The Searchers

The Collection [Audio Fidelity Hybrid]

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Although at 17 tracks totaling a mere 41 minutes, there is enough room to almost double the material, this is a well-chosen selection of Pye-era (1963-'66) music from the British Invasion band many ranked just behind the Beatles for melodic invention. Sure, there are plenty of Searchers' compilations on the market with more songs at a cheaper price, but there aren't any that sound this spectacular. The Audio Fidelity label is known for the pristine care they take sonically on their reissues and this is a perfect example of how the extra time, money and effort in mastering makes an enormous difference. Like the Rolling Stones' London albums, this is an SACD hybrid, with the already impressive stereo dynamics heightened by the super audio layer that adds slightly more presence. The Searchers' material was initially recorded extremely well, using true stereo on even the earliest sides from 1963. The remastering from the original tapes (credited to Steve Hoffman) is nonetheless a revelation. Except for the isolation of voices and certain instruments shoved over to one side of the stereo separation, this is as crisp as if it were recorded 40 years later than it was. The tambourine on a cover of the Hollies' "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" seems like it is in the room with you, the vocal harmonies are exquisite and the shimmering, strumming guitars take on a definition few other reissues of this material have been able to convey. The liner notes are brief but detailed, insightful and informative with Jackie DeShannon, the Byrds' Chris Hillman and original engineer Eddie Kramer interviewed specifically for this edition. There may be more comprehensive collections of the band's catalog, but for the novice with a quality stereo system, this single disc captures the Searchers' greatest tunes with remarkable clarity and definition. It's too bad that more music from this period wasn't recorded with such care.

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