Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Verdict On The Inspecteur Gadget CD: Wait For Volume 2

Do Not Buy This Lousy CD

Remember my recommendation last week that you should buy/support the new "Inspecteur Gadget" soundtrack CD regardless of what could have been better, like I was planning to do? Well, I have to take that back. Today, I've come to the conclusion that the Télé 80 CD is not worth my money.

Let me explain: I haven't actually bought the CD... but thanks to Itunes, I've been able to listen to excerpts from all 12 tracks of it. (For those who don't use Itunes, try the French music site Qobuz for listening samples.) And honestly - most of the tracks sound pretty disappointing. The worst part is, they COULD have sounded far better if Télé 80 had simply taken the time to locate proper source material (i. e. better LP copies).

First of all, I can confirm that the "crackling of vinyl" mentioned on the Planété Jeunesse forum is very much there... and not only on a few tracks, but on most of them. The French and American theme songs do sound good, but that's probably just because the masters for these main themes have been taken better care of than those for the background music (which are today presumably lost). And that brings me to the main problem with this release. Nearly all of the background music tracks, as well as the awesome soundtrack-exclusive version of Dr Claw's theme (track 6, "Le theme du Docteur Gang"), have a LOT of crackling, and some of them sound embarrassingly bad. (The only exception seemed to be track 5, "L'usine de chocolat" (Chocolate Factory), where I didn't register any scratching noises.) This bad sound quality is particularly disappointing as I know that very good (or possibly even mint) copies of the French LP are still in existence. XIII Bis Records just didn't take the time to find them.

Let's compare, for instance, with the fan-done MP3 rip of the "Inspecteur Gadget: Bande originale" LP that has been circulating on the internet for years ever since originating on this site. There is some subtle crackling on some of the tracks there, to be sure... but generally, the tracks in that rip sound great, and MUCH CLEANER than the same tracks on the Télé 80 CD! (Click here, here and here to listen to some of the fan-ripped background music tracks.) The fact that an unofficial fan rip of the LP sounds far better than an official CD release proves just how amateurish this first "Inspecteur Gadget" CD from XIII Bis Records is. This is not only sad on Télé 80's part, it's downright embarrassing. They better go out of their way to make up for this in the planned Volume 2 CD.

I'll not go into detail about the other reasons not to buy this sloppy CD release, as you already know them from my previous posts: Only 12 tracks on the disc instead of the 25+ tracks that Télé 80 could potentially have compiled from both the French and Australian LPs... the cover image has been flipped for no reason whatsoever... and oh, yes, there actually is one more thing. As you may have noticed, the very last track on the CD is a "US version" of the Inspector Gadget theme. However, this is not the original TV version of the theme, but rather an extended version running for 2:50 minutes. (This version was first released, I believe, as the first track of the Australian soundtrack LP "Inspector Gadget - The Music", before spreading to a few CD compilations of television themes). I don't have a problem with the extended theme song being there, as it's authentic Shuki Levy; but the one version of the American theme that has really stuck in people's minds over the years is undoubtedly the shorter TV version. The extended theme on the CD is good, but not nearly as great... and the theme loses some of its snappiness when the song suddenly starts over again midway through. (Have a listen here to judge the extended theme for yourself.) Bottom line: Both the shorter and longer versions of the theme song deserve to be included on an official soundtrack release; and the shorter (and best) version is of course not included. Probably because the Télé 80 team didn't know about (or didn't bother to research) how popular that original, American TV theme is in the minds of everybody who grew up with it. Again, lackluster work. And speaking of theme songs: Why did Télé 80 change the original title of Penny's French theme "Le theme de Sophie" to "La chanson de Sophie"? As if the mirrored cover image wasn't enough of a pointless change.

