This review is actually a review of two discs in one. The first is that of the stereo SACD. It is a good example of what SACD can do and how good it can be. The second is the multi-channel SACD. It is an example of what can go wrong with over indulgence in surround mixing. The stereo SACD layer is among the best sounding SACDs out there. It is a big improvement over the standard 44.1 CD of the album. The bass in much tighter and more defined. All the instruments are crisper and cleaner. There is much more sense of forward momentum of the music. For the first time you come much closer to hearing what was on the master tapes.
The Surround mix layer is a completely different matter. The sound quality is still fairly good, but the heavy mixing of main instruments into the side channels makes the music disjointed. In real live music the waveforms of the various instruments blend together on the stage and are heard as a blended sound. With instruments this far apart you get the sound of individual instruments not a band. I don’t think I would ever play the surround band to enjoy the music. Those who like instruments coming from all around them to impress casual listeners will probably be less critical of the surround layer. The CD layer sounds slightly better than the standard CD. At 55 minutes the album is longer than many pop albums. The SACD album has not been released in the US as of yet. I consider this a major mistake by the record companies. I would say that musically it might be in the top 100 pop albums ever made. It has four really strong songs: So Far Away, Money for Nothing, Walk of Life, and Brothers in Arms. The other 5 songs are still fairly good songs: Your Latest Trick, Why Worry, Ride Across the River, The Man’s Too Strong and One world. The album hit the number one spot in 1985. I highly recommend the SACD stereo layer to anyone who already likes this album.
– Clay Swartz