SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Hi-Res Disc Reviews, Part 3 of 3 Rock/Jazz/Misc.
Published on March 1, 2004
***********MULTICHANNEL DISC OF THE MONTH*********
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells 2003 – Warner Music DVD-A R9 60204:
Here’s a new twist on the ploy of record companies selling fans the same classic recording over and over again in different guises. Tubular Bells aficionados long enough in the tooth will recall the original LP, which was quite a trip back there in 1973. Then there was the boxed set of it plus all the later spin-offs from it by multi-instrumentalist Oldfield, which was in SQ quad and quite a good demo of the primitive surround sound of that era. (Matter of fact, it sounds very good even today played thru ProLogic II or Circle Surround II.)
Then we had the transfer to CD, which of course was inferior to the vinyl versions. The rock classic sort of took a back burner for a while, then came on the scene again in 2002 in an SACD version on Virgin. It appears the original quad mix was pretty much transferred to the new format, but with the greatly improved separation and lack of distortion (other than intended by Oldfield) of four-channel DSD most of us were hearing what Oldfield had heard in the studio after completing his famous multi-tracked masterpiece.
Now the DVD-Audio camp has brought us a completely new version which is not a spin-off as were Tubular Bells II and III, but a revisiting of the original 1973 composition. Oldfield wanted to do something to observe the 30th anniversary of his original work, to correct what he considers mistakes in the original, and to take advantage of all the new studio technology that has come about in the meantime. He began by obtaining the original 16-track master for the 1973 recording, and using it as a guide to laying down all the tracks of a brand new version. The original used primarily acoustic and straightforward electric guitars, albeit in a bewildering profusion. The re-creation is still based on guitars, but is a more polished, electronic, high tech version all around. Monty Python’s John Cleese is now the narrator introducing all the fantasy soloists in the band, replacing comic Vivian Stanshall, who died in l995, and he seems to do a fairly accurate imitation of Stanshall’s hilarious introductions. Among the high tech stuff used in the recording process were a NEVE Capricorn mixing desk with recall and automation, three Mac computers, the latest ProTools software and cards, and a long list of outboard electronic processors. There were 14 different guitars, five pianos and organs, an accordion, eight different electronic keyboards and four synthesizers, plus a bunch of percussion.
The new multichannel mix is much more immersive and enveloping than was the original quad version. This is partly due to the improved separation and higher resolution of the DVD-A format, but more so to the extreme spatial effects employed by mixer Ben Darlow. There are instruments coming from every angle 360 degrees around the listener; all are very distinct and well-balanced – or at least should be if you have identical speakers all around or nearly so. But beyond that Darlow moves around the listening room some of the lead instruments while they are playing. This disc comes in at the same time as the Tchaikovsky Trio from Tacet, which introduces their “Moving Real Surround Sound,” doing exactly the same thing with classical chamber music. Many will probably feel this to be gimmickry that ruins their beloved pieces, but I see/hear it as interesting fun with the music which is not exactly Beethoven’s Ninth anyway. (Tacet does cover its derriere by offering the Trio in both the moving-instrument version and a stable instruments one -though each assigned to a specific speaker – on the same DVD-A.)
There are plenty of options and extras on this DVD-A not offered by the Virgin SACD. First, it’s nice to have the titles of the 17 different sections of the two-part work displayed on the screen. I didn’t even know there were titles, and some seemed hard fit to match what I was hearing – such as the one titled “Russian.” There are video excerpts from both Tubular Bells II & III, presented live at Edinburgh Castle and in London respectively. These are massive stage productions with big choirs, orchestra etc. that looked like some of Kitaro’s and Vangelis’ spectaculars, but with music that had a bit more substance going for it. I would have like to see more of these videos. There is also a DTS 5.1 track provided for the Tubular Bells recreation for those lacking a DVD-A player. I didn’t hear a huge difference in sonics with this option because the DVD-A is only 48K rather than the maximum res of 96K. Another alternative for the DVD-A-bereft is the two-channel mix here, though it is Dolby Digital rather than uncompressed PCM. That could also be a possible option for those made seasick by the spinning instruments of the multichannel mix. There is still more on this disc: a 42-minute section also in Dolby Digital stereo of demo tracks made by Oldfield going back to l971, before release of the original commercial recording. The tapes are a bit rough, with dropouts on one channel or another, bad splices and distortion in some of the loudest portions, but for fans they can provide a fascinating insight into Oldfield’s creative process. He hadn’t yet thought of a narrator to introduce the various instruments that come in during the second part, and the whole thing is noisier and more edgy than the final result.
