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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Vapor Trails Remixed - Review

After getting teased in 2009 with two remixed songs on Rush Retrospective III ("One Little Victory" and "Earthshine"), we now have a fully remixed Vapor Trails.

My short review: Go out and buy this one. Now.

For this project, Rush hired producer David Bottrill. Geddy said in an initial press release on "David Bottrill's remixes have finally brought some justice and clarity to this deserving body of our work. Every song has been given a new life, from the fire of 'One Little Victory,' 'Secret Touch, and Ceiling Unlimited to the melodic musicality of 'Sweet Miracle' and 'How It Is'... these songs have been redeemed. Thank you David!"

I'd also like to thank David. Listening to his remix of Vapor Trails is a revelation. The most important thing he's done is lift the fog of noise that shrouded every song in the original mix. Hearing these changes, you start to realize how difficult it must be to mix an album -- especially one like Vapor Trails.

Here are a few of my impressions after a few listens:

The drums are much cleaner and separated. Much of this has to do with the bass and snare, which were previously lost in a wall of guitars, bass, and vocal harmonies. There are drum details throughout this new mix that seem to jump out now. A few examples from "Ceiling Unlimited" include:

  • The tom hits around the :55 and 2:03 marks
  • The fill around the 3:30 mark

Vocal harmonies have been simplified and focused. I can actually hear the lyrics now. It's interesting how just being able to hear what Geddy is singing (and what Neil wrote) gives the songs much more power.

Alternate vocal melodies help create a more varied soundscape. In the case of the chorus in "Nocturne," using a lower vocal melody creates balance in the entire song. You can also hear this technique in the verses of "Peaceable Kingdom."  

Alex's guitars are dialed down to create more space in the mix. The previous mix almost seemed to be a sonic symphony of guitars. I'm guessing this was one of the most difficult things about the remix -- untangling all those guitar tracks and choosing between them. But once they are untangled, the music comes to life, and the guitar isn't competing with itself.

New guitar lines and melodies appear in the mix. In some cases, you'll hear a different guitar track in a song. In "Ceiling Unlimited", listen to the guitar riff/solo around 4:00 to hear something new. In "Out of the Cradle" at 3:45, there's a great counter-melody that you could almost hear in the original mix.

Geddy's bass is given a more equal place in the mix. What you hear on this remix is more true to what you hear at a live Rush show. In some places, the bass even dominates, like at the end of "Vapor Trail" or in the verses of "Secret Touch."

Vocal reverb effects are used effectively. In "One Little Victory" at the 3:07 mark, the reverb on the vocals helps connect the chorus and the bridge sections together better. On "Ghost Rider," the reverb at the beginning creates a much more haunting feel.

Bass drum sound: The famous "rising triplets" that Neil uses in many songs jump out now. Listen to the bass drum around 4:02 in "Freeze" for a great example. Also more prevalent are the double-bass fills. In "Nocturne" around 4:15 and 4:22, you can hear two fills that used to be buried.

All in all, it's a great remix and worth purchasing -- especially if you were a fan of the original release. For me, the three songs that have been redeemed the most include "Secret Touch," "Ceiling Unlimited," and "Freeze." But all the songs benefit in one way or another.

If you're like me, you'll probably start thinking about how a few other Rush albums could use this kind of treatment. While an album like Test for Echo isn't necessarily Rush's strongest effort, I can imagine a remix could bring out the strengths in same way as Vapor Trails.

Maybe some day...


posted by AndyO @ 7:46 PM   2 comments