DELIVERANCE - River Disturbance (Legends Remastered) Vinyl
The Ultimate River Disturbance
One of Deliverance’s most polarizing releases has yet again been resurrected – this time in both CD and vinyl (white) format as part of the Legends Remastered series! Originally released on Brainstorm back in 1994, many fans were a bit torn by the experimentation and stylistic changes on River Disturbance. Stay of Execution and Learn leaned progressive, but remained very heavy metal records and so fans stuck with Deliverance though those fantastic releases. However, River Disturbance moved beyond what many could tolerate, and poor distribution almost fated this recording to oblivion. Nevertheless, the songs weathered well over time, especially as Jimmy and friends moved deeply into the more “progressive” side of metal and heavy music. Times changed and listening preferences continued to move away from the vapid indulgences of the 80’s and the depressive grunge of the early 90’s. By the early 2000’s this kind of deep-thinking art and thoughtfully produced, more organic studio sound was making a comeback. As a result, the album was restored/resurrected by Retroactive Records back in 2008 on CD with new artwork and some bonus tracks. Since I have previously reviewed the 2008 reissue on CD, I am focusing here on the vinyl version.
From an aesthetic standpoint, I like the return to the original album picture, and appreciate the original Deliverance logo being centered at the top – never was a fan of the font change in that logo from the original ’94 release. And while the artwork on the 2008 reissue was stunning, it’s great to see a return to the original here. Also, Jon Maddux and Jon Knox, who both recorded on this album, have made the credits here and their photos appear this time on the back cover, along with Jimmy and Manny of course. There is a one sheet insert with pictures (see below) on one side and lyrics on the other. The disc color is not solid white on my copy as can be seen – some marbling is present (intentional or not) but it doesn’t otherwise alter the beauty of the disc. It makes sense to me that white was the chosen color for the record since this work of art is basically Jimmy’s “musical bride” if you will. [Note: the album jacket titles the sides "One" and "Two" but note the record is labeled "a" and "b"]
What about the sound? I think these songs sound amazing in this format. I personally feel that if an artist spends as much time writing and recording as Jimmy did with this release, then we, the listeners, should be able to enjoy that recording as it was intended to be heard. Vinyl and high-def digital are the only ways our ears can really hear those kinds of details and nuances. Standard-def CD audio and compressed digital files have failed to do this album justice for nearly a quarter of a century. So I am ecstatic to really “hear” this music for the first time. All I can say is that I love this album 25 years later and can really more fully appreciate what Jimmy (primarily), but also Gene and Terry were trying to accomplish in 1994.
The first 5 songs here have always carried the strength of this album. “Belltown” comes driving out of the speakers with this crushing, full wall of heavy sound. “After I Fell” has always been one of my favorite Deliverance tunes, both musically and lyrically, and so it is great to hear this song with its deep bass grooves and wonderful drumming. I wouldn’t swear to it, but the title track feels a bit slower on my turntable vs. the CD version – almost like you might hear with a live performance where the musicians are pulling back the tempo just slightly. “Now & Then” remains just the perfectly executed ballad – one which has always given a slight nod to Queensryche. Side One is rounded out with the bass heavy “Speed of Light” – that low-end monster bass really accentuated by the analog format. These 5 songs represent, in essence, the perfect “album side.”
“Wind is calling/Wind is calling you/Echoing voices parade in my head” – “Breathing Still”
But what about Side Two? I confess I’ve always struggled to fully embrace these songs as passionately as the opening salvo. Context is everything, though. When I first heard these songs I was finishing up my first year of residency in Internal Medicine – that year when you barely ever get much sleep or get to spend many days outside the walls of a hospital. Chalk it up to maturity (both biologically and spiritually) – and probably a more rested mind – but I have grown to appreciate these tunes. Jimmy was ahead of his time musically. And even if you don’t like hip-hop, the words of “A Little Sleep” speak much truth. Honestly, I used to think of “Map” as noise, and have since learned that there was in fact, a great deal of noise employed during the recording of this track! On the vinyl surface, the “wall of treble” noises are tempered by the bass so you can really hear every detail without the listener fatigue inherent to the digital version. For obvious reasons (life, love, work and marriage to name a few) “You Still Smile” carries a lot more meaning for me now than it did in 1994. While I’ve always appreciated the words in “Breathing Still,” this is a song that I didn’t connect with back in 1994, but I’ve since come to love. And all of these songs do, in fact, still breathe – more so than ever on vinyl.
2. After I Fell
3. River Disturbance
4. Now & Then
5. Speed Of Light
1. A Little Sleep
3. You Still Smile
4. Breathing Still