Dusty shadow of a passing favour
Last weekend, I sat down and listened to my vinyl copy of As The Lights Go Down. Without pretense and drama, I’ll just say that I really enjoyed it.
I can’t pretend that I’m an expert with regard to mastering or sound engineering, or any of that. I’m just a listener, period. While I’ve always been interested in the technical side of album production, I really don’t know a lot about it. I just know what I enjoy, and that’s what I’m going to share.
From the conversations I’ve seen on both Twitter and Facebook, there seems to be some confusion about what and where this album is from. Is it the same as Arena? What about the video/dvd/broadcast As The Lights Go Down? Are they all the same? How about the digital version of ATLGD – is it the same as the vinyl?
The answers are no, sort of, and yes. Let me try and sort this out for those who are confused (I was one of them). I’m going to be very, very clear here: in order to try and decipher all of this, I had to research online and take notes. I didn’t automatically “know” any of this. Thank goodness for the internet today. There’s no way I could have kept it all straight otherwise. I missed out on the special “gift” of being that detail oriented!
Arena – the vinyl/CD/etc is a live album that was “recorded around the world” in 1984 that also included the studio recording of “Wild Boys”. I’m pretty sure at least most of us are familiar, right? The complaints about Arena range from the audience sounds being muted to the sound being rather flat. It’s “live”….but not really. Clearly somebody tinkered with the sound, and probably because it was needed, but I really don’t know. Like I said, I’m no expert. Owning Arena was the most exciting thing to happen to me in 1984. I hadn’t ever seen the band live at that point, and listening to that album, at the time,””
Arena (An Absurd Notion)
Arena also has a slightly more exciting, and possibly evil conjoined twin named Arena (An Absurd Notion). This is a concert film…but as a twist, there’s also a plot! This was filmed in Oakland, California in 1984. The film was released on videotape and broadcast on MTV. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend finding a copy. It’s pretty wild and makes for a great party/drinking game if you’re so inclined.
As the Lights Go Down (film)
Then there’s the film version of As The Lights Go Down. Essentially, this is similar to Arena (An Absurd Notion), but with all of the plot elements cut. However, even the live footage is edited differently in spots so it doesn’t seem like it’s exactly the same thing as Arena. So, it’s basically a concert video that is about an hour in length. This too was broadcast – first on Cinemax and later on MTV. I’m reading that there are at least two versions of this film that exist (but I really don’t know the differences). If you have a DVD of this film that you found on an auction site – or something that is a “stand-alone” copy, chances are, if you had it prior to 2010, you own a bootlegged copy. That year, there was an official, bonus disc of it included in the special re-issue of Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
As the Lights Go Down – Digital
So that leaves the digital version, found on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, etc. Is it the same as the vinyl released for Record Store Day? Yes, but it is mp3 because it is digital, and was released in 2010. I’ll let your own ears decide if it’s the same.
As the Lights Go Down – RSD vinyl 2019
So what about this vinyl, then? Again, I’m no audiophile. I don’t have the same expectations as someone who is a DJ, or works in the industry. I’m your average listener. I put the needle on the record, and sat down with a glass of wine. While I would say that there still isn’t a lot of difference between the lows and highs (the dynamic ranges), I definitely hear a difference between the vinyl and the mp3 – although it is subtle. Unless you’re listening with quality headphones, it is likely most wouldn’t notice. If you want to compare this album to say, Arena – the differences are night and day in many respects. What I enjoyed most about this album though, was that I could hear many notes, arpeggios, and loops that I couldn’t quite discern before. I loved hearing all of those extra layers that felt very compressed before. Again, I’m not an expert – I just know what I like. It sounds great, and I’m not sorry I bought it.
I know others were disappointed by the track order, but this is where my lack of attention to detail wins every time. It didn’t even occur to me to notice! I just enjoyed each track for what it provided, and didn’t expend a lot of brain waves thinking about why. Taking a trip back through 1984 without being forced to relive my frizzy hair, awkward body, and drama-filled school days worked for me. Listening to the songs I fell in love with at 12 and 13, with my 48-year old ears still fairly intact gave me a chance to fully appreciate the relationship I still have with this band. (however one-sided it may be!)
Overall, I believe many fans truly expect perfection in every single way, 100% of the time. I’m not sure if I reside in that group. I know that at one time, I probably did – but at this moment in my life, I’m willing to give grace and forgive an awful lot just to have a bit of joy. This album delivered, and that’s more than enough for me, in my mostly non-expert, “just a listener”, opinion.