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Home arrow Reviews arrow Albums arrow Roger Waters: Amused to Death - 2015 heavyweight vinyl 2LP
Roger Waters: Amused to Death - 2015 heavyweight vinyl 2LP Print E-mail
Written by Paul Powell Jr   
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Roger Waters - Amused to Death - 2015 heavyweight vinyl

We are now going to take a quick look and critical listen to what has become Roger Waters’ most enigmatic musical work, Amused to Death, which was re-released at the end of July 2015 in a variety of editions, including the special vinyl treatment discussed here.

When the vinyl LP was first released in 1992 on the Columbia label, compact discs were dominant in the marketplace and vinyl LPs were marginalized. Consequently, the limited production run of the original Amused to Death LP makes it very rare now and extremely expensive to acquire. In hindsight, I really should have purchased a copy back then, so I cannot comment on the sound quality of this particular pressing. According to the Discogs web site, each vinyl record weighed around 130/140 grams, which was normal weight for records pressed during that period. Columbia Records issued the LP in Europe and the Netherlands where the record labels were orange or red depending on the country of origin. The single sleeve cover mirrored the CD graphics, while the lyrics and other credits are contained in a full-size booklet insert.

On a side note, a few years ago I picked up what I understood was an 'unofficial' vinyl LP copy of Amused to Death. Presented on the 'CBS Sony' label, it looked intriguing. Not owning an original vinyl copy of Roger's masterpiece was unacceptable to my record collecting sensibilities, so I proceeded to purchase the substitute, problem solved, so I thought. Well, the old saying "You get what you pay for" certainly rang true in this case. My new copy of Amused to Death looked enticing at face value but upon closer inspection a few details concerned me.

First, the cover's upper right corner was adorned with a hype sticker proclaiming '180 gram Limited Edition' plus other mouth-watering audiophile exotica like 'high definition premium virgin vinyl pressing, super fidelity, the nicest thing you can do for your ears' and on and on. Yes I know, it sounded too good to be true. Second, the title sticker originally found on the official LP's shrink-wrap was now printed on the back cover of the 'unofficial' LP. Contained within this, in very fine print it read 'Distribuido por Sony Music Castellana Madrid.' These were all red flag moments before the crowd screamed Fake!

Ultimately, the audio quality of the 'unofficial' Amused to Death was a congested sonic disaster. The vinyl record pressings, while 180 grams, were barely acceptable with persistent record noise. As my reference standard, the CBS MasterSound gold CD edition (Columbia CK 53196), sounded absolutely awesome. As I wrote in-depth in previous Pink Floyd vinyl reviews, comparing compact discs to vinyl records is like comparing apples to oranges. Yet in this case, it is like comparing a true Picasso to a fake one. Frustrated, my vinyl copy of Amused to Death simply did not deliver the sonic truth promised. So, I trusted my ears and silently admitted defeat.

Around 2013, exciting news of a fresh remaster of Amused To Death made me feel much better about my precious mistake, so I promptly pre-ordered the vinyl LP edition, and waited, and waited some more until I finally forgot about it. I realized Roger was very busy with The Wall tour and tour film so I let my frustration slide. A number of months ago exciting news of Amused To Death's immanent release was refreshed in the media, so I checked my pre-order credentials and waited some more. There is another wise saying that bears truth: "All good things come to those who wait".

Fast forward to 24 July 2015. The record label Analogue Productions in Salina, Kansas, have reissued a remixed and remastered version of Amused to Death giving Roger Waters' fans their wish. Roger has personally overseen the project and approved the remixes, as well as the new cover graphics. Amused to Death is now better than ever, issued on as many digital formats as anyone could ever wish for. Two analogue vinyl LPs have also been produced - the 2 x vinyl LP, limited, numbered picture disc (Columbia 88875065801) and the 200 grams Analogue Productions 2 x vinyl LP (APP 468761) reviewed here.

Obviously, the format I'm most thrilled about getting my hands on is the Analogue Productions vinyl LP. Finally, holding a copy of the new Amused to Death LP and feeling the dense weight of it was thrilling. Each record is pressed on 200 grams audiophile virgin vinyl by the record pressing facility Quality Record Pressings, using the original analogue master tapes. Amused to Death is also a limited edition with 1000 records pressed from each stamper. The low stamper count is great considering stampers wear out when they reach the multiple thousands. Maintaining consistent quality control is priority number one at Quality Record Pressings and it certainly shows.

Roger Waters - Amused to Death 2015 heavyweight vinyl

A new gatefold album design for Amused to Death was commissioned with updated front cover photography by Sean Evans. Sean also worked as creative director on the 2010-2013 The Wall shows. The gatefold cover is a glossy 'tip-on' design in which the printing is done on a piece of paper and then hand glued to the heavy cardboard stock. The term 'tip-on' refers to the folded seams in the paper. There are no printed inner sleeves here, as all of the lyrics, musicians and production credits are spread across the inner gatefold cover. The print quality throughout is crisp and uniform. This is a very striking LP package that you will be proud to have in your record collection.

