Series started in 2003 of 4xCD compilations of disco, funk, soul & dance 12" mixes, compiled by Ben Liebrand. Volumes 10 and 20 are 6xCD.
|liebrand.nl , liebrand.com
- I used to worship this series and defend it to the death, but the quality has diminished big time over the last few years and I can no longer trust it. Case in point, volumes 19 and 20 are filled with several very low-quality MP3 sourced files.
- Edited 2 years agoI recall the very beginning of this in 2003. After rebooting his Grandmixes on CD (kicking off with a Millennium edition), interest in dance music from the past started to rise. So Arcade, who originally released the Dance Classics series 1988-1990, teamed up with Universal to revive and even continue this series, eventually replacing single versions by the longer album and/or 12 inch versions. Other record companies started to do the same. Ben, always looking for perfection from day 1 of his profressional life, decided that it was time to teach the public a lesson: there are many CDs with the extended version of, say, Donna Summer "I Feel Love", but there can only be one the very best in terms of length, feel and above all sound quality.
This is why he started Grand 12 Inches. Original artists, original titles, original 12 inch or full length album versions (in case the 12 inch version was not made, not available for licensing or the album version was simply better). Preferrably sourced from the original master tapes, and (I quote): "vinyl transfer only if no master is available (even after contacting the original artist) and only if a mint vinyl is at hand".
Needless to say, a noble statement and approach. Remember that in 2003, record companies were trying out algorithms such as "key2audio" and "Cactus Data Shield" in order to "copy control" their CDs (effectively ruining them) in an attempt to battle music piracy and massive illegal downloading from the web. Another development was the "loudness war" in which CDs were mastered as loud as possible in order to make them sound pound-heavy on mobile phones and similar devices.
And I have to say: the first 8-9 volumes of Grand 12 Inches are very enjoyable. When volume 10 was expanded to six discs, things started to change, and too bad, not for the better.
It was as if the master archives were exhausted. Ben was using his social networks in a search for masters. Not a bad idea as such, but more and more often, I had to read that a particular recording was "taken from CD transfer". Although many of those late 1980s CDs still sound great (some of them even having reference quality or being textbook master quality), fact is that they were made using 1980s equipment and knowledge. And with current technology, more can be retrieved out of those master tapes. So to say: if a master tape is there, use it.
Now I had the feeling that my old 1980s CDs could do the job as well. So the only reason to follow Ben Liebrand's Grand 12 Inches was to pick the titles I missed (which was exactly the phenomenon Ben was trying to avoid; I quote: "stop collecting titles, start collecting quality").
Of course, I bought every volume he released (at his own webshop), for the sake of completion and continuity. The updates and upgrades are a nice bonus. Meanwhile, other initiatives have stopped meanwhile (especially those who were only in it for the money) but Ben is still continuing his mission. But for how long?
At the end of last year, Ben reported that Grandmix 2020 will not see a CD release. Declining sales and illegal sharing were the main causes. This means that Grand 12 Inches 18 may be the curtain call. Or even worse: that Grand 12 Inches 17 already was the very last one.
It is to be feared that the general public values convenience more than sound quality. Spotify & co are more convenient; for a fixed fee per month, you can browse and select all music you want, without having to collect chests full of sound carriers. Those who prefer a physical sound carrier will rather revert to vinyl than CD. This leaves little room left for intiatives such as Grand 12 Inches.
Only time will tell. Until then, there are 70 CDs full of 12 inch versions to enjoy. Or 74, if you also include the Liebrand 12 Inches.
- I have all the Grand 12"-releases on CD and I have to say that the sound mastering is tremendous imho. Of course the selection of tracks is great too and offers a great reflection of the history of (electronic) dance music. A big thank you to Ben Liebrand for this monastic work!
- A couple of things to consider. This is a labour of love by Ben Liebrand and the effort he takes to as meticulously as possible bring what are in some cases, almost lost or destroyed masters back to life is admirable. The other thing to consider is availability. He searches literally the world to track down the masters and then must receive licensing rights to reissue on a limited basis. Is every set and every track a homerun... it depends of if you are a fan or not. I personally have enjoyed each issue. There are many tracks still out there for example "Cerrone's Trippin' on the moon (12" mix) that have never seen the light of day on CD that would be a goldmine to add. But, for the price they are incredible.
- A pretty dull series that's vastly overrated which sounds like one long episode of Steve Wright In The Afternoon. There are a lot of brilliant 12 inch dance tracks out there, sadly this hardly contains any of them and has little variation. If you want to get your Mum and Dad up shaking their rheumatoid joints with very middle of the road numbers then this series is just up your street.