'Tim: Let It Bleed Edition' Captures the Replacements as Clearly and Boldly as Fans Could Hope
Published Sep 21, 2023Though music fans have every right to be cynical about remixed and remastered reissue campaigns, few such releases feel as startling and miraculous as this Let it Bleed edition of the Replacements' 1985 album, Tim.
Beyond serving as a key transitional marker for a wild and wildly talented band making their major label debut and growing up (complete with the requisite pains), Tim has long (and arguably) been viewed as an example of how to mix an album poorly. Fortunately, a team of forensic experts re-opened the case, located some startling primary and secondary evidence of what went down, and now Tim sounds truly mighty and contextually complete.
The Replacements' three previous albums were beloved and acclaimed, and their live shows were always memorable, whether the best of all time or a complete shambles. Having become darlings of the American underground, the Minneapolis band — songwriter/lead singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, guitarist Bob Stinson, bassist Tommy Stinson and drummer/vocalist Chris Mars — had reached a level of fame and popularity that meant leaving indie label Twin/Tone for Warner subsidiary Sire Records made plenty of sense.
After an early demo session helmed by Alex Chilton of Big Star, whom the 'Mats loved, Sire and the band eventually agreed to have their label mate Thomas Erdelyi (a.k.a. Tommy Ramone) produce their next album. There were rumblings that Ed Stasium, who'd already worked well with Erdelyi on several Ramones records, might engineer the sessions, but this didn't come to pass — Stasium's role in shaping the sound of Tim was simply, and strangely, delayed until now.
Even though Bob Stinson was slowly withdrawing from the band, barely showing up at the studio at all and adding guitar parts to songs that were otherwise written without him, the Tim sessions themselves went rather smoothly. In fact, they captured some of the band's greatest and most beloved songs, including "Bastards of Young," "Swingin Party," "Left of the Dial," "Here Comes a Regular," "Little Mascara," and a few cracks at "Can't Hardly Wait," which actually had to wait; though a rock 'n' roll gem, Westerberg wasn't satisfied with a version of it until it landed on the band's next album, Pleased to Meet Me.
Where things went sideways for the Replacements and some of their fans was in Erdelyi's mixing of these now-classics. Opting to mono mix the sessions, Erdelyi was accused of weakening the band's power and creating a mush-y, trebly, reverb-laden reflection of what was laid down.
Some band members would attribute these judgement errors to Erdelyi mixing with headphones instead of monitor speakers, or else suggest that their amps had blown speakers or were actually mic'd wrong the whole time — a mix of self-deprecation and punk grievance that wasn't atypical for the young Replacements. And so, as technology advanced and new music formats were embraced, Tim was treated to remasters with CD compilations and reissues providing some relief, and even mouth-watering outtakes and alternate renditions (see the 2008 Rhino reissue for the first official glimmers of where Tim came from).
For the past decade or so, the custodial care of the Replacements legacy has been in the hands of music writer Bob Mehr, author of 2016's comprehensive biography, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, and senior Rhino Records A&R person Jason Jones. Together, they've now co-produced four expanded versions of Replacements albums, including Dead Man's Pop, which won a 2021 Grammy Award for Mehr's liner notes.
Figuring out if Tim's session tapes were salvageable enough to remix held an unlikely spot on their wish list of 'Mats projects. After recruiting Ed Stasium — the aforementioned engineer who worked on key and early albums by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Talking Heads, Ramones, and Living Color, among others — their wish came true. With the help of an extensive dossier of mixing suggestions by Mehr and Jones, Stasium literally and painstakingly rebuilt the Tim sessions using the original tapes and modern technology, discovering that everything was recorded beautifully: no blown amps, no bad mic technique, no then-fashionable '80s reverb baked in — everything sounded great.
Stasium also discovered that some elements, like back-up vocals, Stinson's explosive guitar parts, piano and Westerberg's emotive la-la-la'ing, were either buried in the mix or unused. These hidden details are tastefully raised in a new, revelatory version of the album (Erdelyi's original mix, freshly and dynamically remastered, is also included here separately).
For anyone who's lived with Tim for almost 30 years, listening to Stasium's remix is an emotional experience. Hearing Westerberg and Chris Mars singing and cooing and letting the music they're making move them, in ways we haven't heard before, can bring you to tears.
Expanding upon such newly shared secrets, the third disc in this set features compelling and mostly unreleased outtakes and alternate versions of songs, including Westerberg singing a Tommy Stinson original, "Having Fun," a remix of the lost classic "Nowhere Is My Home," and the aforementioned "Can't Hardly Wait." Thanks to Westerberg's impassioned vocal, "Can't Hardly Wait" in particular proves itself to be an undeniably powerful song, whether it features just guitar and drums, guitar and cello, or the whole band behind him.
In a fitting celebration, the fourth and final disc is comprised of Not Ready for Prime Time: Live at the Cabaret Metro, Chicago, IL, January 11, 1986, which captures one of the last big blasts from one of the greatest live bands ever. Crossing their catalogue and featuring fun and unusual covers (check out "The Crusher), this somewhat ramshackle recording showcases a band at peak power, exactly one week before the infamous last-minute performance on Saturday Night Live that got them banned from the show for life. The concert also kicked off Bob Stinson's last year as a Replacement — the band would never be the same again.
With its artistic heights, who-gives-a-shit irreverence, human error, joy and pain, the story and sound of Tim really has it all. In its enhanced and alternate history, complete with more stunning liners by Mehr, this Let it Bleed edition tells the tale as beautifully, clearly, and boldly as fans of the Replacements could ever hope for. (Rhino)