All this is sad to say, as I really do like the initiative and good intentions behind the idea of finally releasing iconic 80s TV soundtracks such as Inspector Gadget on CD. But when it's done as sloppily as this, I can't get myself to support it. The only thing giving me a little hope is perhaps that Télé 80's leader Christophe Renaud openly admitted that many of the tracks on their "Inspecteur Gadget" CD were of bad quality - and that they're planning a volume 2 with better sound quality. (I believe I was wrong, by the way, when assuming earlier that Télé 80 was going to search for the lost, original masters: what Renaud meant was probably just that they're gonna find better LP copies to rip the music from.) I won't hold my breath for this... but I really, truly hope that Volume 2 (whenever it comes out) proves to be a big, happy surprice. At the moment, however, there's no hiding that the best way for you to enjoy Shuki Levy and Haim Saban's original Inspector Gadget soundtrack... is the illegal way.

Monday, May 21, 2012

CD UPDATE #2: A Very Short Review From Planete Jeunesse

Okay, I'm beginning to get worried now.

The French cartoon site Planete Jeunesse has a forum thread dedicated to the Télé 80 CDs; and on the second page of the thread, a user named Virocha has posted short reviews of some of the first 8 CDs. Here are the very short notes Virocha had about the "Inspecteur Gadget" CD that's coming out today (again brought to you in English by Google Translate):

"On Gadget: 
- We hear some crackling of vinyl on some tracks.
- There is only half of the original 33rpm [LP], but it is possible that such a result to another volume because they have not had time to find a 33t completely usable. 
If this opening batch [of Télé 80 CDs] suffered from a lack of time and reliable sources, it is hoped that for the future, they will take advice from the experts. In any case, they are listening to requests for releases that can be done on their site."

I have to admit... the more I read about the first batch of Télé 80 CDs, the more it feels like the project has simply lacked the time and money to become perfect. The mentioning of "crackling vinyl on some tracks" reaffirms my suspicion that (at least part of) the Gadget CD is indeed ripped directly from the original, French LP... but they apparently didn't have the time to locate a mint copy of that LP before releasing the CD. Now, I can understand that Télé 80 wanted to start off the label with some of the most commercially popular titles... and Inspector Gadget (like Ulysses 31 and Mysterious Cities of Gold) is a big cult series in France. So it makes sense from a monetary perspective to rush the soundtrack of Gadget into production. But honestly... if all Télé 80 needed to make a better product was time to locate a mint copy of the "Bande originale" LP... then I'm beginning to think it would have been better to put Inspecteur Gadget on hold until the second or third batch of CDs. After all... it is a bit frustrating if some tracks on the new CD could easily have been in better quality, had they only waited a few months with releasing the CD.

Anyhow, I hope that Télé 80 plans to really make up for it with their next "Inspecteur Gadget" CD. The best solution, I think, would be not to do a direct "Volume 2", but rather an "Extended Edition" CD which contains all tracks from the original LPs in the best quality possible. This extended CD would, of course, ideally be released after Télé 80 has taken the time to locate mint-quality copies of both the French and Australian LPs. (Gee, I think I just thought of yet another thing to suggest to Télé 80.)

Other than that, I'm hoping that the "crackling vinyl" mentioned by Virocha is not very noticeable. I still hope to enjoy the first CD volume. But I think I'm gonna wait with ordering a little longer... just until I've read a few more reviews...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

CD UPDATE: Télé 80's Leader Says They Will "Certainly Do a Volume 2" of Inspector Gadget, Explains About The Missing Tracks

Télé 80's leader Christophe Renaud, showing off his new CDs

In yesterday's post on the French CD release of Inspector Gadget's soundtrack, I was asking why the CD coming out tomorrow has only 12 tracks... as the original LP edition it is based on has many more. Well, I somehow missed this interview from May 10 with Christophe Renaud (above), the leader and gründer of the Télé 80 soundtrack project. Answering questions from the web site, Renaud speaks in detail about each of the 8 CDs that will be released tomorrow as the first batch of Télé 80 soundtracks. What he says about Inspector Gadget is particulary interesting - and it pretty much explains why their first "Inspecteur Gadget" CD has only half of the tracks that can be found on the French LP. (Note: The following interview excerpts are translated from French by Google Translate, with grammar help by me.)

