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Elliott Smith

Roman Candle

2010 Remaster

[Kill Rock Stars; 2010]

By ; May 10, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Chances are, if you’re reading this review, you already know who Elliott Smith was; you’re probably well aware of Roman Candle by now, too, and you don’t need the belabored back-story to add context. The album is what it is, and people are still listening to it over a decade later, which pretty much speaks for itself.

Most people who are specific enough to be looking up reviews of the newly-remastered 2010 edition of the album will presumably be more interested in whether the sound itself is worth upgrading for. And, quite frankly, that boils down entirely to how you like your music – scratchy, hissy and “authentic,” as some people have dubbed the original lo-fi mastering; or cleaned-up and (relatively) smoother, as the new Kill Rock Star release is.

You see, to contradict my earlier point of not delving into the record’s history, Roman Candle was originally released in 1994 by indie label Cavity Search, who weren’t exactly titans in the industry, and Smith’s songs – recorded mostly alone on a four-track – were never quite properly mastered to begin with (reportedly due to the fact that he never planned to actually release the record until being urged to by fellow musicians – a theory supported by the fact that four of the songs have no titles).

Of course, over the years, that whole scratchy, hissy, lo-fi sound is part of what endeared since-converted fans to this record – and for those of you who’ve been listening to this album in its original form since the ‘90s, yeah, you might take issue with a few of Larry Crane’s tweaks. But for the average listener, and even for fans who aren’t exactly audiophiles, this will probably sound like an improvement.

Having said that, let’s not pretend this is a vastly different presentation. The songs are still what they always were; they haven’t been remixed or spruced-up beyond recognition. Some of the creases and tears in the sound have merely been glossed over, and you could argue the claim that it’s somewhat more accessible as a result.

And really, let’s be honest: if you’re a so-called “completist,” you’re probably going to buy this anyway. If you’re happy with what you already have, then you should probably sample Crane’s remaster prior to purchasing it and decide for yourself. And if you’ve never heard Roman Candle, then this is the ideal opportunity to change that. At the end of the day, an admirable job has been done here. Crane has tastefully remastered the impressive, now legendary debut album of an artist who sadly left this world far too soon.


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