“Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so …”
Or so it may seem if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time.
You see I must admit I really LOVE Japanese CD pressings as evidenced by the plethora of SHM-CD and other Japanese CDs that I’ve posted on this blog.
In keeping with this Japanese theme, today I thought I’d share with you some terrific George Harrison SHM-CDs that I own from the Land of the Rising Sun.
(Note: As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts SHM-CD stands for Super High Material CD. SHM-CDs are made in Japan with higher quality material that supposedly enhances the playback ability of the discs which also supposedly enhances the sound quality. Much like Blu-Spec CDs, which are also popular in Japan, SHM-CDs are coveted by collectors.
Truth be told I’ve never heard much of a difference on the few Blu-Spec discs that I own but I do hear a difference on the SHM-CD discs I own. For me the SHM-CDs really do enhance the sound a bit. Many will argue otherwise but I still love my SHM-CDs!)
There were two batches of George Harrison SHM-CDs released in Japan – one in 2014 that corresponded with the worldwide release of the George Harrison “Apple Years 1968-75” CD box set and another batch released in 2017 that corresponded with the release of the “George Harrison Vinyl Collection” vinyl box set.
The 2017 SHM-CDs were supposedly taken from the masters that produced the 2017 box set and these 2017 transfers didn’t make it onto CD in any country other than Japan.
So, here we are – where are we?
Let me just say that for the most part these SHM-CDs sound fantastic! As I’ve said before I’m not going to go into the debate as to whether or not the SHM-CDs indeed sound better than a regular CD pressing, I’m just going to tell you how these SHM-CDs sound on my system – in my opinion.
Let me start with the two 2014 SHM-CDs I own – “All Things Must Pass” and “Extra Texture“.
I really like the mastering on these discs which are taken from the Apple Years box set that I mentioned above.
I would consider the SHM-CD versions of both of these albums to be my go-to discs for each album. Both sound superb and the SHM-CD versions sound a bit better than their regular CD counterparts.
The vocals on each of these discs sound a bit more clearer and warmer and the bass especially just sounds smoother and stronger than the regular CD versions. Not night and day better but better. I also love that both of these discs have some really nice bonus tracks which really enhances these CD pressings of the albums.
Now onto the 2017 versions.
I’d say for the most part these too sound great BUT I’d have to say the 2017 SHM-CD of “All Things Must Pass” sounds worse than the 2014 version as it’s much louder than the 2014 and also doesn’t include the terrific bonus tracks.
I will say that the packaging for the 2017 wins hands down though as it’s a near perfect replica of the original UK vinyl pressing from 1970 and is quite stunning to look at in person.
For some reason the 2017 SHM-CD doesn’t sound like the 2017 vinyl pressing, to me anyway. I like the 2017 vinyl pressing but this SHM-CD sounds more like the 2000 CD version of “All Things Must Pass” that was supervised by George Harrison himself before he died. It too was a bit loud and could have used some taming. This 2017 CD version is beautiful but a slight disappointment sound wise.
The other 2017 disc that is good but not great is the SHM-CD of Harrison’s “Living in the Material World“, one of my favorite Harrison albums.
This CD does seem to match the mastering on the 2017 vinyl set as it’s much more muted sounding than the original CD or vinyl pressing.
I actually like this SHM-CD better than it’s vinyl counterpart which seems a bit too muffled sounding as if the high end has been rolled off. The SHM-CD still sounds a bit muffled but is much better sounding than the vinyl version.
Again the 2017 Japanese mini-Lp SHM-CD pressing is gorgeous and sounds good but I may actually prefer the previous remaster of this album which came out in 2006 which has some nice bonus tracks and sounds a bit punchier and less muted.
As for the rest of the 2017 SHM-CDs that I own – “Dark Horse“, “33 and 1/3“, “George Harrison“, “Somewhere in England“, “Gone Troppo” and “Brainwashed” – each of them I think sound superb!
I think the discs of “33 and 1/3” and “George Harrison” especially stand out as the bass on them is the best I’ve heard on these albums and they just shine in comparison to any other CD pressings I own. These two also really shine on the 2017 vinyl box set as well and these discs sound very close to those vinyl pressings.
The SHM-CDs of “Somewhere in England” and “Gone Troppo” sound actually more like the first CD issue of these albums by Warner Brothers in the early 1990s where the bass isn’t quite as full as the other discs but nonetheless sound really nice. Nice to hear them not goosed up in volume at all.
I’d have to say that for all the albums but the two 2017’s I mentioned with slight sound issues these Japanese SHM-CDs are my go-to discs when I put these albums in my CD player to get my George Harrison fix!
It really is worth taking the time to track down these lovely mini-CD Japanese SHM-CD versions of these albums if your a fan of Harrison’s work. They’re limited pressings but still can be found online at various online stores.
Take a gander above at these groovy looking discs and until next time be well and Be Here Now to quote one of my favorite George Harrison songs.