Friday, 18 October 2013

The Original Soundtrack

"IOCC"??  What on earth is that, I asked myself the first time I saw a poster for this band in a record store (sometime back in 1974 I would guess).  This was what the stylized print of "10cc" looked like.  A band called 10cc?  Surely not.

Then, on or about my 20th birthday, "I'm Not In Love" hit the radio airwaves, and for a while in the UK it seemed like it was being played all day, everywhere.  It was a stunning song, one which, even listened to on a crappy radio, made you want to hear it on a special audio system.  As many boys as girls seemed to be digging it, and the album from which it came, "The Original Soundtrack", sold in droves.

"I'm Not In Love" was probably responsible for 90% of the album sales, and certainly for the sudden elevation of 10cc to superstardom.  Which is interesting, since it really was not at all typical of the output of 10cc in general, or of The Original Soundtrack album in particular.  10cc is a band that is quick to get to like, and equally quick to get to hate.  If you like to put musicians in boxes, you would put them in the one labelled "Art Rock".  Their lyrics were clever, but just tooooooo clever by a long way.  There was a sense of smug self-satisfaction about them, as if they were trying to demonstrate their literary chops instead of writing songs.  Their inspiration should have been Noel Coward or Irving Berlin - not Oscar Wilde.  The best pop and rock songs do have a high-literary quality about their lyrics, and 10cc's are just over the top.  Nevertheless, you should give this album a listen.  You'll absolutely love it - for a while at least.  I know I did - and still do in many ways.  Forgetting the lyrics for a while, the musicianship on display is awesome.  The melodies and harmonies are memorable.  Some of the guitar playing in particular is absolutely ripping.  Play "Blackmail" at ear-bleeding volume for a prime example.  A-1 air guitar stuff.

I bought the original LP as soon as I heard "I'm Not In Love", and looked forward to hearing its luscious sound.  While it certainly did not disappoint, the whole album from beginning to end had what appeared to be an enormous amount of upper-midrange emphasis (or boost).  Perhaps this is what lent it its crystalline quality when listened to on the radio, but regardless, the overblown breathy upper-mids remain as a characteristic of this album, one shared by no other I know (except for perhaps one that I'm too embarrassed to admit to owning).

Why suddenly mention it now, after all this time?  Well, I recently got the Japanese SHM-SACD version, which is available online and will cost you deep in the purse.  I was anxious to hear whether the SHM remastering would remove that upper-mid emphasis.  It turns out they either didn't or couldn't.  But regardless, what they did deliver was an absolutely magnificent rendering of a phenomenal recording.  Upper-mid emphasis or not, this is a tour-de-force, and a great example of what digital remastering in general, and SACD/DSD in particular, is capable of achieving.  It exposes The Original Soundtrack as one of the great rock recordings of the 1970s.

If you don't already own this album, and are interested in acquiring an iconic example of 1970's art rock - an example of both its pretensions and its accomplishments - The Original Soundtrack in its SHM-SACD guise is a magnificent example.