Saturday, January 18, 2014

CD Review: Télé 80's "Inspecteur Gadget - Edition Speciale: 30e Anniversaire 1983-2013"



Télé 80's revised Inspector Gadget CD is in many ways a remarkable soundtrack release. It is the most complete collection so far published of Shuki Levy and Haim Saban's score, containing all the compositions officially known to survive today, which were originally released on multiple vinyls and cassettes during the 80s. I do have a few nits to pick with the CD (which I'll get back to later), but overall, this is well worth the money of any fan.


To start with my first impressions, the edition is very nicely designed. The cover illustrations may not be original, but who cares... they're the finest to ever grace a soundtrack release for this series. And the disc itself (below) is fittingly rendered in the style of a 45 rpm vinyl, with the show's colorful logo contrasting the black, white and blue. (The logo's coloring is one thing Télé 80 changed from earlier previews, for the better in my opinion.)


I've seen a few online commenters wishing that this "special edition" would contain some actual "special features", like a booklet with background information. I would love to see something like that myself, but let's face it: The main reason this disc is called a 'special edition' is really to separate it from Télé 80's first, lackluster Gadget CD from May 2012 (which was just called "Inspecteur Gadget"). This new CD is special in that it contains more music than any earlier soundtrack collection, but aside from that detail, it's simply a perfectly normal, good-quality CD.

But just that is not bad at all. The music is the most important thing, and almost all of it sounds terrific. If you have only heard these tracks as the fan-ripped MP3s which have been circulating on the web for years, you owe it to yourself to pick up this disc. Speaking for myself, I had never heard tracks like "Gadget in Japan", "Gadget on Mars", "Arabian Desert" etc. in such great, clear quality before. Actually, nearly all of the tracks have great quality but those were some of the standouts for me, as I had only experienced fan-ripped versions of them (from the French Saban LP) earlier.

After listening and re-listening through the disc, I must admit I'm no longer so sure about my previous theory - presented in detail in this post - that 16 of the tracks are sourced from ABC Music's master tapes for the older Australian LP and CD (from 1986 and 1995, respectively). Mainly, I'm beginning to doubt that theory because two tracks sound slightly different from both ABC's Australian collections and Saban's earlier French collections. "Mad Art Museum" and "Rodeo" (tracks 6 and 9) actually play a few seconds longer than I've heard them play before. The extra run time doesn't add much - just more repetitions of the music as it fades out - but still, the difference is there.

In addition, there is the aforementioned stereo difference in one track that was also on ABC's Australian releases: "Gadget Closing", or "Inspector Gadget (Ending TV)" as it's called on Télé 80's CD (track 28). The theme sounds almost completely alike on ABC's and Télé 80's editions, except that the stereo in the opening and closing is jumping around more in Télé 80's version. Where exactly do these nuance differences come from?

Maybe part of the anwer can be found in a Facebook comment written by Télé 80 on October 13, where they state that Shuki Levy himself provided the master tapes for their new CD. ("Masters fournis par Shuky Levi himself.") Judging by that comment, it would appear that Shuki Levy has actually preserved the master tapes for one or more of his original Gadget LPs from the 80s. (I'm still not sure if it means that ALL 30 tracks on Télé 80's CD are sourced from masters. I felt like I could hear some very slight noise on a few tracks, which I'm wondering might indicate that those tracks were remastered from vinyls.) Whatever the case, an alternate source for master tapes than what I first thought might go some way towards explaining the various small differences.

For me personally, the most interesting part of the CD comes towards the end, simply because some of those tracks are so rare. I've already talked about rarities like the instrumental theme for Brain and the alternate Mad's Theme, but I do want to put the spotlight once more on the following: Track 27, "Inspector Gadget (Opening TV)", gives us the English-language opening theme in true stereo, something I've hoped to see for the longest time, and which i believe no official release has ever done before. It sounds very good. And track 29, "Inspecteur Gadget (generique du film)", is a fun - and strange - theme song which I had never heard before at all. Sourced from this Saban single, it's a version of the French theme that was made for the French-released film "Les dossiers secrets de l'inspecteur Gadget" (1987), where three season 2 episodes were combined to make a theatrical feature. This version has a very different voice than the usual one by Jaques Cardona... much more nasal and kind of sounding like an exaggerated cartoon voice. As a little-known part of Saban's Gadget history (so little-known that the singer is unknown, according to Télé 80), this is a welcome addition.