Christophe Renaud: Inspector Gadget is the one that caused us the most problems because the master tapes were lost. There are many master tapes to record companies that were lost, and therefore Inspector Gadget deserves a volume 2. That is to say, here is a cd which contains about a dozen titles, while we could have put in - it is true - 24. Certainly we will do a volume 2, but with bands of good quality because the bands we had were of bad quality.

The confirmation that Télé 80 is planning a "Volume 2" is great news, to be sure... though at the same time, it's sad to hear officially that the master tapes for the series really are lost. Or are they? Renaud starts out by saying that "the master tapes were lost"; but in the end, he adds that they plan to do a Volume 2 "...with bands of good quality because the bands we had were of bad quality". Sort of a contradiction, if you ask me.

Again, this is me speculating... but maybe what it means is that, whatever master tapes Télé 80 actually found for Inspector Gadget, they had deteriorated to a point of no longer being usable. In another interview from May 17, Renaud was asked if any of the music on Télé 80's upcoming CDs had been remastered, and his answer was plainly no:

Christophe Renaud...under no circumstances are these remastered versions. It would have been far too expensive to do for a collection aimed primarily at the general public, which will be available in supermarkets at a price of about 6 €. 

In other words: Lacking the budget to restore master tapes in bad quality, Télé 80 is probably confined to searching for better-quality versions of these masters instead... versions that they can use without having to go through an expensive remastering process. At least that's how I interpret the interviews.

I hope Renaud and his team manage to find the "bands of good quality" that Renaud is talking about for Volume 2. If not... then I guess the best alternative would be to get hold of mint LP copies, and rip the remaining music from them. It might not be as great as if the original masters are found, but in a worst-case-scenario, it's much better than nothing. A fan rip of the French "Bande Originale" LP has already been floating around the web for years, and it generally sounds great to my ears. Here are the Youtube links to ripped versions of two tracks that will not be on the first CD volume: "Gadget in Trouble" (Gadget en difficulté) and "Sophisticated Gadget" (Gadget le sophistiqué). I'm looking forward to hearing these on a future CD edition one way or another.

And also -- I really hope that for Volume 2, Télé 80 will take a look at the Australian LP "Inspector Gadget - The Music". The Australian record, as I've mentioned before, actually has 3 tracks that are totally unique to that edition and not included anywhere on the French LP. Getting these tracks included on the "Inspecteur Gadget Volume 2" CD would make the collection so much more complete.

The Australian LP Soundtrack, 1986

Anyhow... that is probably a great suggestion to write to Télé 80 about with regards to their planned, second volume of Gadget. But for right now, let's concentrate on the first volume coming out on May 21 together with seven other iconic 80s soundtracks! Only a day to go...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inspector Gadget's Original Soundtrack on CD

Well, parts of it, anyway. On May 21 - only 2 days from now - you will be able to own a slice of Shuki Levy and Haim Saban's Inspector Gadget soundtrack on official CD! Click here to pre-order from the production company, or here for the link. This is the first time any of the background music from the show has ever seen a CD release (or a legal modern-day release at all), making the above CD sensational news.

France's XIII Bis Music Group is the company behind this soundtrack edition, which they're releasing together with several other 80s TV soundtracks under a newly created label dubbed Télé 80 (as evidenced on the above cover). The tag line next to the logo reads, "The cult series from your childhood", which basically sums up what the label sets out to do: Télé 80's business plan is to re-release on CD the original LP soundtracks of numerous famous TV shows from the 1980s... and of course score big nostalgia points by recreating the look and contents of those vintage LPs. Case in point: Their "Inspecteur Gadget" CD even reuses the admittedly clumsy-looking cover of Saban Records' 1983 LP, "Inspecteur Gadget: Bande originale de la serie TV"... with the only major difference being that the image is flipped on the CD cover. (Also, the placing of the Gadget logo was better on the original, but that's nit-picking.)

