Better Than Ezra’s third album, How Does Your Garden Grow? arguably cost BTE their label and won them a career. Elektra reacted coolly when the band delivered the album, which added electronic looping and layering to their trademark guitar-based sound. After slow record sales following hits Deluxe and Friction, Baby, they parted ways. But the album remains a fan favorite and consistent seller, and has now received new life in digital 5.1.
When engineer Rich LaBonté moved to New Orleans in 1999, he was urged to pick up the album, and as an audiophile he was frustrated he couldn’t experience it as intended. Thus, when he launched Music Valet to remix deserving titles in 5.1 surround sound, HDYGG? was his first target. The original 20-track tapes were uploaded at a Nashville studio and remixed over several months, illuminating the cacophony of sounds and eliminating the original mix’s muddiness. As LaBonté explains, “There wasn’t enough room for these tracks in 180 degrees.”
Music Valet and Better Than Ezra hosted a listening party for HYDGG? 5.1 at Whiskey Blue the first Saturday of Jazz Fest and Walker Acura provided two cars equipped with 5.1 SSA so attendees could fully experience the album. I am among the listeners won over by HDYGG?’s original 1998 release and the difference was instantly perceptible. Griffin’s vocals have taken on an almost haunting tone, the creativity of Drummond’s bass pulses into the forefront, and Travis McNabb’s finesse on drums, punctuated by electronic flourishes, have become bright and distinct.