Sunday, May 10, 2009

getting onto the bullet train again

When the experiment called The Bullet Train was released in 2003, I had posted an optimistic note of welcome. Years later, the CD still holds up on a few levels. It is still an interesting experiment -- a remix of tracks by the same music director -- a very special case of sampling, if you will. It also works as a mostly consistent peppy offering for the ears. Something that never struck me then seems rather obvious now. The remastering by Debashish Mohapatra at Pancham Studios is commendable, but it also exposes familiar problems with the original mastered tracks. The punch of the bass is weak on some; on others the sounds in the lower registers seem to have been stripped away. It's another reminder of the inconsistency of HMV's catalogue: consider how Pyar ka Mousum (1969) sounds older than Baharon ke Sapne (1967) on CD; consider the marvel of the combo CD Yaadon ki Baaraat/Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, on the other hand. It seems like a stroke of luck that the verve of each song made it over from the LP to the CD.

My doubts about the pathetic way companies like HMV mastered CDs from LPs got a shot in the arm when I got my hands on two spectacular compilations from the guys known as Bombay Beats, The Bombay Connection, Vol. 1: Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers and Bombay Connection, Vol. 2: Bombshell Baby of Bombay. The lovely mix of the vocoder and the bass on the title track of The Burning Train sounded far stronger and fuller than any other version on CD that I had heard. The Bombay Beats guys had created CDs from LPs and their process fared far better than whatever the guys at HMV/GCIL had. The packaging was exquisite as well and it was evidence of more love for the pulpy excesses of Bollywood than anyone within the system could ever muster or design.

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