Acoustic Sounds

Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane

Rough Mix



Label: Polydor

Produced By: Glyn Johns

Engineered By: Glyn Johns

Mixed By: Jon Astley

Mastered By: Jon Astley

Lacquers Cut By: 1/2 speed cut by Miles Showell

By: Michael Fremer

July 11th, 2023


Rock Acoustic



"Rough Mix" Should Be Renamed "Crap Mix"!

Jon Astley assisted Glyn Johns on the exceptional sounding original production and decides 46 years later to ruin it!

Where to start here? They still can't spell the late Doug Sax's name correctly so let's start there. It's not "Sachs". They made a mistach on the original, understood. If they repeated it to preserve the jacket's "authenticity", then why add the additional credits? But more to the point, why take a wonderful, magical recording, with depth, space, transparency, transient purity, shimmer, delicacy, three-dimensionality and the sense that you are right there at Olympic Studios while Pete, Ronnie, Charlie Watts, Gallagher and Lyle, Eric Clapton and the others produce musical magic—arguably the first "unplugged" record—and turn it into a flat, compressed, bass-shy, mid bass heavy, bloated piece of dry boombox-like sonic shit?

Come to think of it, why insult shit? All the space is gone, the bass is gone, the transparency is gone, the transient purity is gone! It's all midrange cloud. On "April Fool" on the original Clapton's Dobro has a delicacy and transient purity that thrills every play. He taps his foot and it's as if he's doing it in your room. On the reissue it's thick and blunt and the tap is "so what"?

The shimmer to the guitars, the air and space in the room and all of the other qualities that make you believe you are "there" are gone! In their place is a shitty sounding artificial, mediocre undistinguished recording.

Yes, Jon Astley gives it a new "spin" so if you are well-familiar with this classic, you'll hear it in a different way, and some instruments and vocal parts will deliver a new perspective, but for what purpose? The original Glyn Johns recording was near-perfect. It's a stand the hairs up on your arms perfect. It's they are right there in my room perfect. Now it's "wow I have a transistor radio in my room" kind of terrible.

Play it softly and you'll be bored. Turn it up and your ears will bleed. The amazing part of this is that Jon Astley, who is responsible for this crap of a remaster, was the assistant engineer on the original, not to mention Pete Townshend's ex-brother in law! He's not credited for a remix, just "mastered by" at Close to the Edge. I won't make the obvious joke. But surely this is a remix. If not it's been so heavily compressed and re-eq'd as to be unrecognizable.

The original's meaning is gone. The grandeur of the "stops time" original has been turned into an "it passes you by and who cares" trifle.The finale, "Till the Rivers All Run Dry" is Townshend's tribute to his spiritual guru at the time, Meher Baba. It was his favorite song. The original gets me weepy every play. Johns' miking of Townshend's voice is absolutely spectacular, intimate and "right there". The kick drum is solid, powerful and timbrally "right there". Each hit is an event. When it fades out, you're left in a state of suspended animation. Here? It's a big nothing.

Maybe Pete likes this? I couldn't care less. It's garbage.

Worse, Jon Astey's father and Pete's ex father-in-law Edwin Astley did the spectacular string orchestration on "Street in the City". The strings on the original sound real. They have weight and texture, growl and rosin. Here they sound real as well: real harsh, real fake, real unpleasant.

I'll give Miles Showell a pass here. He was given a bum file and he cut it 1/2 speed, but honestly I had a pretty well known writer over the other week and he wanted to hear what I was complaining about when I wrote about Miles's 1/2 speed mastered cut of Paul McCartney's self produced and engineered first solo album. Miles had the tape! But digitized it to cut 1/2 speed. It took a minute for this writer to hear that the original was "Woah! Paul sounds right there!" And the 1/2 speed master was coarse and snooze inducing.

Gloves off, I'm just tired of this and I don't care who I offend. This offends me. Instead of spending $39 for this mierda, get yourself an original MCA cut by Doug "Sachs", or better yet get the U.K. Polydor cut by Doug "Sachs", the only difference being plating and pressing but what a big difference! Or get the Classic Records reissue cut by Burnie Gruntmon. That's the one with the unpeelable "Last" sticker on the back because they borrowed my original to scan and no one noticed the sticker! That's about the only bit of levity here. I should add that the GZ Media pressing is outstanding.

