Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Album Review: The Replacements - Tim (Let It Bleed Edition)

The Replacements
Tim (Let It Bleed Edition)
***** out of *****

Anytime a beloved album gets a remix/remaster/even re-recording there is a sense of a money grab to it, and fans will usually unanimously agree the original was better. While that might be the case for most re-releases, Tim (Let It Bleed Edition), from the indie rock icons The Replacements is the exception to the rule as the album's new mixes, remasters, live show and outtakes are a treasure trove to fans and will open up new ears that the original album may have skipped right by; this is what a special edition re-release should be.  

Always a cult-ish Midwestern outfit, The Replacements didn't help themselves by delivering sloppy live shows and lo-fi production, even to their main stream albums and Tim was the biggest offender on that front; muddied and muddled it never went to the next level on the back of Let It Be like it should have. The clear focal point of this Let It Bleed Edition is the new mix from the legendary Ed Stasium (The Ramones, Talking Heads) which brings out new sounds, cleans up the production, and makes the record sound vividly alive, and better than the original. 

From the opening notes of "Hold My Life" the distinction between Stasium's mix and the original is blatantly obvious, all the instruments have space, but don't lose their bite. Drums and cymbals sound much crisper, bass is textured and gone is the dark, muddy, overall sound; it is pretty amazing to hear songs from the Stasium remix right after the originals. The remix adds new layers to songs bringing out instrumentation that was buried, a guitar solo from Bob Stinson shows up miraculously in an elongated "Little Mascara". 

The power in "Dose of Thunder" and The Heartbreakers inspired punk rock of "Lay It Down Clown" is booming out of speakers as is the ripping vocals and riffs on "Bastards of Young", but just as effecting is the softer numbers like "Swinging Party" and the stark "Here Comes A Regular". Both are super evocative in their remixed state, gaining even more nuance and feeling. The whole record should be re-examined as this version of Tim puts it the conversation of the best record The Replacements have ever released.     

If this new mix was the only thing released it would still get high marks, however the Let It Bleed Edition has three other disks. The original Tim is remastered here as disk two and while it is nice to have, the new mix still towers over it. Disk 3 showcases outtakes and alternate versions, opening up Paul Westerberg's writing process a bit and also importantly includes early versions of "Can't Hardly Wait" which Westerberg hoped to get on Tim. The final disk is a live show from the Cabaret Metro, recorded in 1986. This recording isn't soundboard perfection, but with The Replacements that was never the point, it was the experience, and on that front it delivers.

There will always be debates about re-masters and if fans should stick with the original, or embrace new sounds. One remix that RtBE always liked better than the original was the Iggy Pop version of The Stooges Raw Power, it is the only version we now listen to, but RtBE also didn't grow up with the original. 

As someone who has always appreciated The Replacements with a bit of distance, there is no question, this is the version of Tim we will now go back to and discard the original, but long time fans may like the lo-fi murkiness the band delivered back in 1985 and that is OK, just let it be and while your at it, let it bleed. 
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