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Hi-Res Reviews - January 2003,
Pt. 1 of 3 - Rock & Jazz - all SACDs this month
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Rock and Jazz

Our Hi-Res fare is all SACD this month - seems to be either a general reduction in DVD-Audio releases or perhaps just a bottleneck getting review discs to us. However, there’s lots of reviews this month of the Third Hi-Res format - See our Audiophile LP Section!

Our first SACD review is also a DVD-Video review of the same thing...

Roger Waters – In the Flesh – Columbia Stereo/Multichannel SACD C2S 85235: Purchase Here

& DVD: Roger Waters – In the Flesh-Live DVD

Studio: Columbia Music Video CVD 54185
Video: Wide-screen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM surround
Extras: Behind the scenes documentary, band biographies, still photos, lyrics, and sound system setup guide.
Length: Concert-1 hour 28 minutes

This is probably one of the best concerts ever done, especially if you are a Pink Floyd fan. I first got the DVD of this concert. I thought it was a great concert and was very happy to have it. It is basically a Pink Floyd and Roger Waters greatest hits concert. And you cannot get much better than that. The video quality was tops and the music was fantastic. The sound was about the quality of a good CD. I felt the video added a lot to the experience of the concert. After being used to hearing the music on the original CDs, the sound left you wanting more. Compared to the original Pink Floyd CDs the sound is compressed. There was a lack of detail and the sound effects did not have much impact. The video really gave you a feeling for what you were missing. The drummer would be whacking away at the drums with standard drumsticks. There should have been a lot of presence and impact in the sound. But there was not. On another cut, a sax player was doing a solo. Again there was little sense of presence and the sax sounded like easy- listening sax. There was no sense of the reed in the instrument.

With great hope I tried the SACD version of the concert. The surround layer sounded very much like the DVD. At times it produced slightly more detail than the DVD. This is probably the only time you will experience me saying that there was not enough in the surround channels. The sound effects beg to be used in the surround channels. This was minimally done. I tried the stereo SACD layer and it was even more dead sounding. They probably took the feeds off the concert mixing board for the concert. I do not wish to say the disc is bad sounding, it just does not live up to expectations for what is basically a Pink Floyd album. A large-scale rock concert is extremely hard to record and very few have been recorded with great fidelity. A live concert like this can have a dynamic range of over 100 dB. I put on my Mo-Fi “Dark Side of the Moon” and thought to myself, now this is what the music should sound like. I am using the Sony DVP – NS755V that I have in for review, for surround SACD. The player is not an ultimate player, but does not sound compressed on other discs. I tried the two channel option on it, versus the Sony S9000 player. The Sony added a little more detail and dynamics, but not much. I have had a Marantz DV 8300 ordered for over two months. When it comes in I will listen to the album again and report if it changes my feeling about the album.

Whoa hold the press: I wanted this disc to sound better so much, I decided to try the five-step treatment process on the disc. I first tried putting it under florescent light. I played it and yes it sounded better. I then decided to bevel it, degauss it, surface treat it, and green the edges. I put the disc on, listened and went “now this is more like it”. It had gained about one and a half star in sound quality. Dynamics were greatly improved; there was more detail and impact. Even the surround sound was improved. The disc has now become recommendable. The five-step process was described in volume one of Positive Feedback Online. The sound was still not quiet up to the sound of the Mo-Fi “Darkside”. There was slightly less soundstage detail and sense of delicateness. But “Darkside” is one of the better recordings ever made and not a live concert. I tried the treatment on the DVD and it was improved also, but not as much as the SACD.

