Before we get going can I just remind readers that I gave a positive review to F&J’s 2013 release “Ugly Noise” and that I have been a follower of the band since hearing their debut way back in 1986. Good, Thank you. This is the band’s own work, they can do what they want with it and they have chosen to re-record. And this re-recording might be even better than the original – all the original record’s musicians are in place (with the exception of bassist Troy Gregory) with new recording technology at their finger-tips so why wouldn’t it be? The band’s statement on the press release filled me with hope so I’d like to share that if I may;
“We have re-recorded ‘No Place For Disgrace’ because we have had a lot of requests to remix this record. The master tapes have been very difficult to obtain so we decided to re-record the album and use some of today’s technologies to recreate it. The aim was not really to change but to enhance it with the opportunity with the use of new tools. We have the time available as well and it just seemed like a no brainer. A lot of the die hards are really nervous about it but I think after the final result they will embrace it. The sound quality is 100% better and more refined!”
So there you have it. Pretty reasonable really and if they haven’t changed it then it should be a winner. But what is immediately apparent is that they HAVE changed it. F&J aren’t really a speed metal band any more and never really were thrash but the original had such an energy to it. This album, like many of F&J’s recent releases, plods. I hoped it was just the opening title track but no, every song is just that bit slower, more placed, more refined (which the band clearly wanted), but unfortunately more dull. The band’s style has changed a bit in the last 25 years, as it should, but to completely miss the whole feel of the original is a huge mistake. All the notes are there both musically and vocally (Erik AK is actually as good a singer as he was back then, his style really is more refined, yet this mix makes him sound like he can’t quite get all the lyrics in at times), but the way it fits with the bass and drums just sounds lacking in drive, passion and enthusiasm. This new 100% better sound quality that the band promise just comes across as a bit muddy and dirgey compared to the original so I’m not seeing that as a positive either.
I’m not going to analyse each track, the feeling is pretty much the same on each, but I’ll use the example of ‘Misguided Fortune’. It plods – that’s a given, but therefore seems to take an age to get to the verse, which strolls it’s way to the chorus that eventually meanders it’s way to the 4 part guitar solo. All has been quite sympathetic to the original so far, slower yes, lacking in ‘Gang Vocals’ which leave the chorus a little thin but I do so enjoy parts 2 and 4 of the solo that has the most gorgeous twin guitar melody that…the band have totally removed and replaced with two hap-hazard rather un-tuneful guitar noodles. Gutted. One of my favourite tracks gets dulled down and they remove the part of the track I look forward to. This disappointment, I’m sorry to say, is how I continue to feel as I hear the whole album.
Are there any positives? ‘Escape From Within’ (the album’s “ballad”) has some nice new touches to the intro, stays faithful to the original, and also this time the faster part does benefit from being tighter and more refined. ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ was a rather uncomfortable stab at commercialism on the original, so it couldn’t be any worse. ‘I Live, You Die’ has been through a few changes since it was first written so another arrangement is fine – and this version is certainly tidier and tighter than the version that was on the B-Side of ‘Flotzilla’. It even has some gang-ish vocals thank goodness. P.A.A.B. Is the closest the band get to capturing the energy of the original and is worth a listen and ‘The Jones’ always was a mosh-style plodder so that one’s OK too. But that’s the best I can do I’m afraid.
As I said earlier, it’s their album, their songs, they can do whatever the hell they want with them and if the band think this is an improvement and are proud of it then that’s fine for them. Fans don’t own the songs, they just ‘rent’ them if you like, and if the owner makes changes that’s their prerogative. As long as I still have my original record to enjoy then I don’t have to listen to this again, so that’s fine too. I really hope this wasn’t just a money-making exercise by the band (or label) – it’s just I don’t see who it is aimed at. Fans of the original will probably feel similar to how I do, any potential new fans would be better served tracking down the original and young new-breed thrash fans want to hear the sound that the original had. A re-recorded version was supposedly the next best option to a remix – but was it? Wasn’t the next best option – or even the best option, to leave the bloody thing alone? Or do we need to start asking Black Sabbath to re-record “Masters Of Reality” just because it’s got an out-dated 70’s production? No, we treat it as a hallowed classic. Just an example but you see my point. I wanted to like this version, I really did and the original “No Place For Disgrace” is an 8.5/10 album for me – songs, delivery, mix and energy abound – this 2014 version…
(4/10 Andy Barker)