Earlier we have already reviewed a series of albums remixing old-timer Commodore-64 tunes, called Back In Time 2 and 3. Since then a few other similar initiatives have appeared, probably the best of them is the new CD from the Danish Press Play On Tape band with their debut album Loading Ready Run, which I'll talk about now.
Even the name of the band itself causes nostalgic feelings in many (since those who had tapes remember that after the LOAD command was issued the computer gave this instruction: press play on tape). After this came "Loading" (which is present in the title), then Ready, and finally we started the program with Run.
We have seen remixes that were created with the classic band setup (the BIT series wasn't exactly like this), but this new album is probably the best of them. The band has 6 members: 2 guitar players, one guy on the synth, one base player and a drummer (although he doesn't play on acoustic, rather on electronic drums, but the difference can be noticed only by audiophiles).
They stuck with the classic composers when they chose their tunes, but compositions by Chris Hülsbeck and Maniacs of Noise are still missing due to obvious copyright problem (although I think these composers would be better off if - similar to Ben Daglish, Martin Galway or Rob Hubbard - they looked beyond their own wallets). Let's review the tracks one by one, more or less with subjective criticism.
1 Rambo: First Blood part II (Martin Galway - 1986)
The CD starts with a classic music from a classic game which has seen many remixes already, but not like this one. The beginning is well done, although I think the guitar during the Morse-code is a bit too bright, although nothing is wrong until the drums kick in. There the guitars burst in, the drums are flinging around and the harmony that characterizes the oroginal is gone: it is replaced by a tormenting chaos. I sure wouldn't have put this much guitar in the background, more like into the foreground in place of the melody-playing synth, with a smooth guitar tamed by a volume pedal, that would've sounded better (but this is just a difference in opinions). In the middle the situation becomes better, but not much, and balance is restored by the end of the track.
2 Ghosts'n Goblins (Marc Cooksey - 1986)
I respect the original tune, but don't like it much. It has been remixed before, too. After Rambo I thought that - due to its horroristic nature - the musicians will play this even harder. I was wrong. I don't hear any additional "pressure" from the guitar players, the drums are not overwhelming, either, yet, it is not a bad track. It was interesting to do the characteristic "hooting" sound with a guitar. It wasn't a bad idea at all, neither was the inclusion of the "Darth Vader" sound. They succeeded in making this tune truly bizarre (as it should be).
3 Warhawk (Rob Hubbard - 1986)
An interesting remix that is basically a guitar solo. It doesn't contain many original ideas, but instrumentation is perfect here, too.
4 Monty on he Run (Rob Hubbard - 1985)
The Danish boys created a worthy memento from one of Rob Hubbard's old but deservedly successful compositions. Like the previous one, this also builds on a guitar solo, where the synth-guitar conversations, the rhythm changes and the pauses also play an important part and they resolve the high tempo well. The guitar is playing nicely, with variations and persistently, the technique and the tapping is there on this instrument, not to mention the wah-wah pedal. All in all, a well made cover.
5 Beyond the Ice Palace (David Whittaker - 1988)
Personally, I don't like this tune much. The beginning is not bad, although I would've added more volume to the bass, which is somehow missing from this track. The synth is nice and the piano sound was an especially good idea. The second half of the track is somewhat boring, though.
One of the least successful tunes on the album. The basic idea is praiseworthy, mainly the instrumental-acoustic concept where the lead consists of an acoustic in the foreground and a slightly distorted electric guitar i the background. But this acoustic guitar gave me the impresseion that its player is not sure in what he is playing on it. In some places he is plucking the strings rather clumsily, in fact, gets behind, which gives the whole track an awkward mood. Fact is, better technique is requried to play properly on an acoustic guitar, and playing with a finger instead of a plucker would've been better on Wizardry. The very quiet synth imitating a symphonic orchestra in the background could've been louder, while using a rattlers instead of the hihats would've been better.
7 Commando (Rob Hubbard - 1985)
This 4 minute tracks is a true gem on the CD. Despite the violent nature of the original the band didn't fall into the trap of overstuffing it with guitars, like in Rambo. The tune is therefore not dominated by guitars, more like they fill the background, the lead is left to synths, although we can hear a refined guitar solo at one time. Special mention to the slapping bass that makes the tune tighter and vexed, yet, it's not too much at all.
8 Thing on a Spring (Rob Hubbard - 1985)
This is probably the other track that mixes with human voices, very nicely. This is a bunch of solos by differently distorted guitars here and there in canon with the synth.
9 Aztec Challenge (Paul Normann - 1984)
One of the most remixed tunes. Actually, this is a properly made good remix by the band. On top of a rock-like base come the instruments, which repeat the refrain with different timbres.
10 Auf Wiedersehen Monty (Rob Hubbard & Ben Daglish - 1987)
Excellent track, excellent remix, excellent sounds. I don't know whose idea it was to add cowbells, but it was a great idea IMHO. The guitar solo is quality stuff, the one in the background is also pleasing, although at times it would've been better to crank it up.
11 Paperboy feat. Game Over (Mark Kooksey, 1986)
Paperboy's music is a very pleasant track on the CD, which besides being too long and sometimes boring, also gives plenty of space for original inventions, which was used well be the band. This latter part was named Game Over by the band. [Note: since then I told Duke that Game Over is just another game tune, not a set of improvisations by PPOT. ;] It is truly excellent, although the original was excellent, too. I especially liked the base guitar, the accords on the guitar and how it "talked" with the synth, and the "piano" in the second part of the track. Only the drums bother me a little: I would've chosen different sounds and would've turned its volume down.
12 Krakout (Ben Daglish, 1987)
The guitar-double of the previous track is left intact here, while the two synth sounds (similar to a piano) and the poppy, fresh drum carry the pleasant background. The short track ends exactly where it'd start being boring, so they didn't make the same mistake as in the previous track. Important to mention that the original track's happy, silly, dynamic nature was left intact, so it's a very good remix.
13 Thrust (Rob Hubbard, 1986)
A less known track, quality remix. It is very nice how the two types of guitars (a rockt and the lyric) are talking to each other, and the background synth with slightly oriental sounds was a good idea, not to mention the synth solo that even the flinging drums couldn't destroy. Superb!
14 Masters of Magic (Rob Hubbard - 1986)
I like the drum-machin at the beginning with the conga and the clapper. I especially liked the splitting play of the base guitar and the conversation of the guitar and the synth. I don't really have anything bad to say about it: it's one of the best tracks on the album.
Finally it's worth to mention that the next album is already in the works from which we can get a sampling at www.pressplayontape.com. It's a freely downloadable full track, namely Out Run, which is one of the best remixes by the band. The excellent instrumentation is topped only by the base player's melodic play and the drums (cowbless, conga, triangle - all from a machine). If the second album will be full of remixes like this, I won't have anything bad to say about it. By the way, the CD can be ordered at the above URL. Highly recommended to every computer music enthusiast!