Janus – Gravedigger (Remaster / Remix)

Janus - Gravedigger

I’m not too crazy about re-masters, re-mixes, anniversary editions, box sets, BBC Sessions etc and it seems that everyone has been doning it since the Elvis gold box sets of the seventies came out followed by Spingsteen in the eighties and then in the nineties when Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin turned it into an epidemic.I see it only as a way to milk, re-hash and scrape a product over the coals for the almighty $.

I’ll have to admit, paradoxically, that I was probably one of the first owners of the King Crimson and Gentle Giant CD box sets that started appearing in the late nineties for the very reason that I am sick for the progressive bands of the glorious seventies. But for the most part I am happy with my vinyl originals of which I prudently bought multiple copies back when they were on the wane and plentiful. I originally pulled my copy of Janus’ legendary Gravedigger LP out of a second hand shop in Montréal for $2.50 in 1977 on a whim. Even by that time Janus was in the ” where are they now?” file but thanks to the internet this unusual album has acquired a mystique being bootlegged over and over both on CD and vinyl and fetching ridiculous prices on collector sites and eBay without anyone even being aware that the band continued on in one incarnation or another between 1989 and 2005!

It seemed that the Gravedigger album was destined to become the band’s epitaph until original members Colin Orr and Bruno Lord discovered recently that EMI ( Germany ) still had most of the master tapes in their possession after tearing up Janus’ contract 40 years ago amidst dodgy Spinal Tap-like events. Truth be told, that through all the blur they discovered that the final product, engineered by technicians used to recording classical music, wasn’t to their satisfaction and not representative of the way they really sounded. But, as a young band were more than happy to get a record out none the less. Unfortunately the engineering flaws would haunt them for 4 decades.

After reconciling with EMI a definite remaster and a complete remixing of the album took place in the summer of 2012 with two tracks ( I Wanna Scream & Suma Manatilly ) being completely re-recorded because the original masters could not be located. For this guitarist Colin Orr used the his original 1962 Gibson SG Junior in order to re-create the tracks how they should have sounded back in 1972 and substituting modern back-up harmony vocals on Suma manatilly courtesy of his two daughters Rikki and Thea along with Ben Stafford.

I was knocked over when I first heard the re-mix. Not only do the heavier tracks have a sharper more mertallic edge but everything has been brought up front right in your face. The 21 minute showpiece doesn’t seem plod along as much even though the tempo remains unchanged. The whole album sounds like it has been put under a sonic magnifying glass and to tell the truth, I don’t think that I’ll ever listen to my vinyl LP edition after hearing this state-of-the-art rework. Also Included are two tracks from the one and only Janus single from 1972, I’m Moving On / I Don’t Believe in remastered form making this a definite Gravedigger edition. Everything here ( with the exception of the two re-makes ) is taken from 1972. This certainly makes the deleted 1992 SPM-WWR Gravedigger CD release redundant and excludes it’s bonus tracks which were recorded in 1990 and had nothing to do with the 1972 EMI sessions.

Despite my disdain for this sort of package I thought it was a good idea to include a remaster of the original album for comparative purposes or just in case for some weird reason the remix is not to the satisfaction to fanatical analog purists. Also, of course, for fans of the resurgence of progressive rock in many parts of the world. The only nit I would have about this superb project is directed at EMI and not to Janus mastermind Colin Orr who oversaw this brilliant effort. I think EMI could have done a bit more with the iconic artwork. The 1972 image of the skeleton in the top hat crawling through the sand seems to say ” I’ll be back someday, but bye for now folks”.I think some sort of a tongue-in-cheek play-up would have have been cool.

Otherwise a stellar effort in setting the record straight on an unusual classic work of progressive rock from the glorious seventies 40 years after the fact! Pristine job here.

Tracklist:

CD 1 (Remaster)
1. Red Sun
2. Bubbles
3. Watcha Trying To Do?
4. I Wanna Scream
5. Gravedigger
5. I’m Moving On (Rare Single A side)*
6. I Don’t Believe You (Rare Single B side)*

CD 2 (Remix)
1. Red Sun
2. Bubbles
3. Watch Trying To Do?
4. I Wanna Scream
5. Suma Manatilly ( Previously Unreleased )*
6. Sinful Sally ( Previously Unreleased )*
7. Gravedigger

Line-up:

* Bruno Lord – lead vocals
* Derek Hyatt – lead vocals
* Colin Orr – guitars, keyboards
* Roy Yates – guitar
* Mick Peberdy – bass guitar, backing vocals
* Keith Bonthrone – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Guest Musicians:
* Thea Hanson-Orr – backing vocals on “Suma Manatilly”
* Rikki Hanson-Orr – backing vocals on “Suma Manatilly
* Ben Stafford – backing vocals on “Suma Manatilly”
* Hans Jurgen Fritz “Porky” (from TRIUMVIRAT) – keyboards on “Sinful Sally”
* Horst Dieter Krohn – string arrangements on “Gravedigger”

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