35 Hi-Res Reviews - April 2003,
Pt. 1 of 3 - Rock & Pop - SACD and DVD-A
click on any cover to go to review

The Who – My Generation; MCA 088 113 182-2 stereo SACD (2 discs):

You gotta love the record companies. They are the kings of repackaging the same songs over and over and selling consumers the same music over and over. Well, here’s a situation where the consumer comes out way ahead. You might think you are buying yet another release of the Who’s My Generation, but the album contains 30 tracks instead of 13! There are 15 bonus tracks with six previously unreleased tracks, and one that was only available on a French EP. Also, there are two mono cuts with guitar overdubs. If you buy this disc because you assume that because it is an SACD it must have superior fidelity, then you will be disappointed. There is nothing superior about the fidelity, except maybe in comparison to some terrible bootleg CDs. The reason to buy this disc is all the great music!

I could go on and on about how “My Generation” and “The Kids Are Alright” defined a generation, but it is unnecessary. If rock ’n’ roll is your thing, then you have to be familiar with the Who and albums like this and Who’s Next have spent many turns on the table. Want to hear something different? How about the Who singing the Supremes? Or what about doing a cool a cappella song? The guitar riff on “Can’t Explain” makes me want to get up and play air guitar. This disc is a definite winner as far as the music is concerned. Songs included are: Out In The Street; I Don’t Mind; The Good’s Gone; La-La-La Lies; Much Too Much; My Generation; The Kids Are Alright; Please, Please, Please; It’s Not True; I’m A Man; A Legal Matter; The Ox; Circles; I Can’t Explain; Bald Headed Woman; Daddy Rolling Stone; Leaving Here (Alternate); Lubie (Come Back Home); Shout And Shimmy; (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave; Motoring; Anytime You Want Me; Anyway Anyhow Anywhere (Alternate); Instant Party Mixture; I Don’t Mind (Full Length Version); The Good’s Gone (Full Length Version); My Generation (Instrumental Version); Anytime You Want Me (A Cappella Version); [Mono w/ guitar overdubs] A Legal Matter; My Generation. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Pieces of a Dream – Love’s Silhouette; Heads Up HUSA 9071 Multichannel/Stereo SACD:

The music on this disc is light and easy R&B/fusion with an electronic beat. There is heavy use of the surround channels for both instruments and vocals. The recording quality on this disc is very good—dynamic, clear, and spatial (due to the use of all the speakers). Key instruments are keyboard, horn, and drum machine mixed with various percussive effects. All the songs, with the exception of one, are original compositions written by the band members. Most of the songs are instrumental pieces although track 4 is a noteworthy exception. There is nothing bad about this record, so if this style of music is your cup of tea then you will greatly enjoy this disc. It was great to use as melodic background listening, and equally engaging for more critical listening. There is a refreshing version of “My Funny Valentine” although there was a tad too much echo for my taste. I just wanted to grab a book, a drink, and lie out in the sun and crank this one up. For an entirely pleasant experience, check this one out. Songs included are: Turning It Up; Love’s Silhouette; Mission Possible; I Feel Like Singin’; Tonight’s The Night; Nice & Easy; Mystical Perception; Pieceful Dreams; Savoir Faire; Enmascarada; Let’s Roll; Remembrance (9/11/01); Slither; My Funny Valentine. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

R.E.M. – Document; Capitol 72434-90149-9-2 DVD-A:

This album is considered by many to be one of R.E.M.’s best efforts. Listening to it in surround is always a different experience. The recording quality was about as I remember it—okay, or perhaps a bit better. Having instruments in front and behind helped give the music a new dimension—either good or bad depending on your preference. If you have no previous experience with R.E.M., then shame on you! Michael Snipes and crew have surely made a dent on the modern/alternative rock scene. Unlike some of their more recent productions (i.e., more electrified), this one is primarily a pleasant acoustic endeavor. Don’t mistake that for fluff—the songs are filled with heartfelt serious material discussing politics and the bourgeois, and are presented in an entirely palatable manner, in effect “documenting” life. Songs like “Finest Worksong,” “The One I Love,” and “It’s The End…” were hits and still get a good deal of radio airplay. As a bonus, there are videos of these tunes on the disc. If you want to hear how good R.E.M. was 15 years ago, then pick this one up. Both lyrics and photos are available as stills over the music. Also included are a discography and a DTS soundtrack in addition to the Dolby Digital and DVD-A track. Songs included are: Finest Worksong; Welcome To The Occupation; Exhuming McCarthy; Disturbance At The Heron House, Strange; It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine); The One I Love; Fireplace; Lightnin’ Hopkins; King Of Birds; Oddfellows Local 151. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?; Epic ES 67351 Multichannel/Stereo SACD:

