Sunday, April 04, 2010

PREVIEW: Elliott Smith :: Roman Candle vinyl reissues

Kill Rock Stars is reissuing Elliott Smith's first and last albums on vinyl on April 6th. A remastered version of Roman Candle comes to vinyl for the first time in the U.S. in addition to a reissue of From a Basement on the Hill.

Elliott Smith borrowed a guitar and a four track from a friend and recorded the eight most recent songs that he had written. Most of the recordings are just Elliott and a guitar, sketches at his most primal without revision, before he had a major label to think about writing songs for. Most of the songs didn't even have names. His girlfriend convinced him to send a copy to "Cavity Search Records" and the owner released the recordings just as they were and called it Roman Candle. It had quite a profound effect on Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon, who said that he has "never heard music as heartwrenchingly, gut-checkingly honest, intimate and wise - before or since."

The remastering was done by Larry Crane, owner of Jackpot! Studios and an Elliott Smith archivist. He of course received message board heat from crazed fans. Larry explains that the remastering process was minimal, "I felt that a lot of the guitar “squeaks” were jarring and very loud, and that many of the hard consonants and “S” sounds were jarring and scratchy sounding. I felt by reducing these noises that the music would become more inviting and the sound would serve the songs better. When I went to Roger Seibel's SAE Mastering, he proceeded to equalize the tracks a small amount and to make the volume slightly louder. We never tried to make this CD as loud as current, over-limited trends, but just to match the volume of the rest of Elliott’s KRS catalog in a graceful way. Please note that none of this album is “remixed” from the master tapes - it is still composed of the mixes Elliott created himself.” The smoothness of the new tracks is immediately audible, as even the white noise on the tracks is more crisp and clear.

I always liked the album, because it's more eerie than depressing. Elliott's voice is unlike any of his other recordings. And it seems to tell a coherent story throughout of what I can only assume is about Elliott's family, which never really appears in his other songs. For some reason, 'Last Call' has become a fan favorite, so they're offering it as a free download. It actually happens to be my least favorite on the album, compared with startling bio-songs like 'Drive All Over Town' and 'No Name #4.' Kill Rock Stars is also offering an unreleased track 'Cecelia/Amanda' for download and I've included both above, in addition to 'Twilight' from From a Basement on the Hill.

Unfortunately, the 180 gram LP version of Roman Candle is out of stock from Kill Rock Stars, but you can find it on here at for a few bucks more.

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