The Rolling Stones Remastered SACD Sampler Arrives

As we noted a few weeks ago, the remastering work on the 22 Rolling Stones SACDs announced at the Home Entertainment 2002 show is complete and the discs are being pressed in preparation for sale on August 20th. (See prior stories here on High Fidelity Review for full details). According to ABKCO officials, the project is now known as “The Rolling Stones Remastered”.

In an effort to provide a “sneak preview” of these albums, ABKCO has sent a sampler of the project to members of the media.

Here’s a look at (and early listen to) the Rolling Stones Remastered SACD Sampler.

About The Sampler
Unlike most SACD releases to date, the Rolling Stones Remastered SACD Sampler comes in a “digipack” case. On the front of the sampler you find a black and white photo of the Stones taken from the album cover of “Out of Our Heads” while the back cover has a black and white photo of the group from the album cover of “Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) by the Rolling Stones”.

On the inside of the digipack the left hand side has a description of the Rolling Stones Remastered project while the right hand side has the disc holder. The disc holder is clear and underneath the plastic holder is a collage that features 20 of the album covers in the series. (Apparently there wasn’t room in this design to include the album cover from “Metamorphosis”). And then you see the words “The Rolling Stones” repeated in circular swirls until you get to the center of the holder where the word “REMASTERED” appears in large lettering. I’ve included a photo of the disc holder below.

The disc itself is a Hybrid Stereo SACD that has both a conventional Stereo CD layer with PCM Audio (created via the Sony/Philips SBM Direct process) and a Stereo SACD layer. This allows the sampler to be played on conventional CD players and on SACD players. The label on the disc has the same artwork as the cover of the digipack, namely the black and white photo from “Out of Our Heads” and the text “the ROLLING STONES” in red and “REMASTERED” in white.

What’s On The Sampler?
The Sampler has 21 cuts which includes a generous helping of Stones hits and album classics. All but two of the cuts (“Get Off of My Cloud” and “I’m Free”) are in stereo.

The album tracks are shown in white text while the album the track originated from is shown in red text. Here’s the sampler line-up:

1. It’s All Over Now
2. 2120 South Michigan Avenue
3. Get Off Of My Cloud (Mono Track)
4. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
5. Under My Thumb
6. I Am Waiting
7. Ruby Tuesday
8. Miss Amanda Jones
9. Paint It, Black
10. Dandelion
11. She’s A Rainbow
12. I’m Free (Mono Track)
13. Jiving Sister Fanny
14. Brown Sugar
15. You Got The Silver
16. Monkey Man
17. Jumping Jack Flash
18. Wild Horses
19. Factory Girl
20. Midnight Rambler (Live)
21. Honky Tonk Women

Taking The Sampler for A Spin
As you probably know by now, the Rolling Stones Remasters were the subject of an extensive hunt for the best masters.

According to the liner notes on the sampler: “Hundreds of hours were spent researching and more importantly, listening to the analog masters that exist in the vaults. It was a long and painstaking process, involving a quest on both sides of the Atlantic to find the best and purest sources of The Rolling Stones work.”

ABKCO stresses that the goal of the project was to preserve the original sound of these albums as heard at the recording sessions. The sampler liner notes say “When you hear these records, the “rawness” of the guitars, vocal sounds, and the natural distortion that resulted within the original sessions are now more evident than ever. We’re convinced that you need not be an audiophile to appreciate the brilliance afforded these tracks in both SACD and standard CD formats.”

By now, I’m sure you’re thinking OK, how does it sound? Since we have both the CD layer and the SACD layer on this album it was easy to switch back and forth and compare the sound from each format. The conventional CD layer is well done and features good clarity and stereo separation while preserving the rock sound of these tracks.

But the real magic happens on the SACD layer. With a good SACD player, you’ll hear more instrumental definition, crisp stereo imaging, and in some cases “air” around some of the instruments and vocals. I think the remastering crew also succeeded in their goal of preserving the “rawness” of the sessions.

Ruby Tuesday is a treat with Jagger’s vocal front and center and the backing piano, drums, guitar and flute arrayed across the Stereo soundfield. She’s A Rainbow combines good definition of the piano, strings, violins, guitars and drums, crisp stereo imaging with a rocking beat from the dynamic range apparent on the SACD track. Brown Sugar is a treat through headphones with the saxophone playing on the right channel, the slightly distorted guitar on the left channel and drums and lead vocals appearing in the center. Wild Horses is perhaps the best sounding cut on the sampler offering detailed and well recorded guitars appearing on both right and left channels at the start of the track.

ABKCO Has A Winner Here
These classic Rolling Stones cuts clearly have benefitted from the extensive remastering work that ABKCO Records has invested in them and in the clarity that the SACD format brings to this material.

If the tracks on the Stones Remastered SACD Sampler are any indication, the 22 Rolling Stones albums due out in August will be a hot item for rock fans, SACD fans and certainly Rolling Stones fans. Very enjoyable and definitely recommended !