I am truly offended by this reissue and $39? Can Glyn Johns possibly not be? His original is a sonic work of art.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: 4868196

Pressing Plant: GZ Media


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: digital file

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-07-12 10:59:23 AM

    Mr. Audio wrote:

    I'm really glad I didn't buy this version. I have all (3) of the ones mentioned above and was going to add this one.

    Thanks for saving me the money!

  • 2023-07-12 11:30:10 AM

    David wrote:

    As soon as I saw Jon “Ghastly”, I knew what was coming. Ruins everything he touches. His CD remasters all sound harsh, grating and strident.

  • 2023-07-12 12:12:21 PM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    What a shame for Astley to ruin such a charming album. One of our old favorites. Our original copy is worn, must pick up another. It won't be this release!

  • 2023-07-12 12:17:05 PM

    palasr wrote:

    I don't know about giving Miles Showell a pass. The 1/2 speed of "Blind Faith" is egregiously bad in much the same way described here. I've never been a huge 1/2 speed mastering fan, but I steer well clear of these Abbey Road reissues.

    • 2023-07-17 03:11:21 AM

      oldlistener2222 wrote:

      Amen brother !

  • 2023-07-12 03:28:19 PM

    Bill Houston wrote:

    As soon as I see that Abbey Road hype sticker on front of any album jacket I know that is not the version I will be buying. It might as well be a toxic waste sticker.

    • 2023-07-12 03:42:34 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      i like the abbey road half-speed 45 of japan's 'tin drum' (not that i have a UK original to compare, but it's still very good), and the reggae albums in the serge gainsbourg half-speed box turned out better than the originals imo. that said, the half-speed 'histoire de melody nelson' really sucks compared to the old french phillips pressing (in part due to a bad digital transfer) and the eno reissues were lackluster compared to UK originals. so i don't avoid abbey road half-speeds like the plague but i usually wait for other opinions before buying. some work really well, some really don't.

      • 2023-07-13 11:35:06 AM

        Max Bisgrove wrote:

        I have 2 UK originals. Both sound stunning so no need to hear a digi version although would be curious to compare.

      • 2023-07-13 07:18:18 PM

        Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

        The Bowie's and Marley's are pretty good too.. That said the Tuff Gong versions of Marley's catalog are awesome too! I need more time with them all, but I bought 8 of the Bowie re-ishes and 4 of the Abbey Road Marley's and 2 of the Tuff Gongs. I am loving them all... perhaps that will change over time, but like the Zepplin Physical Graffiti and 3, it's wholesale improvements with remasters, imo.

        • 2023-07-13 07:20:04 PM

          Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

          and yes the QRP reishes of Rastaman and Exodus are worth the hype! Love them...

        • 2023-07-14 04:00:00 PM

          Malachi Lui wrote:

          the bowie reissues were done at air, not abbey road, and only the recent 'ziggy' and 'aladdin sane' are half-speed... but agreed that some half-speeds can be good (haven't heard the bowie ones).

  • 2023-07-12 04:12:09 PM

    Come on wrote:

    All Abbey Road half speed masterings I compared with either an original or another serious AAA remastering sounded worse.

    I hope Labels and studios realize that no one wants a digitized analog recording on vinyl (for good reason).

  • 2023-07-12 06:54:51 PM

    tim davis wrote:

    Thanks so much Mikey! I'll stick with my US pressing I scored in a 1 dollar bin several years ago.

  • 2023-07-12 09:36:07 PM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    "Why insult sh*t?" often, so appropriate. I bought this record as a teen not knowing anyone involved other than Townsend and Clapton. No clue about Faces and Ronnie's deal. Played it about a dozen times on my non-revealing system of the day, and it slipped onto my shelf to sit...for decades. Until recently when I spun it on a somewhat improved system, and I was awestruck at everything about it, especially the sonics. I'll never understand the logic of these cr@p remasters. Who on earth is interested in this title, other than a hardcore analog person? Honestly these days, for the most part, if Kevin Gray's name isn't on it, I'm not interested.

