SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
SACD & Other Hi-Res, Pop/Rock – Pt. 3 of 3
Published on March 1, 2005
(Pop & Rock)
Click on any cover to go directly to its review below
Zappa – QuAUDIOPHILIAc – DTS Entertainment 69286-01125-9-9 DVD-A ****1/2:
From the moment I opened the jewel case and saw the disc art was that of an open reel tape, I knew I was going to like this record. In addition to offering a DVDA mix, there is an option for DTS 96/24 and stereo—but don’t get this disc if you are only planning to listen to it in stereo. This is one of the few records offered by DTS that was originally recorded with multichannel in mind. The record starts with what you may call atonal classical music that slowly turns into a free-form rock and roll extravaganza. Prepare for an audio trip—a mix of musical theater, jazz, progressive rock, and soundtrack scores with excellent fidelity—super spacious with pleasing full bass. Zappa conducts an entire orchestra of musicians and has recorded it with idea of the listener being right in the middle of the action. These recordings range from 1970 to 1978 and were made with the idea of a left, center, right, and rear track that translates perfectly to a typical surround system of today. Dweezil Zappa chose the order of the songs and, in some cases, added segues to better blend the tracks together. Five of the tracks are previously unreleased, while the rest come from different places, including the last track from Baby Snakes, the movie.
There are still photos displayed over the music. In the “Also” section there are liner notes, a photo gallery, a listing of Frank Zappa’s recorded works, a video from the Surround Music Awards Presentation, and a 1983 Proposal to replace record merchandising. The latter makes for excellent reading and forecasts a system whereby people can order music and receive it via their phone or cable TV and record it—sounds a little like music services now available on the Internet, no? For those not only looking to listen to music, but to have an experience, I encourage you to add this disc to your collection immediately. Highly recommended! Songs included are: Naval Aviation in Art?; Lumpy Gravy; Rollo; Drooling Midrange Accountants on Easter Hay; Wild Love; Ship Ahoy; Chunga Basement; Venusian Time Bandits; Waka/Jawaka; Basement Music #2.
The Surf City Allstar Band – I Get Surround – AIX Records 80036 DVD-A/DVD-V – Rating: *** (music), ***** (extras):
As the cover says this is a “collection of classic 60s surf songs and new tunes performed ‘live’ and mixed in 5.1 surround featuring Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean and Skunk Baxter of The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan fame.” Side 1 is the DVD-A side and offers a “stage” surround mix with vocals and music coming from every direction. If you prefer, you can select the stereo mix instead. Fidelity is very good with lots of space and good clarity on instruments and voice. The material on the case makes a big deal about the music being recorded at 96kHz/24 bits, mixed and mastered at the same rate and resolution. Remember the Beach Boys? Well, these guys aren’t them, although Dean Torrence had played with them and other members have roots in surf rock. The feeling you get is that a bunch of old guys got together to play some older tunes they really enjoy in a new recording environment. Some of the songs are a bit too mellow—not only do they not have the same impact as the originals, but the band sounds as if they’ve slowed down. I get the same feeling listening to Brian Wilson. If you are a revivalist, then you are sure to love this disc. More than half the songs are originals while a few are covers. “Over The Moon” reminds me of a song you’d hear in an 80s teen movie where the guy gets the girl at the end and they’re dancing with a live band playing in the background—this is that band.
