SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Hi-Res Disc Reviews, Part 3 of 3 Classical, Pop, Rock
Published on July 1, 2004
July-August 2004 - Pt. 3 of 3
Classical concl., Pop, Rock, Misc.[Part 1] [Part 2]
click on any cover to go directly to its review
Let’s begin this last part with a classical work originally composed especially for surround sound!
BERLIOZ: Requiem (complete); MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 – Charles Bressler, tenor/Utah Symphony Orchestra and Choir/Maurice Abravanel – Vanguard Classics multichannel SACD (2 discs) ATM CD 1506:
[NOTE: As promised, here is my report on the Requiem Redo: I reviewed an earlier SACD version of this exactly two years ago in this section. If you compare disc numbers you will see that the above differs from the one reviewed in July 2002. If you then go to the last paragraph of my original review below you will see that I complain of serious distortion which I took to be due to aging of the master tapes. Well, I was wrong. My complaints and those of a couple others to the new owners of the Vanguard library - Artemis Classics - resulted in their remastering this SACD set for improved sound. It works! The serious IM distortion I heard is greatly reduced and finally - after almost 35 years - I’m able to hear properly what I have long felt was the most successful classical surround sound recording ever. (Though it has some competition from our Disc of the Month - See Part 2.) I was so excited about the Berlioz below that I said nothing about the Mahler First - a lot more than a “filler” item in this set. It’s a magnificent performance and even better sonics, recorded a few years later. It's exactly the same original recording as the Silverline DVD-A we reviewed in our May Hi-Res Section. I think it stands up well next to Tilson Thomas’ recent SF Symphony SACD. Be sure to insist on the version with the 2004 date on the back and the above order number so you don’t end up with the earlier faulty pressing!]
I had been anxiously awaiting this SACD for some time. The original Vanguard quadraphonic tape of this performance – recorded in the Mormon Tabernacle in 1969 – was one of only a couple quad open reel tapes I really missed after selling my quad tape collection some years back. Another part of my attraction to the music was that in college I sang bass in a public performance of the Requiem (with 16 tympani) conducted by Dmitri Mitropoulos – I still have a tape of it. Also, I became interested in requiems in general through a former girlfriend who (aside from a few folk LPs of the era – Pete Seeger etc.) collected nothing but requiems! (The only one that came close to the drama of the Berlioz was the Verdi, in my estimation.)
There are a number of examples of composers composing specifically for spatial distribution of the performers, ranging from Giovanni Gabrieli to Henry Brant, but the Berlioz Requiem is the Beethoven Ninth of spatial music. So it’s odd it wasn’t included in the very first batch of multichannel SACDs. And while we’re about it, wake up, Sony and give us those four-channel Gabrieli albums taped by E. Power Biggs and others! Speaking of organs, the Requiem’s tenor soloist is instructed to sing from the high organ loft, and the two choruses are also separated spatially.
Four brass bands are arranged at the four points of the compass. I’ll never forget at the Requiem performance by the Boston Symphony watching one of the four bands – consisting of four trumpets, four trombones and four tubas! – quietly assembling just behind a quartet of blue-haired dowagers in a box at the matinee performance. When the Rex Tremendae section hit the dozen brass players let loose a tremendae sound and ever since that image leaps to my mind whenever I hear the expression “nearly jumped out of my seat.”
The performance is uniformly excellent. Not up to the dramatic heights of Leonard Bernstein understandably, but his is not in surround, and in fact a video I have of his that has only a mono track – horrors! The voluminous acoustics of the Tabernacle are well captured on the four channels, which are plenty. And there seems no serious loss of bass energy from not using the LFE channel – the 16 tymps are certainly there.
Unfortunately, there is considerable distortion present, and not just in the tremendous climaxes. The original tapes clearly show their age. Perhaps the tape hiss (there was no consumer Dolby B then) on my quad tapes obscured some of the distortion, and now it is there in all its hi-res clarity. There was surely less energy preserved in the oxide of those tapes than exists on the master tapes – I recall one of the two reels required to hold the lengthy Requiem was .5 mil super-thin tape!