Unfortunately, an annoying technical error also appears at the very end of the disc. Track 30, the extended English-language "Inspector Gadget Theme", is noticeably sped up from what it's supposed to sound like. The original running length of this song is 02:50, but on Télé 80's new CD it clocks in at 02:44, six seconds too short. The sound is flatter and emptier as a result of the time compression, and the stereo effects have become severely distorted, sometimes disappearing altogether. Below is an audio wave comparison of the version on the Télé 80 CD (Track 1, top) vs. the version on my Australian 1995 CD (Track 2, bottom), showing off the differences in pitch and run time. It's interesting to note how much higher the waves go in the properly pitched version from the Australian CD, which has much more prominent stereo and deeper sound throughout.


The pitch error on Télé 80's version of the track is pretty obviously a digital one. This specific theme has actually been released on CD three times before (30 years of Funtastic TV Toons, 1990; Inspector Gadget - The Music, 1995 and Inspecteur Gadget, 2012), and it sounded good on all of those editions... even on Télé 80's first "Inspecteur Gadget" CD from 2012. As such, the pitch problem would likely have been an easy fix had it been discovered in time. I noticed that, in last summer's preview of the booklet, track 30 is listed with its correct run time of 02:50. In the final, printed booklet (below), the run time has been changed to 02:44. So apparently someone "corrected" the booklet information after the CD had been produced and the pitch mistake on track 30 had been made, rather than thinking to double-check if something could have gone wrong with the digital processing.


I have to say, after waiting for over a year to hold this revised CD in my hands, it was more than a little frustrating to come across an obvious error like this. Especially after I've been reporting about and advertising for the CD - and also have been mailing suggestions to Télé 80 - for so long that I sort of feel personally involved with it. And it's unfortunate as well because Télé 80's new publishing contract doesn't allow them to reprint any CDs, or release music for digital download, so I doubt they'll be able to correct this mistake.

Don't get me wrong, though. On the whole, this CD has been produced with the very best of intentions, and 99% of the time it delivers to those intentions. I know that Télé 80 worked to make a good CD this time around. They have much better quality control now than on their first few CDs, but somehow this slipup still happened. I'm describing it in detail here because it would be irresponsible not to do so... but I'd still like to point out that, ASIDE from that mistake, this is the best soundtrack release Gadget has ever had. Until the lost master material for the rest of the score is uncovered, this is likely just about the best you'll find. So my conclusion after all this is - buy it while you can.

On that note: despite the fact that the CD was printed in just a few hundred copies last fall, it's still very much available, not only on the French Amazon, but also in GermanyGreat Britain, CanadaSpain, Italy and even Japan. (Yikes! What does that tell us about the number of sales so far?) Most of these Amazon sites have it in stock, and all of them sell it for a good, reasonable price. Friendly advise, by the way: Do not buy it from the two marketplace sellers on the American Amazon.com, who somehow have the nerve to demand more than 95 dollars even though the CD is cheaply available everywhere else.

23 comments:

  1. I recently got the soundtrack and noticed that a lot of the tracks sound like they got some major hiss/crackle deduction going on. It's okay for the most part, but I noticed that some of the tracks may/may not have had some detail removed accidentally. For instance, I noticed in tracks like Theme du Dr Gang (Reprise) that the hi hats seem to have taken a hit in overall sound quality. The odd part is that while some parts of the songs have noticeable reduction, other parts sound very good still. Not sure if it was just the quality of one of the samplers Shuki Levy used at the time (the E-MU EMULATOR 1 for instance), but overall it's a good effort from Tele80.

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    1. Interesting. I don't know what equipment Télé 80 has been using for the remastering (though they are still on a small budget, even if production values are much improved). A few months ago I did a lot of (informal) listening comparisons between the French 1983 LP (various MP3 uploads), the Australian 1995 CD (my own copy) and the new Télé 80 CD. Overall, I thought the Télé 80 versions of the tracks sounded very, very good. Maybe a few, slight hisses in a very small number of the tracks, but I heard nothing really disturbing except for the problems with track 30 that I've already described. Still, I probably didn't analyze the tracks quite to the extent you have, so I can't say with 100% certainty that everything sounds as good as or better than previous editions.

      A few questions, out of curiosity:
      - When you say "hiss/crackle deduction", I assume you mean "reduction"?
      - About "Theme du Dr Gang (Reprise)": For others who are curious, this is the version of "Mad's Theme" that was first released on the 1986 Australian LP. I will have to compare the Télé 80 track with the version on my Australian CD to find out if I hear any differences... but what source did you use to make the comparison? Do you have the Australian soundtrack collection, either as an LP or CD?
      - Also, you say that "a lot of the tracks" sound like they have major noise reduction going on, but that "some of the tracks" may possibly have lost some detail. I'm wondering, how do you detect the signs of noise reduction tools in tracks that you think sound fine/have all the detail intact? (I'm still a newbie to analyzing music like that.)

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  2. Hey there.

    Yep, I meant hiss reduction not deduction haha.

