Cosy up to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Here we have a continuation of the remasters series from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds that started last year with the release of their first four albums, and what a glorious treat these three albums provide.
First up is 1988’s Tender Prey which kicks off with the ominous tones of ‘The Mercy Seat’. Its driving rhythms and powerful lyrics provide an astounding start to what has always been seen as one of Cave’s great albums, particularly noticeable on the new 5.1 surround sound mix. Looking back, however, the chaotic nature of the recording sessions has had a slightly disconcerting effect and while there are brilliant songs on display, the album just does not seem to hang together as well as it perhaps could. It also marked one of many turning points in the career of the Bad Seeds as by the time 1990’s The Good Son came around they had started to move away from sparse and fractured arrangements favoured on the first five albums. As with all these deluxe editions there is a companion DVD which contains a specially commissioned short film by UK artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard plus all the b-sides from the singles, videos and exclusive sleeve notes. These are great features and by themselves are worthy of the extra layout involved but the best is yet to come with the brand new 5.1 surround sound mixes that are simply astounding. After the resurrection and transfer of the original master recordings by Kevin Van Bergen, the mixing was undertaken by Kevin Paul alongside the erstwhile Bad Seed, Mick Harvey and what a magnificent job they have done. The songs just burst out of the speakers, enveloping the listener in a newly created and truly immersive cinematic sound.
The Good Son opens with ‘Foi Na Cruz’ and sets a new, more melodic tone with its Brazilian backing singers crooning in Portuguese. This is a world away from the brutal nature of some of Cave’s earlier work and paves the way for the beautiful things to come throughout the 1990s. The Good Son was probably Cave’s most coherent and enjoyable album to date with even the most rabid of fans conceding that the earlier albums could be hard work at times. That is not to say that Cave was suddenly Top of the Pops fodder, far from it, but rather it is evidence of an artist becoming more self assured in the abilities of both himself and that of his band. ‘The Weeping Song’ has a battle between the deep baritone of Blixa Bargeld and Cave’s own deep tones to provide a truly memorable and unique experience. The short, sweet ballad ‘Lucy’ closes the album, leaving the listener desperate to hear more - but that would have to wait for another two years.
Henry’s Dream is a strange beast, an album beloved by the fans but which the band themselves have deep reservations about. Why Cave and the Bad Seeds feel this way can be read in the extensive albums notes but let us focus on the album that was actually recorded and released. The epic stylings of ‘Papa Won’t Leave You Henry’ and the beautiful ‘Straight To You’ leave us in no doubt that this is an album on which the Bad Seeds intend to provide yet more evidence of their genius for crafting tales of love, anger and murder. These themes are carried throughout with the bloody violence of ‘John Finn’s Wife’ juxtaposed against the haunting balled, ‘Loom of the Land’. A raging ‘Jack The Ripper’ closes the album in particularly gruesome style leaving us to ponder whether Cave’s original vision, had it been realised, would have been an improvement of the swaggering brilliance on display here.
Cave obsessives may notice the subtle differences in the way some of these songs are mixed. There is no reference to this in any of the promotional material but anyone with an intimate knowledge of the Cave canon will spot the differences. An example can be found on ‘John Finn’s Wife’ where some of the staccato vocal phrasing on the stereo mix is replaced by a more flowing style on the 5.1 mix. There are other examples scattered across the discs but creating a complete side-by-side comparison would be a long and difficult job so that can be safely left in the hands of someone more skilled in such a task!
It is remarkable to think that these albums are all around 20 years old, such is their amazing freshness. Make no mistake: anyone investing in these deluxe editions can be sure they are buying the definitive versions of these brilliant albums from one of the great bands of this or any generation.