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Hi-Res Audio Reviews, Pt. 1 - April 2002
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~~~~ DVD-Audio ~~~

The Doobie Brothers -- The Captain and Me; Warner Bros/Rhino DVD Audio/Dolby Digital/DTS Disc R9 78347:

This album came out in the early 70s, and is clearly one of the Doobie's best albums. For those not familiar with the group, this would be a great place to start. The songs are well crafted, catchy, and really rock! Some of the songs are slower ballad-like tunes that have beautiful guitar work and a soft, mellow sound. The disc has a surround side and a stereo side. In addition to the DVD-A track, there is a DD and DTS track that allows compatibility with every DVD player. There is a lyric or photo option while listening to the songs. There are only about 20 pictures total, so go slowly. On the surround side, there is lots of stuff happening in the rear channels. On some tunes, individual instruments are mixed exclusively to the back channels. Some will prefer the "comfortable" 2-channel mix, while others will enjoy the "quad"-sounding surround mix where you are right in the middle of the action. Either way, the Doobie Brothers never sounded better. Songs included are: Natural Thing, Long Train Runnin', China Grove, Dark Eyed Cajun Woman, Clear As The Driven Snow, Without You, South City Midnight Lady, Evil Woman, Busted Down Around O'Connelly Corners, Ukiah, The Captain And Me.

- Brian Bloom

Rambient -- So Many Worlds; Immergent/5.1 Entertainment DVD-A disc 287006-9:

This disc really makes use of the surround sound capability of DVD-A. There is a 96KHz stereo track as well, but most people would rather hear this type of music spinning around inside their head. The music is a mix of electronica, techno, and euro-dance music. I wanted to turn off the lights and get a disco ball rolling-I felt like I was in a dance club! Several of the songs use guest vocalists such as Divine Styler, Peter Murphy, Lisbeth Scott, Miho Hatori, and Flea, who appears on a single cut as a guest instrumentalist. There are videos and/or bios on all the artists involved. Some of these (like the one with Miho Hatori) are very funny and enlightening. Songs included are: All That Is, Burn, Power, Karma, Idle Flow, Hurricane, So Many Worlds, Killa Machine, Deliverance, We Dive, Birth Of A Girl, and Fresh Skin.

- Brian Bloom


Bird- Bird 3; Immergent/5.1 Entertainment DVD-A disc 282005-9:

The main menu of this disc has a few nice extras. There is a speaker setup section with a diagram for suggested speaker layout and a test-voice that goes around from speaker to speaker to get an idea of proper level. Along with a DVD-A track there is a DD track like other 5.1 Entertainment releases. There are two visual option settings, so you can look at a photo slide show while the music plays or opt for cartoons drawn by the band about their songs. In addition, there is a documentary on the band, a music video for "Glow," and a scrapbook of pictures of the band. Some of the material is on the second side of the disc. The band plays rock with an alternative flavor a la Greenday, Lit, and Eve 6 with a softer side like Semisonic or the Goo Goo Dolls. "Glow" has a pleasant ethereal quality to it with soft, sensitive lyrics, and is most likely the hit song. "Air Crisp" and "Tongue Tied" are a couple other tunes that stand out. Most of the sound is positioned up front with back for reverb, echo, and some effect. But on some songs, instruments are present in back, especially guitar sound. "Fighter" has the most obvious use of rear channels, and has a Jackson Browne quality that is very appealing. Songs included are: Fit, Mess, Forgot your Name, Glow, Girl Next Door, Air Crisp, Indoor, Research Man, Take It Easy, Tongue Tied, Number One Fan, Dry, Fighter.