    I listen to most of my music with ATH-M50s headphones, so I can usually pick up on when things sound too compressed or distorted upon listening (I'm into lossless quality music, that's why I was ecstatic to hear that they were putting out the soundtrack on CD). Unfortunately, I've only ever listened to the typical MP3 rip of the French LP that's been floating around. But I've known about the Australian LP's existence for a while now. Your blog is the first time I've ever heard the Australian soundtrack was available on CD though, so I've only heard the Reprise on this release. If you listen to Reprise and the other version back to back, you can tell right away that the Reprise version took a hit in sound quality in the beginning. The hit hats as I said aren't as pronounced like in the original, and there's a subtle lack of reverb as well. I don't know if this is in the Australian LP's version or not though. I chose this song in particular because it was the most noticeable to me.

    I noticed a few of the tracks that have instrument solos (like Desert d'Arabie) seem to be the most noticeable of the hiss/pop reduction. I was able to tell from listening since I do remember Desert d'Arabie having a bit more reverb in the original LP version. I used to do hiss/pop reduction on some of my own LPs way back with software like Adobe Audition, and I remember that the automated removal process would often damage most reverb effects by confusing it as hiss or any short high frequency sounds like hi hats as vinyl pops and cracks. However once the song begins with the other instruments playing at the same time, the full reverb effect is present (along with some light audible hiss in the background). This is an instance where I think reduction techniques were used that might've removed some minor detail from the song accidentally, in this case being the reverb effect in the beginning. However, there are other tracks that seem to have very little hiss but sound just fine (Les Pharaons). It's very difficult to explain in words, but if I could put some of the tracks side by side it might be a bit more understandable. I wonder if they did have actual masters and just selectively removed hiss from certain parts in a multitrack or if their master was a simple stereo analog tape recording...

    By the way, if you want to listen to a really good version of the 'Inspector Gadget Theme' (the last track of Tele80s release), the best version I've heard can be found on "30 Years of Funtastic TV Toons 1960 - 1990". Zero hiss and pops/crackles, the right pitch, and in stereo - sounds excellent. The liner notes of this soundtrack said many of the tracks come the original masters, the Saban ones specifically all sound perfect.

    Download it here and compare it with the last track of the Tele80 release and see exactly what I mean. :P
    http://www.mediafire.com/download/2mxfzmo8yfdfiw1/06-_Inspector_Gadget.flac

    The liner notes specifically say "Please Note: Due to the condition of the original masters there will be come slight distortion, volume level changes and noise which will be noticeable. This is attributable to the original recordings and is not a defect of this compact disc." These abnormalities are absent from all of the Saban tracks. :)

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    1. Yikes, sorry for the late reply here.

      Thanks. :) For my own part, I already have a flac copy of "Inspector Gadget Theme" from the "Funtastic TV Toons" compilation as well as my own copy on the 1995 "Inspector Gadget - The Music" CD. The song sounds completely alike - and excellent - on both of those releases. I'll recommend everyone here who has bought the Télé 80 CD, and is curious to hear what track 30 is SUPPOSED to sound like, to download the track in the link. The difference is very noticeable.

      I listened to "Arabian Desert" both from Saban's 1983 LP (MP3 versions) and Télé 80's remastered CD, and I think I'll have to agree with you about the instrumental solo opening of that track. I have compared to two different MP3 rips of the LP (in 320 and 128 kbps quality)... and the opening in both of them sounds richer, somehow, than the version on the Téle 80 CD. In the new CD, the solo part does sound CLEARER (as in, no hiss as far as I can notice),,, but it also sounds just slightly emptier and more... distant?... than the LP versions. Once the rest of the song starts, though, it sounds fine.

      I'll do a comparison of the "Mad's Theme" track as well and get back to you about it.

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    2. Bonjour,

      I'm a french amateur of sound editing since many years, and i was looking for a good version of inspecteur gadget.Two weeks ago i found this american instrumental version of inspecteur gadget on youtube and no way to find it elsewhere in a good version in flac , so i decide to remaster for my personnal use this youtube version.
      I have just compressed, few eq and a limiter at the and (maybe pushed a little too far but that was just for a more powerfull, more opened but still dynamic version of this title for listen on my ipod).
      I really don't have money to spend in cd by now, but the day i put my hand on a good flac version i will remaster for my own this tittle i just discover.Here is my version if you find any interest in it:

      http://www.mediafire.com/listen/1hc9m76slj121ho/Inspecteur_gadget_générique_(youtube)_PuigTec.wav

      You can delete this post if you don't want, like me, seeing this new semi-poor youtube version starting a life on internet

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  3. Nice! I still need to buy my copy of the CD.
    Now let's hope more of Shuki Levy's memorable soundtrack for this show gets unearthed, probably lost in some archive somewhere...

