An occasional dream....
Like the latest Bob Ludwig remaster on The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, this new Tony Visconti “remix’ of David Bowie’s 1969 album leaves one listening over and over, desperately trying to find some obvious differences from the previous release of the same album. The thing is, the new remasters/remixes are trying to put a new coat of paint on something that is already more than shiny enough. The previous Let It Bleed was more than acceptable and the 2009 and 2015 remasters of Space Oddity are too (in fact, I am sure the 2015 one is indeed the 2009 one - it all gets so confusing with remasters coming out every few years).
I am a big fan of Visconti, however, and I really loved his work on Low, “Heroes" and Lodger, and also on several T. Rex albums. Here his enhancements are not quite so clear. They are there, though. Like on Let It Bleed, it is the case that the bass is a bit more warm, fuller and “rubbery”, the riffs a little bit chunkier and the acoustic guitars sharper. There is just something of an overall more punch and “oomph”. Maybe. Actually, yes there is but it is not incredibly discernible, but to the familiar ear it will be apparent, I am sure. It is to me, with each listen.
1. Space Oddity
2. Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed
3. Letter To Hermione
4. Cygnet Committee
6. An Occasional Dream
7. The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
8. Conversation Piece
9. God Knows I'm Good
10. Memory Of A Free Festival
Space Oddity has a few vocal echoes on the initial “lift off” bit and a few percussion sounds floating around here and there (far above the world). Some spacey sound effects appear as well. The track also does not “fade in” as the original did and develops a big bass thump on the “chorus” parts. Some more echoes come in on the “can you hear me Major Tom” bit too. Oddly, though, the new remix neither fades in nor fades out, yet both this and the 2015 remaster last 5:20.
I feel that Visconti has possibly tried to make the album sound more of a closer relative to the comparatively heavy The Man Who Sold The World, which he produced, than it was before, particularly on the two lengthier, heavier, proggier tracks of Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed and the monumental Cygnet Committee. Listen to the power of the guitar/drums on the former and the lovely bass on the latter. Both songs now sound wonderfully massive. Cygnet Committee is just such a superb track anyway. The hiss behind the introductory bass has gone on the new remix as well.
The “Don’t Sit Down” interlude is not on the new remix, by the way. The bass on Letter To Hermione is rumblingly beautiful and the new mix is not quite so sonorously echoey.
The acoustic guitars on the winsome Janine and the underrated An Occasional Dream are crystal clear and Janine has a gorgeous bass now. Check out that orchestration on The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud too.
The beguiling, appealing Conversation Piece has now been added to the album, between The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud and God Knows I’m Good, making the album an even better one. Its 2019 remix, once again, has more bass warmth to it. Memory Of A Free Festival had an “alternative mix” that appeared on the 40th Anniversary release in 2009. This remixed version is not that one and does not differ as radically from the original.
This album is no longer a quirky “early” album, it is finally being recognised for the solid piece of varied, burgeoning creativity that it was. This contemporary tinkering with it has been positive as far as I am concerned. I have known this album since 1972 and, nearly fifty years later I find I am still discovering new charms hidden within it. This remix allows me to do that even more. I’m happy with that.