So altogether a most worthwhile and highly recommended release that fans will want to have in addition to the SACD version if they have a universal player or two players. I would say this disc is this month’s equivalent of the Dark Side of the Moon SACD of a couple months ago.
Deep Purple – Live On The BBC – Audio Fidelity AFZ 017 – Stereo Hybrid SACD:
This Steve Hoffman-produced disc delivers all the bang-for-the-buck in sound quality that “Made In Japan” (the “official” live album dating from the same time period) did not, along with some pretty cool bonus material. The album, which is essentially “Machine Head” played live, captures the classic Deep Purple lineup at their peak both musically and creatively. All the performances are inspired, and you get interesting little snippets of conversation from the band between tracks. Bonus tracks include the groups first couple of hits Hush and River Deep Mountain High, both delivered in the best sound they’ve likely ever seen. Highly recommended for fans, and hey, don’t be afraid to crank the volume to get the maximum effect!
Tracks: Highway Star; Strange Kind Of Woman; Maybe I’m A Leo; Never Before; Lazy; Space Truckin’; Smoke On The Water; Lucille; Hush; River Deep Mountain High.
Beck – Sea Change – Geffen B0001840-19 – DVD-Audio:
With “Sea Change,” Beck Hansen has delivered another eclectic disc – is this guy difficult to categorize, or what? His previous efforts have run the gamut from folk, to grunge, to sample-laden neo-hip hop – what’s next? Well, at least the ride is never boring, to say the least.
This is one of those DVD-A discs that really works better with a monitor present. The inserted disc defaults to the menu page setting while playing the atmospheric, synth-washed tune Round the Bend – absolute ear candy, and unlike anything else Beck has produced yet. The tune is so intoxicating, I found myself hardly rushing to advance to anything else. Unless you have a monitor, that’s all you get without repeatedly pressing the play button, and there still doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, just keep on pressin’ – eventually you’ll get some music. I guess as long as the majors continue to view DVD-A as both a visual and audio medium, we’ll just have to shut up and deal with it.
Once you get beyond playback options, you’ll discover that sonically, this is one of the most satisfying releases of 2003, and one of the best-sounding DVD-A discs I’ve yet to hear. As always, the songs are a totally unpredictable mesh of Beck’s trademark folk influences, subdued vocals, acoustic stylings, synthesizer washes and obscure samples that have characterized his work of the last decade – this may, however, be the most cohesive album he’s ever generated. The surround mix is superb, with instruments and samples scattered all about the soundfield, but never to distraction.
The disc includes a hi-res stereo mix and Dolby Digital 5.1 for those with only a standard DVD player, and also contains several music videos for the songs, all of which are very entertaining. I have to be honest – I’m firmly in the SACD camp, but the sound quality of this disc is so compelling – it’s made me really reevaluate how I feel about DVD-A in general. It’s that good.
Tracks: The Golden Age; Paper Tiger; Guess I’m Doing Fine; Lonesome Tears; Lost Cause; End of the Day; It’s All in Your Mind; Round the Bend; Already Dead; Sunday Sun; Little One; Side of the Road.