Télé 80's CD soundtrack, 2012
Saban Records' original LP soundtrack, 1983

Still, as faithful as the Télé 80 edition is to its LP origins, the number of tracks on the CD has me a bit worried. Below, from Télé 80's official site, is the complete track listing (with English track titles added by me):

1. Inspecteur Gadget (Inspector Gadget) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’35
2. La chanson de Fino (Brain the dog - The Song) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’00
3. La chanson de Sophie (Penny's theme) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’30
4. Le Musée de l’art fou (Mad art in Museum) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’05
5. L’usine de chocolat (Chocolate factory) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’00
6. Le thème du Docteur Gang (Mad's theme) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’10
7. Gadget chez les Incas (Gadget with the Incas) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 0’50
8. Le Royaume (Kingdom) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’00
9. La course de voiture (Car race) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 1’10
10. Les Pharaons (Pharaohs) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 1’30
11. Thème d’ouverture (Opening theme, instrumental) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 1’10
12. Inspecteur Gadget (US Version) (Haim Saban / Shuky Levy) 2’50

My big question here is this: Why so few tracks? The original 1983 French LP edition had 22 tracks, and it would definitely not have been a problem to get all of them (and probably more) into one CD. Also, let's not forget the 1986 Australian LP edition "Inspector Gadget - The Music", which featured a few unique tracks worthy of inclusion as well. Why are these not here?

Making matters even more confusing, the blog actually lists 23 tracks for the CD! This blog revealed the complete track listings for the first batch of Télé 80 CDs back in the beginning of April... and here's the track info they provided for Gadget (once again with English titles added by me):

1/ Inspecteur Gadget. (Inspector Gadget) 2'35.
2/ La chanson de Fino. (Brain the Dog - the song) 2'00.
3/ La chanson de Sophie. (Penny's theme) 2'30.
4/ Gadget sur Mars. (Gadget on Mars) 1'30.
5/ Le fantôme de Gadget. (Ghost) 2'00.
6/ Le musée de l'art fou. (Mad art in Museum) 2'05.
7/ Inspecteur Gadget au Japon. (Gadget in Japan) 2'05.
8/ L'usine de chocolat. (Chocolate factory) 2'00.
9/ Rodéo. (Rodeo) 1'30.
10/ Le thème du Docteur Gang. (Mad's theme) 2'15.
11/ Héros dans la jungle Africaine. (Heroes in African jungle) 1'50.
12/ Gadget chez les Incas. (Gadget with the Incas) 1'00.
13/ Fais gaffe Gadget. (Look out) 1'35.
14/ Gadget en difficulté. (Gadget in trouble) 1'10.
15/ Le désert d'Arabie. (Arabian desert) 1'15.
16/ Gadget le sophistiqué. (Sophisticated Gadget) 1'40.
17/ Thème du train. (Train Machine) 1'55.
18/ Le royaume. (Kingdom) 2'00.
19/ La course de voiture.(Car race) 1'15.
20/ Les Pharaons. (Pharaohs) 1'30.
21/ Le thème de Sophie (Instrumental version) (Penny's Theme) 2'30.
22/ Thème d'ouverture. (Opening theme, instrumental) 1'12.
23/ Inspecteur Gadget (Alternative US version). 2'30.

The funny thing is - while this information is probably outdated compared to Tele 80's site, the blog DID get the track listing from the official CD producers. Leading me to believe that, somewhere late in the production process of the "Inspecteur Gadget" CD, the producers suddently decided to cut half of the tracks planned for inclusion. This is especially strange as it would have made perfect sense to have all of these tracks on one CD... after all, track 1-22 are the exact tracks that were on the 1983 "Bande originale" LP. So why were they (apparently) taken out?

