Rolling Stones concert film, I can really appreciate a reference to his playing nowadays.

  • A&M: Yuck. The soundstage is flat. And the cymbals have that radio-friendly sizzle that I can't stand. This one certainly sounded better to me on my 1988 stereo (the little Advents I had at the time were just a little bit less revealing than my current setup).
  • MoFi: The cymbals are much better, but now they're a bit reticent in the mix. Some restored impact to the bass guitar helps even things out. The biggest improvement is the way the pieces of the recording fit together in a seamless soundstage. Hiatt's vocals in particular sound much more like they were recorded in a real room.

The original liner notes are good, with complete lyrics and a couple of pictures. Mobile Fidelity adds an introduction written by John Hiatt, where he talks a bit about the recording process and commends the "superduper, gold-plated remastering with semisonic enhancers and exciters, employed to dizzying effect." I hadn't realized MoFi's GAIN 2 system used semisonic excitation technology; now I know. A bit of short background about each song rounds out Hiatt's commentary.

Slow Turning is one of those cool southern-rock recordings that never degenerates into the sort of twangy material I hate in music with more of a country influence. A bonus was rediscovering "Paper Thin," a ditty I also recall from the radio even though the title had long faded from memory. Mobile Fidelity gives a welcome modernization to Hiatt's sound, which was somewhat unbalanced frequency-wise in the original CD release.