I wanted to introduce a new series I have been working on called, “IF IT WERE MY MIX” where I take a popular, well-known song and explain how I would have mixed it differently.
The first song I wanted to talk about is, “Dreams” performed by Fleetwood Mac and written by Stevie Nicks. The reason I chose this song is because I was listening to The Greatest hits version that originally came out in 1988. When it ended, the same song played again. But this time it sounded very different. So, I looked at my phone and it was playing the right song, but this was the 2004 remastered version of the album Rumours. I immediately switched back to the Greatest Hits version to make sure it was in fact different, and confirmed that yes, this was definitely “remastered”… in a not so subtle way. I don’t know why, but someone really wanted to added a modern, heavy low end. But why? Why change a classic sound? Is it just to try and sound modern? Are the music industry suits aiming for a younger audience, and think by doing so, this audience is going to go out and buy this new version to listen on bass heavy headphones and car stereo systems? 2004 was in the hype era of mp3 players and earbuds, so having a lot of low end is not going to come through anyway. And is this age demographic really going to pick up a copy? I have so may questions.
I went back and listened to the rest of The Greatest Hits album and it just makes me feel. I feel the real recording in the way it was meant to be. Sure, I tend to turn the volume up to match a level of what we are all accustomed to these days, but I’m not adding or cutting anything from the original sound. I love that we are all able to quickly look up these classic records and listen basically anytime and anywhere we want. I am so happy they have all been converted to streamable files. But I really do not understand why so much of these artists’ music is remixed and remastered so many times. They are literally changing the way these iconic records sound into their own interpretations of what they should sound like.
I’m going to assume that these decisions are made by industry executives and not actual music creatives. They know the songs are marketable to music fans and by offering new “remastered” versions, they can sell another product. I’m sure these A&R executive types say things like, “Bring the bass up like what’s on the top 40 chart” or “make the vocal stick out above the rest.” Awful things like that. When does it stop? The song “Dreams” has five different remastered versions (that I have found so far) and the best sounding one is the first digital transfer from The Greatest Hits album. It sounds the most original and the most authentic to what the record was meant to be. That’s how I want to listen to music.
I can’t even find an original digital copy of the album, Rumours. There are remastered versions from 2001, 2002, 2004, and a newer 2018 remaster of “Dreams.” They all have a heavier bass presence but do not have that blobby sub-bass distortion and cringe worthy cymbal hits like the 2004 version. I have listened to all of these and the one that is most like the original is the 2001 remastered. But I will always recommend the original over any “remastered” album or record.
If it were my mix, I would have kept the record the way it was recorded and mixed originally. It sounds great and has had a huge influence on many modern artists without needing remastered/altered versions. If it has to be remasters, all that is needed is a proper increase in overall volume level. This can be achieved by running the stereo mix through a limiter. It is important to make sure all the dynamics are still intact and to not overload the limiter and cause distortion.
Mastering should not be about changing the sound of a record. It should be about preserving the original intent of the mix unless otherwise requested by who created it. Mastering is an important step in releasing music commercially, especially when there are so many different digital platforms with their own audio algorithms and output levels. They all sound different but the one I find that sounds the best is Amazon Music Unlimited. It’s not the most popular streaming platform but it should be. But that’s for another time.
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