Demon Music Group has recently launched a new series of Half-Speed Master Editions, all cut from original stereo tapes at AIR Mastering and pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Today, we're looking at three of these titles.
Demon has had a long history with The Yardbirds' Roger the Engineer (1966) including a 1986 expanded edition on CD, a single-LP vinyl reissue in 2019, a double-LP vinyl reissue in 2020 for Record Store Day, and a generous 2-LP/3-CD/1-7" single box set in 2021. Appropriately enough, Roger has been selected as one of the first Half-Speed Master Editions. Since Jeff Beck's passing in early 2023 at the age of 78, his lone album with The Yardbirds gains even more poignancy.
Not only was Roger the Engineer Beck's lone album with The Yardbirds, it was the band's lone original U.K. studio LP. Originally released in Great Britain as, simply, Yardbirds and in international territories as Over Under Sideways Down, it became best-known as Roger the Engineer as a result of rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja's cover artwork. Beck played on every track, joining bandmates Dreja, Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, and bassist/co-producer Paul Samwell-Smith on the LP. (Bassist Michael "Mick" Fitzpatrick is also credited.) While the rock-and-roll-inspired single "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" and its flipside "Jeff's Boogie" were recorded in April 1966, the majority of Roger was cut at sessions held between May 31 and June 4, 1966 at Advision Studios. This period of sharp focus from the road-weary band resulted in an album that viscerally captured the band's musicianship and experimentation. All of the members contributed to the songs which, while based within the band's heavy blues sound, incorporated folk, Eastern, and psychedelic influences.
Samwell-Smith and Simon Napier-Bell (whom the band had brought in to replace manager Giorgio Gomelsky) helmed the sessions, with the titular Roger Cameron engineering. (Glyn Johns engineered the final session on June 14, 1966 at which time "I Can't Make Your Way" Was recorded.) In addition to "Over Under Sideways Down" and "Beck's Boogie," the album boasted such strong rock fusion fare as Beck's "The Nazz Are Blue" (the title of which would inspire Todd Rundgren and co. in naming their own band), Samwell-Smith and McCarty's "He's Always There," and the group-authored "Lost Women." The original U.S. version of the album used some alternate mixes and dropped both "The Nazz Are Blue" and "Rack My Mind;" the Half-Speed Master preserves the original U.K. track listing.
Roger the Engineer was mastered at Half-Speed by Phil Kinrade at AIR Studios using the original stereo master tapes, transferred on a Studer A820 tape machine, and cut by Cicely Balston. (Stereo was the band's preferred way to experience Roger; as Samwell-Smith states in the liner notes, "If you listen, there are lots of backing vocals on this album. Track on track has Jim and Keith and I, or just Jim and I, doing backing vocals and they sound so much better in stereo than they do in mono. My kind of space that I like to create when I'm producing definitely needs a stereo environment.") The notes inform readers that "the equipment at AIR Mastering uses balanced mains power for improved performance and lower noise and the digital equipment is locked to an extremely accurate digital clock to reduce jitter. The Neumann VMS80 lathes and cutting amplifiers used have been fully renovated and modified to enable half-speed mastering." Those background vocals, as well as the searing guitar and full, thick sound created by the band without aid of orchestration or additional instrumentation (save a piano and percussion found in the studio) is crisp and clear on the new master.
The Half-Speed Master Edition features a four-page color insert with Keith Relf biographer David French's 2021 liner notes. The LP (adorned with a U.K. Columbia-style label) is packaged within a protective poly sleeve, and the jacket has an OBI with information about the reissue.
Demon has also returned to the catalogue of British singer-songwriter Labi Siffre for a Half-Speed Master Edition of his third solo album, 1973's Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying. Demon has previously reissued Siffre's discography in standalone editions and in box set form, showcasing the full breadth of his deft fusion of R&B, folk, jazz, pop, and country. (It's no surprise that his songs have been recorded by artists ranging from Rod Stewart to Kenny Rogers, and sampled by Eminem.)