- Brian Bloom


~~~~ SACD Reviews ~~~~   

Lars Erstrand Trio & Quartet and guests - The "Complete" Songs - Opus 3 multichannel SACD CD 22014:

Risking bad form to start with the technical aspects, but I feel I should point out that these recordings were just made last year and utilize four discrete channels rather than the derived L - R information from earlier Opus 3 stereo masters - however effective those are. The center and LFE channels are not used and are not missed. This is the second discrete surround SACD from the Swedish label. There is an even greater natural presence of the players in front of you, more micro details in the music, and an even greater impression of the acoustics of the hall around you than on stereo 44.1 Opus 3 discs.

So what are the "complete" songs? Simply those which include the verse leading up to the main tune. Like a few U.S. jazzmen, vibist Erstrand maintains that songs are not really complete without the verse, even though they are playing instrumental versions of them. The 11 complete songs come from the great age of swing and include a couple honoring the George Shearing Quintet sound as well as others paying homage to the Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet. Pianist Jan Lundgren is a mainstay of the group, guitarist Bertil Fernqvist rounds out the quartet and the guests include excellent soloists on trumpet, cornet, and soprano and tenor sax. The latter is Antii Sarpila from Finland and he is heard on three of the tracks: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Life Can Be So Sweet, A 100 Years From Today, Ah Sweet Mystery of Life, Then I'll Be Tired of You, Song of Songs, For You For Me For Evermore, Tea for Two, On the Sunny Side of the Street.

Steve Tyrell - Standard Time - Columbia Jazz multichannel SACD (only) CD 86006:

Sony Music should really label this disc more clearly. The front edge of the jewel box doesn't say Super Audio Disc as most others, and the logos for both SACD and multichannel are so tiny as to be almost invisible. On top of that, this is not a hybrid SACD/CD. Buyers buying this before getting their SACD player may forget that the Columbia label is also Sony Music and all Sony Music SACDs are single layer! (I was trying to play it on my office CD player to check out a couple of the tracks again, and wondered why I only got some static, until the above hit me.) There is also no indication that Tyrell is a vocalist. And a very good one at that. Like Mose Allison, he sounds nothing like his cover photo. I would characterize his voice as a sort of up-the-river version of Dr. John - like perhaps he went to the U. Of Chicago. He has more range and less rough edges than Mr. Rebannac but otherwise quite similar.

Tyrell's sidemen on this 16-track album come from the cream of the jazz crop. Among them are Clark Terry, Harry Sweets Edison, Pas Johnson, Toots Thielemans, Joe Sample and guitarist Bob Mann. Jane Monheit takes the vocal role of the girl who sorta wants to leave in Baby It's Cold Outside. The band is spread around in a sort of horseshoe formation rather than just using the surrounds for ambience. It adds listener involvement without sounding odd. Tracks: It Had to be You, Until the Real Thing Comes Along, Ain't Misbehavin', That Old Feeling, Baby It's Cold Outside, Stardust, It All Depends on You, As Time Goes By, I Wonder, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Why Was I Born, Let's Fall in Love, Our Love is Here to Stay, Someone to Watch Over Me, Everytime We Say Goodbye, Remembering Sweets.

- John Henry

South of the Border with our next two SACDS, but not Mexico...

Michael Camilo - Triangulo (with Anthony Jackson, bass; Horatio Hernandez, drums) - Telarc Jazz multichannel SACD SACD 63549:

Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Camilo is one of the most important jazz pianists today. Among his influences have been Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Erroll Garner. While classified as a Latin pianist, his exciting new album explores a wide range of piano trio excursions via a majority of his own tunes. Four are from other composers - Lecuona's La Comparsa, Dizzy's gorgeous Con Alma, Mike Manieri's Las Dos Lorettas, and Chano Dominguez's Mr. C.I. Bassist Jackson plays a special six-string contrabass guitar, and some of Camilo's arrangements border on the orchestral in their depth and complexity. The piano sound is rich, with plenty of transient slam when required, aided by a huge dynamic range. The surround ambience helps place the piano dead center rather than trying to put it inside your head or putting the other two instruments directly on the surround channels. Tracks: Piece of Cake, La Comparsa, Mr. C.I., Afterthought, Anthony's Blues, Con Alma, Las Dos Lorettas, Just Like You, Descarga for Tito Puente, dotcom-bustion.

Touched by Tango - Alfredo Marcucci, bandonéon & Ensemble Piacevole - Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 17202:

The Ensemble Piacevole is basically a string quartet joined by a bassist and they specialized in expanding the traditional classical repertory. They hooked up with an Argentine bandoneon player living in Belgium. This album, inspired by the transformation of the tango form created by the late Astor Piazzolla, was the result. It was recorded in Belgium. Piazzolla achieved for the tango the harmonic, melodic and emotional freedoms achieved by jazz much earlier. Five of the selections on this disc are by Piazzolla - thankfully avoiding his most-played pieces - and two of the others are from bandoneonist Marcucci. Piazzolla's Five Tango Sensations, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet (and the tango master's last recording before his death in l992), is included. There are also two short tracks from another noted Argentine tango composer-performer, Francisco de Caro. The string quintet has a larger sound than one would associated with only five players, and in surround vs. the stereo mix they sound larger yet, plus being placed realistically within a substantial venue's space.

- John Sunier

A pair of senior blues singers - including one who started back in the days of 78s...

Henry Townsend - My Story - APO stereo SACD 2014 SA:
Wild Child Butler - Sho' 'Nuff - APO stereo SACD 2015 SA:

Tickler of the ivories and blues singer Townsend began recording for the Columbia label in l929 and is now 90 years old. He is the only blues singer alive today to have recorded in each decade since then. All dozen songs here are his own, and he often seems to be thinking up his unconventional blues lyrics as he goes along. His piano playing is secondary to the vocals, he also doubles on guitar, and is joined on most tracks by Ron Edwards on slide guitar and Sho Komiyua on acoustic bass. Jimmy Lane helps out on dobro on two tracks. The close up miking and the transparency of DSD puts Henry right in our laps. As a blues non-aficionado, I wished for a bit more contrast between tunes, but I expect those heavily into it would find worlds of difference in each one. They are: Less Than a Man, Tell Me, World Full of People, No Fuss and Fight, Dreaming, You Should've Told Me, My Story, Help Me Darling, Screaming and Crying, Put Me on Hold, Goodbye, Repentance Blues.

George Butler is at age 64 part of the last generation of black musicians who grew up playing country blues on the farms in the segregated South. He arrived in the converted Christian Church in Salina, Kansas that is now Blue Heaven Studios with a briefcase full of harmonicas, and proceeded to blow the heck out of some of them during this 13-track session. Here's Butler's summary of what he's done all his life: "The blues is the facts of life due to the human condition." Good a definition of the blues as any. You won't do any snoozin' listenin' to Wild Child, child - even if you're tired. His habit of punching up his tunes with loud emphases here and there on either voice or 'harp - will keep you on your toes. Every snap of Butler's snappy sound is well-preserved with the added resolution of DSD. And you can be sure that natural-sounding reverberation is the real thing in the church and not artificial reverbs. Producer Chad Kassem also videotapes each of his blues sessions in his studio, and this one should be especially interesting to watch. Partly due to the way Butler moves and snaps his fingers in syncopation, but also due to the fact that he plays his 'harps upside down! It wasn't until he was 25 that someone told him the treble notes are supposed to be on the right side and the low ones on the left. It was too late, so he continues playing his way.

Tracks: Open Up Baby, You Had Quit Me, I Got to Go, Can You Use a Man Like Me, Moaning Morning, Slippin' In, Funky Things, Maryanne, It's All Over, Loving, Achin' All Over, I Changed, Baby I Can't Exist.

- John Henry

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