Sonic Grade: F
The original grade I gave out in 2014 when last I played this remastered version as part of a shootout was “D.” I explained at the time:
Just listen to how strange Van’s voice sounds, so lean, hard and sour. That alone qualifies it for an “F”, but considering how bad most pressings of this album are, let’s be fair, if not downright generous, and call it a “D”.
I just revisited the record in a current shootout, and after giving it some thought I have decided that the right grade is in fact “F.” It cannot be any other, for reasons I discuss below.
In 2014 I had written:
Where is the Tubey Magic of the originals? The sweetness? The richness? And why is there so little ambience or transparency? You just can’t “see” into the studio on this pressing the way you can on the good originals, but that’s fairly consistently been the knock on these remastered Heavy Vinyl records. We noted as much when we debunked Blue all the way back in early 2007, so no surprise there.
Having just played a marvelous shootout-winning early pressing, this time around I found the reproduction of Van’s voice on the reissue to be so leaned-out, artificial and unpleasant that I could hardly stand to listen to it.
We had reset the VTA correctly; the overall tonal balance of the recording from top to bottom was correct. It was only the voice that sounded so off. All the other shortcomings I had mentioned before were still true of course, but none of that mattered. The singer on this record just sounded awful.
As you know, we are constantly making improvements to our playback system. The real Moondance we had just played sounded better than ever. The fake Moondance, however, was sounding worse than ever. That’s what higher quality playback can do for you: separate the true winners from the phony losers.
Do I have a bad copy? Maybe, can’t say I don’t. If any of you out there in the real world have a copy of this pressing and would be willing to send it to me to audition I would be more than happy to do so. Short of that I’m not sure what more I can do. I certainly do not feel the least bit inclined to waste a nickel of my hard earned money on another copy.
Some Fun Quotes
From Music Direct:
Van Morrison’s Moondance is that rare rock album where the band has buffed the arrangements to pure perfection. And now, you can experience it on the finest-sounding pressing that’s ever been made courtesy of this 180g LP, remastered at Acoustech from the original analog tapes by Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman. Practically every audiophile press outlet in the world has sung its praises. Moondance has never had such power.
The power to make me wonder how anyone in his right mind would release a record that sounds this bad, that power?
Then there’s this guy, 51nocaster:
As for Moondance, the reissue is very good, but I still prefer the original. Steve Hoffman was involved in mastering the Moondance reissue and like some of the DCC reissues, he seems to favor the lower mids over the upper mids.
As a rule that’s true about DCC records, but, boy, that’s not what I heard on my copy. Just the opposite. Morrison’s voice on the new reissue has no lower mids. It’s all mids and upper mids.
I suspect a download on ITunes would be more tonally correct in the midrange.
In summary, please count us as one of the outlets not singing this record’s praises, which is why you can find it in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made.
Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.
When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.