Joy Division disciples have a reason to perk up today: Drew Crumbaugh, the mastering engineer previously known only as Analog Loyalist who has lovingly restored the Smiths' Rough Trade singles and Joy Division/New Order's Factory Records releases, has taken a second crack at remastering a Joy Division concert from 1980 and made it available for fans to download. On his Power of Independent Trucking blog, Crumbaugh writes that he's dissatisfied with the remasters he handed in for the 2007 reissues of the English band's final studio album, Closer, and compilation album, Still.
"I listen to the stuff I turned in to the band and Rhino in late 2006 and essentially cringe," he admits. "Not because it's bad, because it's not, but with where I've advanced to today my 2006 work sounds amateur to these ears. And while it's out there for the world to enjoy (and the two sets I did, for Closer and Still, all got great reviews), I can no longer listen without wishing for a mulligan."
Now Crumbaugh has taken that mulligan. The audiophile has gone back to the original master cassette tapes used to record the University of London Union and High Wycombe Town Hall 1980 gigs (the latter appeared on the Still rerelease) and applied "the skills, techniques, secret sauces and magic" he's picked up since 2006.
"They are spectacular," Crumbaugh writes. "Not to toot my own horn, but these now simply crush what was used on the 2007 releases. Even the most hearing-challenged of listeners can tell the difference, and not just by minutiae. Cymbals ring, drums go THWACK and not 'thwop,' guitars slice through the murk." He adds, "If there were any justice in this world, Rhino would pull the 2007 sets off the market and reissue with these masterings. One can dream..."
Considering that Universal Music Group thwarted Crumbaugh's attempt to revamp R.E.M.'s IRS Records output earlier this year, a recall and re-rerelease doesn't seem likely. For now, fans of the post-punk pioneers will have to settle for the FLAC file downloads Crumbaugh has posted online. The (re)mastermind has decided to upload the shows chronologically, starting with the University of London Union show, which was recorded first, on February 8, 1980. The 12-song set mostly mixes songs that would end up on 1980's Closer with classic singles such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "Digital," which eventually appeared on the 1988 compilation Substance. All in all, it's a much more appropriate button on the band's legacy than that Unknown Pleasures-inspired Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
Joy Division, Live at University of London Union track list:
1. "Dead Souls"
3. "A Means To An End"
4. "Twenty Four Hours"
8. "These Days"
9. "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
11. (Encore break)
12. "The Eternal"