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36 SACD and DVD-A Reviews!
July-Aug. 2003, Pt. 1 of 3 - Pop
click on any disc to go directly to its review / new Fleetwood Mac too!

Fleetwood Mac – Say You Will; Reprise Records 48394-9 DVD-A:

First of all, as for the DVD-A features on this disc there are simple menus and a choice of 5.1 or 2.0 sound, still pictures are shown over the music, but there are no other extras. The booklet does offer a few pictures and lyrics to the song, so you aren’t completely left out. The band currently consists of Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. Christine McVie is listed as an additional performer along with Sheryl Crow and a few others.

No doubt there have been tons of reviews of this album already. When a band like The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac release a new album it’s hard not to make extensive comparisons between former records and the current release. Track 1 reminds me a bit of The Chain and other songs throughout the disc will evoke memories of previous tunes by the band. Most of the sound is concentrated up front on this track, but on track 2, there is more extensive use of the rear channels, and this cut reminds me of Big Love. Track 3 features Stevie’s raspy voice and has an opening scene of a soundtrack feel to it. It is a solemn tribute to those who have survived the terrible tragedy of the WTC attack. The pace of the album is mostly quick and flowing. Thrown Down hearkens back to music made by the band 15-20 years ago—and that’s a good thing. It seems that the influence on particular tunes resemble solo material by Nicks and Buckingham, while other material sounds more collaborative. There are 18 songs on this album and a few really stand out, while others I could do without. Even so, I would have no reservations about adding this disc to my collection.

Songs included are: What’s The World Coming To, Murrow Turning Over In His Grave, Illume (9-11), Thrown Down, Miranda, Red Rover, Say You Will, Peacekeeper, Come, Smile At You, Running Through The Garden, Silver Girl, Steal Your Heart Away, Bleed To Love Her, Everybody Finds Out, Destiny Rules, Say Goodbye, Goodbye Baby. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Queen – The Game; DTS DTS-1110 DVD-A:

One of the more anticipated DVD-A title releases was Queen’s A Night At The Opera. This album (The Game) seemed to be the next logical choice to release from a band that may forever live on in people’s minds after Wayne’s World popularized Bohemian Rhapsody. Music comes from every direction and makes heavy use of the surround channels. Still pictures or lyrics are display choices over the music. I barely got into track 1 when I just couldn’t resist any longer—I advanced to Another One Bites The Dust and cranked up the volume. The vocals weren’t as open as I’d like, but hearing the guitar whipping around my head was super cool! There are a few hit songs on this album, and anyone who listens to the radio will have heard them. Queen’s blend of rock ‘n’ roll and other genres of music has always been one of the distinctive qualities that made the band really stand out. It’s a keeper.

If you have a DTS system and no DVD-A capabilities, I wouldn’t feel bad. Although the disc is labeled DTS 5.1, when a DTS ES capable processor was used, the display lit up 6.1 and is a 96/24 track. Additional information on the disc includes notes on the recording transfer. Songs included are: Play The Game, Dragon Attack, Another One Bites The Dust, Need Your Loving Tonight, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Rock It (Prime Jive), Don’t Try Suicide, Sail Away Sweet Sister, Coming Soon, Save Me. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

From The Front Row…Live! – Jerry Lee Lewis - Silverline 288170-9 DVD-A:

Jerry Lee Lewis might have been one of the greatest rock ‘n’ rollers of his day, but he managed to shoot his career in the foot by marrying his 13-year-old cousin. After that, this legendary piano-banger slowly began to float away, never to return to full steam. In his day he was quite an innovator and influenced the course of rock music. This concert was recorded in 1984 in Worchester, Massachusetts. This disc includes many of his hit songs including some ballads, blues, and good ole rock ‘n’ roll. The music comes from all directions and lends to the feeling of being in a large arena. The sound quality is very good, and I was reminded of the last big rock concert I saw. Age has not slowed Lewis, who wails and plays piano like it’ll be his last time—he can clearly put on a really good show. Still pictures are shown over the music like many of the Silverline releases. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track for those who don’t have DVD-A capability. If you are into oldies (open-air) revival concerts, then this disc will be a good one to check out. Songs included are: Careless Hands, Chantilly Lace, CC Rider, Shorty, Meat man, Who Will Be The Next Fool, I Got A Woman, Keep My Motor Runnin’, Great Balls Of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Georgia On My Mind, You Win Again, Sweet Little 16. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Blue Oyster Cult – A Long Days Night; Silverline 288128-9 DVD-A:

This band isn’t the first that comes to mind when discussing big bands of the 70s, but at least a couple of songs (Burning For You, Don’t Fear The Reaper) will stick in my mind forever. Although this concert was recorded on June 21st, 2002 at Navy Pier/Skyline Stage in Chicago, Illinois, the sound quality reminds me of something recorded live 30 years ago. It is thick, heavy, congested, and even a bit hard to make out at times. This is another arena rock record, and music comes from every direction. I can’t really believe that this sort of recording is suited for DVD-A and probably should have just been a DVD-V. That way you can at least watch what’s going on while you listen to the music. It won’t spoil enjoyment of the music for some, but it will be a bummer for those seeking this disc out for sonic nirvana. Included on this disc is a live video of Cities On Flame and there are stills with all the songs. The recording is a bit tired, but thankfully this doesn’t apply to the music.

Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared
Saying don't be afraid…

Songs included are: Stairway To The Stars, Burning For You, Od’d On Life Itself, Dance On Stilts, Buck’s Boogie, Quicklime Girl, Harvest Moon, Last Days Of May, Cities On Flame, Perfect Water, Lips In The Hills, Godzilla, Don’t Fear The Reaper. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

SHe DAISY – The Whole SheBANG - DTS Entertainment 9696286-0110496 DVD-A:

This is a debut album featuring popular country music from three sisters: Kristyn, Kelsi, and Kassidy Osborn. Harmonies are pleasant and the music will likely to appeal to a younger crowd who like Shania Twain and/or the Dixie Chicks. The content is not heavy, but includes songs about being a woman, relationships, and love. I like Little Good-Byes and from the press I read it sounds as if it has already been well received. It’s catchy, has a nice hook, and is easy to sing along with. When track three started, I began to have Mariah Carey flashbacks, but the song soon warped into a Celine Dion-type song instead. All the songs are co-written by Kristyn, unlike many of the so-called artists today who don’t actually have anything to do with the songwriting.

Instruments and vocals come from all the channels and sound quality is quite good—better than most I’d say. In addition to offering DVD-A on this disc, you get a PCM 2.0 track, and a DTS-ES 6.1 track! The audio on the DTS track was excellent and rivaled the fidelity of the DVD-A track as I was using the (better) internal converters in the surround processor and not those in the player. The lyrics are displayed over the music and there is a photo gallery and direct lyric selection as extras. Songs included are: Little Good Byes, I Will…But, This Woman Needs, Before Me And You, Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me), Still Holding Out For You, Punishment, ‘Cause I Like It That Way, Without Your Love, A Night To Remember, Dancing With Angels.

-Brian Bloom

Alison Krause + Union Station – Live – Rounder SACD 1961 0615-6 SACD Stereo/Multichannel/CD audio (2 discs):

This is one of the most enjoyable sets of hi-res discs that I have had the pleasure of reviewing. This is a two-disc set recorded at a live concert on April 29-30, 2002 at the Louisville Palace in Louisville, Kentucky. Union Station consists of Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Ron Black, Barry Bales and Larry Atamanuik. There are 25 songs on the two discs. The music is a combination of traditional and contemporary songs. There is a fairly even mix of folk and bluegrass songs. The SACD surround track is perfectly done, with realistic ambience and the audience in the surrounds. The recording is crisp and clear. Hearing her voice on these discs reminds me of a concert in Portland where she stepped away from the mike and song without amplification. She has an even more incredible voice when it is not mucked up by amplification. Instrumental detail is very good with plenty of presence. The balance between instruments is nearly perfect. The stereo SACD track is also very good, but lacks the ambience of the multichannel track. The CD is very good and I would consider it in the top 20% of all CD sound. It is a little more forward and slightly less controlled than the SACD layer. The multichannel mix is the way to listen to this disc if you have multichannel capability. These are must-have discs for bluegrass and folk music fans, as well as anyone that enjoys the sound of live music.
Purchase Here

- Clay Swartz

Alanis Morissette – Under Rug Swept – Maverick 9 47988-9 – DVD-Audio:

I have to confess that I had a hard time listening to much of this newest release from Alanis Morissette; mostly I just can’t deal with her voice, which has an extremely limited range, and with a tonal quality that I find intensely grating to listen to. I don’t particularly find the songs themselves to be especially gripping either musically or lyrically, and it’s just so hard to get beyond that vocal drone of hers. Maybe this is truly evocative stuff for her current fans, but I don’t see it winning her many new ones. This is not the stuff of audiophile dreams, which is what I mostly envision DVD-A and SACD being about.

