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AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - web magazine for music, audio & home theater
This section sponsored by ELUSIVE DISC

54 SACD & DVD-A Reviews Total!

December 2003 - Part 3 of 3 - Rock & Jazz

[Part 1] [Part 2]

Click on any cover to go directly to that review


Queensryche – Tribe; Silverline 288208-9 DVD-A:

This disc has still pictures and the choice of lyrics over the music as well. There is a lot of sound mixed into the surround channels, including both instruments and effects. There is something about the dark, brooding quality in the music produced by this band that has a way of infecting you—much in the way that Queen did, except that the style of music is different. The depravity that is present in Nine Inch Nails music rears its ugly head on occasion, but the sound of Queensryche walks the line between traditional hard rock and heavy metal—with that haunting echo that reminds me also of the last Ministry DVDA disc I reviewed. The songs start slowly and then get louder, faster, and have an almost pop-like hook. This gives most of the material a similar sound, which, to some, will be a negative, but for those in search of this sound will be just more of good thing. The album is clearly geared towards delivering a message. The first time you select the Title Menu, there is a quote about the chains of humanity caused by passing judgment on others. On the next page, there is a more revealing explanation of the album title and the meaning of tribe as it is expressed through the song lyrics on this album.

Much of the music is inspired by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Although the literal meaning of tribe defines the word as the gathering together of people with a learned commonality, the band expounds on man finding comfort in beliefs, habits, practices, and philosophies that are reinforced. They talk about “lack” as its own tribe that many people have become a part of, reinforced by culture and fueled by the economy (consumption). This desire to get the things we lack dictates our emotion and governs our responses. This album is about finding what America is, and the bandleader finding himself. Extras include the “Desert Dance” video and a photo gallery. Songs included are: Open; Losing Myself; Desert Dance; Falling Behind; The Great Divide; Rhythm Of Hope; Tribe; Blood; The Art Of Life; Doin’ Fine.

-Brian Bloom

Everclear – So Much For The Afterglow; DTS Entertainment 69286-01107-9-3 DVD-A:

This disc offers not only stills but also lyrics over the music as well. [Not many of the pop DVD-A discs offer that, and most of those that do fail to sync the lyric display to the music - DTS is one of the few...ED.] Effects and music are present in the surround channels. This disc (like some others) reminds me just how important the center channel is to the multichannel music experience. Much like a movie, there is lots of information in the center and if it doesn’t mate well with the front speakers, the overall experience will suffer. This disc is a good follow-up record to Sparkle and Fade, and, overall, the material on this record is consistently better. There were a few hit songs from this album, but for those not too familiar, the music is in the alternative rock genre, but the vocals make the band very recognizable from other comparable bands in other ways. The tunes are gritty and in your face like some Nirvana songs, and Normal Like You has a very aggressive surround track, but most of the material is not overbearing. Sound quality is good to better, but not outstanding. I’d say it is a step above the CD, but not a huge step. The big gain is in the extras, and the surround sound capability. The disc offers a DTS-ES track and a PCM 2.0 track in addition to the DVD-A track. Depending on the player, you may get better sound from the DTS track as decoded by your preamplifier.

Extras on the disc include: a photo gallery and both “Father Of Mine” and “Everything To Everyone” videos. Songs included are: So Much For The Afterglow; Everything To Everyone; Ataraxia; Normal Like You; I Will Buy You A New Life; Father Of Mine; One Hit Wonder; El Distorto De Melodica; Amphetamine; White Men In Black Suits; Sunflowers; Why I Don’t Believe In God; Like A California King. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic; Columbia CS 57362 Multichannel SACD-only:

I’m kind of tired of harping on the fact that Sony doesn’t release their discs in CD/SACD formats. But, dear reader, just make sure you check one way or the other. [All Sony SACDs now being pressed are hybrid, but it will take a while for the non-hybrid discs to move thru sales channels...Ed.] This title employs lots of echo and all sorts of sound in the surround channels. The quality of sound varies by track, and on some tracks is a bit edgy. “Walk This Way” in 5.1 was really cool—it had guitar licks, percussive sounds, and chorus coming out of the surrounds. It made me want to crank it up. “Sweet Emotion” was an almost holistic experience with me grabbing for my lighter even though I don’t own one. “You See Me Crying” may not have been a hit song, but it sure should have been. It has that classic rock ballad sound that is extremely catchy. If you are looking to buy only one Aerosmith CD that is not a hits disc, then this is probably the one to get. Songs included are: Toys In The Attic; Uncle Salty; Adam’s Apple; Walk This Way; Big Ten Inch Record; Sweet Emotion; No More No More; Round And Round; You See Me Crying. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?; DTS Entertainment 69286-01106-9-4 DVD-A:

This album is originally from 1986 and offers several audio playback options including DTS 5.1, stereo PCM, and a 96/24 Audio track in addition to DVD-A. In case you aren’t too familiar with the band, the music is comprised of screaming guitars, throbbing drums, and scary-sounding vocals—headbanger music at its best and a perfect disc for Halloween! Some people might say that track 1 would fall under the speed-metal genre, but there is a little more variety than that on this disc. You might want to think Marilyn Manson meets Eddy Van Halen. The recording fully utilizes the surround speakers and sound literally comes from every direction. I started to have flashbacks to ’80s metal videos with guys with long curly hair, open shirts, and silly close-ups. Never fear, the disc actually includes two of the band’s music videos (more on them later). There is really no need to talk about the lyrical content, just look at the song titles and the name of the band.

Extras are aplenty on this disc. There is a picture gallery in addition to the normal lyric display. There is an extensive interview with the band members that really helps to get an idea where they are coming from, and the fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously—a reference to Joan Baez as a dinosaur made me chuckle. When I watched the Peace Sells video I couldn’t help laughing, but no doubt hardcore fans would think it is super-cool. This is the kind of video that Beavis and Butthead would thoroughly rock out to. The “play-along” version of “Devil’s Island” seemed really neat. You can select between different mixes of the same song hearing just drums and bass, added guitar, no drums, etc. You just need to select an alternate audio track on your remote. There aren’t many surprises when it comes to Megadeth—you are either a fan or not. Songs included are: Wake Up Dead; The Conjuring; Peace Sells; Devils Island; Good Mourning Black Friday; Bad Omen; I Ain’t Superstitious, My Last Words. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Train – Drops Of Jupiter; Columbia CS 69888 Stereo SACD-Only:

This record is from 2001, and in some ways is better than the band’s more recent effort. If anything, it harkens back to an earlier rock ‘n’ roll sound. The musical style is reminiscent of a cross between John Cougar and The Counting Crows, but Pat Monahan has a distinctive voice that helps set the music apart from other bands. Collective Soul seems like a good comparison in style as well. Drops Of Jupiter, the title track, is the big hit song—a song that if heard on the radio would compel the listener to discover who the artist is, and where the CD could be acquired. Unlike bands like The Rembrandts, whose tune Just The Way It Is Baby made me want to buy the album and then left me disappointed, the final product in this case is really good. Let It Roll (like some other songs) has a country-rock flavor that I found appealing.

Fidelity was somewhere between okay and good, suffering from a little harshness/hardness across the frequency band. The song “Mississippi” is a sad, haunting tune that serves as a nice close to the album (that is a very good one). Songs included are: She’s On Fire; I Wish You Would; Drops Of Jupiter; It’s About You; Hopeless; Respect; Let It Roll; Something More; Whipping Boy; Getaway; Mississippi. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Sammy And The Wabo’s Live – Hallelujah; Silverline 288209-9 DVD-A:

This disc is a “best of” live disc that includes songs that span Hagar’s entire musical career in Montrose, Van Halen, and his work as a solo artist. Ex-Van Halen singer Gary Cherone and bassist Michael Anthony play on two of the tunes. The venue is a big rock arena and the sound reflects that with the echo and crowd noise in the back. Handpicking the songs from different concerts allowed Hagar to assemble the best versions of the songs, as well as his personal favorites. The entire disc rocks. ROCKS! Some of the songs will be easy to recognize, but the versions performed are different from the studio tracks and are better suited to the live acoustic. The performance is fast and furious throughout and only fades out as the songs from a different concert are edited into the mix. Still pictures are played over the music and sound quality is okay—it’s a live rock concert after all.

Additional features on the disc include liner notes and the “Hallelujah” video. Songs included are: Shaka Doobie; Three Lock Box; There’s Only One Way To Rock; Give to Live; Top Of The World; Deeper Kinda Love; Why Can’t This Be Love; Eagles Fly; Little White Lie; Rock Candy; I Can’t Drive 55; Mas Tequila; Heavy Metal; When It’s Love; Right Now; Dreams; Hallelujah.

