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Home arrow Interviews arrow Pink Floyd producers interviews arrow James Guthrie and Doug Sax - 1992 - Ice Magazine
James Guthrie and Doug Sax - 1992 - Ice Magazine Print E-mail
 From ICE Newsletter 1992

When Is A Pink Floyd Box Set Not A Pink Floyd Box Set?

November 17 is slated by both Sony Music in America and EMI in Europe for a new nine-CD Pink Floyd box set titled Shine On. In a move that will undoubtedly prove to be frustrating for Floyd fans, however, the group decided to include no new material, be they new recordings, unreleased outtakes, alternate versions, remixed material or live tracks. The pricey set will simply consist of seven Pink Floyd albums from the groups catalog (using up eight CDs because the Wall is a double) plus one disc containing ten single A- and B-sides from the '60s. The Shine On box will offer two new selling points, however: newly-remastered sound quality and an elaborate 112-page hardback book chronicling the group's history.

The seven albums slated for inclusion are 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets, 1971's Meddle, 1973's Dark Side of the Moon, 1975's Wish You Were Here, 1977's Animals, 1979's The Wall and 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The ninth CD is titled The Early Singles and contains "Arnold Layne", "Candy and a Currant Bun", "See Emily Play", "Scarecrow", "Apples and Oranges", "Paint Box", "It Would Be So Nice", "Julia Dream", "Point Me At The Sky" and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene." The band - David Gilmour and company - made all the selections. When pressed on the subject, British EMI's Steve Davis, the group's product manager, told ICE, "It's a bit arbitrary. Of course everyone will say 'Where's Ummagumma, where's Atom Heart Mother or whatever their favourite album is. We made all sorts of proposals that we thought might (appeal) more to collector's tastes, but this is the one the band wanted, so this is the one they get. Visually, it's stunning; they're all being packaged in black opaque jewel boxes. When you stand all eight CDs together chronologically, there's a complete image of a prism on the spines. The group has been very hands on, working patiently with (designer) Storm (Thorgerson) on all of this. The 112-page hardback book is fabulous, and will only be available as part of the box." To accomodate the book, Davis says Shine On will measure roughly 10 by 12 inches in size. The box set's cover is said to be "very Pink Floyd," with a photograph depicting three naked people suspended above a body of water.

Besides getting the deluxe book, will it be worth it for fans to spend a substantial amount of money to get the newly-remastered CDs? To find out, we contacted James Guthrie, a long-time Floyd associate who produced and engineered The Wall and The Final Cut, and Doug Sax, a veteran Los Angeles-based studio engineer who handled the remastering for the box set.

"If somebody buys it, they're not going to get cheated," Sax tells ICE, setting in his office at the Mastering Lab. "Without exception, everything went back to the master tapes. We had all of the available CD versions, and we didn't leave until we thoiught we had made a substantial improvement. Some of the early singles are not sonic delights, but from a historical standpoint they're very illuminating." We asked Sax if the average consumer would be able to detect the improvements at home. "The CDs are being made from first generation digital tapes, and you'll hear that on any system," he replied. "If you put the two (old and new pressings) side by side, you'll positively hear it. In some cases, it's a small difference, if it had been originally mastered well, and in other cases it is quite substantial. Probably the biggest (improvement) of any single disc was Animals. We went back to the original master and it was substantially better, with a lot more clarity and impact, and some actual true presence which the copy tape just didn't have. Certain subtle things have been done too. When Dark Side of the Moon was (recorded) it was done continously, but there was always a break for the LP. That's now been connected with a cross-fade; it's never been connected before. We even had the assistance of (original Dark Side engineer) Alan Parsons; he came in and had a fresh look at the tape."

Since he works closely with the Floyd camp, James Guthrie was a bit more reserved, but he, too, feels that most of the CDs are an improvement (except Momentary Lapse, which didn't require upgrading). "We put a lot of time into this," Guthrie tells ICE. "I think it should all sound better than what you're able to buy currently. Dave (Gilmour) went to Abbey Road, went through all the tapes and made sure they were original masters." We asked Guthrie about what many fans feel is Pink Floyd's most important album, Dark Side of the Moon. "We had the original tape, which we felt sounded pretty good," he says. "But we went out and bought everything we could possibly lay our hands on, to see what everyone else thought it should sound like. We got American vinyl pressings, old English pressings, the normal CD and the Mobile Fidelity CD. We played them all, and I'm very confident that we're going to sound a lot better than those. It is slightly subjective; when a mastering engineer gets a tape, he's either going to start fiddling with it or he's going to try to preserve what was intended by the artist and produced originally. At that point, it becomes a matter of taste. Our new CD sounds more like the original U.K. vinyl, and I think it's even an improvement on that." And on the average system? "If you were to have the two side-by-side, I think people will be able to hear the difference, yes."

Since Guthrie originally co-produced Floyd's landmark The Wall album, we asked him specifically about that CD as well. "I'm hoping we've made an improvement," he says. "I think 1983 was the first CD of The Wall, and we've made big strides in A to D (analog to digital) converters since then. It's a bit of a trade-off, though, because the tape is also nine years older. We had to do some restoration work on these tapes. Interestingly, the early tapes - Dark Side and even earlier, for the singles - all played fine."

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