- John Sunier
A Classical and a Rock HDADs from Classic Records…
Songs of the Auvergne, Vol. 1 & 2 – Arranged by Canteloube and sung in the Auvergne dialect by Netania Davrath, soprano with Orchestra conducted by Pierre de la Roche – Vanguard/Classic Records HDAD 2002:
We have here one of the most glorious vocal/orchestral albums ever made. I am not a big fan of any sort of vocal music, and my poor French is completely useless in understanding the wonderful arrangements of this folk songs because they are sung in the Auvergne dialect – quite different from standard French. Yet the songs are so appealing, the arrangements so delightful and the sweet caressing voice of Israeli singer Netania Davrath so inticing that the entire production can be heard over and over without boredom. Other supposedly more professional sopranos have tackled this collection – or at least Vol. 1 – but they haven’t come close to the indescribable elan and joyousness of Davrath. Kiri te Kanewi sings the first set on a video featuring lovely scenes of the Auvergne region. It was on laserdisc but I haven’t seen it yet on DVD. There are a dozen songs in the first set and 15 in the second. I won’t bother to list them because they won’t communicate much. Translations are in the accompanying booklet. The superb Vanguard recording quality is another part of the success of the Davrath version. The singer is solidly at the right channel and the chamber orchestra spread behind her and around to the left side of the stereo stage. The 192K side pulled ahead of the 96K DVD side. This reissue is also available on Classic Records vinyl and once again there was more “air” and ambient information on the LP version the 192K digital. It produced a terrific surround field using Pro Logic II. However, the 192K option did have slightly greater clarity and detail.
- John Sunier
The Alan Parsons Project – I Robot – Artista/Classic Records HDAD (96K DVD-V one side; 192K stereo DVD-A other side -2003:
The classic Alan Parsons album of l977 – considered one of his best – seemed ripe for reissue at this time, what with the new Will Smith robots movie and increased attention to the subject. Parsons even describes his theme in this album as “The story of the rise of the machine and the decline of man…” Classic has reissued this on both vinyl (see our Special Feature this month) and on their new HDAD disc, which is an enhancement of the 96K DADs they issued prior to DVD-Audio coming on the scene. Now one side has that format for those with DVD-V players which can output the 96K stereo signal, but if you have a DVD-A player you turn over the disc and access a 192K stereo track.
I auditioned the DVD-V side using my modded DMP-9000ES Sony player, and the DVD-A side using my Rotel 1050 disc player (reviewed in our Components section this issue). I found the DVD-A side to have one less veil, sharper clarity and detail, more higher frequency extension and depth vs. the 96K DVD-V. But not by a huge amount. The vinyl version, when auditioned simultaneously, was much closer to the DVD-A, but had a little more soundstage spread horizontally plus a bit more “air” around the sounds (even though many of them are electronic). Tracks: I Robot, I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You, Some Other Time, Breakdown, Don’t Let It Show, The Voice, Nucleus, Day After Day, Total Eclipse, Genesis Ch. 1 V.32.
- John Sunier
MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro – Véronique Gens, Patrizia Ciofi, Angelika Kirchschlager, Lorenzo Regazzo and Simon Kennlyside, with Collegium Vocale Gent and Concerto Köln conducted by René Jacobs – Harmonia Mundi 901818.20 (3 CDs) [The SACD version of this album was released last month]:
It seemed to be, in the prehistoric days when I started collecting recordings, that a new Mozart opera would come along every month or so. At one time, the lists counted new or recent recordings sung by the leading grand opera stars and led by Golden Age conductors like Karajan, Solti, Böhm, Klemperer, Giulini, et al. Contrary to what some pundits say now about the repertory being overworked, the constant stream of new recordings of mainstream repertoire in those days, accompanied as they were by a tremendous competition concerned with different approaches in recording means, fueled the growth of the classical record company for decades. When it faltered slightly in the 80s, it was quickly rescued, for better or worse (both musically and sonically), by the compact disc.
As a result, new recordings of major Mozart operas, like this Figaro from countertenor turned conductor René Jacob and some very distinguished singers and instrumentalists, constitute an event of great significance. Doubly so, because, unlike his 1999 Così fan tutte, also for Harmonia Mundi with the same Cologne-based forces although, with the exception of Véronique Gens¸ a different cast, this Figaro is dominated by what Jacobs call a “Neoclassical approach, the fruit of an increasingly intense desire, not to ‘reconstruct’ musical performance practices of Mozart’s time, but to utilize them with the imagination proper to the individual personality of each musician.”