Steely Dan – Gaucho – MCA multichannel SACD B0000868-36:
There were rumours (whoops – that’s another group’s album) that this Steely Dan classic would never see the light of multichannel hires issue because the original tapes couldn’t be found. Well, they must have been found because here it is. According to the hilarious program notes by Fagen and Becker there were plenty of problems with doing Gaucho in the first place, including running thru 320 reels of two-inch tape which were only the outtakes from the session – at $100 a reel. If you open those notes at the fold you will discover inside a very sensible large white sheet with every word of all the lyrics clearly printed for your enjoyment and edification – something not one of the high-tech video lyric displays with DVD-As has achieved. In addition, each lyric ends with a listing of exactly who played what on that track. Just some of the Big Names involved: Jeff Porcaro, David Sanborn, Tom Scott, Randy Brecker, Mark Knopfler. Becker and Fagan don’t fool around when they hire sidemen for their gigs! The multichannel mix is great fun – backup vocals on the surrounds frequently, interesting percussion all around. This is right up there with their super-classic Aja album. Tracks: Babylon Sisters, Hey Nineteen, Glamour Profession, Gaucho, Time Out of Mind, My Rival, Third World Man.
Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 – Columbia/Mobile Fidelity stereo SACD UDSACD 2013:
Founded in l967, BS&T quickly became one of the shining lights of the jazz/rock fusion movement. Bringing together alums of the Blues Project, The Mothers of Invention, Buffalo Springfield and Gil Evan’s big band and led by jazzman Bobby Colomby with lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas, BS&T rode high on intriguing arrangements which often made use of jazz and classical standard themes. On this 1970 album, for example, there is a selection from Bartok’s Hungarian Peasant Songs, from Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije Suite, and Thelonious Monk’s tune I Mean You. Tunes from Carole King, James Taylor, Mick Jagger, Laura Nyro and Joe Cocker are on this session. Don’t let the preponderance of cover versions dissuade you from this cool collection; the covers are generally better than the originals! Just compare BS&T’s 40,000 Headmen with the Traffic original – ‘nuf said. There have been audiophile re-pressings of previous BS&T albums but none have approached the clarity and detail of this SACD. I’m hearing things in the music that I never before realized were there, and Clayton-Thomas’ powerful voice comes thru as never before. Highly recommended!
Tracks: Hi-De-Ho, The Battle, Lucretia MacEvil, Lucretia’s Reprise, Fire and Rain, Lonesome Suzie, Symphony/Sympathy for the Devil, He’s a Runner, Somethin’ Comin’ On, 40,000 Headmen.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Raise your Spirit Higher – Heads Up multichannel SACD HUSA 9083:
This is the most aurally convincing use of surround sound in popular or world music I have yet heard. There is an interesting note on the actual disc: “There are mix components that require the presence of all five main speakers. A subwoofer is also recommended.” I’ll say. The ten members of the male South African a capella ensemble are arrayed around the listener; the call and response structure of most of their songs is perfect for using the spatial element to add involvement and a dynamic quality to the mix.
The rich, low male voices reminded me of the Persuasions Beatles album on Chesky in their amazing presence in the listening room, but this is a larger group and spaced out all around one. The lovely harmonies sail along on a bedding of African rhythms so complex and compelling that one forgets there are no actual percussion instruments involved. The group’s mix of gospel music with native South African traditional music has made them a hit with audiences of every sort throughout the world. Most of the songs are not translated but there are short summaries of their content, and a couple do have portions in English. An indication that the Black Mambazos are able to take some time now from their difficult struggle is the song urging “Don’t Drink and Drive” – part of a government campaign to get people to use their seat belts.
Ryan Adams – Gold – Lost Highway B0001472-19 – DVD-Audio:
Singer/songwriter Ryan Adams has been getting quite a bit of press as of late, with much of it basically making him out to be, more or less, “the new Bob Dylan.” Those are pretty tall shoes to fill, and I think it’s really pretty early on in his career to be drawing those kind of comparisons – let’s check back in ten years, and see if he’s still garnering the accolades.
