a short site about The Divine Comedy

French version

Absent Friends – Chinese Bootleg

Absent Friends - Chinese Bootleg

  • Formats (editor, date)
    CD Bootleg (Sony Music, 2004): 
    9 787884 744503
This bootleg version of Absent Friends is probably one of the weirdest items. Produced in China, it features too much attempts to look like it’s official that it fails!

I was lucky, and still very thankful, to be given a copy from a fan living in China at that time. I was told that sometimes bootleg copies were manufactured on demand, and I wondered if the item would then be an unique artefact… Until a few years later I saw another copy but without the complete package (only CD + booklet). Later I found out that other bands also have very similar bootlegs with some packaging and logos.
The original packaging is that the jewel box comes within a cardboard sleeve. But not one like we use to see where you easily extract the CD from the sides. Here, the jewel box must get in and out vertically, and it’s an exercise to do it so without damaging the sleeve.

That cardboard sleeve also features a panel. That panel shows the album cover with additional Chinese writing, and an ‘authenticity’ stamp. Once opened, there is the same front cover, without the stamp. And the other side of the panels shows a reproduction of the ‘Absent Friends CD2’ picture from the booklet, within a white frame. Nice!
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On the left, there is some Chinese writing along with a vertical title, like a reproduction of an obi strip. Below there is a HDCD logo and a reference number H1291. Of course the album is no HDCD, and this is an attempt to make it look a good sounding copy “so it must be genuine”.
The other side is quite funny too: the back cover features the sofa picture which has been photoshopped to remove the original titles. The tracklisting here is a smaller one, with translations of the songs titles (except ‘Absent Friends’ but it’s probably the one translated on the front cover). Tracks durations are also present.
The bottom features a few logos: Sony Music, Compact Disc and HDCD. Below there is some serial numbers with Chinese notes. And on the left a copyright notice, stating the Columbia is a trademark of Sony Music. Wait a minute… aren’t The Divine Comedy on EMI now?! Obviously, they got it all wrong! Finally at the bottom-right corner the bar code number is referenced as an ISBN. An ISBN! That’s for books, not CDs!
The spines feature again the Sony Music logo, the album title (in the correct presentation) with its translation, the Compact Disc logo and H1291 again.

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Inside the jewel case, the back cover is an identical reproduction of the one from the outer sleeve. The other side of the inlay doesn’t show EMI’s message regarding piracy (they should have so it’d look more genuine!), but the ‘Billy Bird CD2’ picture from the booklet, and on the left the album titles like on the spine (English and Chinese).
The booklet is a bit thinner than the original, because it features fewer pages. The front features again the Chinese translation. The three first pages feature album lyrics. The design is quite anarchic with different font or spacing sizes. And if we look more closely, we notice that many words have mistake! Why? It’s likely the original booklet was scanned and character recognition software was used. The three next pages feature a few pictures from the original booklet, which have been cropped so each fit on one page. Finally, the credits are missing, and the last page is plain white with once again the Sony Music copyright.
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Image Quite strangely, the CD is totally different from what we could have expected. It had a red design featuring a picture of flowers. There is a circular copyright note, but the most interesting is the little frame with logo and notes. These notes feature an ISCR number, and strangely refer to technical gears such as Manly and Millennia equalizers, a Lexicon reverb effect, and an audio CDR writer. There are still Compact Disc and HDCD logos with a ’24-bit analog-to-digital transfer’ which somehow makes sense since HDCD is meant to tweak PCM data so they can have a wider bit range.
But below, there are a couple of other logos: DSD and Direct CBM which is Sony Japan’s technology to convert DSD to CD in SACD. This is a totally different technology than HDCD and doesn’t really make sense.
There is also the reference ‘HDCD-2111’ (surprisingly not 1291) which is also engraved on the other side.
Finally the CD’s content is the regular version of the album. No special enhancement of course, and fortunately, not sourced from MP3 either.