The DVD side is packed with extras. There is a 5.1 “Audience” mix available in Dolby Digital, a 5.1 “Stage” mix encoded with DTS, or a 96/24 PCM Stereo mix. The “Songs” section of the disc has video of the actual recording for all the songs and commentaries are available on 10 of the songs, by individual members. There is a special section on Dean Torrence that offers a biography, interview, a photo gallery, discography, a complete history of Jan and Dean, an excerpt from the Jan Berry Service, and information about his graphic design company, Kittyhawk graphics including pictures from his portfolio. Next, is a section about surfing and music that includes the music video for “Surf City” from 1963, a bonus performance of “Apache” with multiple camera angles (5), a slide show, and special interviews with Dean Torrence and Dave Sweet. The section entitled “The Band” offers biographies, history (that tells the story of how the band started back in the 80s), songlist, highlights, and a video of the band playing at one of their hired gigs. The section on the musicians has a biographies, photos, videos, television performances, web contact information, and/or interviews for each of the band members. “The Recording” section has technical notes, information on DVD-A, mixing, session photos, and information on microphones and equipment used. “The Disc” section points out the multiple camera angle feature, talks about the various audio mixes, and other information about the format. “Audio/Video Setup” has a section for testing your system and offers the choice for audio playback. Songs included are: I’ll Surf Away; Every Body’s Down At The Beach; More Today Than Yesterday; Discovery; Over The Moon; Surf City; The Big Drop; Sloop John B.; California Sleepwalking; Paulding Light; The Little Old Lady >From Pasadena; Fastest in L.A.; Apache.
The Crickets And Their Buddies – Sovereign Artists 1952-9 DVD-A ****:
The Crickets are one of the bands that helped influence many huge 60s rock bands like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and gave other artist hit songs when covering their material like Linda Ronstadt and Leo Sayer. Despite their success, they may not be well known to many people these days. The other band name they recorded under (“Buddy Holly”) is probably more recognizable, but it was The Crickets’ “That’ll Be the Day” that hit number one in 1957. Only six months after Buddy left the band he was killed in a plane crash but the songwriting of the remaining Crickets (on this disc), J.I. Allison, Sonny Curtis, and Joe B. Mauldin continued to have an impact on many people. For this record they added the additional talent of keyboardist Glen D. Hardin, guitarist Albert Lee, and the various guest artists to complete the tunes. Each artist interprets the songs in their own way, but still remains true to the original versions in spirit and gives the tunes a new life. You may know more songs that you would have realized. This album gets an “A” for effort, and if you are into blues, early rock and roll, and light country western you are sure to enjoy it immensely.
The disc offers both a stereo version and a surround version. The surrounds in the surround version are primarily used for effect and don’t alter the focus up front. Each song displays information about the material and the artist who guests on the song. Songs included are: That’ll Be The Day (w/ Rodney Crowell); Rave On (w/ Phil & Jason Everly); Not Fade Away (w/ Tonio K. and Peter Case); Someone, Someone (w/ Eric Clapton); The Real Buddy Holly Story (The Crickets); Everyday (w/ J.D. Souther); Love You More Than I Can Say (The Crickets); Heartbeat (w/ Nanci Griffith); Blue Days, Black Nights (Bobby Vee); Learning The Game (w/ Albert Lee); Well…All Right (w/ Waylon Jennings); Think It Over (w/ Graham Nash); Oh Boy! (w/ John Prine); I Fought The Law (w/ Vince Neil); Love’s Made A Fool Of You (w/ Johnny Rivers).
Marvin Gaye Collection – Universal B0003502-36 Hybrid Multichannel SACD – Rating: ****1/2:
The only complaint I have of this compilation is there aren’t enough tracks! Even my Motown Hits CD has tracks like “Inner City Blues,” “Got To Give It Up,” and “You’re All I Need To Get By,” but excepting “Ain’t That Peculiar,” which isn’t one of my favorites, every other song on here is a classic. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” went to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts when it was introduced—same with “Let’s Get It On.” However, it isn’t just the fact that these songs were popular, it was the sound…the sound and the message. While “Let’s Get It On” may have done more for young people’s cause than anything sung by Barry White, take another listen to “What’s Going On.” It’s a beautiful plea to people of the world to come together and love each other. Whereas some tunes may seem like 60s hippy throwaways with sentiments that seem out of place with the culture of today, this song’s message is as real today as it was when it first came out in 1971. It’s not a song promoting anarchy, dissent, or violence as some other songs of the day may have preached. Stop, look, and listen it says: “If there’s enough room here for you and me; There’s plenty of room for some humanity.”
