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HTF CD Review: John Mellencamp - Life Death Love and Freedom


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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 06 2008 - 08:54 AM

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Artist: John Mellencamp
CD Title: Life Death Love and Freedom
Studio: Hear Music
Track list:
--Longest Days - 3:11
--My Sweet Love - 3:27
--If I Die Sudden - 3:45
--Troubled Land - 3:23
--Young Without Lovers - 2:49
--John Cockers - 3:51
--Don't Need This Body - 3:26
--A Ride Back Home - 3:12
--Without A Shot - 3:40
--Jena - 3:41
--Mean - 2:34
--County Fair - 3:41
--For The Children - 4:36
--A Brand New Song - 3:58



Overall: 4/5
John Mellencamp returns for his 20th studio Album with “Life Death Love and Freedom”, and you can bet that all of the above are covered in depth. Mellencamp (and I’ve been listening to him since he was John Cougar), is not afraid to explore his growing old, and LDL&F is very pensive and reflective, exploring those themes while still coming up with grooving folk rock. Don’t expect much in the way of rousing anthems tho, the rock here is tempered with spirituality, politics, and frank examinations of the old versus young. While not exactly being an honest to goodness ‘get off my lawn’ curmudgeon, it’s clear that Mellencamp has his own mortality on his mind, and isn’t ashamed to have some fun with getting older.

I do admit to not having followed his last several albums, and what struck me most picking up here with this one is how closely this work mirrors that of Bruce Springsteen, both in the move to embrace folk, spiritual and other genres but also in the choice of clearly fictional voices for the lyrics. I find it hard to identify with artists when they go down that path so strongly, it lacks authenticity. I find this more damning of Mellencamp tho, as I feel a lot of this fame resulted not from just his musical talents (which are unquestionable) but as much from the empathy his fans give to his lyrics. It is what is is tho, and it’s clear this album is meant to apply to the sensibilities of his aging fans as well, but this choice comes at the price of losing those boot stomping sing-alongs.

The star of the list for me is “If I Die Sudden”, a grungy hymn that has bite and wit, part negro spiritual and part fuzzbox blues, combining in a humble denial of fame. Pair with “Don’t need this body” and “A Ride Back Home” and you have a veritable trifecta of thoughts on the the matter of passing on. The absurdity of death does not escape his characters, with one noting that getting old isn’t for cowards, and another noting that he’s too much a coward to end his own life. The closest thing to up-tempo on the album is another take on this theme, “John Cockers”, but this track is different in that it seems more character study of a defeated man.

The theme of friendship is also referenced quite a bit, particularly the idea that the singer has a lot of contacts but no friends. Love gets put under the microscope quite a bit too with a lot less optimism than I can ever recall from Mellencamp, and the Iraq war is fairly heavy on his mind too, with “Troubled Land” focusing on the mess we’ve made and “Without a Shot” lamenting the sheep we’ve all been to the political forces working with or without our consent.

The surreal “County Yard” seems to reference the change we’ve seen to the country over the course of Mellencamp’s life, and it ends with a rather heavy twist of the knife, leading one to wonder what to make of it all. It’s telling then that the album concludes with the somewhat somber and defeatist “A brand new song”, which while melancholy seems to be thankful for the people we can count on and positive about our impact regardless of the efforts we leave behind, specifically the refrain of "Without a song" echoing "Without a shot" and contrasting the title's positive vibe.

LDL&F arrives in stores on July 15th. I think it will get a warm reception but I’d be shocked if it gets tremendous airplay, with the possible exception of “If I die sudden”, which could resonate with people who have become used to the sudden loss of celebrities over the years. It’s also a very catchy blues riff and I think that of the tracks on the album the humility it shows might be contagious. John Cockers’ tempo could also strike some interest, will be interesting to see how that develops. I think that it’s best to consider this album in the whole however, which is something different in the era of downloadable MP3 tracks. The statement that this disk makes about one man’s explorations, experiences, fears and hopes is very human and personal, and it stands as a whole.

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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Blair G

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Posted July 06 2008 - 11:09 AM

Wasn't this disc supposed to be available in a "HiRez" format (maybe DVD-V 24/96 ala Neil Young)?

Edit- Found this on the Concord Music Group site:

The album will be the first ever release in the ΧΟΔΕ (CODE) format. T Bone Burnett and his team of engineers developed CODE, a proprietary audio technology that creates high-definition audio files that are virtually indistinguishable from the original master tapes. The resonance, warmth and presence that has been realized with CODE is unprecedented in the digital era. The CODE version of "Life, Death, Love and Freedom" is a DVD that will come packaged with a standard CD version of the album, available at all retail outlets, at no additional cost to the consumer. The CODE disc is playable on virtually all DVD machines including stand-alone players and drives integrated into computer systems. The DVD's content can be copied into most computer music software including iTunes and can, then, be downloaded onto personal music players such as the iPod. The standard CD is included to answer all possible compatibility questions. Mellencamp commented, "When T Bone introduced me to CODE, it was a remarkable experience. I could hear the music the way it was intended to be heard. I'm very happy the people are going to be able to share this experience in a way that's so true to our original intent."

#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 06 2008 - 01:51 PM

Hear only provided me with the standard audio CD and this is the first I have heard of this HD version. Those symbols look like the Playstation buttons, is there any relationship?

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#4 of 23 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted July 07 2008 - 01:01 PM

I read about T Bone's new format in Stereophile or TAS. I like Mellencamp so hirez is a welcome benefit. I will look for the code disc.
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#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted July 08 2008 - 01:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee Scoggins
I read about T Bone's new format in Stereophile or TAS. I like Mellencamp so hirez is a welcome benefit. I will look for the code disc.