-Brian Bloom

Donald Fagen - Kamakiriad - Reprise DVD-A R9 73782:

In his 1993 solo effort, Fagen sounds much like Steely Dan proper but he has created a concept album here around a futureworld sci-fi sort of conceit, complete with clever music videos for two of the tracks: Snowbound and Tomorrow’s Girls. I loved the little steam powered toy-like cars with the real human heads driving them. The combining of both retro and futuristic elements reminded me of the film Brazil. There are other extras, including interviews with Fagen and Becker - who actually was the album’s producer. Both the multichannel and the stereo MLP options are 48K/24bit, and for those with only DVD video players there are both Dolby and DTS 5.1 surround options. Reprise/Warners is to be commended for providing on-screen lyrics for all eight tracks, because they help explain Fagen’s often surrealistic references. There’s even a map of the imaginary city where the songs/story take place. Lots of very creative and well-planned use of the surrounds, as with Steely Dan’s 5.1 releases. Tracks are: Trans-Island Skyway, Countermoon, Springtime, Snowbound, Tomorrow’s Girls, Florida Room, On the Dunes, Teahouse on the Tracks. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Deep Purple & Sir Malcolm Arnold conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, Sept. 24th, 1969 - Rhino DVD-A R9 73927:

When I first put this disc into my player I thought a straight classical DVD-A had been inserted by mistake, because it starts right off with Arnold conducting his Sixth Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic, a picture of him on the screen, and no mention of Deep Purple at all. If you can figure out how to access the main menu this is all cleared up. That’s the first selection of three groups on the disc, and opened the live concert in Royal Albert Hall. I’ll bet there was a bit of fidgeting in seats of the Deep Purple fans who came to hear them. Actually, those in the dark about Walton the composer got a very accessible symphony in a rousing performance. Part of its third movement, Con Fuoco, made me think I was hearing an alternate soundtrack score to one of the Indiana Jones movies. Jolly good action movie music - better than John Williams! The slow middle movement also has a surprise - a section with unmistakable big band elements in it.

The second portion of the DVD-A is three tracks from the unadorned Deep Purple. Wring That Neck is not referring to chickens but to electric guitars, and they do get wrung. It’s a good clean surround mix, with electric organ on the left and guitar on the right plus the drum set at dead center, and the audience all around. Each track simply sits on a single B&W photo for its entire duration - I wished there were some other shots for variety. The third section is the Concerto for Group and Orchestra by Deep Purple’s leader and keyboardist John Lord, and for this three-movement work Arnold returns as conductor. I wouldn’t say it’s a masterpiece, but I always find efforts to bring together the worlds of pop or jazz and classical to be interesting and it sounds like the huge audience felt the same way. The rock band had been together 30 years as of 1999 and the concerto was performed again in several venues to celebrate its anniversary. My only gripe is that this wasn’t a video of the performance with DTS surround, because there would be a lot more going on visually than just a straight rock or symphony concert. (As in my review in this month’s DVD-V section of the Yes symphonic concert.) Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming - Columbia hybrid multichannel SACD CH 90322:

This is another item from the new 15-SACD Dylan reissue on hybrid discs that is intended to make a big splash with rock fans as did the Rolling Stones SACD series. A major difference is that one disguised the fact they were hybrid SACDs and this series is clearly marked. This one is one of the few in the set in a surround version as well as stereo. I was curious how it would be mixed since Dylan’s original LPs seemed to have less stereo separation than almost any rock of the period. Now there’s a nice spread, with Mark Knopfler’s guitar separated from Dylan’s by some distance and background vocalists sometimes heard on the surrounds. The Muscle Shoals Horns join in on this album, which was at the height of Dylan’s born-again period. The opening song is a Dylan classic, and I really enjoyed the simple and sincere Man Gave Names to All the Animals. Dylan’s voice has more depth and life to it in this new mix, but his harmonica playing sounds even more annoying.

Tracks: Gotta Serve Somebody, Precious Angel, I Believe in You, Slow Train, Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, Do Right To Me Baby, When You Gonna Wake Up, Man Gave Names to All the Animals, When He Returns. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Medeski Martin And Wood – Uninvisible; DTS Entertainment 69286-01105-9-5 DVD-A:

Like other dts discs, this title offers a DTS-ES track and a PCM 2.0 track as well as the DVD-A track. I wasn’t familiar with this group, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the best description of the music is a jazz experience on drugs. In some ways, Blue Man Group comes to mind, but musically they are different—although the weird style is somewhat the same. Organ, drums/percussion, and bass provide layers of sound that would be great for a party. While still pictures play over the music, individual discrete instruments play out of all the speakers one at a time. It makes the surround sensation much more obvious (like some of the early surround discs). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, only different from most of the current mixes.