So much care and attention has gone into Amused to Death's re-release. Long-time Pink Floyd engineer James Guthrie mixed and remastered the album from the original analogue master tapes. It was a daunting task, but James has done a remarkable job pulling together the disparate analogue source tapes recorded over a five year time span. Everything was done right, as compromise on this project was unacceptable. As with many pursuits in life, music is a labour of love, and art should always tower over commerce. Amused to Death is Roger's most enigmatic recording: a masterpiece of great conceptual depth and meaning, and a complex lyrical work punctuated by brilliant performances and stunning sonics. Amused to Death is also meticulously recorded to immerse the listener fully inside the performance, all without losing focus. And that is quite a feat.

There are so many highlights to listening to Amused to Death on vinyl. Presented in Q Sound, I knew Amused to Death was going to be a dynamic tour-de-force. The first 'gentle' needle drop on Side A produced a deep black silence from the spinning record grooves, so quiet in fact I initially wondered if my system was switched on mute. A chorus of crickets broke the silence and later on the sound of a large dog barked from a far distance. Slowly, the tactile layers of 'The Ballad of Bill Hubbard' unfolded and progressed as I fumbled at setting a proper volume level. I heard the soundstage open up in all directions until it was impossible to pinpoint the exact location of my speakers. I was unprepared for the harmonic thunder of 'What God Wants Part 1'. Primarily, a Rock and Roll barnstormer, the song illustrates Amused to Death's state-of-the-art production and virtuosic musicianship. Jeff Beck's dazzling guitar weaves in and out of the upper octaves with breath-taking elasticity complimenting the sonic wallop of Randy Jackson's resonant bass and Graham Broad's thundering drums. As with the entire LP, Roger's vocals are freshly scrubbed and articulated in the mix. There are many fine musicians on Amused to Death, and now we can hear them all with much greater clarity.

Side B brought many more revelations. 'The Bravery of Being out of Range' is now completely reconstructed. As a result of the remixing, the missing melody is re-introduced forming a much more modern and enjoyable song. Well done guys! Around this point I realized how much I was really enjoying Amused to Death, far more than I remember on compact disc. Amused to Death simply sounds more rhythmically lively, and the sound of the drums' attack and decay is astonishing. The soundstage of Amused to Death is similarly incredible, stretching far beyond the fixed perimeters of the room, as close to acoustically holographic as I have ever heard coming from a vinyl record. With that thought in mind, all the fine analogue attributes of vinyl are present on Amused to Death: the warmth and smoothness, the resolution of detail, and tonal accuracy that seduces the soul are overflowing. Conversely, the ugliness that plagues much of digital (specifically 16-bit CDs) such as the inherent coldness and compression has been left in the studio waste basket.

The emotional peak of Amused to Death for me begins on Side C with 'Watching TV', transitions with 'Three Wishes' and peaks with 'It's A Miracle' on Side D. The acoustic guitars, piano, percussion and vocals sound so wonderful and natural on these tracks, I didn't want the music to end. The title track brings the album to a close thematically, as it reaches a crescendo musically. Experiencing Amused to Death on a proper playback system is a powerful musical experience, one that you should not pass up. As Roger pointed out, Amused to Death is just as relevant today as it was 23 years ago, actually more relevant.

Amused to Death is Roger Waters' masterpiece and stands proudly alongside The Wall for artistic achievement. I agree the album was under-appreciated when first released. It is certainly a recording unlike any other in popular music and absolutely a treasure to own on vinyl. Even if you have one of the original issue vinyl LPs, the new version of Amused to Death on the Analogue Productions label is an essential upgrade to your listening experience.

Like The Division Bell and The Endless River vinyl LPs before it, Analogue Productions has kept their commitment for quality meticulously high with Amused to Death. The record pressing is uniformly excellent with nearly non-existent surface ticks. Each record is protected by Quality Record Pressings rice-paper inner sleeves just like the ones used by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. The custom record labels are repeated across all four records, no variations noted, except the song titles. An Analogue Productions vinyl catalogue is enclosed. The loose outer poly bag has two decals - both from Analogue Productions. The catalogue number, printed barcode, as well as the matrix/run-out numbers for each of the records are as follows:

Catalogue Number: APP 468761
Barcode: 88843090581
Matrix / Run-out Side A: 888430905581-A RE3 AD QRP APP-468761
Matrix / Run-out Side B: 888750658801-B RE3 AD MC
Matrix / Run-out Side C: 88875065801-C RE1
Matrix / Run-out Side D: 88875065801-AD-MC

ORDERING INFORMATION:
You can order this limited edition vinyl set - and we heartily recommend you do this soon before it sells out - from the various Amazon stores, although at time of writing, the US store isn't yet listing it. However, the other Amazon stores will happily ship the album anywhere in the world.

LIMITED HEAVYWEIGHT 2-LP VINYL EDITION:  Amazon.com TBA   Amazon UK  Canada  Germany  France  Italy  Spain
 
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