2006 Universal Japan Import
D. Allen | McKinney Texas | 05/26/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I just wanted to give the heads-up to anyone considering buying the 2006 Universal Japan version of So What thinking it might be a sonic upgrade from the present US version. It's not. In fact, it is identical to my 1993 MCA CD. I read the review of the 2004 Universal Japan mini-LP issue and figured if it was remastered, as the author claimed, the newer replacement for that now discontinued version would be the same master. All I can tell you is that I wasted my money."
S. A. Blake | Arizona | 01/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have several Joe Walsh CDs. This is the best one so far. The sound is great and I can hear the words of the songs better on this one and any of the others."
"...Open My Eyes Again..."
Mark Barry at Reckless Records, Lon | UK | 10/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"*** "So What" by JOE WALSH (December 1974 LP) - THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE APRIL 2009 JAPAN-ONLY "SHM" CD REISSUE ****
There are now 2 variants of this Japanese CD and I'd like to clear up what's what...
On the 21st of October 2004, Joe Walsh's first three solo LPs were finally reissued in remastered CD form, but only in Japan. "Barnstorm" (his 1972 debut) on Universal UICY-9477, "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get" (1973) on UICY-9478 and "So What" on UICY-9479.
In detailed mini-LP repro sleeves (complete with hard-card gatefolds for the first two and "So What"'s embossed inner sleeve) they were 24-bit remastered by HITOSHI TAKIGUCHI in Universal's Mastering Studios. Not surprisingly, they sold out almost immediately and across the next few fears (with no equivalent domestic releases), they quickly became very expensive collector's items. Someone in Japan seems to have noticed this because they've reissued them again this year - but now on the new "SHM-CD" format (Super High Materials).
The new 22 April 2009 SUPER HIGH MATERIALS CDs are "Barnstorm" on Universal UICY-94062, "The Smoker You Get..." on UICY-94063 and "So What" on UICY-94064. There's also an additional title not in the original list - his 4th album - the 1976 live set "You Can't Always Argue With A Sick Mind" which is on UICY-94065 (with 2009 Remastering and Card Outer/Inner Sleeves). The 2009 repro artwork (including lyric booklets) is exactly the same as the 2004 issues - as is the mastering - the ONLY difference is that the 2009 disc itself is a higher spec SHM-CD. But what does this mean?
The blurb surrounding SHM tells us that the manufacturing process is of the very highest quality and therefore in playback this somehow allows more nuances of the music to come out. Remember - SHM is NOT a new format that requires an encoded specialist player - it's just a better form of CD - and it therefore plays on ALL players. So is "So What" any better on this new format - the infuriating answer is yes and no...
I thought the 2004 remasters were very good - not exactly blistering - but far better than what we'd had before. Now - on this SHM issue - I 'can' hear bass and drum parts more - particularly on "Help Me Through The Night" (lyrics above) and "County Fair" - they're far better. "Turn To Stone" has more muscle in it too, which is fabulous news. The synths on the Maurice Ravel excerpt "Pavane Of The Sleeping Beauty" are razor-sharp too. But the rocking "Time Out" and the Don Henley penned "Falling Down" however, sound pretty much the same to me.
If I was to sum up the good points of this SHM release, it would be that like a quality DVD or a great BLU RAY player - it holds the picture better - steadier - and that's what this new CD format does. Somehow, it does sound clearer and more defined on many of the tracks. The bad news is that you'd be hard pressed to spot any difference on some of the others. If anything - on "Welcome To The Club" and the messily recorded but lovely album-closer "Song For Emma" - the hiss levels are amplified and not lessened. Such a shame, because in my opinion, it does get in the way of enjoying this beautiful song.
I would have to admit that a person's judgement can easily be coloured. After 35 years of listening to this album that I love so much, I'm consciously aware of 'wanting' to hear stuff on a rather pricey little import I've shelled out cash on - I am. But my honest appraisal is that it does sound better. Unfortunately, for a rabid nutjob fan like me (and I bet the buggers who make these things know this), if it sounds in 'any' way better - I'm going to have to own it. All I really need to do is to devise a way to hide the bills from 'she-who-must-be-obeyed'!
Summing up - sure it would have been so much better for fans if Universal had given all of them new 2009 full-on remasters AND issued them on this excellent new format. But as it stands, I'd still say that the 2004 remaster on this reissued 2009 SHM-CD format is worth the purchase...
I'm off to stroke the embossed inner sleeve again - and concede that I may need to get out more..."