Unauthorized Remix Improves On Landmark Unauthorized Mashup, The Grey Album
from the look-how-culture-works dept
This is a story of massive infringement upon infringement. Or it’s a story about culture and building awesome things from the building blocks others helped put together. Or both — which really should say something about copyright laws today. It was nearly nine years ago that EMI went completely off the rails in trying to threaten everyone for The Grey Album — the first truly popular mashup album. Put together by the producer Danger Mouse, The Grey Album used Jay-Z’s vocals from The Black Album and mashed them up with music samples entirely from the Beatles The White Album — and it actually worked.
Jay-Z has since referred to it as “genius” and expressed how honored he was to see it happen. EMI, which controlled the Beatles’ rights, felt differently, sending cease-and-desist letters to tons of sites that had the mp3s. In response, folks on the internet planned Grey Tuesday for February 24th, 2004 — a day of digital civil disobedience, where lots of sites would distribute the mashup album. EMI, still not understanding what it was dealing with, sent off more cease-and-desist letters to any site that had indicated that it would participate. End result? Even more interest in the whole thing.
Of course, since then, Danger Mouse has gone on to be an in-demand guy in the recording industry (among other things, he’s one-half of Gnarls Barkley, who of course had a massive hit with the song “Crazy” a few years ago). EMI later admitted that The Grey Album didn’t “harm” them at all, but still defended the decision arguing, pointlessly, “it’s not a question of damage, it’s a question of rights.”
Given all that, one has to wonder what EMI thinks of another top industry guy, recording engineer John Stewart (who’s worked with Kanye West, Big Boi and John Legend), who has remastered the audio on The Grey Album, arguing that he could do a better job — and the early reviews seem to agree. As noted in the Forbes article linked above:
Revisiting The Grey Album with an expert ear gave Stewart the ability to pinpoint its audio flaws, and his professional experience gave him the agency to do something about it. Stewart says he first got the idea to remaster The Grey Album on Wednesday, Nov. 21, but it didn’t really click until that Saturday. On Sunday he set out to improve the album’s audio, tinkering with various faders in ProTools until he achieved the desired effect: “I just kind of put the sonics on steroids,” he says.
He then put the whole thing up on SoundCloud and Mediafire, where it’s getting plenty of listens and downloads.