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45 SACD and DVD-A Reviews!
November 2003, Pt. 1 of 3 - Pop/Rock/Blues
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Van Zant – Brother To Brother; Silverline 288186-9 DVD-A:

Johnny Van Zant is formerly of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Along with his brother, Donnie Van Zant (who founded .38 Special), they decided to make an album to honor their late brother Ronnie. The record is a blend of southern/western/blues rock that is very reminiscent of the old Skynyrd sound. Instruments are placed not only in front but in the surround speakers as well, and the recording quality is good. There are a few good acoustic tunes and “I’m A Want You Kinda Man” is a mellow tune with pleasing harmonies that will broaden the appeal of this album. “Livin’ A Lie” is an example of one the harder rocking tunes, but is likable as well. You can tell that a lot of care has been taken in the making of this album, and although it isn’t a typical tribute album, it is definitely worth checking out if you like Lynyrd Skynyrd or their type of music.

Still pictures play over the music like just about every Silverline DVD-A disc. Included is a photo gallery and lyrics. Songs included are: Rage; Can’t Say It Loud Enough; Show Me; I’m A Want You Kinda Man; Right Side Up; Brother To Brother; Livin’ A Lie; That Was Yesterday; Downright And Dangerous; Black Bottom Road; Friend. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom

Van Zant – Van Zant II; Silverline 288185-9 DVD-A:

It seems that the first Van Zant album was so popular that they decided to release another set of songs for a completely new record. The genre is similar to Brother To Brother and is in the southern rock style. This album is a bit grittier that the first, with a more down home and dirty flavor. Yet, there are songs like “Heat Of An Angel” with a slower pace that builds into a more of a rock tune—I’d still call it a rock ballad. Most of the record is much more upbeat and would be good as driving music. That is, if you happen to have a DVD player in your car. This record will most likely appeal to the group of people who like their coffee without cream—straight up so to speak.

A few different pictures play over the music occasionally showing sheet music for the various songs and track identification. Recording quality is similar to the previous album and is relatively good. Songs included are: Oklahoma; Get What You Got Comin’; Heart Of An Angel; Is It For Real; Imagination; At Least I’m Free; Baby Get Blue; What’s The World Coming To; Wildside; Alive. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited - Columbia stereo hybrid SACD CH 90324:

This was the only one of the major Dylan SACD releases by Columbia that I ever listen to anymore and thus wanted to audition as a sample of the rest of the release. Also, my advance information had said it was one of the few to be issued in multichannel, but that proved wrong unfortunately. This session came after Dylan was firmly into his new electric phase that was shocking to many of his fans. In addition to a couple of turns on the piano in addition to this harmonica and guitar, he had eight sidemen on this session, including three other keyboardists: Al Kooper, Paul Griffin and Frank Owens. Plus Michael Bloomfield and Charley McCoy on guitars. The notes for this reissue are by Dylan and typically Dylanesque - don’t look for information about the recording.

His raspy voice is now high resolution raspy and his ‘harp playing sounds even worse now than it ever did before. The Dylan LPs were unusual in having very little stereo effect - often just one little percussion sound off to one side and everything else dead center mono. But they did have body and impact in the low end, especially the tracks with organ and/or bass. That seems to be strangely lacking in this SACD although there is much more stereo soundstaging now than previously. It sounded quite thin compared to the vinyl. It takes a lot to list these nine tracks and some of you must know them like your phone number, while others know them approximately, but anyway here goes: Like a Rolling stone, Tombstone Blues, It Takes a Lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry, From a Buick 6, Ballad of a Thin Man, Queen Jane Approximately, Highway 61 Revisited, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Desolation Row. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Freddie King – Texas Cannonball; Hi-Res stereo-only DVD-A HRM 2012:

Although this recording is in stereo, I’m not complaining—the fidelity is really good and the music is better! In a way this record is geared towards the rock ’n’ roll crowd. The guitar sound coupled with King’s vocals represent some of the best of this genre. Even at the ripe age of six, King was learning guitar and being influenced by legends like Louis Jordan, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and T-Bone Walker. Later on, King had the privilege of working with Muddy Waters, Eddie Taylor, and Robert Jr. Lockwood. From this point on King continued to make an impressive career for himself. Most of tracks on this disc are not originals (although he popularized some of the tunes). This shouldn’t be a deterrent though, as this is one fantastic record. Rockers should have no problem embracing it, and blues fans should have it as part of their collection.