The sound of this disc should be an example for other recordings. It can’t be said that the original tapes were perfect, but the resulting sound is smooth, easy, pleasant, and seductive. The 5.1 mix doesn’t detract in any way to the intent of the original recordings. There are harmonies and various effects that all help to bring the listener closer to the musical experience. Track 4 has a big vocal presence and lots of definition—a real, you are there kind of experience. On track 6, the tambourines shake all around your head, but instead of being distracting, they’re a nice lead in. Vocals are slightly shouty and sibilant on this track, but it’s only really bothersome in comparison to how good some of the other tracks sound. Nothing pops out and sounds overemphasized as with some mixes—it’s just all there. Drums are much cleaner and realistic than I’ve come to expect from CD—one of the improvements I’ve heard with other SACDs. Songs included are: 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 Rat Pack – Live at the Villa Venice – Reprise R9 73965 DVD-A ****:
This concert takes place at the Villa Venice nightclub in Wheeling, Illinois in 1962. The insert in the DVDA case gives background on the whole event. What you have in this disc is a rare piece of history. The Rat Pack as they were known: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. had a rare chemistry that is not equaled in the world of music (and comedy) today. The way the bunch play off each other as evidenced in the later tracks like “Impressions” and in the Medleys has to be heard to be appreciated. Those who are older will instantly take a liking to this offering, while those who may not be familiar with the crew will become new fans. From the changing lyrics, to the gentle jabs, and the whole of the on-stage shtick, the crowd was treated to a rare event—the culmination of a period that never again will pass, but can be relished for years to come through the magic of this recording. The music is varied and there is a good amount of material on the DVD—most are classics and need no description.
The surround channels are mainly used for ambiance, with the front channels providing the focus. The disc offers DD 5.1, DVDA Stereo and Surround. The sound quality is superb—big and jazzy with neutrality that you hardly expect to find in a live performance, especially one as old as this. Extras include a B&W video (9 min) of a comedy routine with the whole group and Johnny Carson as well. There is also a photo gallery of the stars. I really missed seeing the video of entire performance for the physical comedy. Even from the start of the disc where Dean posits: “How long have I been on?” the listener feels he/she is only getting a part of the impact.
Tracks included are: Fanfare & Introduction. Dean Martin- Medley: Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes When You’re Smiling/The Lady Is A Tramp; My Kind Of Girl; I Left My Heart In San Francisco; I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter; Medley: Volare/On An Evening In Roma. Frank Sinatra- Goody Goody; Chicago; When Your Lover Has Gone; Monologue; Please Be Kind; Angel Eyes; You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You; Nancy (With The Laughing Face). Sammy Davis, Jr.- What Kind Of Fool Am I; Out Of This World; She’s Funny That Way; Hey There. Frank & Dean- Comedy; Medley 1; Medley 2. Frank, Dean & Sammy- Impressions; Birth of the Blues; Danny Thomas Introduction; Birth of the Blues (Reprise). Frank & Sammy- Me and My Shadow. Dean & Sammy- Sam’s Song
Junior Brown – Down Home Chrome – Telarc SACD-63612 Hybrid Multichannel SACD ****:
Aside from distortion on some particular guitar peaks, the sound on this disc is so realistic that you’d think the players are in the room. The recording is quiet as can be, but the draw to this record is it sounds like what you hear at a bar/small club live—just without the crowd. Like much of the material in this genre—a cross between country-western and blues—some of the songs aren’t exactly politically correct. One is about his wife who spends all his money and all the green he has left is the front lawn. The first track is about a dumb redhead or is it about a car? In any case, the lyrics are well-written, often sarcastic, but enjoyable none-the-less.
Brown’s voice has a classic, rich, bellowing quality that works well with the music. Track 9 is more of a jazzy tune, while track 11 is a cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxy Lady” showing Junior Brown’s range. Very little sound comes out of the center channel—most of it is left, right, and surround. The surrounds are intended to bring the sound forward towards the listener. Songs included are: Little Rivi-Airhead; It Hurts When I Do That; Where Has All the Money Gone?; The Bridge Washed Out; Hill Country Hot Rod Man; Jimmy Jones; Let’s Go Back; Two Rons Don’t Make It Right; You Inspire Me; Are You Just Cuttin’ Up?; Foxy Lady; Monkey Wrench Blues.