I sent Télé 80 a Facebook message asking how many tracks their "Inspecteur Gadget" disc REALLY contains - 12 or 23? I didn't get a clear answer, but here's what they wrote back:

"...many masters Saban burns and lost .We decide to make a CD just for Public but no for the fans , just a popular CD simple , when you find master , we are ok to make a Cd integral but the quality is very poor for this CD ...dramatic quality ...all masters lost ...thank you"

So Télé 80 didn't really answer my question... but they did point out one of the main problems of making a CD with Saban's music: the lack of master material. I'm no expert on the current situation of Saban's master recordings from the 1980s; but according to numerous forums and sites I've been visiting over the last few days, the consensus seems to be saying that the masters in most cases are either lost, rotted or burned. This means that CD producers must turn to ripping old LP editions in order to get Saban's soundtrack music in the best quality possible. So maybe - and this is just a theory - maybe the source LP that Télé 80 had for their "Inspecteur Gadget" CD was not in mint condition; and some of the tracks just didn't sound good enough to be released on CD. If this is the case, Télé 80 may have held off from releasing all the music because they want to extract the remaining tracks from a better-quality LP... and possibly release a Volume 2 later on. (Yes, I realize this is very optimistic thinking, but ALL of the available soundtrack music for Inspector Gadget deserves a proper re-release.) The last part of the official press release states that Télé 80 will launch a collection of 80 CDs in total between 2012 and 2015, so hopefully they're not done with Gadget after just this one volume. 

Bottom line: It does seem that the CD contains only 12 tracks, which is certainly a disappointment. But I'll still encourage you to buy and support this release. The compositions included are all great - and it sells for less than 6 €, after all! Sure, this CD is made for the general public rather than the hard-core collector, but think about it this way: We have never before had an official CD release of the show's soundtrack; and now it happens, almost 30 years after the original LPs were available! This is why it's important to support such an initiative: If enough people buy this first CD, it definitely increases the chances of a Volume 2 with the rest of the LP music. Good enough sales may even signal to the CD publishers that there is an interest out there for a bigger, more complete soundtrack edition... and it might prompt someone in charge to start a more thorough search for surviving music masters. Wouldn't it be fantastic to finally get soundtrack music which was never even released on the LPs? (This might be reaching for the stars, considering the status of Saban's masters, but you never know... it wouldn't surprice me if the masters for at least some original Saban scores still exist in usable condition, somewhere in the world; just misplaced and hidden so thoroughly that nobody knows where to find them.)

Personally, I'm gonna buy this CD regardless of what could have been better. And then I'm gonna write to Télé 80 and make suggestions for an "Inspecteur Gadget: Volume 2" CD. I strongly suggest that everybody who wants more of this fantastic soundtrack music does the same... the more people who speak up and show their interest, the bigger the chances are of getting what we want. You can write to Télé 80 several ways: Through the "Contact" section on their site, through their Facebook profile (either as a personal message or as a wall post)... or even to the e-mail address of someone working at XIII Bis Records: (According to a post on the forums, the guy at this address will "forward to the team who's in charge of this [the Télé 80] project".) I'm not sure which option is the best for getting heard by Télé 80, but I recommend trying them all.

Oh, that's right: In addition to all that, I can't really leave this subject without mentioning the following to all you Levy/Saban fans out there: Several of the other Télé 80 soundtracks coming out on May 21 are also collections of their music - including The Mysterious Cities of GoldBomber X and He-Man. (Bomber X I've never even heard of, but just seeing that Levy and Saban did the music makes me curious to check it out.)

A few of these shows have gotten more complete soundtrack CDs before (for instance The Mysterious Citites of Gold), but at 5.95 € per piece, the Télé 80 discs are still a steal. Especially when it comes to "Inspecteur Gadget". So pre-order the CD right now either from XIII Bis themselves or from and don't forget to contact the producers telling them you want more!