I wanted to provide yet another Feelies update now that my vinyl reissue of The Good Earth has finally arrived.
I will admit to a small amount of consternation when I first learned that the vinyl reissues of Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth would not be mastered from the original analog master tapes. Now that I have actually heard them, I will also admit that any sense of concern about that was totally misplaced and misguided. Major kudos are due to Andreas Meyer from Tangerine Mastering for the magic he has worked in remastering these albums for vinyl.
In my previous post I noted that I was hard pressed to hear any differences between a Stiff original pressing of Crazy Rhythms and the Bar/None reissue. I could hear differences between a Coyote/Twin-Tone LP pressing of The Good Earth and the Bar/None reissue, and they were mostly in favor of the reissue. First off, the reissue is a better, quieter pressing than the Coyote original, which is a helpful thing because there are some long quiet passages on the album. Beyond that, the reissue has a subtly crisper, more open sound without changing the essential sonic character of the album in any way.
I also had an original Coyote CD on hand for comparison, but the less said about that the better, because it is an absolute sonic disaster. The old Coyote CD turned an album with a warm, inviting sonic character into something shrill and unpleasant. The old CD only reminded me of why I hated CD sound for such a long time.
As with Crazy Rhythms, I downloaded the album plus bonus tracks in WAV format, and once again, while they sounded good, it was obvious they were slightly dynamically compressed compared to the LP. Nevertheless, the new digital version sounds far better than the original CD. The download-only bonus tracks are not quite as interesting as was the case with Crazy Rhythms. The two covers were previously available on the No One Knows EP, and a recent live version of "Slipping (Into Something)" once again proves the reconstituted Feelies have not lost a step.
The only quibble I have with the reissue (and it is a minor one to be sure) is that about ten seconds of silence present on the original LP between "Tomorrow Today" and the album closer "Slow Down" has been removed. I always kind of liked the way "Slow Down" came in after such a long quiet period ("Tomorrow Today" also features a very long, slow fade out). Curiously, this silence is also not present on the original Coyote CD, so it's arguable whether it is necessary for the sake of "authenticity." I always kind of liked the effect, but its absence is not enough to prevent the reissue from becoming my new "go-to" version of the album.
Finally, a few words about the music itself. If I haven't said much about it to this point it's because I assume you know it's great. Crazy Rhythms seems to be the album that has gotten the most attention over the years, probably in part because it has been out-of-print longer. It would be a shame if The Good Earth were overshadowed by the earlier album, because its charms are at least equal to those of its predecessor.
The Good Earth showcases a less jumpy and nervous version of the Feelies. The rhythm section of Brenda Sauter (bass), Stanley Demeski (drums) and Dave Weckerman (percussion) was less aggressive than the Crazy Rhythms-era combo of Anton Fier and Keith De Nunzio. This, combined with a greater amount of strummed acoustic guitar, led to a more relaxed, pastoral sound which is beautifully reflected in the cornfield photo and earth-tones on the album cover.
Despite the more laid-back vibe, there is still plenty of interesting stuff going on rhythmically, but it emerges from the mix in a more subtle fashion than previously. Some of the songs reflect Mercer and Million's longstanding interest in Brian Eno's ambient music, but the influence of country and folk music is just as clear. All-in-all, it makes for an entirely unique, and highly appealing sonic concoction.
I simply cannot recommend both of these long-overdue reissues highly enough, even to those who already own the albums in other forms. The LPs sound absolutely gorgeous, and the digital tracks sound very fine as well. Both albums, as well as a limited edition 7" of "Fa Ce La," are available directly from Bar/None.