If the plan is to wow people with the high fidelity of SACD, then the record companies need to go back and find some good-sounding recordings to work with, because this one sure isn’t it. There are many hit songs off this debut album from a band that has been compared to the Beatles. Unfortunately, they never lived up to that comparison. I don’t recall any other Brit Pop bands of the ’90s that started such a commotion as Oasis. The vocals, as well as the music, have a distinctive style. Much like Green Day, you will either like the band a lot or they will do nothing for you. There is some sound coming from the rear, but not a great deal. Songs like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova” should be instantly recognizable, and are good songs. “Cast No Shadow” is my favorite and I would liken it to R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” I don’t think the band really delivered what many had thought they were capable of, but that makes this album no less good. If you think much of the rock of the ’90s was boring and uninspired then you should really get a taste of this record. Songs included are: Hello; Roll With It; Wonderwall; Don’t Look Back In Anger; Hey Now!; (untitled); Some Might Say; Cast No Shadow; She’s Electric; Morning Glory; (untitled); Champagne Supernova. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Motorhead – Ace of Spades; Silverline 288133-9 DVD-A:

This disc is filled with fast-paced hard rock. Use of the surround channels is more for effect and some instrumentation, while most of the sound is up front. There is a choice of lyrics or photos over each song. The vocal and music stylings don’t change a great deal from song to song, although there is some variety in the content of the music. The tunes are guitar and percussion driven that inspire good ole head bobbing in a frenetic manner. If Iron Maiden, Badfinger, KISS, and the like are on your list of favorites, then you’ll get a kick out of Motorhead. Recording quality is fine given the type of music—the instruments are not homogenized. Guitar work was impressive, occasionally provoking thoughts of Joe Walsh, but Motorhead is what you get, and they really get their engine started on this record. Liner notes talking about the songs and album are included. Songs included are: Ace of Spades; Love Me Like A Reptile; Shoot You In The Back; Live To Win; Fast and Loose; (We Are) The Road Crew; Fire, Fire; Jailbait; Dance; Bite The Bullet; The Chase Is Better Than The Catch; The Hammer.
Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Ministry - Animositisomina; Silverline 288132-9 DVD-A:

Sometimes the press release says it best: “From the originators of industrial rock, Animositisomina is a paradox of punishing aesthetics, cathartic fury, intellectual musings, and technological abuse.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! There is even more elaboration on the band’s style, roots, and musical intentions on the Ministry: Past, Present And…section of the DVD-A. Apparently, Ministry has been making music since 1979 right after the end of the peak of the punk era, and founder, Al Jourgensen, found the need to make a serious comeback to the music scene. The first track starts with percussive effects that circle around your head. Then, there is this explosion of sound from all directions. Ministry’s sound is the epitome of the hard rock/goth/industrial genre combining lots of metallic crashing, grinding, and crunching sounds. There is a solid pounding (beat) that accompanies the vocals. The vocals are intentionally distorted, harsh, and thin as is typical ala Rob Zombie or Nine Inch Nails. The recording is clean, but it is hard to judge overall fidelity due to the intentional use of distortion and the type of music. Fans of this brand of grating, smashing, loud, and abrasive music will not be disappointed. “Broken” is a song you might hear on the radio, but “Animosity” and “Leper” are my favorites. There are stills shown over the various songs throughout. There is a behind the scenes video in addition to the information on the band’s history. Songs included are: Animosity; Unsung; Piss; Lockbox; Broken; The Light Pours Out Of Me; Shove; Impossible; Stolen; Leper. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Jimmy Witherspoon - The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues - Silverline DVD-A 288137-9:

This is another in the series of multichannel reissues which Silverline has picked up from the sizeable discography of the Sanctuary label. The session dates from l992 and the ‘Spoon is backed by a quintet or sextet; players who were unfamiliar to me but are very good. I’ve been a big ‘Spoon fan ever since buying his LP on the Hi-Fi Records label recorded at the Monterey Jazz Festival many years ago. There’s something very friendly and warm about his voice that I find uniquely appealing. The remix here is for 5.1 surround using the highest-res 96K option (rather than the 48K or 88K which a number of DVD-As use). The tracks mix down to a stereo version in your player should you still be a two-channel stick-in -the-mud, and of course there is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 track if you don’t have a DVD-Audio player at all. The back cover also proclaims proudly: “Liner Notes.” Oh yeah, where? Too bad just one music video can’t be included on more of these pop DVD-As, as was done effectively with the Randy Newman reissue recently.

Mixing-wise, I find this no better than most DVD-A pop releases: Jimmy’s voice is spread unnaturally across all three frontal speakers, and on the surrounds it is heard from a distant perspective, with clearly artificial reverb added to it. There’s got to be a better way to present a single vocalist in hi-res surround. And no, I don’t think putting the singer solely on the center speaker (as done with the James Taylor SACDs) is the way to do it either.
Tracks: You Got a Hold of My Heart, It Never Rains But It Pours, A Real Bad Day, Sooner or Later, Killing Time, The Blues The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues, Help Me Operator, Would Man Be Satisfied, Two Sides to Every Story, Wake Up Call, Think, You Ain’t Foolin’ Me. Purchase Here

- John Henry

The Band - Music from Big Pink - Capitol Records DVD-A 72434-77939-9-8:

I’d been waiting for this hi-res reissue for some time. It’s the Beethoven’s Ninth of the post-psychedelic saviors of American rock. The original LP went against the grain of most of what was happening in rock at the time. The group was made up mostly of Canadians, the music harked back to folk roots, the lyrics didn’t hold parents as the big villains as did most rock of the time, and even the album photos were planned to be in the style of hoary portraits of miners and families in the l9th century. (They specifically searched for the worst photographer they knew about to take the cover shots and he happened to be a big fan of the archaic portrait approach.) After seeing the best effort at preserving a rock concert on film - The Last Waltz - I was pumped up for this DVD-A and dug it deeply. The note booklet has more details on the music and The Band than you get from the interviews on The Last Waltz, because Martin Scorsese was really out of the loop in interviewing the Band members. All the super-Americana rockabilly Canadian group’s big hits are here among the 11 tracks. If you don’t have a DVD-A player yet (and frankly I don’t blame you if you don’t) the DTS tracks provided here are pretty good. Of course if you don’t even have DTS there’s also the Dolby Digital tracks. The vocals are on all four channels about equally and completely absent from the center channel. I don’t understand what the intention of these mixers for multichannel pop is - it’s just not logical. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Here are the two latest releases from the re-born Mobile Fidelity...
Patricia Barber - Nightclub (with Charlie Hunter, 8-string guitar; Richael Arnopol or Marc Johnson, bass; Adam Cruz or Adam Nussbaum, drums) - Mobile Fidelity Stereo SACD UDSACD 2004:

The cool and breathless approach of Barber is captured perfectly in this collection of late-nite songs which seem to immerse the listener in a dark and smoky nightclub environment. Barber makes the listener revisit every word of the lyrics - this is even beyond the focus on the lyrics that some cabaret singers are famous for. And it wouldn’t come across half as well if it weren’t for the high-res recreation of the most quite and subtle sounds of her voice and piano accompaniment. The performances were all live with no fixes. And would you believe that closing tune? If you’re a Pat Barber fan, this disc is a must-have. Tracks: Bye Bye Blackbird, Invitation, Yesterdays, Just for a Thrill, You Don’t Know Me, Alfie, Autumn Leaves, Summer Samba, All or Nothing at All, So In Love, A Man & A Woman, I Fall in Love Too Easily, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Purchase Here