If I understand what he means, it sounds like a good idea; as an important part of the process, Jacobs has made sure that his singers had access to all the latest musicological research and then given their heads to embellish, phrase and otherwise shape the musical line according to their sense of taste and style. Unfortunately, their taste tends to be more decorative than illuminative of the action or the characters. The result is that the singers do a lot of very prettily creative things with their music, some more subtle than others, but Jacobs never gains complete control of the dramatic push and pull of the work as a whole and it becomes more like an self-conscious acting exercise than a real performance. Jacobs’ pace never really picks up steam, nor does it ever feel convincingly stable, and the result is a surprising lack of involvement in this most human of all Mozart’s operas.
Within the limitations unintentionally set by Jacobs’ approach, the singers are all very good (although Patrizia Ciofi is surely too mature sounding a Susanna). Only Gens, however, really stands out and make you stop and listen: With her beautiful creamy and flexible voice, you may wonder why the Count is chasing Susanna. Angelika Kirchschlager’s Cherubino starts out inertly but brightens up as the opera goes on.
The sound is outstanding, rich, full and warm (no digital harshness here), almost surgically precise as to where the singers are (although they occasionally sound on the verge of being over-miked), and with a realistic depth; however, Jacob’s preoccupation with the singers has resulted in a more homogeneous orchestral fabric and there is relatively little orchestral color (although there’s a nice Scotch snap from the cellos and basses in the chorus of peasants in Act Three and, for continuo fans, there is sparkling work throughout by fortepianist Nicolau de Figueiredo.). All that’s lacking to make this a truly audiophile stunner is a better sense of space. [Probably offered by the SACD version of same...Ed.]
Andreas Friesenhagen’s historical introduction in the liner notes is fact filled but unnecessarily low key. Fortunately, René Jacobs extended discussion of his approach and the decisions he made vis à vis the performing edition (including restoring the arias of Marcellina and Basilio, the latter sung with glee and, at one point, falsetto, by Kobie van Rensburg) are extremely interesting and may convince you of what he is trying to do more than it did me. As a sign of the times, whereas the 1999 Così included a CD-ROM titled “Discovering Così fan tutte,” this time around you get just the three audio CDs.
Porcupine Tree – In Absentia – DTS Entertainment 69286-01111-9-6 DVD-A:
While the beginning of this album is hard rock, it transitions into more of a modern rock/alternative sound. Instrumentation is clean and tuneful. The first song is a blend between ethereal, spacey, light trance music ala Alan Parsons and Soundgarden—go figure. Vocals incorporate a lot of legato, and tend towards an artificial sounding harmony. Track 10 is like a cross between Metallica and Andreas Vollenweider and Pink Floyd. The album seemed to mellow out some after the first song, though many of the tunes have a predominant drumbeat. A few tracks (like 5 and 10) have super deep bass content that could easily be used to test low frequency capabilities of subwoofers. The bonus tracks were truly a bonus. I really liked “Drown With Me”—it started like a Lightning Seeds song, is really catchy, and the guitar work reminded me of Johnny Marr. I’ll definitely be listening to this disc again.
In addition to the usual DVD-A track, this disc (naturally) has a DTS 5.1 track. The disc makes heavy use of the surrounds. On screen are lyrics that accompany the tunes with two separate artist photo galleries, and a biography for extras. The biography propounds on the importance of making an album, and includes several pages that describe the band’s philosophies. Three videos are also on the disc and are presented with DTS 5.1 surround. They are track 1, 6, and 11. Recording quality is very good. Songs included are: Blackest Eyes; Trains; Lips Of Ashes; The Sound of Muzak; Gravity Eyelids; Wedding Nails; Prodigal; 3; The Creator Has A Mastertape; Heartattack In a Lay by; Strip The Soul; Collapse The Light Into Earth. Bonus tracks: Drown With Me; Chloroform; Futile.
Styx – Cyclorama – Silverline 288234-9 DVD-A:
Track 2 is a promising cut and reminiscent of the stuff that originally may Styx a popular band. Some of the other tunes remind me of the styles of other bands as well. For instance, track 3 is a combination of material that Queen would do and possibly a light glam-rock band. It may not light the fires of every listener, but will surely attract some. Track 6 is like a cross between Metallica and Def Leppard’s “Foolin!” “More Love For the Money” sounds like a classic Styx song complete with harmony and building percussion up till the chorus. “One With Everything” is a Rush-like, upbeat tune with a heavy backbeat and synthesizer that sounds very progressive rock-like. There is a nice multichannel intro of “Fooling Yourself” with singing in all the channels and “Killing The Thing That You Love” is an older song from 1994. Fidelity on this record ranges from the sound quality offered by better CDs to slightly higher. The band is definitely alive and well even if some of the material sounds a bit dated.
