Title - 'Double Fantasy - Stripped Down' (EMI)
Artist - John Lennon
The remaster of the original 'Double Fantasy' is beautifully done. Like many of the second wave of digital remasters, it adds depth, detail and clarity without messing with the essential sound of the original. To me it's on par with the remastered 'Milk and Honey' I already have; less dramatic than the recent Beatles remasters though (probably because of the better quality source material).
The stripped down disc though is where this really shines. Obviously this is where people's opinions differ. For myself: as much as I love the original, it is so sweet to hear it without the 80s overproduction. Although they made a few decisions I disagree with (some parts of some tracks sound more like demos than than alternate production values - most especially, the opening chords to "Starting Over," which just sound thin and sloppy), overall it's a sublime revisioning of the album with a rougher, rawer edge that I like.
A huge aspect of this is to do with Lennon's voice having been stripped of all the reverb and double-tracking. He has such a gorgeous voice, so expressive, and John Lennon the person really comes through here in a way he couldn't under all that processing.
This takes it to another area where I have seen this criticised. John Lennon HATED the sound of his own voice and was always changing it through double-tracking, reverb, speeding up, and so on. He would NEVER have let this be released (and Yoko said as much in an interview). But I'm glad it was anyway, because it's really something. We don't always know what's best for us, and we don't always assess ourselves accurately.
John was wrong about himself in this regard. (And for those outraged that "other people" should come in and make these decisions, Double Fantasy was never a John Lennon album: it was a John Lennon and Yoko Ono album and she has as much right as him to make decisions about it.)
And speaking of Yoko: unlike many I don't hate her material but I do find her voice difficult, and I don't think it always fits well alongside John's. But the stripped down treatment is very kind to her material. Her voice doesn't trouble me in the same way, and the overall feel and sound of her songs is, somehow, in some way, better.
Anyway, I'd recommend the remastered original album to anyone (it is a true classic of our time, being a beautiful comeback album from a great artist reinventing himself), but the stripped down version is probably for those who are fans or just appreciate his work. [DL]