In addition to the normal instrumental complement (above), strange sounds are added to the mix adding some variety to the tunes, and much in the way of oddness. Track 3 is a hip, freaky, soul/funk extravaganza. This record is definitely outside of mainstream jazz, but then again, so were people like Bird and Coltrane. It is similar to some of the stuff by Karl Denison and Soul Live, and might fall under the trip-hop/sampled/experimental genre (if there were one). If you are open to something a little different (and don’t mind the somewhat off-putting instrument placement), then this disc is hot and ready to serve. The experience is best described as being transported to a club in the movie Blow Up. Trip-the-live-fan-tas-tic.

Extras include a gallery and the cool video, “Uninvisible,” where the music serves as the heartbeat to the city and life’s little excursions—at least for me it was. Songs included are: Uninvisible; I Wanna Ride You; Your Name Is Snake Anthony; Pappy Check; Take Me Nowhere; Retirement Song; Ten Dollar High; Where Have You Been?; Reprise; Nocturnal Transmission; Smoke; First Time Long Time; The Edge of Night; Off The Table. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Mel Torme & George Shearing - A Vintage Year - Concord Jazz multichannel SACD-1026-6:

Two unique jazz figures who are sadly no longer with us. The Velvet Fog and the witty British pianist/composer/sometime-vocalist appeared together many times and this recording was made during one of their appearance at a concert series at Paul Masson Winery in California’s Silicon Valley in l987. Vintage Year...get it? Both of them were at their peak flavors. The medley and clever arrangements Shearing put together for their New York, New York number are delightful. Bassist John Leitham and drummer Donny Osborne contribute skillfully and the surround mix really involves the listener in this great evening in the mountain winery. I attended a number of concerts there and it’s a lovely venue, plus there’s plenty of wine at the intermission.

Selections: Whisper Not/love Me or Leave Me, Out of This World, Someday I’ll Find You, The Midnight Sun, New York New York Medley, Folks Who Live on the Hill, Bittersweet, Since I Fell for You, The Way You Look Tonight, Anyone Can Whistle/A Tune for Humming, When Sunny Gets Blue, Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day. Purchase Here

The Gene Harris Quartet - Listen Here! (Gene Harris, piano; Ron Eschete, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums) - Concord Jazz Multichannel SACD-1006-6:

Harris toured as part of the Ray Brown Trio, and for this album under his name he added guitarist Eschete for a blues-flavored, generally laid back, excursion into swinging and soulful piano jazz. There are a couple of tracks where the quartet swings into big band mode, such as on Don’t Be That Way. It was the first of a series of albums he has made for Concord. Eschete switches between acoustic and electric guitar, which gives a nice variance in the quartet’s sound. The surround mix is subtle but aids in the spatial impression of the piano, bass and drum set in front of your listening area. Harris’ choice of tunes is not your run-of-the-mill one either: This Masquerade, Don’t Be That Way, I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling, Listen Here, This Can’t Be Love, To You, Blues for Jezebel, Sweet and Lovely, Lullabye, The Song is Ended. Purchase Here

- John Henry

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Concord on a Summer Night (with Bill Smith, clarinet; Chris Brubeck, elec. Bass & bass trombone; Randy Jones, drums) - Concord Jazz multichannel SACD-1025-6:

This month’s issue has a triple-threat Brubeck package - reviews of a DVD video documentary, a classical choral SACD, and herewith a memorable evening of jazz with Dave and his longtime clarinet virtuoso pal Bill Smith. They made several wonderful recordings for Fantasy way back before Brubeck was even on the cover of Time. This live concert took place in l982 at the Concord Pavilion which the founder of Concord Records had lobbied the city to build. You can hear the crickets on the hillside during some of the lulls in the music. The concert was dedicated to Cal Tjader, the other mainstay of Fantasy at the start, who had just died. Most of the five tracks are quite stretched out, at seven or eight minutes each. Smith’s lyric solo on Koto Song is lovely. Another involving surround mix which makes you aware of the audience but doesn’t let them drown out the music from the stage in front of you. Tracks are; Benjamin, Koto Song, Black and Blue, Softly William Softly, Take Five. Purchase Here

- John Henry

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