It was Stereophile...I read the same thing. There was a big write up on T-Bone and what he's working on in terms of CODE. Excellent read!
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#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted July 10 2008 - 08:41 AM

Thx, guys.

Lee and Ron : I'll add the Stereophile piece to my 'stack' of things to read. But in the short term, did T Bone say anything about why he chose this format versus SA-CD or DVD-A? Licensing costs?

So ironic yet telling to me: Mellencamp is formerly of Mercury Records, a PolyGram label that was dissolved under the UMG umbrella when Phillips sold Poly to Universal, a major supporter of both DVD-A and SA-CD. He then switched to Sony, of course the progentor of SA-CD. Yet he is seeing his first high resolution release after signing with indie label Hear Music.

#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted July 11 2008 - 02:52 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul.S
Thx, guys.

Lee and Ron : I'll add the Stereophile piece to my 'stack' of things to read. But in the short term, did T Bone say anything about why he chose this format versus SA-CD or DVD-A? Licensing costs?

So ironic yet telling to me: Mellencamp is formerly of Mercury Records, a PolyGram label that was dissolved under the UMG umbrella when Phillips sold Poly to Universal, a major supporter of both DVD-A and SA-CD. He then switched to Sony, of course the progentor of SA-CD. Yet he is seeing his first high resolution release after signing with indie label Hear Music.

I think it's just because the labels can't get their strategy right and focus on one hirez format. If they did it would probably have to be SACD and even then it would remain a niche. But we will never know since their are not many big releases.

With Wish You Were Here "in the can", one would think Sony could restart SACD quite easily.

Right now, I think the only promising format is Blu-Ray audio only since it can piggyback off the BluRay adoption, but even there $30 discs will scare many away in this economy.
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#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted July 15 2008 - 05:20 AM

This "CODE" thing sounds an awful lot like Classic Records 24/96 D.A.D. but with some liasing for the portable and computer users with the additional formats.

Stereophile: Classic Records issues DADs---high-quality music DVDs

#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Blair G

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Posted July 16 2008 - 02:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
This "CODE" thing sounds an awful lot like Classic Records 24/96 D.A.D. but with some liasing for the portable and computer users with the additional formats.


and that's a good thing IMHO.

Every Classic DAD I own sounds fantastic.

Haven't found this one yet.

#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted July 16 2008 - 02:39 PM

Oh, I didn't mean to suggest it isn't, but I chuckle at how it's being presented as this "new" thing.

#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted July 17 2008 - 07:29 AM

Some more news on the Mellencamp release:

John Mellencamp to release high-resolution audio DVD - Engadget HD

Just days after we pondered the eventual fate of Blu-ray audio discs, we're faced with John Mellencamp's attempt to deliver high-resolution audio on a format that nearly everyone in America can handle. Reportedly, the artist's "Life, Death, Love and Freedom" will arrive in a CD / DVD combo package, the latter of which will hold tracks with "twice the sonic detail heard on most CDs." The secret lies within CODE, a process developed by the album's producer, T-Bone Burnett. According to Mike Wanchic, who has played guitar in Mellencamp's band for more than three decades, the end result "is comparable to sitting in on the original, in-studio performance," and he hopes that the release will "bring listeners into the room." Better still, anyone with a standard DVD player can reap the benefits of the $10 (street price) set. It'll be interesting to compare sales figures between this and Neil Young's Blu-ray release, wouldn't you agree?
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#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 17 2008 - 08:36 AM

Regardless of the hi rez version availability, did anyone check this disk out? It's up on iTunes etc now and you can get free previews of most of the tracks if you arent sure. check it out!

Sam

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#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted July 28 2008 - 04:02 AM

More on CODE (ΧΟΔΕ):

John Mellencamp In 24/96 ΧΟΔΕ (CODE) | Computer Audiophile
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#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted July 31 2008 - 01:57 PM

Mellencamp and Burnett will be on Leno Friday.

#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Blair G

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Posted July 31 2008 - 02:20 PM

Has anyone seen this in a jewel case or are they all digipaks?

#16 of 23 OFFLINE   Rob_D

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Posted August 17 2008 - 11:47 AM

I've only seen digipaks.

It's a very, very solid cd. Highly recommended.

#17 of 23 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted August 18 2008 - 11:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob_D
I've only seen digipaks.

It's a very, very solid cd. Highly recommended.

Rob_D,

How does it sound? Is there a noticeable difference vs. red book CD?
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#18 of 23 OFFLINE   Brian L

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Posted August 19 2008 - 09:03 AM

Don't know anything about the process, but the end result seems to be nothing more than a 24/96 WAV. Maybe there is some voodoo involved in its creation, but as far as my DVD player is concerned, its no different than a DAD.

I have not done an A/B with the red book, and likely will not because my CD player and DVD deck have differing output levels. But both sound very good to my ears.

There are some sonic similarities to "Rasing Sand", but I actually like the SQ of the Mellencamp set better.

What I find cool about the DVD is that it gives you the option of legitimately importing the 24/96 track to your harddrive. And from there, it can be added to iTunes and I assume any other media player. IIRC, iTunes can actually output 24/96 to an external DAC, even a 24/96 capable AVR. That means that if more artists did this, you could build a media library of hi-rez music.

Brian

#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Ron Reda

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Posted September 02 2008 - 08:46 AM

I seem to recall seeing that the next Plant/Krauss album is going to be encoded like this as well.
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#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Blair G

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Posted September 04 2008 - 04:34 PM

The new BB King was produced by T-Bone.

Is it encoded too?





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