I have to admit that I was pretty tenuous in warming up to much of the music here. There are numerous good tracks here – uptempo numbers like New York, New York– and more poignant songs like When the Stars Go Blue, Nobody Girl and Harder Now That It’s Over. But as often as I popped this disc in the player, I just didn’t get much of an urge musically or sonically to hit the replay button on much of the music.
Sonically, the disc is OK, but it’s really nothing to write home about. I really thought the surround mix was pretty badly done (kind of gimmicky-sounding), and Ryan Adams voice seemed somewhat recessed in the mix, but when I switched to the stereo layer there wasn’t much of a difference in the sound.
The video content of the disc is particularly compelling, especially the video made for New York, New York,” which was shot under the Brooklyn Bridge with the World Trade Center buildings towering hauntingly in the background. The video was done on Sept. 7, 2001, only four days before the world was changed forever by the terrorist actions of Sept. 11. If you’re a huge fan, then by all means, go for it – everyone else may want to take a listen before grabbing their wallets.
Tracks: New York, New York; Firecracker; Answering Bell; La Cienega Just Smiled; The Rescue Blues; Somehow, Someday; When The Stars Go Blue; Nobody Girl; Sylvia Plath; Enemy Fire; Gonna Make You Love Me; Wild Flowers; Harder Now That It’s Over; Touch, Feel & Lose; Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues; Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd.
Marvin Gaye – The Marvin Gaye Collection – Motown B0001109-19 – DVD-Audio:
This Marvin Gaye collection is particularly welcome because not only do we get hi-res stereo remasterings of many of his well-known songs, but we also get pretty cool hi-res surround versions of each as well. The surround effect is particularly effective on the tracks What’s Going On and Mercy Mercy Me, where voices and sounds coming at you from all directions really embellish the psychedelic feel of the songs, and seem really appropriate.
Of course, then, we have the Achilles heel of hi-res surround – poor mixing choices, which unfortunately on this disc, in all the classic sixties duos featuring Tammy Terrell, places her behind your head in the mix – which just seems really disjointed and totally unnecessary. Of course, once again, we have the same DVD-A problem of not being able to just play either set of high-res tracks easily without the use of a monitor. Not to worry, just switch on your monitor, and switch to the stereo tracks, and everything’s back to normal – it’s just a shame that they had to monkey with some of the surround tracks so much.
Tracks: Ain’t That Peculiar; It Takes Two; Ain’t No Mountain High Enough; Your Precious Love; Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing; I Heard It Through The Grapevine; What’s Going On; Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology); Trouble Man; Let’s Get It On; Distant Lover.
The Mavericks; Silverline 288213-9 DVD-A:
Many have been waiting for the 6th album from the Grammy winning group The Mavericks. This is the first record in five years and was co-produced by Mavericks front man Raul Malo. The music has a country-western flavor mixed with a pop sound and has pleasant vocals with a lively style. The first song on the disc reminds me a lot of the earlier Rembrandts record. The second track highlights the lead singer’s vocal abilities and sounds a lot like The Moody Blues. “Shine Your Light” is a change from the style of most of the rest of the album and could best be described as a Latin salsa number complete with horns-a-blaring. The variety of style on this disc is impressive—the fourth track sounds like it could be from Julio Iglesias. Track 7 sounds like a Patsy Cline song as sung by Roy Orbison. Aside from one track, I felt the album was an excellent production, and definitely worth a listen.
The mix has some instrumentation in the surround channels, but the primary focus is up front. Music flows nicely and is incredibly easy to listen to. Recording quality is above average. Lyrics are selectable via the on-screen menu, otherwise there is a simple still image. There is a behind-the-scenes video with the band playing in the studio and includes interviews, and there is also a video of the song “Would You Believe?” Songs included are: I Want To Know; In My Dreams; Shine Your Light; I’m Wondering; By The Time; Would You Believe?; Too Lonely; Time Goes By; San Jose; Because Of You; Air That I Breathe.
