My review of the Simple Minds "Once Upon A Time" dvd-audio

Discussion in 'Music' started by LanceJ, Oct 22, 2005.

  1. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    This is my first title resulting from the collaboration between DTS Entertainment and EMI, which is called the “DTS Signature Series”. It cost me more than the typical DTS music release but after experiencing this disc for the past several weeks I think it is worth the extra investment. And because of the music that so many remember, the classic videos and the ability to hear its high resolution 96kHz/24bit stereo track and “DTS96/24” surround tracks on regular dvd systems, it has seen a lot more travel between friends’ and families’ systems than any other dvd-audio title that I own.

    A personal note about the music: even before I knew the lyrics, I knew something deeper than the more typical “my baby loves me” issues were being sung about in those songs I heard in 1985 on the radio. So combined with the grand sounding musical content, while out driving they were the kind of tunes that I would turn up LOUD while also driving a bit too fast. I have very good memories of those times so when this title appeared I grabbed it as soon as I could. And now when sitting literally in the middle of it all, it is that much more involving and uplifting.

    Lastly, certain albums might be considered "important" by others and wonder why I would write such a detailed review about what they might also think is just lightweight pop music. I own titles myself that I feel contain more elaborately produced music or more involved stories, but they are titles that I listen to when I am in a more introspective mood. But a large part of my music collection also includes music that simply makes me feel good, which to me is just as important as the deeper stuff (and this album does have its share of such material, but on a more subtle level). So in other words, I think some tunes are for your head and some work better for your heart. :thumbsup:

    Simple Minds homepage



    Surround mix

    It’s fully immersive but I wouldn’t call it aggressive (there is an occasional moving element but nothing jarring). The rear channels usually contain synthesizers, back up vocals and the occasional drum part, and the end result is to fill in the rear wall with a cushion of sound. The rear channels can also be the source for certain individual drum parts, and on some tracks a drum will be struck in the front channels and the reverb from this emanates from around and behind you, making for a “big drum” sensation. This fits this style of music IMO. Jim Kerr’s vocal sans reverb is isolated in the center channel, sometimes along with a lone guitar or keyboard part (placing your ear next to this speaker gives you the sensation Mr. Kerr is singing to you personally [​IMG] ). But when listening while seated normally all three front channels blend together seamlessly & you would never know it’s mixed that way.

    The rear channels sometimes contain rather powerful bass signals so be careful with small satellites operated with a receiver or processor set at “large” for these channels. For example, on “All The Things She Said” this happens at about the three minute mark where there is sort of a bass(?) drum semi-solo where it’s being given a major whack during this time.

    Overall impression: to me this airy, enveloping and rather reverb-rich mix fits the grand (some might say bombastic [​IMG] ) feel of the music and really draws you into its message. Because of the music’s already energetic nature, I don’t think it needs any more moving sonic elements or more discrete effects. This is similar to another DTS Entertainment title I own, The Crystal Method’s Legion Of Boom: its music is even more active and truly bombastic (in a good way!) than the Simple Mind album’s and if the mix was more aggressive than it already was, I think that combination would give the listener a headache after just a few tracks. Contrast that with Beck’s Sea Change 5.1 mix: it uses quite a few moving effects and a lot of very discrete instrument placement but this is balanced out by the music’s serene and somber nature.

    Sound

    Slightly on the bright side, but free of any graininess or harshness. Cymbals for example sound very realistic and have the proper metallic “shimmer” to them rather than the staticky sound some other albums have. I don’t have any way to accurately test for the amount of compression used but it sounds pretty much like many other older pop/rock recordings i.e. it has a bit of a “loud” quality to it but nothing irritating IMO & definitely nothing like you would hear on modern radio. Vocals are clean/clear and free of sibilants when reproduced by my Boston Acoustics CR9 front mains and Infinity SL30 center channel.

    As usual the DTS track has slightly less high frequency clarity & “air” than the MLP tracks but this doesn’t take away any enjoyment of the music itself. My receiver’s “regular” DTS decoder can’t fully decode this disc’s DTS96/24 playback option, so this effect may be reduced on a receiver that can.

    The stereo and surround tracks sound nearly identical as far as sound/compression goes. The reason I bring this up is because on Yes’ Fragile dvd-audio which I also own, the stereo track sounds much more veiled and well, “old” sounding to me than the surround tracks, which were newly made from the original multitracks. Fragile’s 5.1 tracks have a lot more clarity & are definitely more detailed (but NOT bright or harsh) and the bass is much more defined and has much more punch (but it’s NOT boomy or overbearing). I’m betting the stereo master tape for the Simple Minds album hasn’t been through as many remasterings as the Yes album’s master so it avoided additional tape wear that might have reduced its fidelity. Whatever happened, this leads me to what gear was used to put Once Upon A Time together-the liner notes have this to say about that issue:


    Audio formats

    For dvd-audio players: 96kHz/24bit MLP for both the surround and the stereo tracks.

