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"A Ghost Is Born - Re-Imagined"


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Guest Speed Racer

Thorough 're-imagination.' I completely disagree with you on a lot of points, though. :lol Again, hindsight might also be to *my* disadvantage. I completely appreciate your input, I just wanted to include my feedback.

 

First, I really think that their 'krautrock' Spiders fits the album much better. Trust me, I prefer the earlier version overall, but on this album I completely believe that the version they have is best for the album. It might not be as melodic, but I think that's fully intentional. And, like 'Whispery Kiss,' the old 'Spiders' exists as an elusive gem.

 

I don't think at all that the album sounds 'calculated.' That, to me, might well be your interpretation suffering from the warm recording. I don't know, it doesn't sound 'raw' to me - I'm still uncomfortable with that interpretation - but I think it sounds very 'as is.' Minimal overdubs can lead recordings to sound a bit 'smooth,' but I really think it sounds like the recordings caputured a period in time more than they captured a 'perfect solo.'

 

Love 'Hummingbird' as it exists on the album. As much as I prefer earlier versions and the 'Soma' version, I think the version they have blends 'Muzzle of Bees' and 'Handshake Drugs' more than anything else.

 

'Handshake Drugs?' The live version is a bit too busy to me. If you want to talk about 'calculated' guitar work, this (the live version) is the track.

 

'Kicking Television' is a *great* b-side. To me, the reason why they never recorded it the way they performed it is that, with the techniques they were employing, it would have sounded, again, quite contrived. The techniques they used with 'Being There' I think could have captured the sounds they were going for on 'Kicking Television,' but since they were using a different method that sounded a bit closer (with less reverb), I don't think it would have come out the same.

 

Anyway, those are my half-hearted rebuttles. I happen to really like the album, and I was a fan before the album came out. I really think that the album as it is ends up being a very good 'period piece' for the band. I've tried to reimagine a lot of the tracks the way you have, and it just doesn't seem to come out better (or as good) as the album they provided us. :yes

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Speed racer -

 

Thanks for taking the time to read it and respond so thoughtfully. Your arguments are appreciated.

 

I do really like the album as well. i just don't love it, and after YHF i really wanted to be able to say that.

 

As far as your take - I think the album version of "Spiders" is great, but I just like the way they played it live better. I think my ideal version of the album has more of a combination of the YHF studio-sound with the more guitar oriented AGIB. The older "Spiders", as well as my other changes, I think leads to that.

 

I'll re-read, but I don't think I used the word "contrived". I don't think there is much that sounds contrived on my version, or on AGIB.

 

Thanks for checking it out! I hope you liked the site and check back again sometime. I bet there's more we can agree on than disagree there.

 

Best,

James

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I think your view on "Muzzle of Bees" is incorrect. It is not a long drony song that does not pick up till the end. Instead, I take the Jim O'Rourke theory on songs, it is about enjoying the moment from point A to point. Muzzle of Bees glides and is beautiful in the first four minutes and then has an excellent coda. So be patient when listening to the music and enjoy the moment.

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I think your re-imagined AGIB is pretty good.

 

I like AGIB a lot as is, but might equally like the version you're imagining.

 

My only major disagreement is tracks 1-4. I think the first 4 are rock solid....might be my favorite opening stretch of any Wilco record. I prefer the album Muzzle of Bees to most any other version. And I like the curveball that is the kraut-rock Spiders. To me, it has as much life as ALTWYS.

 

But on tracks 5-12, you make interesting points. I like the diversity that Hummingbird adds to the album...but I could understand the argument that it doesn't fit. I actually would go for the SOMA version...it may fit the feel of the album better. Not for the Season would be a good addition. And I'd add another live version to your list...to me, Theologians is given extra "oomph" when Tweedy now screams, "and noone's ever gonna take my life from me". He comes across a little too reserved on the album version.

 

And I prefer the live Less Than You Think that Wilco played on KCRW...it's similar to the version you like, but even greater.

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>

 

Agreed; If anything, I thought YHF was the most over-calculated album I ever heard.

 

I like both of the Handshake Drugs versions where they stand; the album version, sonically, is very atmospheric, and seems to mesh well with Hell Is Chrome, ALTWYS, Kidsmoke, etc. Like many of the album counterparts, the studio version is very much mood based, while the live versions are more amped up and fun.

 

Nice analysis though; I've seen so many AGIB revision ideas that pretty much ignore what the album's about, and end up destroying it rather than revising it.

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Thanks again for checking out the article and site today guys.

 

I thought this was interesting:

 

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Agreed; If anything, I thought YHF was the most over-calculated album I ever heard."

 

I think I see where you're coming from saying YHF is calculated, I'm assuming it's because of all the studio manipulation on the album. Have to disagree there though, I find the sound really works on the album, and despite the fancy sonic stuff it still sounds to me like a spontaneous set of songs. But I don't think AGIB is calculated either, maybe except the 12 minutes of drone. I think the album sounds cold and detached (at times) and the songs would benefit from more touching up.

 

It's funny how AGIB caused so many debates among fans, whereas YHF just seemed to be (almost) universally accepted as "perfect", once people got used to some of the more abrasive parts.

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Guest Speed Racer
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As far as your take - I think the album version of "Spiders" is great, but I just like the way they played it live better. I think my ideal version of the album has more of a combination of the YHF studio-sound with the more guitar oriented AGIB. The older "Spiders", as well as my other changes, I think leads to that.

 

See, that's the thing. I prefer the 'old' version of Spiders - the one you listed - but in terms of the album I definitely prefer the take that's on the album. I love the 'live and loud' sound of the early version, but I think that the studio version best fits the overall mood of the album.