The Isaac Hayes Movement – Stax/Fantasy SXSA-1010-6 Hybrid Stereo SACD ****:
Some artists (like Joe Cocker) are known for their interpretations of over people’s songs. On this record, Hayes takes these songs and makes them his own. This is the follow-up record to Hot Buttered Soul (previously reviewed) and shows that Hayes had staying power. “I Stand Accused” went to #1 and stayed there for seven weeks. It seems you can’t talk about Soul music and leave out people like Hayes. The long, spoken introduction may not be out of the ordinary for tunes these days, but Isaac was the trendsetter in this regard. He has a way of infusing the music with new meaning and though the lyrics tell one story, the music of the first track could be the background to a gospel sung in a church (including the chorus). It’s the little touches (like the horn in the third track) that make the music unique, but it is the flowing rhythm as the backbone to the melody that entrances the listener. On The Beatles, “Something,” note the introduction with some modest piano playing from the left speaker, then the addition of the orchestra, then the drums, and finally the mix builds up into a full-bodied musical epic. Then it slows down again only to build back up again. It’s great music to put you in a mood. The CD has noticeable background hiss, but it doesn’t really detract from enjoying the music. Voice is big, fleshed out, and the reverberation of the recording environment is easy to hear. This disc is yet another worthy addition to the collection of quality SACDs. Songs included are: I Stand Accused; One big Unhappy Family; I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself; Something.
The Polyphonic Spree – Together We’re Heavy – DTS Entertainment 69286-01118-9-9 DVD-A **:
Somewhere I read that you should listen to the songs of this disc as one continuous track and thus the labeling of the sections consecutively. However, the tracks are distinct enough that they can be absorbed separately as well. The band is made up of 24 members (who dress in colorful free-flowing garbs that are reminiscent of Hari Krishnas). They play music that I’d describe as Beatles-esque rock ‘n’ roll blending instrumental sections interspersed with use of certain instruments and voice. I was also reminded of The Verve, and the press release suggests David Bowie, Pink Floyd, to the Beach Boys. The group has coined the termed “choral symphonic pop band” for themselves and is made up of trumpet, trombone, harp, French horn, theremin, flute, pedal steel guitar, keyboards, piano and ten-piece choir, along with Tim DeLaughter’s (of Tripping Daisy) voice and guitar, bass and drums. Much of the material is upbeat and happy (almost too sugary) with an alternative rock flavor—think of Romper Room for the teenager. “The trees want to grow, grow, grow, grow. Hail to the sky.” The hippies have come back in the new millennium in the guise of The Polyphonic Spree—enjoy or avoid as you see fit!
In addition to the 5.1 channel DVD-A track this disc offers a 5.1 DTS track and a two-channel stereo PCM track. Stills are displayed over the music while music comes from every location to increase the sense of space. Extras include photos, lyrics, a bio, a mix breakdown for track 2 and 4 that allows the listener to isolate elements of the mix and play them independently, and a video for “Light & Day”—well, actually two videos: one that is completely live action and another that is animated with the band members floating around. Also, the insert folds out to be a mini-poster on one side and different art on the other along with the album information. Songs included are: Section 11 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed); Section 12 (Hold Me Now); Section 13 (Diamonds/Mild Devotion To Majesty); Section 14 (Two Thousand Places); Section 15 (Ensure Your Reservation); Section 16 (One Man Show); Section 17 (Suitcase Calling); Section 18 (Everything Starts At The Seam); Section 19 (When The Fool Becomes A King); Section 20 (Together We’re Heavy).
