Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Short Takes: The Joshua Tree Limited Edition

Joshua Tree Limited EditionI picked up my Limited Edition tonight and got to quickly examine it.

First off: the packaging. A fair amount of work has gone into its presentation. This limited set is housed in a cardboard shoebox style container which has a small, but nice looking "widescreen" version of the original art. Lifting the lid reveals a hardcover book that has the Joshua Tree symbol embossed on the front. The book contains essays, lyrics, photos, and album credits. Underneath the book is a brown envelope (with a raised Joshua Tree symbol on the front) containing five lithographs of U2 photos by Anton Corbijn. Both of these items are extracted via tugging on a strap of black ribbon.

Underneath these items is the heart of the matter: the discs. They are all housed in individual cardboard sleeves that are recessed into the box. Let me get this out of the way: as nice looking as these are, cardboard sleeves suck because it's far too easy to scratch the discs when extracting them from these envelopes.

I'm not going to comment on the music itself because a zillion people have already reviewed The Joshua Tree plus a majority of the extra songs that are contained on the second disc. I haven't had time to explore the DVD yet, so no words there. What I'm after is the sound quality: "How does the remaster compare to the original CD?"

I was beyond surprised to discover that these are by no means loud discs. This is shocking because the last two U2 releases, Atomic Bomb and U218, are beyond loud. I've compared the waveforms of the 1987 disc and this release, and the first six or seven songs on The Joshua Tree remaster are only marginally louder than the older release. For some bizarre reason, from "Trip Through Your Wires" on, the album appears to have been bumped a little further in volume. It's not a "the dynamic range is destroyed" or "the waveforms are clipped" type of boost mind you, just a small increase in overall loudness compared to the first portion of the CD.

I'm at a loss to understand why this is case. Perhaps they wanted people to not have to turn the volume knob up quite so much to hear the beginning of "Exit" and the entirety of "Mothers of the Disappeared". Perhaps the new engineer decided that the original person mastered the second half of the original too quietly, and that it should be rocking harder so people don't fall asleep in the last twenty minutes.

Regardless, it is fact that none of the songs are anywhere near as loud as current CD releases. This is a pretty astonishing achievement, and I applaud the efforts of the people responsible. Someone over at the Popmart realized that people would buy this set no matter what, so why not make the music sound good regardless of what the suits want? "We're all winners!"


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