 

Our overarching agreeable point is that we both think that tracks on the album have better 'takes' with live performances and alternate studio versions. I believe, though, that even a 'mediocre' album - as you might think it turned out - is more accurately representative of what they could accomplish then than what we wanted or expected them to accomplish. While I don't necessarily like each take, I think each take they made ended up making a better album on the whole. :yes

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not to put words in someone else's textbox, but maybe the "guitar hell" at the end of poor places?

 

Wilco is not for the faint of heart, as most people already know.

 

While you (OP) make very valid points, I feel that AGIB was probably the most cohesive such a disparate variety of songs could have converged to. While I am one of the few that likes the AGIB Hummingbird best out of all the versions (the viola line breaks my heart every time), I feel that Spiders, etc., would not have fit on the album in their live incarnations beforehand (arena rock? it's hard to imagine 2002.04.27 Spiders on AGIB, it doesn't fit, though I am one of the many that prefer 02-03 Spiders over post-AGIB Spiders).

 

While I do agree that it may sound "cold" at times, I rather equated it to "warm yet detached." It made sense to me, because, if you observe the lyrics, they are about relationships, and, for the majority of the songs, they echo this "warm yet detached" sentiment that has pervaded pretty much all of Tweedy's works YHF-AGIB. I think the execution on the album was daring in that they could have made YHF II - but they chose not to. I am also a believer in this album because of the amount of extra little "add-ons" (though that term does them injustice), such as the light hammer dulcimer that appears in Less Than You Think, Company In My Back, and etc. While the studio brought a sort of barebones texture out that is, in many ways, rough and hard to bear at first, I think it was the only and better choice.

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you mention that others think the album sounds warm but you think it sounds cold. i think you are stating that the performance feels sterile and detached which i agree with in places. however, i think that's what they were going for, especially with spiders.

 

the reason people say the album sounds warm is due to the way it was recorded/mixed/mastered. there's very little brittleness and a big midrange with more bass than most of my other cds. it is a very warm recording. and with very little added compression. compare to the band of horses cd for a harsh and sterile recording for example.

 

at least that's my take. mainly semantics i guess. maybe i misunderstood.

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"the reason people say the album sounds warm is due to the way it was recorded/mixed/mastered. there's very little brittleness and a big midrange with more bass than most of my other cds. it is a very warm recording. and with very little added compression. compare to the band of horses cd for a harsh and sterile recording for example."

 

I guess, without getting too much into the technicalities of the recording process, the album justs sounds cold to me in many places, many of which you say were probably intentional. I associate the sound of it with a detachment, whereas you associate the same sound with warmth. OK, fair enough. I think YHF was a very warm sounding album, and many may disagree, as more studio manipulation didn't take away from the passionate performances. Only a handful of AGIB songs, I feel, capture that passion with a more "live" sound.

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"the reason people say the album sounds warm is due to the way it was recorded/mixed/mastered. there's very little brittleness and a big midrange with more bass than most of my other cds. it is a very warm recording. and with very little added compression. compare to the band of horses cd for a harsh and sterile recording for example."

 

I guess, without getting too much into the technicalities of the recording process, the album justs sounds cold to me in many places, many of which you say were probably intentional. I associate the sound of it with a detachment, whereas you associate the same sound with warmth. OK, fair enough. I think YHF was a very warm sounding album, and many may disagree, as more studio manipulation didn't take away from the passionate performances. Only a handful of AGIB songs, I feel, capture that passion with a more "live" sound.

 

"warmth" when describing a recording usually refers to the lack of high end harshness with maybe a slight boost in the low mid end. it has nothing to do with the performance itself which is "cold" in places, seeming detatched as you describe. so it can be both "warm" and "cold" at the same time as these terms are actually describing different aspects of the recording. "warm" recordings are often found with analog tube gear like they've been using at sear sound and the lack of overcompression in the mastering stage.

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To each their own. As long as you aren't an annoying fan at Wilco or Tweedy concerts, I enjoy your opinions concerning Wilco.

 

Personally, I disagree with much of your re-imagining, but like I said, no harm no foul.

 

For about a year, I didn't listen to AGIB and instead focused on the flood of quality live recordings. With each new torrent posted, my amazement grew with how the new line-up was playing the AGIB and in some ways tweaking them (guitar-driven Theologians being one example).

 

At some point, however, I ended up listening to the studio album and found much to appreciate. First off, many may disagree, but I think Jeff's singing is some of the best he's ever done. I know some miss the edge and twang, but his vocals seem so fragile and vulnerable, which works well with the lyrics. Second, unlike YHF and Wilco live, AGIB wasn't afraid of space, distance, and silence. There is much more breathing room in the studio recordings (if that makes sense to people). Pretty much all of the live versions are faster and more agressive (which should be expected with 6 musicans on stage). Many of the studio cuts seem gentle and pastoral (Muzzle of Bees comes to mind). I think the arrangements and the lyrics hold up, which to me means they work both in the studio and live versions. To me, one isn't necessarily better or worse, just different. There is a lot to appreciate with both versions.

 

I do have to disagree with your position concerning Muzzle of Bees. I think the studio version is perfect - but more so, the earlier performances seemed to me to be directionless and still works in progress. They felt a little meandering to me.

 

I love both YHF and AGIB, but my position is that YHF is the colder of the two in terms of studio incarnations.

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Thanks again for checking out the article/blog-site everyone. It was really interesting to hear your takes on AGIB and my re-imagined version. It seems like many of you know a lot more than I do about the recording process, that's for sure.

 

Again, I do like the album, but prefer many other versions of the songs more. What can you do.

 

The site is updated pretty regularly, always with mp3s you can download. There will be a few posts this week with lots of cool stuff that's been released so far in 2007. Come by and check it out if you want.

 

Can't wait til Sky Blue Sky!!!

 

Later,

James

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