I Ching – Of the Marsh and the Moon – Chesky multichannel SACD265:
I Ching is a quartet consisting of bamboo flute, Chinese dulcimer, the Chinese Er-hu two-stringed violin, and a synthesist/samplerist. But their bailiwick is more than just traditional Chinese music with an electronic twist. It is a very contemporary and unique sound which beautifully melds East and West. Some of the selections come from Chinese folk music while others are specially-composed by the synth player, Joel Goodman, who also arranged all the rest. The Er-hu has a lovely sound that has been featured in some classical works by Chinese composers. Natural sounds are often integrated into the music. The use of the surrounds in the mix is tasteful and involving, and the acoustics of St. Peter’s Church in NYC give it a naturalness difficult to achieve in a recording studio. Don’t confuse this with Chinese opera music please. The initial track with its sound effects taped in Tibet was sampled on the Dr. Chesky sampler reviewed above. Tracks: Tibet, Young Girl’s Heart, Jasmine Flower, Silk Road, Running Water, The Three Rivers, Gadamaylin, Beauty is Everywhere, In That Distant Place, Prayer, Birds Flying in the Sky.
Seabiscuit – Soundtrack music by Randy Newman from the motion picture – Decca multichannel SACD BOOO1701-36:
I said the following about the CD version in our October Soundtracks section: The film about the famous race horse was a true American epic, and Newman’s latest film score is a major component of its success. He has brought a number of different stories to life with his music, and this one puts him on a par with probably the most important American classical composer of the past who also did some fine film scores – Aaron Copland. Randy Newman approaches it from a more popular, roots music direction rather than concert hall classical, but his ability to achieve a very American sound and mood is the same as was Copland’s. There’s some nice acoustic guitar here, and a rousing mariachi band for one cue when the jockey hero played by Tobey Maguire is riding in Tijuana. The 20 cues alternate gentle melodies with intense scene-setting for the races, fistfights and other action pieces. The arrangements have a warm retro sounding feeling because the story takes place during the Depression, not today.
There’s no Enhanced section to this disc as there was to the 44.1 CD, but since most Enhanced portions don’t provide that much lately it’s not a great loss. The surround effect makes listening to this music again more like the moviegoing experience. The improved is not huge but subtle in the area of more depth and richness to the score. Tracks: Main Title, Idea, The Crash, Seabiscuit, Call Me Red, Frankie, La Tequilera, Marcela Agua Caliente, Pumpkin, Red’s First Win, Infield Folks, Tanforan, Campfire, The Derby, Wedding, Night Ride Accident, To the Line, The Unkindest Cut, Ready?, A Nice Ride.
Blues Traveler – Truth Be Told; Silverline 288214-9 DVD-A:
This album is the 7th studio album from Blues Traveler—a New York-based blues-rock band headed by John Popper. The foundation of the band is blues/rock tunes with catchy hooks and garnished with Popper’s superb harmonica playing. Their big hit song “Run-Around” propelled the band’s album Four to the top of the charts 10 years ago in 1994. Since then, the band has been steadily producing albums (one of which I have), but not really recreating the glory of their past success. This disc is a strong release and contains all the elements that have made Blues Traveler a solid band. The early tunes sound timeless (at least in the span of their career), and could have easily been on one of their earlier records. Some people find bands they like and can listen to more of the same material over and over. There isn’t anything revolutionary on this disc, but if you are a fan, or just looking for a good blend of modern blues and rock then you won’t be disappointed. Sometimes, just being able to maintain is admirable, and that is how it is with this record–the pace is good and all the songs are well done.
This DVD offers a choice of lyrics or a colored still over the music. Music in the rear is subtle with most of the sound coming from up front. Recording quality is okay, but not great. There is a slight edge/scratchiness/wispy quality to the sound. Songs included are: Unable To Get Free; Eventually (I’ll Come Around); Sweet And Broken; My Blessed Pain; Let Her Let Go; Thinnest Of Air; Can’t See Why; Stumble And Fall; This Ache; Mount Normal; The One; Partner In Crime.