Kaje – Kaje – Kompresor Digital 3BA001 DVD-A and CD *** 1/2:
KAJE is an electronic music producer who has worked with notables like Ginuwine and Ennio Morricone. On this disc, one of Canada’s first independent DVD-Audio discs, he has approached the production with surround sound in mind: “Surround sound is the next wave of the future. I knew it from the moment I heard it, because they’re already doing movies so why not do music in surround sound. It gives a whole different space to the music. In real life we hear sounds in three dimensions, and this is the only way to really hear music in three dimensions,” says KAJE. For extras you get a discography, production credits, and a bio. There are downloadable songs in the AAC format for iPod users, and three bonus tracks—“Bitch!”, “So Glad I Found U”, and Delusions’ “Real Time (Lost It)”. Each song has written commentary that is displayed providing information about the song and the recording mix. Sound quality was very good, but not quite up to the best CDs. There was heavy use of the surrounds with both vocals and electronic sounds. The first track offers a mixture between dance music with R&B style vocals. Some of the album has a late 80s, early 90s feel. On the second track, the music is primarily made up of electronic sounds and even the vocals are synthesized. Some of the tracks sound techno, but the better songs on the disc are not repetitive—definitely above average.
Songs included are: Everybody on the Dancefloor; 4*3*2*1; 5 Minutes of Funk; Intermission; Space is the Place; Freefallin’; Feel It; K.A.J.E.; Intermission II; Nothing’s Changing; Columbia 7; Dirigible; Hey Buddy!
k. d. lang – Invincible Summer – Warner Bros. 9 47605-9 DVD-A ***1/2:
This disc falls under the category of adult contemporary music. It won’t be popular on “hit radio” stations today, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth investigation. The mood is mellow and seductive infused with k.d.’s famous vocal howling. The mix sounds reminiscent of the other two k.d. lang records I own—All You Can Eat and Ingénue. The first track is a good starter with a nice beat and instrumentation to match, but the real gem is the title track, “Summerfling.” It’s an instantly likable pop song with catchy hooks. The music just seems to float from the speakers soft, light, and airy—capturing the mood of the intended subject matter expertly. If you happen to check out the video, you’ll find the picture quality is gorgeous. Some of the other songs have a tendency to blend together, but if you like the direction of the first few songs, then you are likely to enjoy the rest of the album. There isn’t any new ground being broken, no pushing of the envelope, but the result is a good production of well-crafted tunes.
This disc offers the option of lyrics, still pictures, or song credits while the music plays. There is also a photo gallery, and biography section. The surround channels are very subtly utilized with most of the information coming from the left and right speakers. The label says that it is possible to listen to this DVDA in hi-res stereo; however I could not discover any menu to select such an option. The record is named after a Camus quote, but if you are anti-existentialist, never fear, the music stands on its own. Songs included are: The Consequences of Falling; Summerfling; Suddenly; it’s Happening With You; Extraordinary Thing; Love’s Great Ocean; Simple; What Better Said; When We Collide; Curiosity; Only Love.
The Doors – L.A. Woman – Elektra62612-9 DVD-A ****:
This disc offers the ability to play in high resolution stereo or with a 5.1 surround DVD-A mix. The remixed surround tracks are mixed from the original 8 track analog 1” masters at 96 kHz/24 bit resolution. There is a photo gallery option, biography, and a video for “The Changeling.” The video is a montage with (mostly) black and white stills of Jim Morrison that is in widescreen with 5.1 sound. During regular playback there are still images over the music with a lyric option. There is occasional music and instrumentation in the surround channels with primary focus up front. On track 1, the recording sounds somewhat less spatial than some of the other DVD-A mixes—with most of the focus heavy in the center.
Fidelity is better than expected, but not quite at the level of newer recordings. Guitar and percussion were excellent. “Riders On The Storm” was the first track I ever heard in DVD-A at the Meridian booth at CES many years ago. In a lot of ways it was just as impressive hearing the thunder and rain coming from all around the listener and sounding perfectly natural. That track, “Love Her Madly,” and “L.A. Woman” will be the most recognizable to non-fans. In addition to these classic tracks, you get some pure blues tracks like “Cars Hiss By My Window” and some that are blues/rock mixtures. L.A. Woman is a classic Doors record, and if you have DVD-A capability you will be very happy with the fidelity on the multichannel or stereo tracks. Songs included are: The Changeling; Lover Her Madly; Been Down So Long; Cars Hiss By My Window; L.A. Woman; L’America; Hyacinth House; Crawling King Snake; The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat); Riders On The Storm.