The DVD-A disc offers both Hi-Res Surround and Stereo tracks, with DD 5.1 available for those without DVD-A capabilities. Extras include song lyrics, a making of featurette and a photo gallery. Tracks: 21 Things I Want in a Lover; Narcissus; Hands Clean; Flinch; So Unsexy; Precious Illusions; That Particular Time; A Man; You Owe Me Nothing in Return; Surrendering; Utopia. Purchase Here

– Tom Gibbs

Emmylou Harris – Producer’s Cut – Warner/Rhino 78174 – DVD-Audio:

I’ve been a big fan of Emmylou Harris for years; I’ve seen her in concert a number of times and know her classic Reprise albums intimately. She’s always been a hard one to categorize musically – her albums were an always eclectic mix of folk, country and folk-tinged rock that throughout the seventies and eighties tended to land her albums in the Pop/Rock section of most record stores. Only recently have they moved to the Country aisle; a strange development indeed when one listens to her recent albums such as Spyboy which just don’t seem to fit the Country mold at all.

I was really looking forward to this album from the first rumors of its impending release, and it does not disappoint sonically, offering one of the best DVD-A surround presentations to date. The stereo tracks are also excellent for those not looking for the surround experience. But my problem with this disc stems from its extras (or lack of); the title of the disc Producer’s Cut is the dead giveaway – this disc is really more about producer (and Emmylou’s ex-husband) Brian Ahern and the choices he made over Emmylou’s career. There are a few still images of Emmylou, but all the video content is strictly of Brian Ahern, which was tremendously disappointing to me – I could care less about his fond remembrances, just give us more Emmylou! Maybe for contractual reasons she couldn’t appear, whatever, it was really disappointing. The discs’ musical content, while good to have, just leaves you wanting more of the original albums in their original context.

The DVD-A disc offers both Hi-Res Surround and Stereo tracks, with DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1 available for those without DVD-A capabilities. Tracks: If I Could Only Win Your Love; Boulder to Birmingham; One of These Days; Too Far Gone; Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight; Together Again; Tulsa Queen; Pancho and Lefty; Spanish Johnny; Beneath Still Waters; Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; The Last Cheater’s Waltz; Sorrow In the Wind; Old Rugged Cross. Purchase Here

– Tom Gibbs

Gloria Estefan – Greatest Hits –Epic ES 86729 – Stereo/Multichannel SACD:

This is a disc of 14 of Gloria Estefan hits from 1985 to 1992. In 1985 she started off with a group called the Miami Sound Machine. In 1987 it became Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. In 1989 it became just Gloria Estefan. For anyone that does not know her music, which means that you have probably not listened to pop radio in the last 18 years, her music can be described as Latin-influenced pop/dance/club music. She has had three top ten Billboard albums in this period featuring a very strong voice and an impassioned delivery style. The album has all her main hits from that seven-year period. A very good transfer to SACD has been made here. The surround mix might be a little too much for some listeners, but I feel that it matches the club music feeling that her music is based on. Luckily, her voice stays put in the front channels and is very well recorded. The stereo SACD track is also good sounding with improved soundstage depth and a little better focus. It, however, does not draw you into the music as the surround mix does. It is a little bit laid back and not as involving. Purchase Here

- Clay Swartz


Yes - Fragile - Elektra/Rhino multichannel DVD-A R9 78249:

Could this be the DVD-A camp’s answer to the recent SACD reissue of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon? If it isn’t deliberately than it should be; it’s a classic of progressive rock. I found it just as musically, nostalgically, and surroundingly enjoyable as DSOTM. Plus one gets visual features such as complete lyrics for all the tunes (even though you have to navigate manually from page to page in them), a few photos of the group, and some of Roger Dean’s imaginative sci-fi-oriented artwork that has been a graphic fixture for the group ever since this l972 album first came out on LP.

Glad to see that the 96K-24 bit option was used for the surround mix; it’s odd that many of the classical DVD-A releases coming out use only the 48K option while pop titles are using the highest res choice. The mixing engineer clearly had some fun bringing these tapes to multichanneldom. On South Side of the Sky the piano of Rick Wakeman - who had just joined the group and took them in a more classical direction - is heard just on the surrounds at first, then it moves to the front channels so vocals can be heard in the surrounds. Yes was one of the first rock groups to feature their members individually - sometimes for the length of entire tracks, as on Steve Howe’s classical guitar solo on Mood for a Day. In Cans and Brahms Wakeman takes a theme from Brahm’s Fourth Symphony and re-creates the symphony orchestra using keyboards: electric piano for the strings, grand piano for the woodwinds, organ for the brass, electric harpsichord for some of the reeds, and a synth for the contra bassoon.