In addition to the typical album credits and weblinks, this disc offers two videos of: “Waiting For Our Time” and “Fields of the Brave.” The first is a multicolored adventure with kaleidoscope style visuals that spin around and turn into new images throughout the song. These two are some of the more stronger songs on the disc, so the videos were welcome. Lyrics or still images are available while the music plays. Some of the songs make heavy use of the surrounds taking full advantage of the surround capabilities of the DVDA format. There is a separate studio interview were the producer and one of the band members talks about the unique experience mixing music in surround versus conventional two-channel stereo. Songs included are: Do Things My Way; Waiting For Our Time; Fields Of The Brave; Bourgeois Pig; Kiss Your Ass Goodbye; These Are The Times; Yes I Can; More Love For the Money; Together; Fooling Yourself (Palm of Your Hands); Captain America; Killing The Thing That You Love; One With Everything; Genki Desu Ka.
Widespread Panic – Don’t Tell The Band – Silverline 288240-9 DVD-A:
This album is the band’s 7th studio album and the last to utilize guitarist Michael Hauser. Although I wasn’t familiar with the band, they seem to be like Phish in a lot of ways. They tour around and sell out large venues and build their fan base every year. The music can best be described as light rock or country/blues rock. Most of the sound is focused in the front and some songs make heavy use of the surrounds while others do not. I checked out the liner notes (which are extensive) and they read like one big run-on sentence as told by a drunkard; in this case, Mark Austin Segura, aka Coach, from April 2001. If you can decipher it, you’ll get some history of the band and their beginnings, background on the material on the disc, and a discourse on the “movement”–whatever movement that is. Like other really good live bands, Widespread Panic doesn’t adapt their music to the live environment, the music just seems to fit. The popularity of a band like Blues Traveler would be an apt comparison although the styles are a bit different. The first track on the disc is catchy and very easy on the ears. From then on, until about the 4th track, the tone changes and is harder, dark and brooding. Track 9 shifts gears and has a distinct latin flavor–it begins with a classical guitar solo that melds into an overall pleasing tune. The album is a mixture of slightly different styles that will appeal to the bar club crowd and others alike. Excepting a couple of songs, this disc is pretty good!
The disc offers still pictures over the music and a DD stereo track in addition to the DD 5.1 track. Bonus live tracks recorded in Athens, Georgia are included on this DVDA and were included in the limited editions of the CD release. Bonus tracks are: Action Man, Chilly Water Part 1; Pleas, Chilly Water Part 2; and C. Brown. Songs included are: Little Lilly; Give; Imitation Leather Shoes; This Part Of Town; Sometimes; Thought Sausage; Down; Big Wooly Mammoth/Tears Of A Woman; Casa Del Grillo; Old Joe; Action Man; Don’t Tell The Band.
Joe Henry – Scar – Hi-Res HRM 2015 DVD-A:
Joe Henry manages to sound like a depressed Sting—imagine that! The recording is full of somber piano that has a dull, deadened quality. The first tune has a jazzy feel and a standup bass and horn accompany Joe’s voice. Most of the songs can be described as mellow “beat” songs that sound compressed and limited in high-frequency output. The majority of the songs make heavy use of drums and piano coupled with Henry’s singing. At times the lyrics seem almost poetic. I doubt these songs will get much airplay on the popular stations, although you might catch them on college/alternative programs. Though the rhythm and pace of the material changes, the vocals really don’t change a heck of a lot, and this lends itself to making the songs more similar than they should be. The music may put some people in a trance, though not necessarily in a good way. Others may appreciate its ability to slow them down and dull the senses.
There isn’t much in the way of video extras, and the only thing in the display while the songs play is the title of the track. There is a section on the DVD to navigate through album art, however. This is one of the 2-sided DVDA discs that are becoming more common. But unlike the discs that offer a multichannel side and a stereo side, this one is stereo on both sides, but offers the choice of a 96/24 mix or a 192/24 mix—strange. In the system I frequently use to audition the music discs, I didn’t feel the recording was high enough quality to hear much of a difference between the two sides. If anything, I thought the 96kHz side might have sounded better. Songs included are: Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation; Stop; Mean Flower; Struck; Rough And Tumble; Lock And Key; Nico Lost One Small Buddha; Cold Enough To Cross; Edgar Bergen; Scar.