Albert King With Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Session; Stax SXSA-7501-6 Stereo Hybrid SACD:
Albert King, though he was thought by many to be one of the best blues guitarists, never really got out from the shadow of B.B. King. He has been known to influence the likes of Eric Clapton and many others (including Stevie Ray Vaughan who idolized him). Stevie had first met King in 1973, and it was fitting that 10 years later on December 6, the two would play some amazing blues (as evidenced on this disc). This session was part of a television program called In Session whose concept was to pair stylistically related musicians who wouldn’t normally have the chance to play together. Tony Llorens (piano/organ), Gus Thornton (bass), and Michael Llorens (drums) rounded out the group. They play a few classics and “borrowed” tunes, a few King originals, and even the hit song of the day by Stevie, “Pride And Joy.” The performance is inspired, and it was as if the musicians were made to play together even with the huge disparity in age—King was 60 and Vaughan was in his late 20s. In between the tracks there are brief chit chats between the musicians that further prove the authenticity of the camaraderie of the two artists. As a lover of the blues this album is a find.
The recording is crisp and clean, with excellent electric guitar and drum sound. Bass is deep, tight, and cymbals have a sheen so realistic you can almost imagine the drum sticks hitting them. Songs included are: Call It Stormy Monday; Pride And Joy; Ask Me No Questions; Blues At Sunrise; Overall Junction; Match Box Blues; Don’t Lie To Me.
America – Homecoming; Warner Archives/Rhino R9 74367 DVD-A:
America may not be at the top of anyone’s list of “great bands of the 70s,” but a reevaluation of their music on my part has convinced me they should. Not only do they have several hit songs that get consistent airplay on the soft rock stations, at least a couple of those have been included in many films that make them more recognized than other bands of the time period. Musically, the band is somewhat of a cross between Bread and The Eagles—mellow harmonies and songs that are very melody-based. Crosby, Stills, and Nash also come to mind. Ventura Highway was the album’s first single and went to #8 on the charts. In Joe’s words, “Ventura Highway has the most lasting power of all my songs. It’s not just the words—the song and the track have a certain fresh, vibrant, optimistic quality that I can still respond to.” It’s hard not to agree, and although only a couple of the songs on this album made a dent on the charts the quality of the lesser-known songs is high. If you haven’t heard America in a while, it made be time to plan your own homecoming.
The recording quality on this DVD is excellent although it might be a little strange to hear guitar playing in the surround channels. (There is a two-channel option for those who prefer a stereo mix.) In addition to the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, there is also a DTS track. The sound (of DVD-A) is so natural and liquid that it might just make some converts to the format. As an extra, there is an audio interview with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell who talk about making a record, the recording process including find good musicians, song writing, and more. Photo gallery (with lots of older pictures of the band) and lyrics are included. The DVD insert includes some pictures of the band and a history of the band as well as discussing the details of the songs on the Homecoming album. The Songs included are: Ventura Highway; To Each His Own; Don’t Cross The River; Moon Song; Only In Your Heart; Till The Sun Comes Up Again; Cornwall Blank; Head And Heart; California Revisited; Saturn Nights.
Cell: One – Poet Name Life Presents The Sound Proof Walls; MyUtopia Recordings DVD-A:
This disc is a compilation of sorts with music that is a fusion of samples, rapping, R&B harmonies–all in surround. The press release describes it as “a dynamic and futuristic musical collision between worlds of live instrumentation, freeform jazz, club moving, head bobbing, hip-hop, an loungy tweaked out electronics. The first track is a good example of the style of music you can expect on this disc. What sounds like an instrumental hip-hop sort of song, turns into a rap, and then a R&B style vocal chorus comes in. The level of the music is about equivalent with the singing showing the importance of all the elements in the mix—not just as a backdrop for the vocals, but as an essential part of the song. The next track has some harder rapping and accompanying music that sounds as if it were from the Halloween soundtrack. Due to the “crossover” nature of the music on this disc, it is hard to guess which group of listeners it will end up appealing to. My supposition is that it will be embraced by the club scene, and spread over into those who like an alternative to conventional hip-hop and rap music. Silly as it sounds, my mind keeps thinking about the films, The Fast and the Furious and 8 Mile. Listen to track 9, “Bive Eternis,” and see if you agree.