Yes thought of themselves as adventurous musicians, not commercial hit-makers, and their entire approach on Fragile speaks for that. In spite of it, the first track here - Roundabout - became their best-known tune and a huge hit in an edited-down radio version. Jon Anderson’s distinctive high voice is at the heart of Yes and several of the tunes are his own or his collaborations. Never mind that seeking more sense or logic from his lyrics by viewing them on the screen produced no increase in either quality - they are still lovely tunes! The original nine tracks of the l972 effort are joined by a bonus track here - Paul Simon’s America - which becomes a closing jam for the group at well over ten minutes length. One little feature was omitted that would be useful - track timings. And the navigation was typically frustrating DVD-A-style. There were some unexplained little icons which everyone is evidently expected to understand instantly. Not me when I was trying to display the lyrics. Perhaps the SACD camp has the right idea - just print them in the darn booklet. Yes, Purchase It Here

- John Henry

James Taylor - JT – Columbia CS69801 Stereo/Multichannel SACD-Only:

This is a SACD release of James Taylor’s 1977 album JT. He is one of the best known singer/songwriter of the last 50 years. The album was his first for Columbia Records. The surround mix is fairly heavy in the surrounds at times. There are some tracks that start out sounding good, then the surround hits and the sound field falls apart somewhat. I feel the surround does nothing for the music on this album and this album is best listened to in the stereo SACD mode, which, though somewhat variable, is pretty good. Track 8 I Was Only Telling a Lie has a very strange multichannel mix, with his voice mixed in all channels. It sounds like his voice is out of phase. The best and most heard-of songs on this album are Traffic Jam, Handy Man and Your Smiling Face. The album is very pleasant musically with a rather introspective feeling. The stereo mix has a good sense of presence and instrumental detail. If you like this album a lot, the SACD may be a consideration to invest in for better sound than the CD. Some songs are of nearly reference sound quality in the 2-channel mode. Purchase Here

- Clay Swartz

Spyro Gyra - Original Cinema - Heads Up multichannel SACD HUCD3074:

Reviewed in its Enhanced CD form a couple months ago, here we go in hi-res: Not a soundtrack album, but just the theme around which some of the tunes of this now 25- years-old quintet revolve. You could call the group light fusion or perhaps smooth jazz with speed bumps. They had done almost a record a year during their long existence, and leader Jay Beckenstein wanted to do something completely different for this one. He turns away from his soprano sax and plays tenor on more tracks this time. He didn’t turn away from moody or darker sounds. All 13 tracks are originals for the album either by Jay or some of the other band members. His keyboardist Tom Schuman is a mainstay of the group. The band still has a distinctive and very accessible sound in spite of venturing further away from their branded smooth/chunky jazz style.

The major attraction to this SACD version is not the increased resolution but the highly aggressive surround sound mix, which is perfectly suited to Spyro Gyra’s music. There’s a lot more than just miscellaneous percussion and ambience in those surround channels here! Tracks: Bump It Up, Extrovertical, Dream Sequence, Party of Seven, Big Dance Number, Closeup, Film Noir, Cape Town Love, Handheld, Funky Tina, Getaway, Calle Ocho, Flashback. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Kitaro - Daylight, Moonlight - Live in Yakushiji - Domo Records Inc. Multichannel SACD 73021-2 (2 discs):

Kitaro has long been one of the big guns in New Age music. His long and haunting melodic lines have a soothing and calming effect even when they build to tremendous percussion-dominated climaxes. This album came without a note booklet, so I can’t identify the selections heard in this live concert recorded over three evenings in the sacred Yakushiji Temple of Nara, Japan. I was able to learn that it is basically a Greatest Hits collection, with nine of his most popular compositions plus a theme he created for the Oliver Stone film Heaven and Earth and a bonus couple of previously-unreleased tracks. The concert was videotaped - since Kitaro puts on a visual program that rivals his collegues Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Yanni for spectacle. You’ll probably be seeing it on PBS eventually - in between the fund-raising harranges - and it’s already available on a DVD video. There’s always plenty of Kodo drumming, gongs and flutes - everything needed to create the spell of mysterious Asian exotica. Kitaro opens the concert with chanting from monks at the temple and there is some interesting use of sound effects. The surround mix is effective without being intrusive. If you like New Age you’ll love this evening with Kitaro. If you don’t, you may agree with the online user-reviewer who called it “monstrous post-Romantic bluster.” 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

Go on to Part 2 of Hi-Res Reviews

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