Slaughter – Then And Now – Silverline 288220-9 DVD-A:
This disc is a compilation of Slaughter songs from three albums: Fear No Evil, Revolution, and Eternal Live spanning the years 1989 to 1998. At the time that Slaughter came upon the rock scene things were changing—the golden days of heavy metal and glam rock bands was ending, and just another hard rock/metal band wasn’t gone sell more records. In the MTV generation it is more than just good songs, but how well you look playing them. At first Slaughter’s music reminded me of the Scorpions and included high pitched screaming with backing vocal support. The early tracks on this disc are an attempt at rebellious lyrics and attitude that must have been aimed at middle and/or high-school teenagers, or possibly adults who just refuse to grow up.
But listening further into the catalog led me to a different opinion. Sure the songs have nifty guitar licks with nice hooks, but there is also some solid music been produced. When the band isn’t hoping to put their “tongue in her groove,” they are making decent music like track three, “Searchin’.” Some of the songs create a vision of a harder version of Bon Jovi—a comparison that will probably upset some diehard fans. “It’ll Be All Right” must have been a hit song—it’s a melody driven tune with a pop feel that has an immediate draw to it. The live tracks are of lower fidelity than the other tracks, but overall, the sound is good. The music comes from every direction, but the emphasis is in the front channels. The disc also contains a 2-channel track for those who still haven’t embraced music in surround. There is a lengthy bio of the band that is worth checking out, and stills are displayed over the music.
Songs included are: Get Use To It; Tongue N’ Groove; Searchin’; Heaven It Cries; It’ll Be All Right; Fly To The Angels (live); Breakdown N’ Cry; Can We Find A Way; American Pie; Let The Good Times Roll; Up All Night (Live); Unknown Destination.
Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow – Epic ES 85440 Stereo/Multichannel SACD:
Beck has had what many would call an auspicious career. From the early days he was pushing the envelope for rock guitarists. At first he was with the Yardbirds and then moved on to form the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. He continued to evolve and explore different musical styles which culminated in two jazz-fusion albums that are two of the top selling instrumental guitar albums of all time: Blow By Blow and Wired. The SACD version of Blow By Blow is filled with surround information. The guitar work is lively and invigorating even incorporating some funk ala Average White Band. The combination of Beck’s guitar work and support band strikes a perfect balance. The xylophone on track 5 doesn’t seem out of place, just as the voicebox on track 2 is exactly right for this part of the disc.
The album is one, continuous score of music sectioned off by transitions into different songs (enumerated as tracks on the disc case). The rhythm and drive present on this disc begs for an active listening experience. Beck’s guitar is alive and bleeding its heart out on “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” and although it is one of the slowest songs on the record—it’s one of the best. For instrumental 70s rock fans, fans of fusion/jazz, and others interested in exploring the roots of this type of music, this disc is definitely a keeper.
The recording quality is good, but not outstanding. The production quality is high and consistent throughout. The real reason to go with this version is the feeling of spatial completeness affected by the multichannel mix. Songs included are: You Know What I Mean, She’s A Woman, Constipated Duck, Air Blower, Scatterbrain, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, Thelonius, Freeway Jam, Diamond Dust.
Luther Vandross – Never Too Much; Epic ES 37451 Stereo SACD:
One of the advantages that Sony had in the early part of the DVDA and SACD format war is the depth of their music catalog. I bet many picked up a copy of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue even though it really didn’t sound all that much better than the original recording. Recording quality has seemed to improve and here’s a classic Vandross album from 1981. It is only stereo and is not a hybrid disc, but manages to sound more involving that conventional CDs much the way vinyl can. It may have been 23 years ago, but in some ways listening to this album made me think that this music was on the radio only yesterday. The style of the music sounds a little dated, but still holds up by today’s standards (for this type of R&B/pop)—remember Ashford and Simpson?
The recording is tight and even the songs that weren’t hits, are well crafted if somewhat sugary. Take “Sugar and Spice” and She’s A Super Lady” for example: “uh huh…she’s so fine!” There is a fine version of the Burt Bacharach tune “A House Is Not A Home” that was an unexpected delight. “Never Too Much” was a hit song in the day and should ring some bells with certain listeners. Songs included are: Never Too Much; Sugar And Spice (I Found Me A Girl); Don’t You Know That; I’ve Been Working; She’s A Super Lady; You Stopped Loving Me; A House Is Not A Home.