I recommend the DVD for video and music. If you want the sound, you will need to treat either of the discs. Both are recommended if treated. The DVD has the advantage of being on one disc and available for $15-20. The SACD is on two discs and available from $35-40. Treated the SACD sounds better. A great concert and great music. .Purchase Here


- Clay Swartz

Tower of Power – Soul Vaccination Live – 550 Music/Columbia Legacy Stereo SACD BS 69829:

Well this proves that not all SACDs will sound good. Tower of Power is known for an energetic sound with a very strong brass section. This recording conveys none of this. The recording sounds very compressed. It was recorded in California at a live concert in 1998. The recording was probably compressed because of the huge dynamic range this band has when it starts cooking. The brass on this album does not sound anything like real brass. There is no brass edge to it. The bass is thumpy and ill defined. The voices however are fairly well represented. Transient power is pretty much gone. Only if you like an easy listening Tower Of Power, should you buy this album. Purchase Here

-- Clay Swartz

Journey – Arrival – Columbia Stereo SACD CS 69864:

Journey is a five-man band, consisting of:
Neal Schon Guitars, Background vocals
Ross Valory Bass Guitar, Background vocals
Jonathan Cain Keyboards, Background vocals
Deen Castronovo Drums, Background vocals
Steve Augeri Lead Vocals

I would classify this album as generic light rock. I can not generate much enthusiasm for this album. The sound is clean and clear and captures the performance adequately. The band members write the songs on the album. I find the best song for me is "Loved By You". It is a soft rock ballad. The most interesting aspect of the music is the keyboard, played as a standard piano, can be nice. The instrument playing is very competent. Steve Augeri’s voice is well recorded. This not a bad album, but is also not a great album. I must admit that the album grew a little on me on the second listening. If I were to give a star rating, it would be two stars for music and three and a half for sound. I can only recommend this album on a sonic basis. Music is a very individual taste, and others may like the music better than I did. Purchase Here

-- Clay Swartz

Aerosmith – O, Yes Ultimate Aerosmith Hits – Columbia Stereo SACD C2S86700 (2 SACDs):

Aerosmith was one of the premier hard rock bands of the 70s. They had lost some of their popularity in the early 80s and fell prey to alcohol and drug abuse. They made a comeback in the late 80s and are still going. They are noted for their power ballads behind the lead vocals of flamboyant Steven Tyler. Before I listened to this disc, I had dismissed them as a group that I would probably not care to hear. Some of this was from hearing them on sound systems that were not very good. I was surprised to find them a lot more listenable than I had expected. This is a very good sounding disc for a rock recording. The sound has good clarity and is fairly punchy. The recording amply captures the energy of the group. This is a 2 SACD set with 30 of their hit songs. Hits include: Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion, Janie’s Got a Gun, Mama Kin, Dream On, Same Old Song and Dance and Back in the Saddle. There is both the original and with Run D.M.C. versions of Walk Like This. It is interesting that the song, Toys in the Attic, which is the title song of one of their better albums, is excluded. This is recommended for Aerosmith or hard rock fans in general. Others, like me, may find the group more interesting to listen to than they originally thought. Purchase Here

- Clay Swartz

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde - Columbia stereo SACD-Only CD 841:

One of Dylan’s best-known LP albums was this double-disc package, which has here been accommodated on a single SACD - though again one playable only on SACD players, not on standard CD decks. Some of his biggest hits of the time are in this 14-tune collection, including Just Like a Woman, Stuck Inside of Mobile..., Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. There is a credit for the remixing of the album for stereo SACD. I’d be curious what was done - I don’t have the original LPs any longer. There’s clarity that I don’t recall the vinyl had, but there’s still not much stereo effect on any Dylan album. If you have the LPs I say keep ‘em, but if you don’t and you want a lot of quintessential Dylan in the best sound on a single disc, this is it. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

The Byrds Greatest Hits - Columbia Legacy Stereo SACD Only CS 66230:

More instant nostalgia for those of us who were there then, and pretend-nostalgia for those who weren’t. The five LA-based hippie musicians - David Crosby being the biggest name in hindsight - plied their folk-fusion rock to delighted fans with such unforgettable gems as Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Eight Miles High, Mr. Spaceman, and So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star. They sound even smoother and more tuneful via DSD than I recall from their LPs. Plus you score three Bonus Tracks! It Won’t Be Wrong, Set You Free This Time, and Have You Seen Her Face. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme (Coltrane, tenor sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums) Impulse Stereo-only SACD 314 589 596-2:
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme - Deluxe CD Edition. Disc 1 duplicates the above; Disc 2 = live version from Antibes Jazz Festival 1965 plus four alternative takes of two of the movements with guests Archie Shepp, tenor sax & Art Davis, bass - Impulse 314 589 595-2 (2 CDs):

