Album Review: Roger Waters – ‘Amused To Death’

Another year, another Roger Waters classic Amused To Death any different from the raft of other disappointing remastered albums?

When I found out that Roger Waters’ classic 1992 album Amused To Death was to get the full sound remaster (and extra disc Blu-Ray 5.1 flourish), I was sceptical. So many times, the promise of a full clean up and “remaster” completely fails, ruins all expectations and ends up more as a cash ripoff than anything else. The fact that Amused To Death is no ordinary album and is crammed full of samples, instruments, depth and power also had me wondering “How can the original album be improved? What more can they squeeze out of what was recorded? Is this going to end up like a George Lucas directors cut full of unnecessary content?”. Well, after listening to the CD version three times and the Blu-Ray 5.1 mix twice, I am very happy to report that not only is this a respectful and incredible remaster, it also improves on the original.

Firstly (and obviously), the lyrical content remains exactly the same. The subjects Waters deals with here range from the futility of war, the evangelism of religion, humanity’s purpose in this universe and its many faults and failings whilst touching on very real emotions of death, power, arrogance and technology. The overall theme, revolving around a monkey flicking channels on a TV set, holds the album together extremely well as its rich music flows over your being and the poetic words bury themselves in your head; this is definitely Waters’ finest solo effort and, for me, even better than anything Pink Floyd released after he left the band.

Secondly (and not so obviously because Ozzy Osbourne used different musicians to remaster some of his solo work), the talent gathered around Waters remains exactly the same. Jeff Beck, Patrick Leonard, Steve Lukather, Andy Fairweather Low, PP Arnold, Michael Kamen and Don Henley are just some of the incredible musicians on Amused To Death. Jeff Beck’s divine guitar work is a marvel in itself, but here it is out of this world managing to be grungy and heavy as well as beautiful and soaring. The National Philharmonic Orchestra, The London Welsh Chorale, choir arrangements and strings all make an appearance as well… Waters really went to town for this, his third solo album! And then of course there are the many samples and other vocals sprinkled throughout: explosions, animals, missiles, televisions, films, NBA sportscaster commentary, TV evangelist, screaming kids… even Stan Laurel makes an appearance!

Thirdly, the songs themselves are just as outstanding, and relevant, 23 years later.  Beginning with a heart-breaking sample of World War I veteran Alfred Razzell accounting his story of finding fellow soldier Bill Hubbard wounded on the battlefield (and ending with it), before thrusting us into a mean biting track in What God Wants part 1 and then bringing us crashing back to earth with a piano led track in Perfect Sense part 1…a real rush of tracks to begin the album with. The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range thunders along, Late Home Tonight part 2 swells with orchestra and painful vocals, It’s A Miracle injects some wry humour into the mix and title track Amused To Death is a sorrowful rock song begging us to look at our species before its too late. An album to dip in and out of this really isn’t…absorb in its entirety in a single sitting and make you think is its purpose to which it absolutely succeeds.

And so finally, we come to the remaster itself. I know the original album like the back of my mind (it’s a firm favourite). So when I heard the remaster it was like hearing it for the first time. Overall, the entire album is crisper, deeper and fresher. All the samples and sound effects have been invigorated but not at the expense of the instruments which have been lifted to another level. Any strings, orchestra and choir work used are even more powerful while female background singers shine and fly. Guitar is clearer, drums pack more of a punch, the bass pounds away in the background and front and centre, Waters distinct vocals lead the whole thing onwards with gravitas and strength. There are additions and genuine changes. There is now a sample from 2001 in Perfect Sense part 1 (which just blows the mind), the guitar work in The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range is totally different, the orchestra in What God Wants part 3 is now very much the meat of the song (especially in the 5.1 mix), you can actually now hear Don Henley’s vocals in Watching TV and extra snippets of spoken word litter the entire album.

And so, are there any issues? Nope. There really isn’t. This is how you remaster an album whilst keeping the essence and structure intact. This is how you turn a 23 year old album into something that could have been recorded yesterday or even in 20 years from now. This is the perfect example of lyrical significance, musical integrity and theme relevance from one of the true greats of music… Outstanding!

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