Incubus – A Crow Left of the Murder… – Epic EH 92863 Hybrid Multichannel SACD – ***1/2:
Incubus is one of the alternative rock bands trying to distinguish themselves from the likes of Green Day and Blink 182. They aren’t part of the messy, speed-rock category, nor are they part of the whiny schoolboy sounded mild punk genre. Take the first track off this record. It utilizes audio tricks sure, but it is much more crafted and is better realized in terms of what it is trying to accomplish. It isn’t just a mess of guitar and percussion with shouting along the way. In fact, it faintly reminds me of early punk that a band like The Sex Pistols would make. The music will find a home with teenagers, but it is also geared towards Gen Xers in the way that Sublime is. Track 4 is another song that has an accessible quality that will make it a hit on the radio. It even has a little Radiohead melody to it. Most of the songs are very fast paced and fall under the alternative rock/hard rock umbrella. There is active use of the surrounds for effects. Focus is up front with lots of guitar, but vocals are much more comprehensible than most rock albums. For a typical mass-produced rock record it’s not bad. Drums are fairly well recorded, but there is a little congestion over the music that keeps it from being comparable to the best CDs. Songs included are: Megalomaniac; A Crow Left of the Murder; Agoraphobia; Talk Shows on Mute; Beware! Criminal; Sick Sad Little World; Pistola; Southern Girl; Priceless; Zee Deveel; Made For TV Movie; Smile Lines; Here In My Room; Leech.
Eric Clapton – Slowhand – Polydor B0003639-36 Hybrid Multichannel SACD ****:
Perhaps it isn’t politically correct to be praising a song about cocaine, but the guitar riffs on this track are enviable. They aren’t overly complex, but grab the listener from the beginning of the track. The bass helps to drive the music and provide emphasis in between the guitar and vocals…“She don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine…” The second track is one of my Clapton favorites. The vocals sounded better than the first and third tracks, which is good, because the vocal intonation is a melodic element to this song (along with the crying guitar). The surrounds have more information on this cut than some of the others—there are vocal harmonies that come from the back. The guitar sound on this track is huge! The fidelity of this record varies track by track. On the third, the vocals are muffled; the highs are not as extended, although the dynamics and bass are still excellent. Some of the other tracks have more of country-western feel like track 5, a soft sung duet. The next track is grittier guitar, but the female vocal track seems out of place on this one. Track 8 is in the blues tradition of which Clapton has always held in high regard. This one seems like his work with early bands like Derek and the Dominos or Cream, but with more control. The last track is a sweet instrumental that finishes off the album nicely. This is one of Clapton’s best.
Percussion on this disc is especially lively and present, and approaches the best CD sound. Dynamics are impressive, but there is some congestion obscuring the sound. Surround sound is a nice enhancement on this disc without too much information coming from the back. It did manage to push the sound towards the middle of the room (front to back). Songs included are: Cocaine; Wonderful Tonight; Lay Down Sally; Next Time You See Her; We’re All The Way; The Core; May You Never; Mean Old Frisco; Peaches and Diesel.
Buddy Guy – DJ Play My Blue – JSP Records JSPS104 Hybrid Multichannel SACD – Rating:**** performance, ***1/2 sound:
Buddy Guy is one of the legends of guitar, and in case you didn’t realize it this recording is from 1981. When it comes to the blues, that fact doesn’t really date the music, and you’d hope that some player today would be as gifted on the guitar as he. In just about every song he let’s loose—even the slower tunes like track 2. Track 6 is so mellow and smooth that it’s hard not to take notice. Track 8 is more forceful and rhythmic, but the percussion sounds like tribal drums until the music shifts to a more conventional blues number and picks up speed. Track 10 is a funky tune with intense cymbals that (along with the guitar) drives the music. Consider this disc “blues plus” by one of the greats who really knows how to lay it down and make playing the guitar seem effortless. This recording is just a tad bright—not hard, but it seems as if the treble turned up or the EQ is slanted upwards. There is only very light use of the surrounds on certain cuts with the focus remaining up front. The later tracks like 9, 10, and 11 have a secondary guitar sound coming from the back. Vocals are good—not overly harsh or edgy, but not up to the level of the best CDs. Songs included are: Girl You’re Nice And Clean; Dedication To The Late T-Bone Walker; Good News; Blues At My Baby’s House; She Suits e To A T; D J Play My Blues; Just Teasin’; All Your Love; The Garbage Man Blues; Mellow Down; Comin’ On; Girl You’re Nice & Clean (Alternative).