The title of the song is displayed on the screen while the music plays and to advance to the next song you need to select next on the screen. The recording quality is much better than you would expect for a blues record from the early 1970s. Generally better delineated and voice was much cleaner, present and three dimensional than what you’d normally hear. Songs included are: Lowdown In Lodi; Reconsider baby; Big Legged Woman; Me And My Guitar; I’d Rather Be Blind; Can’t Trust Your Neighbor; You Was Wrong; How Many More Years; Ain’t No Sunshine; The Sky Is Crying; Love Her With A Feeling; Somebody’s Got To Go; Pulp Wood; That’s All Right; The Same Thing; Tore Down; Dust My Broom. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom

Train – My Private Nation; Columbia CS 86593 Stereo/Multi-channel SACD

My initial impressions of the sound quality of this record were of harsh, compressed sound that is hardly close to the best CD sound, much less the best Super Audio CD sound quality. Sound effects are present in the surround as well as occasional instrumentation, all helping to add a little spaciousness. The band could be considered an alternative rock band like Jellyfish, Goo Goo Dolls, or Blind Melon. The songs are mostly pop tunes that are upbeat and will no doubt be hits on the radio. I especially liked the hook on “Save The Day.” Track 8 or 11 offered the best sound quality, but it still fell far short of what you would expect from the format—audiophiles beware. Musically, there is nothing to be afraid of, as the tunes are quite likable.

Songs included are: Calling All Angels; All American Girl; When I Look To The Sky; Save The Day; My Private Nation; Get To Me; Counting Airplanes; Following Rita; Your Every Color; Lincoln Avenue; I’m About To Come Alive. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Gary U.S. Bonds – From The Front Row…Live!; Silverline 288171-9 DVD-A:

This disc had tons of sound coming from the front and surround speakers, including instruments and crowd noise. The style of music is best described as a mixture of rock and soul and blues. It sounds a lot like a band you’d see in a bar or club. Recording quality is above average and that makes this one of the better discs in the series. On this disc, you get a lot of rhythm-based songs that include a saxophone, guitar, and Gary’s soulful vocals. The songs are aimed at the working class with a beat that calls for dancing. In some ways I was reminded of the Blues Brothers, and for those who like that sort of music, this disc is in the same vein.

There are still pictures that play over the music throughout and a live video of “New Orleans” as an extra at the Stone Pony Club. The accompanying band was the Roadhouse Rockers, and roadhouse music is clearly in abundance! Songs included are: 1950’s Kind Of Mood; Out Of Work; I Want You To Be My Baby; Bring Her Back; Quarter To Three; This Little Girl Is Mine; New Orleans; Jolé Blon; Rendezvous; Daddy’s Come Home; Murder In The First Degree; Dedication Purchase here.

-Brian Bloom

Journey – Arrival – Columbia CS69864 – Stereo SACD:

Journey first broke up in 1987, but they have had several reunions since then. This album is from their 2001 reunion era. The members of the group at this time are Neal Schoen, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain, Dean Castronova and Steve Augent. The group is known for the guitar fireworks of guitarist Neal Schoen. This SACD is a big disappointment sonically. The album sounds dull and I mean easy listening dull. There is no sense of drive or power to the music. Instruments are recessed and have little detail. The main singer has no sense of presence. The music sounds like it is in slow motion. The bass has no punch or power. There is no crispness to the sound. This would be best listened to on a system used as background music. The music is not bad, but I find nothing that would bring me back to listening to this album again. The sound is about that of a very mediocre CD; if you want the album just buy a used CD for cheap. It can’t sound too much blander than the SACD. Songs on the album are:

Higher Place; All the Way; Signs of Life; All the Things; Loved by You; Livin’ To Do; World Gone Wrong; I Got a Reason; With Your Love; Lifetime of Dreams; Live and Breathe; Nothin’ Comes Close; To Be Alive Again; Kiss Me Softly; We Will Meet Again. Purchase Here

- Clay Swartz

Marshall Crenshaw – From The Front Row…Live!; Silverline 288195-9 DVD-A:

When I think of Marshall Crenshaw, I immediately think of all the cool New Wave music that we had back in the 80s. Not many of the artists had more than one or two hits, but their contributions still remain. That is how I feel about “Someday, Someway” and hearing it acoustic was a refreshing listen to a song that I’ve heard many times before. Crenshaw doesn’t have a golden throat and at times he croons away off key. Also, like some other live performances where you can’t completely control the technical aspects, you can hear a loud microphone feedback whine and miscellaneous buzz and hum during other parts of the concert. The performance itself is entirely acoustic and set in a smaller club environment, The Stone Pony on February 16, 2001. It feels like a performance you’d see and hear on MTV and sounds like a nice, intimate show with the artist talking to the audience and putting some of the history of the music and its creation in perspective.

Recording quality was fairly good. There is some echo and reverberation in the surrounds, but most of the music is concentrated in the front (even the crowd applause/noise). Artist stills are screened over the music. As an extra, there is a live performance video of “Someday, Someway.” Songs included are: Someday, Someway; Whenever You’re On My Mind; Walk Away Renee; Dime A Dozen Guy; Little Wild One; Tell Me All About It; Endless Sleep; There She Goes Again; You’re My Favorite Waste Of Time; T.M.D; What Do You Dream Of; Better Back Off; Cynical Girl; Television Light. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom

Geoff Tate; Silverline 288182-9 DVD-A:

The surround speakers were used more effectively on this disc than some of the others I’ve listened to. It was if they helped to perpetuate an almost ethereal quality with music swimming all around your head. Tate was the frontman for the successful rock group Queensryche and this is his first attempt at a solo album. Once you know that, you can start to draw some obvious similarities in the music. However, the music on this disc stretches the limits that you’d normally associate with the previous material with roots in modern rock, hard rock, alternative rock, electronica, pop, and world music. At times, the music made me feel I was in the middle of a hunt. Some of the themes are about surrender, defeat, and being helpless as well as being unduly influenced by opinions promulgated by television personas. Track 5, and most of second half of the record, was especially appealing with more melodic emphasis and increased instrumentation. Some of the lyrics have a dreamy quality that helps match the music.

