Music In The Valley

Last weekend, I had a pretty productive CD run.  I think I picked up a dozen new ones.  One of the “why not” buys was a disc called “The Best of Starship”.  It was a cheap-looking CD.  Really cheap.  Like one of those compilation CDs that companies make just for some quick bucks.  It turned out to be something really different, though.

I don’t own any Starship albums, but I do know the songs pretty well from the radio.  When I put the CD in and played it, I didn’t immediately recognize the music.  After the song played a little longer, I recognized it, but something was still off.  The singer’s voice was familiar and all the notes were right, but the production of the track was different.

I looked at the album cover for clues.  In small type at the bottom was “New Recordings by the Original Artist.”  How strange.  What I was experiencing was the Uncanny Valley effect.  That effect is typically associated with robots, how people’s perception of them rises as their realism improves, then suddenly drops off as people get really creeped out by the tiny inconsistencies.  I’ve also had the same thing with software, where if the replication of an application isn’t exact, the little differences drive you crazy.  You notice all the little things.  At that point it’s better to create something entirely different.

And that was the case with this album.  It wasn’t a live album.  You know you’re getting a different sound when buying a live album.  It was a studio album, but it wasn’t like studio outtakes or demos or alternate takes.  It was just doing it again.  And it wasn’t like redoing it with the intent to improve on it, it was trying to remain faithful to the original.  But it wasn’t.  The production was much more sparse – less overdubs, less polish.  It almost sounded like a MIDI sequence plus guitars, plus the original vocalists.  It was good enough to be recognizable.

I have to say, it’s the strangest CD I’ve ever come across.  I’m torn between throwing it away because of (to borrow the uncanny valley’s terminology) the revulsion at what I was hearing or keeping it because it’s such an oddball recording.

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