Our final three hi-reses take us on a world music journey…
Jacintha – The Girl From Bossa Nova (with Bill Cunliffe, piano & arrangements; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Paulinho Da Costa, percussion; John Pisano, acoustic guitar; Darek Olezkiewicz, bass; Tim Pleasant, drums) – Groove Note multichannel SACD GRV1026-3:
This latest in the series of albums from the Singapore-based vocalist follows closely on the heels of the recent Eden Atwood bossa nova album on the same label. Joe Harley was the producer of the session, held just this past February, and genuine Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa is aboard. The ten tunes are mostly from the Jobim catalog, though the opener is a Luis Bonfa number. Her pronunciation of both the English and Portuguese lyrics seems excellent. The arrangements are carefully crafted to show off Jacintha’s light and subtle voice, and of course the sonics are tops. I wonder if she has that long list of items ticked off in the glorious Waters of March memorized? I do question the placement of her voice on the center channel speaker only – emulating the technique of the producer of James Taylor’s multichannel SACDs. I think he’s misguided. Using the left and right stereo channels gives a more natural presence to the solo voice. Some interesting use of the surround channels for various percussion effects. Jacintha fans will want to samba right up to this one. Tracks: O Ganso, So Danco Samba, Dindi, Once I Loved, Desafinado, So Nice, Wave, How Insensitive, Corcovado, Waters of March.
- John Henry
Klezmer (Premiere Recordings) – Kleztory/I Musici de Montreal/Yuli Turovsky – Chandos SACD CHSA 5027:
I Musici de Montreal is a quite amazing chamber orchestra consisting of a core of 15 performers, with others added on an as needed basis (and for this session they were). They have done over 40 recordings for Chandos covering just about every type of music. For this disc they join with the klezmer quintet Kleztory – consisting of clarinet, guitar, violin, bass and accordion. The traditional music of the Ashenazi Jews of Eastern Europe evolved over centuries, absorbing the influences of Middle Eastern Music, European classical, the synagogue, gypsy music, and in the last century jazz. This album is strictly instrumental, which is fine with me, especially when paired with the rich arrangements and backing by I Musici de Montreal. Even if the selections are totally foreign to you it is impossible not to feel the infectious celebratory spirit of the music. Selections: Vi bist du gevezn far prohibition, Kolomeke, Moldavian Hora, Zol zayn gelegt, Ma Yofus/Odessa Bulgar, Firen di Mehutonim Aheym, Freylekh Yidelakh, Di Zilberne Khasene, Dem trisker rebbins chosid, Going Home, Dem rebin’s Nigus Oy Tate, Omer Tantz, Violin Doina, Fun Tashlikh, Tears of Israel.
Bad Haggis, with Rubén Blades (Eric Rigler, bagpipes, vocals, whistles; Mike Hoffman, guitars; Mick Linden, vocals & bass guitar; Kathleen Keane, fiddle, whistles, vocals; Alberto Lopez, percussion; Bryon Holley, drums, percussion, vocals; guests: The Los Angeles Scots Pipe Band) – AIX Records DVD-A, DVD-V etc. 80037:
Now here’s a twist on the world music genre – a Celtic/jazz fusion/rock mix! And if that’s not enough diverse internationalism, the guest vocalist is Rubén Blades, and he does his two vocals in Spanish! I should point out that I’m not a fan of Celtic music and especially not of bagpipes, but Rigler is a virtuoso of the instrument who has contributed to countless film soundtracks, including Titanic. He plays the Celtic Rube Goldberg instrument like it was a genuine musical instrument, I must say. Once again I found the video side of the disc with the DTS stage audio mix to be the most enjoyable; especially interesting watching the closeups of Rigler playing. He not only pooches out his cheeks when blowing a la Dizzy, but also his neck! Fiddler Kathleen Keane is mighty fetching to watch as well. An entire bagpipe ensemble joins in on two of the tracks – sure to appeal to aficionados of same and to have everyone else running for cover. Among the many extras afforded by all Aix discs are three videos. the first two are worth watching but the third is such poor video quality that it should have been scrapped. When you see a really lousy film or video source as part of a fairly high definition program it stands out even more and detracts from the production as a whole. I was aware of that just last night viewing the PBS hi-def American Masters program on Hank Williams, which used some very poor footage which appeared to have been poorly transferred to video.
Tracks are: Mysterious Integration, The Hag at the Churn/My Love is in America, When She Drives, Templo de Agua, La Gallega, Walking the Plank, The B-52, Barcos, Monkey Tree, Bad Haggis.
- John Henry