Seems appropriate that one of the first jazz releases in Universal's embrace of the SACD format would be the album-length suite that became John Coltrane’s best-known work. It’s inappropriate, however, that much press in the jazz world has gone into the alternate live recording of the work made at a French jazz festival - the only live recording of it. But it wasn’t released in SACD, so in order to get it you have to purchase the standard double-CD Deluxe Edition with a semi-duplicated studio version. However, now that I think about it, Universal was still limited to pressing at the plant that cannot do hybrid SACDs, so you can’t play the SACD in your car or portable. Therefore the 44.1 version could come in very handy!

The live version isn’t recorded as well of course, but it sounds more exciting in some areas. Notable is the greatly extended third movement - Pursuance - of the suite. It runs over 21 minutes by itself and has a quite amazing Jimmy Garrison bass solo in the middle. Coltrane’s own poem in praise of God is included in both versions, since the mostly instrumental suite closely follows on the sections of the poem. As expected, the SACD version strips away a veil of distancing, brings out more of the harmonics of Tyner’s piano and the breathing and keyclicks of Coltrane’s sax. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Miles Davis - In a Silent Way (with Wayne Shorter, sop. sax; Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock, elec. piano; Joe Zawinul, B3; John McLaughlin, elec. Guitar; David Holland, bass; Tony Williams, drums) - Columbia/Legacy multichannel SACD-only CK86556:

Silent Way is the Miles session from l969 that demonstrated his new musical direction that came to be known as fusion. He went about it in a quiet way, as befits the title. But the rock-infused rhythms kept things percolating at all times. He used three electronic keyboards and his original use of space influenced the jazz label ECM - most of whose catalog seems to have grown out of this period of Davis’ work. Sort of like the Coltrane epic, there is also a standard 3-CD version of all the sessions for this album. While the use of the surrounds is quite subtle, there is a spatial quality created with the SACD that is missing from the two channel stereo versions. As with many of the Sony multichannel SACDs, you may want to balance the level a bit in favor of the surround channels for best effect. I heard much detail in Miles’ solos that I hadn’t noticed before on standard CD. Tracks: Shhh/Peaceful, In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time. Purchase Here

The Enrico Pieranunzi Trio Plays the Music of Wayne Shorter - Infant Eyes (with Hein Van de Geyn, bass; Hans van Oosterhout, drums) - Challenge Records Stereo SACD SA CHR 75031:

This seems to fit it right after Miles’ group. 11 compositions of Shorter’s but delivered by a piano trio without a sax in sight. Interesting - gives some of these classics an entirely new life. Some Dutch players seem to have an affinity for skilled and creative reworkings of music by various composers who are just a bit different. Frank Zappa, Andre Popp and Raymond Scott are among those who have been so honored in the past. It looks Shorter is the recipient this time. Pieranunzi’s treatments elevate the compositional chops of the soprano saxist and make us listen to his music with a different ear. The DVD recording is super-clean and detailed; would be difficult to improve on this piano sound. Tracks: Wildflower, Fallo, Capricorn, ESP, Teru, Deluge, Nefertiti, Pinocchio, Sleeping Dancer Sleep On, This is for Albert, Infant Eyes. Purchase Here

****Multichannel fan Brian Moura has created a special non-commercial web site just for other enthusiasts of multichannel Super Audio Discs. If you would like to know exactly what is available in this format both in the U.S. and elsewhere, and what is coming soon, his main page will tell you where you want to go to (scroll down a bit) - with lists for:

Multichannel SACD Albums Now Available
Multichannel SACD Albums - New Releases
Multichannel SACD Albums - Now Available - Only in Europe
Multichannel SACD Albums - Now Available - Only in Japan
Multichannel SACD Albums Coming Soon

Go on to Part 2 of Hi-Res Reviews

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