The moment I laid eyes on the copy of the vinyl reissue of Adore which arrived on my doorstep, I stopped what I was doing and took a moment to absorb and enjoy the image on the cover. It is very captivating; while the original image which introduced Adore to fans in 1998 was a little dark, gothic, bleak, blurry and monochromatic, the cover of the new reissue brims with possibilities renewed. Now surrounded by lush and vivid scarlet shades in the dress that the very pale model is wearing, there is a sort of regal and majestic air about the cover which suits the music and dominant themes of the album far better than the original, and it really sets listeners up to expect a different presentation from the Adore they’re familiar with.
It might sound a little unbelievable, but the aural presentation that they get from the album is exactly as different from the original as the cover is. Mastering Engineer Bob Ludwig truly deserves an award for the work he’s done on the vinyl reissue of Adore; he has re-balanced the original recordings so that the realtime performances in the songs do not conflict with the electronic parts of the songs or awkwardly try to battle for space in the mixes. Ludwig has reconciled them into a much fuller, smoother tone.
That fuller sound is perfectly evident from the moment the gentle ballad “To Sheila” opens Adore. When the CD was originally released in 1998, it seemed like such a simple and cathartic ballad but, here, there are actually a tremendous number of nuances to the song. The reverb on Billy Corgan’s voice gives it a palpable sense of longing and loneliness, while his acoustic guitar – once thought to be so stark and plain – proves to have much more in the mix behind and beside it. Here, banjo and piano suddenly play an important role in helping to buckle the knees as Corgan sings of silent poetry and only being validated as an individual with the help of his beloved. With all of that now audible in the song, it’s hard not to feel as though the song is a new experience entirely, and even listeners long familiar with Adore will find themselves sitting excitedly to see if the fresh breath continues to blow elsewhere too.
Fans will discover that they won’t have to wait long after “Sheila” for another revelation, that’s for sure. “Ava Adore” comes next in the album’s run-time, and the spruced-up mastering supplied by Ludwig offers a wealth of improvements to the song. Most notably, the guitar and bass performances in “Ava” no longer sound as muddy as they did in 1998, the separation between the programmed beat and Corgan’s vocal is a little greater and so makes the song sound larger, and the bridge no longer sounds as though it was inserted into the song in post-production as an after-thought; nothing about the song sounds stacked or rushed now, which is a definite boon. While all of those improvements are small (in some cases, only the sort of fan who has poured over these songs obsessively will notice), they make for a really big difference combined and will really have longtime fans hanging excitedly on them as they listen, just as they may have on a new Smashing Pumpkins album fifteen years ago.
As the record progresses, some listeners won’t be able to stop themselves from discovering old songs that they thought they knew well all over again, as though they’re brand new. Further into the A-side, for example, the new mix and master of “Daphne Descends” makes the song jump out like the wonderful lament it is – rather than just playing a supporting role in the CD’s run-time as it did years ago. Even better, the new presentation of “Tear” sounds perfectly lush and full with the modest echo again boosting Billy Corgan’s vocal and making it more dramatic. In this context, it really does feel as though the sound of Adore – which got some pretty conflicted praise and some pretty damning criticism sixteen years ago – has returned better and more completely realized; it’s absolutely great and satisfying.
That sense of satisfaction endures throughout the other three sides of the Adore vinyl reissue. As listeners make their way through, they’ll find that “Crestfallen” finally lives up to its name when it opens the album’s B-side with twinkling but forlorn keyboards holding up Billy Corgan’s exhausted-sounding vocal, while “Behold! The Night Mare” finally realizes its potential as a beautiful, sort of Beach Boys-inspired psychodrama which leaves listeners warmly as it closes the set’s C-side. Each of those tracks really ran the risk of being overlooked when the album was released originally, but the reissue on vinyl really helps to finally get them their due with good placement per side in addition to the remastered touches.
It is for all of the reasons listed above that the vinyl re-issue deserves attention both from older fans and new ears alike. The validity of the other reissues that Smashing Pumpkins have released over the last couple of years is questionable (particularly the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness vinyl reissue, and the multi-format, multi-size reissues of Siamese Dream were a little tasteless), but this reissue of Adore is absolutely fantastic; it both revisits an album which was unjustly ignored when it originally came out, AND offers an improved experience to boot.