Warner Bros. Announces "Remasters" Series

Audiophiles have complained since the earliest days of the compact disc that music reissued in the digital format often doesn't sound as good as it does on the original LPs. For nearly 20 years, such complaints have been dismissed by ordinary music lovers and by music-industry executives as the rantings of purists, but at least one major label is now admitting that many early CDs were not very good.

In mid-July, Warner Bros. Records, Inc. announced the launch of a massive reissue campaign—this time, with careful attention paid to the transfer from master tape to final CD. "I think it's fair to say a lot of this was done in haste way back when. . . . the CDs that were released in the mid- to late '80s, which sounded wonderful at that time, no longer sound as wonderful as they might be," says Warner Bros. VP of artists and repertoire Gregg Geller, who is supervising a massive reissue project that will eventually result in hundreds of re-worked titles displacing their less-than-perfect predecessors. "The advances in mastering technology have advanced to such a degree that we can simply do a far better job today than we could then," he explains.

Geller's company will debut its Warner Remasters series in late September with titles from Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, and Rod Stewart. Priced at $11.98 each, Remasters will come with all the artwork and liner notes of the original LPs, much of which was deleted from the first generation of CDs in the rush to bring them to market. The first 20 discs in the series will contain only the original tracks in their original order, without bonus tracks or alternate takes, according to Geller. "I'm pretty strongly of the belief that these records were conscientiously and consciously made how they were for a reason, and you tamper with that at some risk," he says.

Warner Remasters will appear in music stores at quarterly intervals, according to company executives, who would not divulge the artists to be included in the second round, which should arrive at stores around the winter holidays. Some future releases may contain extra material "in keeping with the spirit of the original," they mentioned.