  • 2023-07-13 06:22:39 AM

    Rob Clarke wrote:

    OK so I bought a copy of the half speed remaster of this having not had a copy of it on vinyl and having only listened to it on my phone with headphones. I listened to it before reading this review and I thought it sounded really great and that they had done a great job. Having read the review I have ordered a UK first press in nm condition so I will look forward to comparing. I must say I am sceptical it can sound much better because I really think the half speed remaster sounds perfect.

    • 2023-07-13 09:18:09 AM

      Silk Dome Mid wrote:

      Please do let us know what you think after listening to it on something other than your phone. I guess I'm ignorant about the tech involved, but I'd also like to know how you listen to vinyl on your phone.

      • 2023-07-21 11:53:15 AM

        Rob Clarke wrote:

        I have received the original UK copy I ordered and I have now listened to both the half speed remaster and an original UK copy. I do agree that there is more presence and realism to the original UK one. I don't think the new pressing is bad, indeed I thought it sounded great before I had heard the original UK. However having heard both it is clearly the original one I will be listening to. Its a great album that I have only recently become acquainted with but it has become one of my favourites.

    • 2023-07-13 11:15:20 AM

      Anton wrote:

      Maybe if Mike had used a higher quality front end?

      • 2023-07-13 12:17:14 PM

        Silk Dome Mid wrote:

        Heh heh heh...

    • 2023-07-14 04:28:05 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      You are in for a really shocking treat I think. Just don't listen to the record on your phone! lol

  • 2023-07-13 06:59:40 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Yeah, Pete's voice on Rivers is magical! Phew. I have Empty Glass and Rough Mix early pressings and while I wish these were great, I'm relieved. Thank you Michael for your transparency and brutal honesty, when and where it fits. With the Tom Waits reissues hitting in September and October, I was loathing to read any one's review, except this... lol. (The initial sampling of the TW remastered digital files do seem to be an consistent improvement sonically. Better timbres, more realized depth and width, with more corporeal images and guts. Here's hoping the pressings ROCK.... err, flop around like drunk hobos? lol.. Can't wait!)

  • 2023-07-13 07:59:29 PM

    Jim Shue wrote:

    Most of the Abbey Road remasters suck. 9 times out of 10 the OG pressing blows them away. So far the only surprise has been the Roxy Music remasters - not bad at all!

    • 2023-07-14 04:28:57 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I agree! The Roxys aren't bad. I need to review the lot. I'll do it as a video...

    • 2023-07-16 12:43:48 PM

      doak wrote:

      Yep > Won't be Fooled Again !

  • 2023-07-15 01:11:35 AM

    Fred Morris wrote:

    Quite a different view over at the former endeavor . . . .

  • 2023-07-17 01:57:04 PM

    Kenneth Kirkpatrick wrote:

    Don't hold back Michael! HAHA Love it! Yea this is one of my all time favorite lp's. As soon as I see the cover I think freshman in college and no one had heard this record, and they all grew to love it. My original still plays like new, and sonically as my system got better that lp always had more to offer. Street in the City... I can hear it in my head. Sorry they screwed the pooch on the reissue. I hope everyone can find a nice original MCA, which is what I own and cherish. Ken

  • 2023-07-17 05:01:52 PM

    Robert DuPont wrote:

    Did you see That your former employer wrote a positive review of the same record??? In fact AP gave glowing reviews of the Tommy and Sell Out 1/2 speeds... did you get around to those ?? Have a good day

  • 2023-07-28 06:52:52 PM

    Mark Block wrote:

    My original LP from the early or mid '80s is a Polydor Mid Price European Pressing, 2482 488, with an inner sleeve that says, "MADE IN ENGLAND." It's not the fancy gatefold original, but I always thought it sounded good. The new "crap mix" release sounds quite nice to me in many ways, although the strings on "Street in the City" are a bit bright. In general, I like the vocals better on the new one, especially on "Till the Rivers Run Dry." I also like that the new release has a wider soundstage, with ambience/reverb extending beyond the outside of the speakers. Am I crazy? Do my ears suck? (Probably.)

    In any case, I ripped a couple of tracks from my UK pressing and from the new remaster. I'll post them for download. I normalized each track, but it seems there was a little limiting employed on the new master, so with the peaks normalized, which I did when rendering at 24/192, the new tracks sound about 2dB louder. However, the new album does not seem compressed. If there's compression, it's pretty gentle. (I looked at the waveforms with Audacity.) I'd be interested in feedback, even if negative.