Our last two discs were a surprise; Audio Fidelity’s CEO used to head DCC Compact Classics – who helped pioneer premium gold CD pressings and showed that there could be as much demand for special audiophile compact discs as there had been for audiophile vinyl discs. He has decided to bring back gold CDs for certain reissue material and these are the first two. Like the four DualDiscs we review this issue, they are not strictly speaking a hi-res format but are regarded as improved res over standard CDs so we’ve included them in this section too.
The Doobie Brothers – Minute by Minute – Audio Fidelity AFZ 025 Gold CD – ***1/2:
The Doobie Brothers produce a tight brand of lite rock that utilizes horns and keyboards along with the most recognizable part of the band—Michael McDonald’s voice. People usually either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I have to admit that I find some of the music to be a little lightweight, but then there are other songs that are classics like “What a Fool Believes.” It and “Minute by Minute” are the standouts on this record. “What a Fool Believes” won three Grammy awards in 1980 (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Vocal Arrangement). A fourth Grammy went to “Minute by Minute” for Best Pop Vocal Performance. The strength of these two songs makes the album worth considering. Luckily, there are a couple of other good tunes on here as well. Track 10? Track 6 or 7? You decide. Track 8 really diverges from the rest of the album and goes straight country. This is another wonderful mastering job by Steve Hoffman from original master tapes. Voice is very transparent, and percussion and keyboards aren’t bad either. Not to sound like an audiophile geek, but it is very “analog-like.” Warnings on this record have nothing to do with the quality of sound, but of the content. It’s a bit uneven, but if you delete a few tracks there is still a really good record left—especially tracks 2 and 3. Oh, and it’s gold! Songs included are: Here To Love You; What A Fool Believes; Minute By Minute; Dependin’ On You; Don’t Stop To Watch The Wheels; Open Your Eyes; Sweet Feelin’; Steamer Lane Breakdown; You Never Change; How Do The Fools Survive.
Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…to a blind horse… – Audio Fidelity AFZ 026 Gold CD ****:
Faces is one of those bands that people may not have heard of, but when you play them the most popular song from this album, “Stay With Me,” they say, “Hey, that’s Rod Stewart isn’t it?” Yes, Rod Stewart doing most of the singing, Ron Wood (guitar) after Jeff Beck but before The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Lane on bass and vocals, Kenney Jones on drums, and Ian McLagan on keyboards. This record (from 1971) is considered to be the best of their albums and for good reason. The material is much more consistent with good blues rock tunes that get under your skin immediately. Slow ballads like “Love Lives Here” provide a little taste as to what Stewart will do later in his career. “Miss Judy’s Farm” is a really good blues number and a nice way to start off the album. The mix has hard-panned guitar, keyboards, and drums with vocals in the center. This is the rough, real Rod Stewart before he became a pop star—guitar is gritty and vocals are raw. As far as the sound goes…this disc sounds a lot better than a lot of the over-processed junk they try to pass off on the unsuspecting mp3-loving public at your local mass-market chain store these days. Edginess and grit is kept to a minimum (except when intentional). The disc follows in the footsteps of other gold CDs—it’s mastered from original tapes—in this case from the original British master mixes. I don’t know if the gold makes the disc sound any better, but it used to be argued that if the plastic coating on the CD ever deteriorated then the aluminum would oxidize and make the disc unplayable. With the gold discs, this will not be an issue. Who knows? Anyway, it is cool looking! Songs included are: Miss Judy’s Farm; You’re So Rude; Love Lives Here; Last Orders Please; Stay With Me; Debris; Memphis; Too Bad; That’s All You Need.