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 (with Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Richie Powell, George Morrow) - Prestige/Mobile Fidelity mono UDSACD 2006:

There are host of reasons this album has been reissued on SACD even though it’s 1956 mono (though one of Rudy Van Gelder’s “deep mono” masterpieces): This was one of the top hard bop groups at the height of their powers, it was about the last time the great Clifford Brown was in the studio (both he and pianist Powell were killed in an auto accident shortly after), it shows the 25-year-old Rollins as an able leader (he had been working as a janitor and practicing), and two of his very best original tunes are among the five tracks; the 3/4-time Valse Hot and Pent-Up House. Rollins was most heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, but he usually eschewed the breakneck tempi in favor of a fuller, more rich sound. The tightness of the quintet is a joy for any jazz fan to hear, and the fidelity (using Mo-Fi’s proprietary Gain 2 mastering system) has never been made more transparent than on this disc. (As you can see above, my copy had a Multichannel Stereo SACD sticker on the front of this mono disc.) Purchase Here

- John Henry

Got Swing! (Celebrating the Big Band Era) - Erich Kunzel and The Cincinnati Pops with guests Manhattan Transfer, John Pizzarelli and Janis Siegel - Telarc multichannel SACD-60592:

Kunzel and his crew have replaced The Boston Pops for most audiences and collectors in this sort of fare, and this is the swingingest Kunzel effort yet. The 14 tunes are all jewels from the swing era in great arrangements that honor the originals but don’t sound a bit outdated. The Pops players really swing too - this is not one of those problematic sessions where the symphonic backing drags down the jazz or pop soloists up front. Blues In the Night and Skyliner were just two of the arranging gems here that especially caressed my ears. The guests are well-chosen from the growing roster of Telarc artists, and the Manhattan Transfer also celebrates their 30th anniversary this year. Janis Siegel is a member of the Transfer and also a solo jazz vocalist for Telarc. Pizzarelli specializes in tunes from The Great American Songbook and just released both an album with George Shearing and a double-disc live trio appearance at Birdland.[See our Jazz Reviews this month for the latter and check our search engine for the former.] And there’s a raft of jazz soloists, including Jim Pugh on trombone and Antonio Hart on alto sax.

Things went so smoothly with the guests, Kunzel and the Pops orchestra that many of the tracks are first takes - unusual for this sort of complex production. The stereo mix is a complete delight, but the involving multichannel version is, well, surrounding! Tracks: String of Pearls, Stompin’ at the Savoy, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Sugar, Skyliner, Blues in the Night, Avalon, It Don’t Mean a Thing, Clouds (adapted from Nuages), Jumpin’ at the Woodside, Flying Home, I’ll Be Seeing You, Sweet Georgia Brown. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Sonny Clark Trio (Clark, piano; Max Roach, drums; George Duvivier, bass) - Audio Fidelity Stereo hybrid SACD AFZ 006:

When I first saw the Multichannel sticker on the front of the super jewelbox I thought, “Great - first surround release from Audio Fidelity.” Then I saw the date of the original session for this release - 1959 - that was just a year after the introduction of the stereodisc, so it’s clear that the sticker was an error. However, reading the original notes by Nat Hentoff included in the booklet it turns out that some of the original masters were three-track - a format often used at that time (as witness the Mercury Living Presence masters). Thus it might have been possible to remix this SACD for three channels as was done with the Everest so-called multichannel SACD that frustrated us some months ago.

It’s fine in stereo however, with the center phantom image being the bass. The piano is clearly on the left speaker and the drum set at the right speaker. All 13 tunes are originals by Clark. He listed Bud Powell, Fats Waller and Art Tatum as his main influences, so you know he’s got to be following in giant footsteps. His bassist and drummer were the cream of the crop too. The original LP release has been expanded with the addition of five alternate tracks, but they have been logically placed at the very end of the disc - thanks, AF. A most enjoyable program in every way. Tracks: Junka, Sonia, Blues Blue, Nica, Minor Meeting, Sonny’s Crip, Blues Mambo, My Conception; alternate takes of Sonia, Blues Blue, Junka, Minor Meeting, Nica. Purchase Here

- John Henry

****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

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