Aqualung is an album that I have had on vinyl for donkey’s years, I’ve always liked it. It’s got loads of great songs, nifty arrangements, lyrics which are in turn thought provoking, touching and humourous. It’s had a lot of plays and given me a good deal of enjoyment down the years.
The sound of my vinyl copy wasnt great but it was certainly ok, so it was a great disappointment when I came home with a shiny new CD of Aqualung and discovered that it sounded thin and tinny. The upshot being that Aqualung has remained on the shelf and unplayed for some years.
It seems that Ian Anderson was also aware of the CD’s shortcomings. For this 40th Anniversary edition he has commissioned Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) to remix the album from the original multitrack tapes. Steven Wilson has a growing reputation in this area having previously done similar work on some King Crimson albums.
The Anniversary edition comes with some nice packaging, and in the accompanying booklet Ian Anderson explains that when the band went to record Aqualung they were the first artists to use Island Records’ brand new studio (Led Zeppelin were already in the tried tested studio). Unfortunately the loudspeaker monitoring system hadn’t yet been properly calibrated, and there was hefty slice of good luck involved in making the original album sound as good as it did. So what was going to be on the multitracks? Steven Wilson says that he was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the recording, his brief then was to recreate the original as closely as possible but with some added fidelity and clarity while ensuring that the overall balance was improved.
As I mentioned earlier Steven Wilson has some pedigree in this kind of work and he has done an excellent job on Aqualung. Anyone familar with the original will love it, it has all the characteristics of the original while simply sounding so much better. The songs have not been edited or tampered with in any way, the new clarity in the mix has allowed some previously hidden details to be brought out. It’s a pleasure to sit down and listen to it once more.
A second CD is also included in the package which features various other takes of songs, early versions etc. I’m not a great lover of this kind of value add, but it does include a version of ‘Going Up The Pool’ a lovely song which will resonate with most Northeners (like me!).