Siffre considered Crying, Loving, Laughing, Lying to be "the one where it all came together." He produced the album himself, employing full orchestration, and it yielded two charting singles in the United Kingdom as well as becoming his second charting. The title track, later recorded by Rod Stewart and Olivia Newton-John, barely missed top 10 of the U.K. Singles Chart when it placed at No. 11. "It Must Be Love" fared almost as well at No. 14, but did even better when the band Madness recorded it in 1981. Madness' rendition went to the top 5 in the U.K. and the top 40 in the U.S., proving the durability of the composition. Siffre gave eloquent voice on the LP to his beliefs about religion (the opening "Saved"), depression ("Cannock Chase"), and romance ("Fool Me a Goodnight"), making for the quintessential statement from a provocative and original voice.
The original album's gatefold jacket has been replicated on the new Half-Speed Master with OBI, and an insert is included which recreates the master tape boxes for Sides One and Two. The 180-gram vinyl LP is housed within a sleeve with lyrics printed on both sides. Phil Kinrade has again remastered at AIR, with Barry Grint cutting the vinyl. Kinrade remastered the 2015 edition of the album and has retained its tasteful sonics, befitting the often-delicate nature of the music.
British new wave outfit Haircut One Hundred is receiving a lot of love from Demon these days. Founded by singer-songwriter Nick Heyward on vocals and guitars and also featuring Marc Fox on percussion, Blair Cunningham on drums, Phil Smith on saxophones, Graham Jones on guitar, and Les Nemes on bass, Haircut blended jazz and funk into the New Wave ethos, incorporating sinuous sax and bold brass into the equation. The band was quickly greeted with success; they placed their first four singles onto the U.K. top ten, and "Love Plus One" crossed the Atlantic to make the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, too. Now, the album that spawned those hits - 1982's Pelican West, produced by Bob Sargeant - is arriving as a Half-Speed Master on Friday, February 24.
But that's not all. Demon/Edsel has also reissued the album as a deluxe 40th Anniversary 4-CD Celebration Edition. The 54-track box, released with the cooperation of the band members, features Phil Kinrade's remastered album plus B-sides, remixes, and rarities including the concert album 100% Live! Hammersmith Odeon Spring 1982 and the previously unreleased Junction Box: The Unfinished Tracks boasting eleven in-progress tracks intended for the never-released follow-up to Pelican West. (By the time the band got around to a second record, in 1984, Nick Heyward had departed the lineup.) A 4-LP, 38-track iteration of the box will also be released.
Packaging for the vinyl edition is similar to the Yardbirds release, with a four-page color insert and the vinyl in a black polysleeve. The insert features lyrics, credits, and photographs. Phil Kinrade and Barry Grint have mastered and cut the vinyl, respectively, for uniformly fine treatment of this glistening '80s pop gem.
You'll find all three Half Speed Master Editions available at the links below.
- Lost Women
- Over, Under, Sideways, Down
- The Nazz Are Blue
- I Can't Make Your Way
- Rack My Mind
- Hot House of Omagararshid
- Jeff's Boogie
- He's Always There
- Turn Into Earth
- What Do You Want
- Ever Since the World Began
- Cannock Chase
- Fool Me a Goodnight
- It Must Be Love
- Gimme Some More
- Blue Lady
- Love Oh Love Oh Love
- Crying Laughing Loving Lying
- Hotel Room Song
- My Song
- Till Forever
- Come On Michael
Haircut One Hundred, Pelican West (Arista HCC 100, 1982 - reissued Demon DEMREC1074, 2023)
- Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)
- Love Plus One
- Lemon Firebrigade
- Marine Boy
- Milk Film
- Kingsize (You're My Little Steam Whistle)
- Fantastic Day
- Baked Bean
- Snow Girl
- Love's Got Me in Triangles
- Surprise Me Again
- Calling Captain Autumn