Like the other Cell disc reviewed, the recording quality is very good. There are stills over the music and a brief interview that takes place in front of the mixing board in the studio. Songs included are: She Got Me – Poet Name Life; See You Live – Foreign Natives; Phuture – Deux Process; You & I – Noel; Rain – Poet Name Life; Get Down Tonight – Aloe Blacc of Emanon; So Into You – Poet Name Life; Off The Wall – D-Rugs; Bive Eternis – Poet Name Life; Shaddow Ninja – Poet Name Life.
Robert Cray – Time Will Tell; Silverline 288210-9 DVD-A:
Roberty Cray is an accomplished blues master who has been on the music scene for over 30 years. Cray stretches himself and expands his style on this new album made with longtime collaborator Jim Pugh. Elements of Pop, Rock, Soul, and World Music are crafted into what results in an excellent production. Lyrical content and a popular feel to Cray’s music have created a more universal appeal than other blues artists. It is not watered down or generic in any way, yet still manages to be palatable for this wider audience. There is a good variety of music on this DVD including a mix of more upbeat tunes with slower numbers. “Lotta Lovin’” draws the listener along with the singer’s pleading requests to his lover. There is such obvious maturity in how the songs are crafted that points to the benefits of experience and time. The band is first rate and definitely impacts the overall performance. Certain songs like “Time Makes Two” hit hard and make this album worth getting.
This disc keeps most of the sound up front although, depending on track, sound will occasionally come from all around. Fidelity is very good and still pictures are displayed over the music. A live performance of “Back Door Slam” is an extra. Songs included are: Survivor; Up In The Sky; Back Door slam; I Didn’t Know; Your Pal; Lotta Lovin’; What You Need (Good Man); Spare Some Love?; Distant Shore; Time Makes Two.
From The Front Row…Live! – Teddy Pendergrass; Silverline 288217-9 DVD-A:
Pendergrass’ music is filled with soul and in the style of some of his contemporaries like Luther Vandross, Isaac Hayes, and Curtis Mayfield. This recording took place at Los Angeles’s Wiltern Theater on Valentine’s Day 2002. For the live performance, the length of the songs are extended and give the listener a relaxed, mellow, fantasy-style evening experience. Teddy must have taken some lessons from Barry White—boy, he sure knows how to lay it on thick! There is a positively seductive version of “Love TKO” (that is available as a video option on the disc as well). The fans are sure getting into the performance—you can clearly hear them clapping, cheering, and screaming in the background. “Turn Off The Lights” gives Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” a run for the money! There is an enjoyable four-song medley of some classic R&B/soul tunes that shows that Pendergrass is more than comfortable interpreting others material. This concert is about love—good love, bad love, funky love, and everything in between. Enjoy it with the one you love!
Music and audience sounds come from the surrounds on this DVD. Overall, the sound is pretty good although vocals are hard to hear at times due to Pendergrass slurring some of the words. Songs included are: Close The Door; You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration; Do Me; Love TKO; Joy; When Somebody Loves You Back; If You Don’t Know Me By Now; Wake Up Everybody; Bad Luck; The Love I Lost; Only You; Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose; Turn Off The Lights; Truly Blessed.
