By Jim Rowland

Hanoi Rocks Oriental Beat 40 artworkThe Uber Rock Approved stampWhen Finnish glam legends Hanoi Rocks released their second album, ‘Oriental Beat’, at the start of 1982, they were very much a band on the way up. As it turns out, the band themselves were never happy with the way the album was produced and mixed. In fact they regarded it as a bit of a disaster. Forty years later, after the original master tapes, long since considered ‘lost’, were discovered, the original members of the band had a chance to right all the wrongs and completely remix the whole album. Referred to by Mike Monroe as “the longest and slowest album recording project ever”, the result is ‘Oriental Beat – the 40th anniversary re(al) mix’.

I myself was to discover and fall in love with Hanoi Rocks the following year, through the next album ‘Back To Mystery City’. I and all my Hanoi-loving mates just adored that album, and pretty soon we were backtracking to the previous albums ‘Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks’, the singles compilation ‘Self Destruction Blues’ and this album ‘Oriental Beat’.

To be honest, I can’t remember any of us moaning at the time about the terrible production of the album – sure it sounded a bit weaker than ‘Mystery City’, but the songs were so good we loved it anyway. And this album is full of great Hanoi songs – the likes of ‘Oriental Beat’, ‘Motorvatin’, ‘Visitor’, ‘Lightnin’ Bar Blues’, ‘M.C Baby’ and ‘No Law or Order’ are among the best they did, many of which would stay in their live set until the original band’s tragic and premature demise a few short years later.

So what does this new mix bring to the party? Well quite a lot actually. Firstly they’ve rearranged the track listing, presumably to what was originally intended, with big hitters ‘Oriental Beat’ and ‘Motorvatin’ kicking the album off and a few others swapping places for what makes a more coherent running order.

Secondly, there’s a vast improvement in the drum sound. ‘Oriental Beat’s original engineer Peter Wooliscroft was not a rock producer, and according to Hanoi Rocks’ manager Richard Bishop he “tried to mix the album to sound like Spandau Ballet”. There could be some truth in this given the original album’s complete lack of audible cymbals and a monotone electronic splodge for a snare sound. Here in this new mix, the drums now sound like er…drums. And cymbals. Drummer Gyp Casino must be mightily relieved 40 years later.

Not surprisingly, the other noticeable difference is the guitars, brought up in the mix to give the album the unashamed gritty rock sound it required in the first place, with quite a few licks actually audible for the first time. Sam Yaffa’s bass is bolder as well.

All in all, ‘Oriental Beat – 40th Anniversary Re(al)mix’ is definitely mission accomplished, and the original members of Hanoi Rocks finally get ‘Oriental Beat’ sounding more or less how they wanted it to sound all those (wasted) years ago. I won’t be disposing of my battered old Lick Records vinyl pressing of the original album any time soon, but this new mix now becomes the go-to version of ‘Oriental Beat’ for your listening pleasure.

Oriental Beat – 40th Anniversary Re(al)mix‘ is released today (Friday 17 March).

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