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  4. I'm buying this CD! I can't wait to get it :D

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    1. That's great! :D And your timing's great, too! Télé 80 had a Facebook update on June 15 reporting how many units they still have of previous releases, and there were only 125 copies left of the 30th anniversary Inspector Gadget CD. So I say, get it while you can! :)

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  5. The short tv version of the Inspector Gadget theme can be found on Televisions Greatest Hits Volume 3. CD. It plays in normal speed and is in stereo!

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    1. Um, actually... the version on the "Television's Greatest Hits Volume 3" CD (1987) is in mono. At least all rips I've ever heard from this CD are. Here's one example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRLX3qGYT08 Listen to it with a headset and you'll hear what I mean. There's no variation in the left and right ear, no real stereo effects.

      By contrast, the TV theme version which has been up for years on Shuki Levy's official web site has very noticeable stereo effects: http://shukilevy.com/audio/inspector-gadget/#prettyPhoto/1/ It sounds richer and better in my ears. I strongly suspect this is the version which was utilized for the Télé 80 CD, since it has exactly the same stereo effects.

      Also: the version of the English-language TV theme on Télé 80's CD actually DOES play in correct speed - as track 27, "Inspector Gadget (Opening TV)". Just thought I'd specify this since you mention "normal speed". The only Télé 80 track with a speed-up problem is the extended, English-language theme song (track 30, "Inspector Gadget Theme").

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  6. The Real Ghostbusters Soundtrack score also composed by Shuki Levy is in need of a release too! Not the mention the long sought after theme song From John Smith. In the promo pilot it is heard in it's full. Can you write to Tele 80 to request this one?

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  7. Hiam Saban and Shuki Levy did the Real Ghostbusters score! Forgot to mention.

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  8. Another sought after Soundtrack is from the 1984 1986 NBC Saturday morning series Kidd Video. I know there was an LP and cassette released in Israel only. What a joy it would be to have this one on CD at last! Re mastered from the original source tapes!

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  9. I just read in one of your blogs that La La Land Records is releasing a box set full of Shuki Levy's most sought after and beloved cartoon themes 150 songs, this year? Is this true or just a pipe dream?

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    1. A correction here. You're referring to an April Fools' post I wrote last year (i. e. not real); but I never wrote that La La Land would release a compilation of Shuki Levy theme songs. I wrote that La La Land would release the complete score music for Inspector Gadget. I have dreamt of something like that to happen for a long time. For the moment, though, I'm afraid it's just a dream.

      By the way... did you actually READ the post you're referring to? If you did, I'm honestly wondering how you could fail to notice the big "APRIL FOOLS" shoutout in the headline; as well as the explanation in italics up top where I say it was all an April fools' post.

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  10. Hi I did re read your post. I must have missed read it the first time. A Inspector Gadget CD box set would be cool, they should call it the lost Gadget sessions, and so would a best of Shuki Levy cartoons themes CD or two CD's. Maybe someday? Tele 80 did get the rights for the Inspector Gadget music release, I wonder if they can get the rights for the rest of his cartoon themes? I've tried to contact Shuki Levy's own website and heard nothing back so far.

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  11. Hi Mesterius! I've only just received a copy of this CD - I wasn't even aware of it until I stumbled across your fantastic blog, so thanks! Despite the amount of Inspector Gadget merchandise my brother and I amassed during the 80s (colouring books, Bandai figures, Gadgetmobile & Madmobile, Galoob action figure, Milton Bradley board game, Circuit Gadget etc.) we never got the soundtrack. I remember it being on sale at the ABC Shop for years, so it's great to finally get hold of such a comprehensive version. My son & I are thoroughly enjoying it!

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  12. A Shuki Levy 80s cartoon themes deluxe CD box set sounds sweet, the question is why has it not happened yet?

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    1. Probably because the market for such a collection in the English-speaking world sadly isn't as big as we'd like to think. In France, there was a 3-volume CD series released well over a decade ago called "Les succès Saban", which compiled a huge variety of the French-language TV theme songs by Saban and Levy (i. e. in reality by Levy). But of course, in France, Saban had already been releasing soundtrack vinyls and cassettes of their scores/themes for decades before that.

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  13. I heard that Tele 80 is pending for a Jem And The Holograms CD release if Hasbro grants the O.K. So that's good news at least!

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    1. Jem and the Holograms is not a cartoon I'm familiar with; but yeah, it should be good news for fans of that series. :)

      (Just curious, where did you hear it? I can't see any announcement on their Facebook page.)

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  14. I contacted them directly from there Facebook book and they said that it is in the works, keep your fingers crossed! Jem!

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  15. Tele 80 also mentioned that Fraggle Rock is coming too!

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