Recording quality was difficult to judge, because there was so much going on in the mix it was hard to know if the grunge was intentional or not. With track 3, which has more acoustic playing, it was evident that there was an effort to make a high-quality recording and the result was realized. There is an option of either lyrics or pictures that will be displayed over the music on this disc. There is a section with biography information on the members of the band and a photo gallery as well. As another extra on this disc, there is a video interview called “On The Record, Off The T.V.” Songs included are: Flood; Forever; Helpless; Touch; Every Move We Make; This Moment; In Other Words; A Passenger; Off The TV; Grain Of Faith; Over Me. Purchase here

-Brian Bloom

Earth, Wind, & Fire – That’s the Way of the World, Alive in 1975 – Columbia/Legacy CS 85805 – Stereo/ Multichannel SACD:

This is a 2002 release from tapes of a 1975 concert to back their album That’s the Way of the World. It won the Grammy for best R&B vocal performance by a group. Their music is funk with shades of jazz, folk, pop, blues, soul, gospel and African music. The album does a good job of capturing the energy of a live funk concert. The sound is crisp and alive. The songs are:

Shining Star
Happy Feelin’
Yearnin’ Learnin’
Sun Goddess
Kalimba Story
Mighty Mighty
That’s the Way of the World

The stereo SACD track has better focus and is more controlled sounding. The surround layer immerses you more into the music. The surround is fairly tastefully done. For the most part it is audience plus venue ambience. This disc is not considered to be one of their best albums, but I feel that it is worthwhile because it does a great job of capturing the energy of their live performance. Purchase Here

-- Clay Swartz

John Lee Hooker – Boogie Chillen’ – Audio Fidelity AFZ 005 - Stereo SACD/CD:

This disc is a collection of original 1948 – 1954 Detroit Blues Masterpieces. Because of its age, it presents the blues unaffected by popular music influences heard in much of today’s blues music. It contains twenty tracks of classic blues. The sound is very good considering the age of the recordings. The Boogie Chillen’ track was even taken off a 78 RPM acetate record. The rest of the songs are from tape. Hooker writes most of the songs and most of the tracks are just him and his guitar. Both have good sense of presence. The sound of the disc is really like high quality mono, but won’t be confused with an audiophile recording. Tracks are:

Hey, The House Rent Boogie It Hurts Me So
Down Child
Gonna Boogie
Bad Boy
Baby, I Gonna Miss You
Half A Stranger
Rock House Boogie
Baby, You Ain’t No Ugly Good
Lookin’ For A Woman
The Syndicator
I’m In The Mood
Do My Baby Think Of Me?
I’m Gonna Git Me A Woman
Four Women In My Life
Yes, Baby, Baby
Let’s Talk It Over
Baby, How Can You Do It?
Bluebird, Take A Letter Down South
Boogie Chillen’

The SACD layer is again much better-sounding than the CD layer. It is much crisper and has more sense of depth. In comparison the CD layer sounds dead and sluggish. This is a good collection of blues songs and well worth owning for its musical values and for squeezing the maximum fidelity possible out of the original recordings. Purchase Here

-- Clay Swartz

Blue Oyster Cult – Agents of Fortune – Columbia/Legacy CS 85479 – Stereo/Multichannel SACD:

This is a SACD release of the group’s 1976 album, considered one of their best. The group consists of Eric Bloom, Albert Bouchard, Donald Roeser, Joe Bouchard, and Allan Lanier. This was their first gold and platinum album. The song, Don’t Fear the Reaper, was their first top forty song. The group is considered Hard Rock or Heavy Metal; this album seems a little tame for these categories to me, however. Members of the group write most of the songs. Patti Smith co-writes two of the songs and performs on one song. Heavy metal and hard rock put off many people, but the music on this album is quite accessible. Songs on the album are:

This Ain’t the Summer of Love
True Confessions
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper
E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
The Revenge of Vera Gemini
Sinful Love
Tattoo Vampire
Morning Final
Debbie Denise
Fire of Unknown Origin (This is a bonus track on the SACD)

I feel the bonus track is one of the best on the album. The surround channels are pretty aggressively mixed, but they do at least keep the main singer in the front channels. The sound in general is ample, but loses focus when surround channels are heavily used. The stereo SACD layer has much better focus and is vastly superior to the surround layer, with better control and more sense of presence. Purchase Here

-- Clay Swartz

****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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