I don’t usually write about remixes or alternate versions for these weekly articles, but today is a little bit of a special occasion, so I decided to make an exception. Just hours ago, as I write this, Irish radio personality (and long-time friend of the band) Dave Fanning premiered on his radio program the new 2017 remix of “Red Hill Mining Town”.
When I first read, a few months back, that this new mix was going to include some horns that were recorded back in 1987 but were not included in the final mix of the original song, I wasn’t sure what to think. “Red Hill Mining Town” is a pensive affair, and I was concerned that the horns would brighten the song up too much, spoiling the mood. It turns out that I needn’t have been worried – the horn part in the new mix sounds great. the horns aren’t overused, which would have ruined the song’s atmosphere, but instead are used to highlight dramatic sections of music, making the song even more powerful.
I find it curious that the decision was made to have Bono re-record the verses, but to keep the original vocal that was recorded back in 1987 for the choruses. The newly recorded parts sound great – Bono’s voice has aged well, I think, and the weariness and wisdom that he’s acquired in the intervening thirty years suits the song well. It’s slightly distracting, however, to switch between 2017 Bono on the verses and 1987 Bono on the choruses. I think that I would have preferred it if all of the lead vocals had been re-recorded.
Another thing I noticed about this mix that surprised me is that the rhythm section doesn’t seem to be as hard-hitting. It may be different when I download the official, commercially released MP3 that U2.com promised would come with the super deluxe box set that I pre-ordered, but based upon Fanning’s broadcast, the drums feel lighter, somehow, almost like Larry is playing a smaller snare, and it sounds to me like the bass has been mixed at a much lower volume. If changes were, in fact, made to the drum and bass levels in this mix, I have to say that I think it takes away from the power and majesty of the song. I hope that it’s just the broadcast version that suffers from this drawback. One final positive comment that I’ll make about the new version of “Red Hill Mining Town” is that the background vocals seem to be mixed louder than they were in the original. I’m a big fan of Edge’s singing, and it’s a real treat to hear his “oohs” and “ahhs” so plainly here.
There are several smaller changes made in this mix, such as a different vocal take from 1987 used near the end of the song, and the timing of the sharp guitar stabs at the beginning of the song, but most of these small touches, while interesting, neither add to nor detract from the final product. All in all, I find the new version of “Red Hill Mining Town” to be worthwhile, if only for the new vocals on the verses, which serve as a nice preview of what we can expect from stage this summer.