EMI/Capitol has begun sending out advance review copies of the upcoming 3-CD special edition reissue of David Bowie’s 1976 masterpiece Station to Station. One of the best parts about this promo-only edition, as pictured above, is the inclusion of a DVD audio disc. This DVD is indeed the one slated for exclusive release with the limited deluxe edition, which will also include the vinyl version of the album, among other exclusive extras.
As posted earlier, there are two different versions of the reissues slated for release. The 3-CD version has the album plus the famously bootlegged Nassau Coliseum show from 1976 spread across the other two CDs. The limited edition deluxe version, has the same CDs plus vinyl versions and an extra CD of single edits of five cuts from the album, and of course there are four different mixes of the album in DVD audio format.
Now, to address the elephant in the room: why isn’t EMI officially including this DVD-A with the CD-only version? As much as I love the idea that vinyl is making a comeback among audiophiles, the fact of the matter is most music listeners have easier access to a DVD player with a surround system than a record player. The most recent reissue EMI released for Bowie was 1975’s Young Americans, in 2007. That included a DVD that not only included videos of the era but also a 5.1 mix of the album. Anyone prepared to buy a 3-CD version of Station to Station that will include a concert famous only among the most hardcore of Bowie fans will also most likely be interested in a DVD audio version of the album (I’ve already heard as much across message boards from fans*).
The release of the advance including this DVD will only add fuel to the fervor of fans clamoring for such a release. And let me, say, as I have had a chance to review, the DVD-A of this album sounds amazing. Included are a total of four varied mixes (which counters the DVD-A details in the original EMI press release published in an earlier post from July 9, which only noted 3 mixes). Here are the four mixes offered:
1. The original analogue master in 48/24 LPCM stereo.
Then there are three versions of the “New Harry Maslin Mix”:
2. 5.1 surround sound DTS 96/24
3. 5.1 AC3 surround sound D0lby48/24
4. LPCM stereo 48/24 (it’s typoed on the main menu of the DVD as LCPM– hopefully that will be fixed by the time of the official release)
I’m not sure if my dated Yamaha amp can properly decode all these varied audio streams, but the real standout is the DTS 5.1 96/24 mix re-envisioned by Harry Maslin, who produced the original album with Bowie. If you want to hear the album up-dated for 5.1 surround with an amazing separation of the varied tracks (down to Roy Bittan pushing the keys on the piano opening “Word on the Wing”), the DTS track is remarkable. You can hear every subtlety in Bowie’s voice. It makes you wonder if modern pop artists can truly measure up to the musicianship as revealed by this uncompromising audio mix. The detail of the mix could never forgive any lack of musicianship as exhibited here, laid bare without the contemporary studio trickery so many pop acts rely upon in this day and age.
There is a subtle difference between the original analogue master in 48/24 LPCM stereo versus the original RCA vinyl LP, which I own, but I still side with my vinyl. It has more punch and is still miraculously clean enough to have undetectable surface noise. I’m not sure how it compares with the original RCA analogue CD, however, because I sadly got rid of that CD years ago, as confessed in my posting on July 2.
The two other re-envisioned Maslin mixes seem for the true purists. The last mix especially is actually more akin to the original RCA vinyl than the first mix. Side by side, the two are really hard to distinguish. Otherwise, the quality in differences do not stand out to me on my system. Maybe someone with more experience in audiophilia can offer more insight.
Now, the next big headline to be revealed in hearing this new version of Station to Station, is the Nassau Coliseum show. Most curious is how the Dennis Davis drum solo has been edited down. Let me see, I do not miss the 13 minute, plus version. In this shortened version, the runs are reduced to a minimum and the out-of-place scat singing is completely gone. Supposedly the complete track will be made available via digital download, but I always thought it slowed down the pace of the bootleg, and I don’t miss it. The only thing that sucks for a Bowie fan so familiar with the original bootleg is that you cannot help but notice where it was chopped away, so, either way, it still takes you out of the concert. Besides, this does not mark the first time a lengthy live solo was chopped up for a live Bowie album. For the soundtrack of Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture, Mick R0nson’s solo on “Width of a Circle” was also pared back while Bowie went backstage for a costume change.
As for the sound quality of the concert, with the quiet opening of “Station to Station,” I could not help but notice some tape hiss at the start of the concert. Granted, this was a show never intended for official release and, as such, never recorded with that in mind, but why boost the volume on it so loud it takes away the future dynamics of the show? Still, it is great having live versions of songs like “Waiting for the Man” and “Stay” in better quality than ever on an official live release. It’s a high energy show and one of the greatest Bowie performed in his live recorded history. Now, I’m looking forward to hearing how the vinyl version sounds.