(Edited March 19, 2008 in order to reflect a changed opinion on the sound quality).
Finally, a record label that invests some time and effort in order to correctly put out a reissued album ... well, almost. I'm talking about Edsel Records, a division of the independent U.K.-based Demon Music Group. Licensed from Arista head Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Demon-Edsel went the extra mile by compiling a 2-disc collection of the Thompson Twins' 'Quick Step & Side Kick' project with extensive liner notes and great packaging to top it off.
I must admit that I never thought I would add a Thompson Twins studio album to my collection. The list price and excellent b-sides, cassette remixes, and 12" remixes are the real incentives here, since I do not own the majority of this music in my collection. I was only a couple years old when this album was released, so I have no memory of the time of the release of this album. However, I grew up with the hits from this album on the radio, so I was curious about the album tracks and bonus tracks which I haven't heard.
The remastering here is okay, adding clarity to the recordings. I must admit that the remastering treatment is not among the best upgrades that I've heard. In fact, it is rather disappointing. Most of the tracks sound good, but personally I think that they could have benefited from a little extra kick and bass. The mastering volume is rather low by today's audio standards, which may or may not be positive, depending on your own music tastes. Personally, I'll go for the punchy, wide sound, but if you're looking for that kind of mastering here you will be let down. Furthermore, a few of the bonus tracks sound like they could have been pulled from vinyl sources, perhaps do to the original master tapes being lost. However, most of the 12" versions sound fine and don't appear to be pulled from vinyl. CD mastering credits go to Alchemy Soho.
(In order to test to see if much could be done about the sound I worked a few of the tracks in an audio editing program. I was able to give them the "lift" that they so deserved. Perhaps that's the problem here -- that is, most of the songs were simple transfers from the original master tapes without an actual professional "remastering" upgrade, hence why they sound limited in their sonic dimensions. It's worth noting, too, that this release fails to mention any remastering in either it's product description or on the outside of the package itself.)
With liner notes by Damian Thomas, the booklet extends to a fold out double-sided poster, highlighting the band's single sleeves, vinyl pressings, cassettes, and other memorabilia from the era. Album credits and the original single and promo releases from which the bonus tracks are pulled are stated as well. This isn't just a simple straight reissue but rather an enhanced version of the project.
Usually when I see these types of reissues the record companies tend to mess up something by leaving out an essential b-side or a hit 12" mix. Fans may then have to wait several more years before the missing tracks appear on yet another reissue. Some of the best material may remain in the vaults, for whatever reason, and never see the light of day on CD. For the very first time, all the mixes from the cassette and 12" singles are available on this deluxe 2-CD set.
Again, I'm not the biggest Thompson Twins fan, but I can see when a reissue is done right in terms of packaging and tracklisting. The sound quality, in my opinion, could have been much better, so that's my only complaint. Despite this problem, the bonus material is still too good to be true, so I hate to rate it fewer than 4 stars since the booklet and overall design is still fantastic. It's really a shame that Demon didn't bother with a professional mastering engineer in order to give this release the audio upgrade that it so deserved. If you are concerned that this release won't meet your audio quality standards you may wish to skip this purchase. However, the tracklisting itself may be too hard to resist!
P.S. The Into the Gap 2008 Edsel reissue is available as well.