Dream of a Remixed, Remastered 'Californication'

It'll take more than coloured vinyl to save the sound of RHCP's best-seller

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jun 7, 2024

Tomorrow, Red Hot Chili Peppers' landmark 1999 album Californication turns 25, and as is custom, a new vinyl variant has appeared to celebrate the occasion.

However, before dropping $50 CAD on the new red and ocean blue-coloured double LP version of RHCP's multi-platinum best-seller — now available for pre-order via Warner Music — we'd like you to consider Californication's continued legacy as one of the worst-sounding albums ever released.

While the label does not provide any details on the mixing and mastering of this latest vinyl pressing, a teardown to the studs for a wholesale remix and remaster is absolutely what Californication needs after being — as the minds behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers Recording Session Archive eloquently put it — "brick-walled to hell and back."

Californication has long been criticized for excessive compression and distortion that audiophiles claim ruins the fidelity of its initial CD release and majority of vinyl issues. It's a listening experience that leads me to think, "Rick Rubin was right when he said, 'I know nothing about music.'" It's remarkable that a "loudness war" casualty such as this regularly appears on retrospective Best Of album lists, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, and has had its title track eclipse one billion YouTube views.

Notably, the RHCP Recording Session Archive alerted this author to an "unmastered" digital version of Californication nearly a decade ago, which reportedly leaked online not long after the album's release. Until the label decides demand is great enough for the aforementioned remix/remaster treatment, it is widely considered to be the best-sounding version of the album one can hear, should you be resourceful enough to find it floating around online for yourself.

Not only does it sound as if the California coastal breeze is blowing new life into every track, but there are discrepancies between this version and the one that made it to retail that every RHCP obsessive will enjoy — additional verses and vocal parts, and extended instrumental sections among them. The RHCP Recording Session Archive has a remarkably detailed breakdown of the various versions of Californication you can dig into here.

It was gratifying to see RHCP's friends and contemporaries in Rush deliver a completely remixed version of 2002's Vapor Trails that was undeniably an improvement over the original, and here's hoping this legendary catalogue entry from the Californians gets a similar treatment someday soon.

Find out where Californication's smash singles sit in Exclaim!'s ranking of Red Hot Chili Peppers' 20 Best Songs.

Exclaim! recently interviewed guitarist John Frusciante about his new music with Speed Dealer Moms.

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