I had a very careful listen to the newly remixed “Clutching at Straws” album. I have to admit I discovered things I wasn’t aware of, as the details are very subtle yet they come out very nicely in the new mix. It’s polished, clean and so on. I could clearly hear Fish’s vocals and understand all of his lyrics as well as a lot of keyboard work.
I enjoyed new sounds and nuisances I had missed before and all in all it was a great sensitive experience. But I must also admit that one thing is in my opinion missing in these new mixes. And that is “the mystery”.
I’ll explain myself:
Though I might sound weird, I have a clear opinion about what a mix (and ultimately a production) should be about. To me it’s about emotion and keeping the listener’s attention on edge all the time.
Now, in your original mixes (which I swear I used to listen to literally thousand times back in 1987 because of the sheer quality of the sound) some details are still there but they are kept “secret”. I mean, not everyting is so clear and “in your face”, including the vocals, of which I often could not understand the lyrics. This was the same for lots of other details. Yet this is exactly what attracted me to the album, making it almost compelling to listen to it over and over again, trying to concentrate on the missing pieces rather than comfortably (and maybe in a very boring way) listening to everything without effort.
In a nutshell, I believe (and I know it might sound crazy) that what makes a great production is actually the missing pieces rather than the present ones. It’s like getting in a pitch black cave full of secret treasures: you will be thrilled by adventure! In the new mixes that is exactly what I’m missing. The swirls (choruses) in the reverbs tails you used back in the originals, the clear and loud sounds of ice cubes in “Torch Song”… I miss them! And I don’t like the excess of modulation effects especially on guitars. I did find it a bit corny!
Finally, I have noticed a very strange thing in “The last straw”. The guitar solo feels slightly ahead of the drums and these do not sound as the originals in their performance. I’m absolutely sure that they have been quantised in Pro Tools as I clearly remember the originals being “rushed” by Ian Mosley. I absolutely loved the rushed performance in the original mixes and I can’t understand why they have been quantised in the new version. To me that’s a crime!!!
So…having made these considerations (and there would be much more…) I think I will peacefully go back to listening to your mixes rather than the new ones: I give value to content much more than aesthetics.
– Marco Schnabl
Marco Schnabl is a Singer/Songwriter, producer, mixing engineer living in Taranto, Italy
Read the Marillion Clutching At Straws Reissue review and purchase the album from “the box set and reissue music site for fans who love holding the music in their hands”
Read the in-depth interview with Chris Kimsey on the recording and mixing of Marillion’s ‘Clutching at Straws‘ album and more.