“The Big Picture” – Selections from Hollywood’s recent action blockbusters with sound effects – Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Telarc

by | Jan 25, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“The Big Picture” – Selections from Hollywood’s recent action blockbusters with sound effects – Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Telarc Multichannel SACD-60437, 76:06 ****:

TrackList: Them from Mission Impossible, Suite from Batman Forever, Re-entry & Splashdown from Apollo 13, Speed main title, Crimson Tide: Roll Tide, Suite from Independence Day, Braveheart end credits, Cutthroat Island end credits, The House Visit from Twister, Main Title from The Last of the Mohicans, Final from Dragonheart, Executive Decision: The Remora, Stargate: Going Home, Suite from Jumanji, Gettysburg main theme. Plus five surround sound effects.

This is not a brand new effort in the long series of Kunzel/Cincinnati extravaganzas, but a redo of a 1997 release originally on both standard CD and DTS-encoded 5.1 CD (CD-80437) – two separate discs, since there was no room for a CD layer on the DTS-CD. It had exactly the same selections, running time, and note booklet, and was originally recorded in 20-bit discrete PCM, but the limitations of that lossy codec compromised the full effect of the spectacular surround reproduction.  There would have been more bandwidth on a DTS DVD, but at the time the penetration of DVD players wasn’t nearly as high as it is today.  By the way, an interesting tech note about this new disc is that even with the 2:1 compression of SACD there wasn’t enough room on the hybrid disc to furnish both a stereo SACD and a multichannel SACD layer . So there is no stereo SACD option, so if you have one of those super-high-end two-channel-only SACD players you will be limited to listening only to the standard 44.1 CD option on the disc.

So now not only do the showoff soundtrack excerpts come thru with their full original impact, but so do the five special sound effects which Telarc’s Michael Bishop labored to create in surround sound for the 1997 album. The notes warn against playing these tracks without first establishing a safe playback level, and they’re not kidding. The Apollo 13 launch is quite a woofer blaster, and so is the tornado which prefaces the music from the movie Twister. The wild animals barreling out of the wall in the stampede just before the Jumanji music are another loud and unsettlingly realistic sound effect. I was made aware that my small Von Schweikert powered sub, which is perfect for music, wasn’t quite up to the powerful low frequencies being pumped out in the sound effects.

The musical scores are about what one would expect from action pictures – not about to win Oscars for best soundtrack. My favorites were the music from Braveheart and Jumanji, perhaps because they were new to me. The selection from Stargate didn’t much feature the very compelling main theme of the sci-fi film.  I found little difference between the music tracks on the DTS and SACD versions, but the sound effects did have more impact (and possible speaker damage!) on the SACD. Bishop had a ball with the closing sound effect – Bovine Barnstorm – which in the notes is supposed to be the sounds of an imagined twister taking off the roof of Telarc’s office. A flying cow, as heard/seen in Twister, is strongly featured in this fun wrap-up.

 – John Sunier

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