    For dvd-video players: DTS96/24 for the surround tracks; 96kHz/24bit linear PCM for the stereo tracks.

    For the videos, on both dvd-audio and dvd-video players: 48kHz/16bit linear PCM and 5.1 DTS96/24 are available.


    Bonus videos

    There are two, for “All The Things She Said” and “Alive And Kicking”.

    Both are entertaining to watch and are some of the few videos I have watched several times because of this (most bonus videos in my dvd-a collection never get watched more than once). The first video is a lot more, um, experimental than the second one [​IMG] : it features what looks like early computer-based special effects, mainly using what seems to be multiple images of various band members shown at the same time. But actually each image is slightly different, so they must have done a lot of takes for this video! But while it’s a bit cheesy looking, it is still fun to watch and the band seems to be enjoying themselves.

    “Alive And Kicking” is more conventional & is shot on film rather than video tape, and has the band in a beautiful outdoor setting consisting of green rolling hills, rocky water falls, shots of ruddy setting suns and various lakes (Ireland maybe? kind of looks like certain parts of Pennsylvania too). Anyway, all this pretty scenery along with the powerful music contributes to a subtly spiritual feeling while watching it.

    The quality of both videos on my 27" monitor looked good. If it means anything to anybody, my dvd player has a "video transmission rate" meter & for both it averaged a consistant 9.0 mbps. For comparison purposes, selected scenes from Attack Of The Clones varied from about 4.0 to 9.0mbps, with spikes to 10.0mbps.

    Disc navigation & miscellaneous items

    Typical for the DTS titles I own. Placing the disc in the tray of my Pioneer DV-656A player & pressing “close” results in the disc’s main menu being displayed but no music playback. Pressing “play” first results in the disc going to track 1 and immediately playing. When the Pioneer is set to 2.0 analog output (say, if I was running a stereo-only system), this results in the 2.0 track automatically being played with no further intervention by me or the need of the disc’s menu.

    When played back on a dvd-audio player: the audio menu contains three options: the 5.1 MLP tracks; the 96/24 MLP stereo tracks and the 5.1 DTS96/24 tracks.

    When played back on a dvd-video player: the audio menu has (of course) just two choices: stereo 96/24 PCM or 5.1 DTS96/24.

    And using only my Pioneer’s “audio” button, it was easy to switch between the different audio formats-again, no menu was necessary. Same thing with a Panasonic dvd-video player.

    * The on-screen lyrics are available via both dvd-audio and dvd-video players, but they can only be seen simultaneously while the music plays when using a dvd-audio player. I wish they would automatically advance themselves as the song played, like on my Pet Sounds disc. The lyrics are also printed in the included booklet.

    *At the end of the last track, another nice DTS Entertainment feature appears on both types of players. A twenty second countdown timer appears, along with a note that you have that much time to return to the main menu or the disc will completely stop (at this time my Pioneer then displays its own logo). I like this because I own dvd-audios that don’t stop and either the disc starts playing again or worse, goes to the main menu and plays the same loop of music over & over again without ever stopping-very irritating!

    * The menus’ artwork matches the album’s artwork and are easy to deal with, using legible fonts and no-nonsense indicator icons.

    I’m looking forward to more of these in this series and hope DTS and EMI continue to collaborate, as DTS Entertainment’s technical quality and EMI’s large catalog of quality music is a great combination.
     
  2. Steve Meskell

    Steve Meskell Second Unit

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    Nice job on the review Lance[​IMG]
    I like this disc but I enjoy "New Gold Dream" more.
    "...Time" is a good album but I burn out on it many years ago...
     
  3. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    I've heard quite a few others say that also & I do remember a couple tunes from the album being played when it was released (and liked them). But I have always wanted to hear songs like Alive and Kicking in surround form and this disc doesn't disappoint.

    Along with New Gold Dream, another new wave-type album I would really like to hear in surround form is Thomas Dolby's Golden Age Of Wireless.....which also coincidentally happens to be on the Capitol/EMI label. I've owned the vinyl version since that album first debuted and also own the CD-if that album came out in 5.1 form it would be in my hands on its release day!

    Actually I think much new wave music is a great candidate for the surround treatment and hope more stuff like that is released in 5.1 form. And, I figure The Eighties are just about to make a comeback, so...........[​IMG]
     
  4. Steve Meskell

    Steve Meskell Second Unit

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    That and Flat Earth in 5:1 would sound awesome
     

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