Living Colour – Collideoscope; Silverline 288215-9 DVD-A:
This band has always been somewhat of an anomaly—how many hard rock bands are comprised of African Americans? Their blend of soulful and alternative rock puts a spin on the typical hard rock bands you’d hear these days. You might remember the hit song “Cult of Personality” that put them on the map over 10 years ago. Even though I own that record and it definitely has some good tunes, the band’s follow-up album just didn’t grab me. This album is a bit of a departure from the topics and styling of the earlier records. When the band is staying away from the industrial sounds (that remind me vaguely of bands like NIN), I found the songs more enjoyable—songs like Flying and Pocket of Tears. There is a good deal of political rhetoric, which, on songs like Operation: Mind Control, just came off as sounding preachy and over-the-top. Some may like songs like In Your Name—a commentary on the Iraq War. There are a couple of cover songs on the DVD and Back In Black seems like an appropriate song given the tone of the material. It is as if Midnight Oil were bewitched, dress all in black, and came back as Living Colour a.k.a. Black Death!
The disc offers lyrics or a still picture over the music. Most of the sound is up front in the mix, but surrounds are definitely in use. Sound quality varies throughout: some songs are heavily compressed and distorted (intentionally is my guess), while other tunes are somewhat higher in fidelity. The DVD includes a photo gallery and a video scrapbook set to the music of “Song Without Sin.” Songs included are: Song Without Sin; A ? Of When; Operation: Mind Control; Flying; In Your Name; Back In Black; Nightmare City; Lost Halo; Holy Roller; Great Expectation; Choices Mash Up; Pocket Of Tears; Sacred Ground; Tomorrow Never Knows; Nova.
Dr. Chesky’s Magnificent, Fabulous, Absurd & Insane Musical 5.1 Surround Show – Chesky SACD273:
Dr. Chesky’s Magnificent, Fabulous, Absurd & Insane Musical 5.1 Surround Show – Chesky DVD-Audio CHDVD272:
At last we have here a simultaneous release on both hi-res formats that seems to allow for a comparison. Both have been released simultaneously, and the only major difference is that the DVD-A has a screen display that comes up for each of the 38 tracks telling you what it is. This is not a test disc, but just a fun sound effect sort of demo disc for regaling your friends. Chesky has their own excellent DVD-A test disc for testing purposes – The Ultimate DVD Surround 5.1 Setup Disc.
Here’s what’s on tap: Blast Off, Welcome to the Show, Dancing tympani, Circle of Voices, Fire Drums, The Storm, Chimes of Serenity, Ave Verum Corpus, Music for Cello, Helicopter and Cars, Bass Drum March, Tibet, Arabian Nights, Wild Nights, The New York Subway Ride, The Minimalist, Basketball Court, Music for Western Percussion, April Is In My Mistress’ Face, Ping Pong, Africa Morning, The Forest Song, Africa, Kenya, Cars & Horses, Circle of Drums, Organ & Chimes, The Carousel Ride, Caribbean Drum Song, Heartbeat announcement, 50Hz heartbeat; Heartbeat announcement, 40Hz heartbeat; Heartbeat announcement; 30Hz heartbeat; Heartbeat announcement; 20Hz heartbeat; Church Mice; Thank for Coming to Our Show.
The subway ride is also on the test disc and it is quite a ride sonically. There’s a warning on the discs about the low and powerful bass levels on it, and this and some other tracks are good examples of that. The heartbeats 10Hz apart are an interesting test – if you can hear anything with the 20Hz track you’ve got yourself a dilly of a subwoofer setup. Several of the tracks completely encircle the listener with fun effects. Percussion instruments are prominent in several of the tracks – for one thing they have a strong presence that aids in hearing exactly where they are spatially; not to mention the low frequency extension of some of the drums. The Church Mice are not really that – just a bunch of voices speeded up to Chipmunk timbre – like I used to love doing as a kid with my first Pentron tape recorder. OK, some of you want to know which sounded better – the SACD or DVD-A version? Well, my present DVD-A player is not quite as good as my present multichannel SACD player, and the difference was just about that subtle amount – the DVD-A sounding very slightly less transparent and open. So it would probably be accurate to admit I couldn’t tell a difference.
– John Sunier
[Sorry, the promised second part of reviewing the D&G “2+2+2″ DVD-As promised for this month has been now scheduled for our April issue…Ed.]