Sunday, July 26, 2009

Notable Reissues: Galaxie 500

Galaxie 500, they rock slow. They can even rock you to sleep. I felt their narcoleptic effect when I tried to listen to all three of their studio albums straight through. I made it through Today and On Fire, but then had to spin Jimi's Are You Experienced to snap me awake. Now why would anyone want to listen to three Galaxie 500 albums in a row? Well, I was really excited, like a kid graduating from Harvard, when I picked up these reissues. They've been released on Damon & Naomi's record label 20-20-20. All three albums have been remastered by Kramer, the original producer of the albums (and the founder of Shimmy-Disc Records and not the Seinfeld character). The vinyl LPs are mastered by Kevin Gray, a top-notch mastering engineer, and pressed at RTI, the best pressing plant in the country. The record jackets are beautifully reproduced on heavy card stock. All in all, a very considerate job of reissuing these classic, hard-to-find LPs (unlike the blatant customer-be-damned cash-grabs of the vinyl reissue programs of some major record labels). Interestingly the reissues are available only on vinyl or as a high-resolution digital download, which seems to be another sign of the demise of CDs. One can order the albums at the official Galaxie 500 online store Fiery Breeze or pick up the LPs at your local record store. The prices are reasonable, although you don't get any extras like a book covered in faux fur.

The sound quality of these albums is decidedly low-fi. The recording budget for Today was reportedly $750. Comparing "Tugboat" from the Today album with the track on my Portable Galaxie 500 CD reveals the digital version as slightly flatter, by which I mean there's less sense of atmosphere and three-dimensionality and the cymbals don't seem to shimmer as much ("decay" as audiophiles call it), but it's not a night-and-day difference. I haven't compared my vinyl copy of This Is Our Music on Rough Trade with the new reissue yet. Regardless, these reissued LPs should make Galaxie 500 fans happy, because these albums are meant to be listened to on vinyl. And if you're not a Galaxie 500 fan, what's wrong with you?

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