Audio Fidelity [Release date 01.03.14]
There’s been something of a glut of Alice Cooper re-issues of late – Trash and Hey Stoopid, The Eyes Of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds, and Brutally Live – to name but a few. This hybrid SACD version of 1973′s Billion Dollar Babies is the latest to hit the racks, mastered by Steve Hoffman, and individually numbered on the Audio Fidelity 24k gold discs.
According to Hoffman, the tapes were the original mix compilation reels done at the Record Plant back in 1973. First, each and every edit was fixed – the glue on the tape splices had bled over the years – and the songs were then digitised one by one.
Apparently due to the number of edits and level changes the original LP was cut from a “mastered” copy of these tapes generated by applying a set of uniform EQ and compression settings. Hoffman’s aim, using the technology now available, was to capture what band and producer got to hear in the studio back in the day. So by rights, this should be the definitive audio release.
There seems little point in reviewing the artistic merits of what was the Alice Cooper band’s most commercially successful release – the only Alice Cooper album to hit #1 on both sides of the Atlantic and spawning four era defining hits – Elected, Hello Hooray, No More Mr Nice Guy and Billion Dollar Babies itself.
It was, and remains a classic album. Fans will no doubt have indulged in the 2001 2CD ‘deluxe’ release that included a bonus CD of live numbers and outtakes. The bonus disc was, frankly, of dubious necessity but the package as whole rather nice. The one omission, though, was a replica of the billion dollar bill that graced the inner of the original gatefold sleeve.
That omission is rectified with this hybrid SACD release, and that, along with limited edition numbering and ‘definitive’ mastering, will be the major selling point as most of us will, I suspect, not have SACD compatible hardware. So how does it sound ‘back to back with’ the deluxe edition on a reasonably priced home hi-fi system? Well, the answer is there’s not a lot of discernable difference and unless you’re using state of the art SACD equipment, it’s probably not worth investing in the expectation of aural nirvana. Great album, though. *****
Review by Pete Whalley
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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