Universal Music Group: Please Release Steely Dan’s Early Albums in 5.1
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Between 2002 and 2006, Steely Dan’s final three studio albums (1980’s Gaucho, 2000’s Two Against Nature, and 2003’s Everything Must Go) and Donald Fagen’s first three solo albums (1982’s The Nightfly, 1993’s Kamakiriad, and 2006’s Morph the Cat) were released on SACD and/or DVD-Audio featuring 5.1 mixes by Grammy-winning engineer and producer Elliot Scheiner. Those discs are revered by audiophiles, surround enthusiasts, critics, and fans, and they are widely regarded as the gold standard for surround mixing.
In early 2004, Steely Dan’s first six albums (1972’s Can’t Buy a Thrill, 1973’s Countdown to Ecstacy, 1974’s Pretzel Logic, 1975’s Katy Lied, 1976’s The Royal Scam, and 1977’s Aja) were advertised as “coming soon” multichannel (5.1) releases on the SACD page of Universal Music’s website. Unfortunately the release of those six titles was twice postponed before all mention of them subsequently disappeared from the site. UMG shuttered its SACD and DVD-A program early in 2005, ending any hope for the release of these mixes. Over the years, Mr. Scheiner has said in published interviews that a 5.1 mix for Pretzel Logic, at least, had been completed.
While surround music may never have become the mass-market blockbuster that the major labels had hoped for, the last decade has seen an ever-strengthening niche market for the format. Not only have a handful of independent labels proven the viability of both newly-commissioned 5.1 mixes (like Panegyric’s popular King Crimson, Yes and XTC reissues) and vintage quadraphonic reissues (Audio Fidelity, Analogue Productions and Dutton-Vocalion have all successfully mined the majors’ vaults), major labels have also gotten in on the act. From the highly-acclaimed (and ongoing) series of Jethro Tull 5.1 reissues on Chrysalis, to a bevy of “Super Deluxe” single-title sets boasting the inclusion of surround mixes, to the Chicago Quadio box set (which saw a second pressing due to popular demand, reportedly inspiring Rhino & Warners to embark on a similar upcoming set for The Doobie Brothers), the last few years have proven that there is a multitude of creative ways to make surround sound remixes a viable commercial proposition.
In view of this, and in view of Steely Dan’s large and avid fan base, we’re asking that Universal release any finished 5.1 mixes of the band’s early albums and commission the completion of the others in one or more accessible, high-resolution formats, physical or digital.
We have been in contact with a band insider who can ensure that our plea reaches the desk of a person at UMG in a position to restart this stalled project and bring it home. We know that there are multiple logistical, technical, legal, and contractual challenges in an undertaking like this, so our intention isn’t to be adversarial or demanding. However, we believe that a visible show of support from potential purchasers will help spur UMG into action—and that begins with this appeal. We hope you’ll join us in supporting, sharing, and signing this petition.
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