by Felix E. Martinez

Welcome to my "All-Spin" Zone of fave hi-resolution/surround audio discs!

During my tenure writing for the HDTV Etc. and DVD Etc. magazines and while participating at music/home theater info venues like HomeTheaterForum, AVSForum, the Steve Hoffman Forums, QuadraphonicQuad, and, I'm often asked what my favorite titles in my hi-res/surround audio collection are – and why.

So here's my "All-Spin" Zone of favorite stuff – in small, quick, bite-sized morsels. Since early 2007, the hi-res/surround music formats have pretty much gone into hibernation, so many of these titles are hard to find or simply out of print. I will try to keep links updated, but the state of inventory can be quite fluid. I will tell you that once you experience music in hi-res surround, you will be hooked. You will find yourself listening to music again instead of having it on as a wallpaper or as a soundtrack to your commuting adventures. Your listening tastes will also expand – always a good thing in this world filled with visually-dominated stimuli.

"Run out and get it now" titles are marked with a hi-tech asterisk (*). I welcome feedback and recommendations to add to my library as well. Yes, I know some of you will say, "why in the world is (insert title in question here) on your list??!!" Hopefully, my comments will help explain their inclusion. Nonetheless, you can feel confident that the "must-buy" (*) titles are sonically and musically top-notch. My fave of the faves.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I've affiliated with CDUniverse, because 1) they still carry many titles on this list, 2) their prices are pretty good and they ship quickly, 3) they accept Paypal for purchases, 4) I'm sick and tired of going to brick 'n mortar stores where no one knows where anything is. I'd rather have this stuff mailed to my doorstep and spend that otherwise wasted time listening to music.

Happy listenings - enjoy!


New Additions To The "All-Spin" Zone:

The Beatles: Love (DVD-Audio+CD, Capitol)
Ray Charles and the Count Basie Orchestra: Ray Sings, Basie Swings (SACD, Telarc)
The Doors: Perception Box (DVD-Audio+CD, Rhino)
The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: Brazil (SACD, Telarc)
Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream (DVD-Audio+CD, Transmission Recordings)
Tierney Sutton: On The Other Side (SACD, Telarc)
Pete Townshend/Ronnie Lane: Rough Mix (Hi-Res DualDisc, Hip-O Records)


The "All-Spin" Zone:

A.I.: Music From The Motion Picture (DVD-Audio, Warner)

There's some audible low-end room noise (AC hum?), but the sound quality is otherwise pretty good and it's one of my favorite scores from Maestro John Williams. The mix is appopriate given the film score setting – a wide, inverted "U" shape around the listener.

AIX All Stars: Surrounded By Christmas (DVD-Audio, AIX)

Here's my archived review.

Aerosmith: Toys In The Attic (Non-Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Columbia)

Here's my review.

Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East, The (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Mercury)

May be going out of print.

* Allman Brothers Band: Eat A Peach (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Mercury)

May be going out of print. Also profiled in my "All-Spin" Zone in the August-September 2005 issue of HDTV Etc. Magazine.

Amadeus: Original Soundtrack Recording (Hybrid Stereo-Only SACD, Fantasy)

After the acquisition of Fantasy by Concord Music Group, this title is now a bit hard to find. It is, without question, the best-sounding version of the soundtrack on a round platter (including the vinyl, which I have). Fans may recall that, in addition to the original release of the CD in the '80s, there was also an inferior stereo re-mix/remastering that coincided with the lavish laserdisc box set release in the '90s (the laserdisc set also included the score on CDs). The warm and full sonics on the '80s CD became clearer, but also thinner. Here's the original 1984 stereo master, lovingly remastered in the hi-res DSD format on a hybrid disc. Pick it up before it disappears – not sure when or if we'll hear this one on SACD again. Also profiled in my first "All-Spin" Zone in DVD Etc. Magazine.

* America: Homecoming (DVD-Audio, Rhino)

As of October 2006, this one's getting hard to find. One of my favorite discs to pop in, sit back, and chill. What a mix! Elliot Schiener – who I sometimes disagree with regarding his mix choices – knocks this one out of the park. Beautiful music, and an unbelievable, enveloping (yet intimate) 5.1 mix. A true reference-quality catalog title. Hard to believe the master is over 30 years old. Amazing!

Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet: Fugue Around The Clock (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Channel Classics)

Ok, a disc comprised of fugues as performed by a recorder consort may not appear to have the makings of a highly recommended title, but let me tell ya – this release is mesmerizing! A spacious 5.1 mix and typical audiophile recording quality from Channel complement the flawless performances by the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet.

Bach: Christmas Oratorio, with the Netherlands Bach Society (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Channel Classics)

Here's my review.

Bach: Sonatas And Chorales with the Palladian Ensemble (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Linn)

Fans of Baroque music will enjoy the Palladian Ensemble's renditions of Bach's material. The usual reference-quality, Linn seal of approval applies.

Baroque Music For Brass and Organ, with the Empire Brass Quintet (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

One of my criteria for recommending a disc is if it positively changes my negative perception about an instrument or style of music. It might do the same for others, which is a wonderful ear-opening experience I'm happy to share. Now, I don't like organs – I appreciate the technique and musicianship required to perform on the instrument – but I'm simply not a fan of the sound. Probably dates back to my fidgeting in church or something. That being said, I popped this disc in my player and sat through the entire program with my jaw on the floor. The combination of organ and horns is simply heavenly. Sound quality is excellent, and the enveloping 5.1 mix immerses the listener into the music while maintaining a cohesive blend of timbres. Loved it. In fact, I'm gonna go pop it in my player and listen to it for a bit!

* Bartok/Kodaly: Music For Strings, Percussion and Celeste/Dances of Galánta (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Linn)

Here's my review.

* Beach Boys, The: Pet Sounds (DVD-Audio, Capitol)

What a classic! Here's my archived review.

* The Beatles: Love (DVD-Audio+CD, Capitol)

Wow. I don't know what to say, so I won't say anything...except: get this. Now.

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas (Nos. 21, 23, 26) with Mari Kodama (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Pentatone)

Cheryl Bentyne: Among Friends (DVD-Audio, AIX)

While Cheryl is a member of Manhattan Transfer, don't expect that sound here. These are more traditional, solo jazz vocal arrangements, and AIX's usual top-notch sound quality brings out Bentyne's relaxed delivery of standards. I refer back to this disc from time to time as a reference for proper engineering and mix of the female voice.

* Big Phat Band: XXL (DVD-Audio, Silverline)

More on Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band here.

Bjork: Vespertine (DVD-Audio, Elektra)

Pick up the hi-res DVD-A while supplies last! The album was included in Bjork's "Surrounded" box DualDisc set, albeit in Dolby Digital and DTS only. Bjork's vocal delivery and music style are acquired tastes, but there's no denying the ground-breaking work here. If you're a fan, pick it up today.

Blue Man Group: The Complex (DVD-Audio, DTS Entertainment)

David Bowie: David Live (DVD-Audio, EMI/DTS Entertainment)

Ah, Bowie...the Dorian Gray of rock music is captured exquisitely in 5.1. The man's voice never changes! While engineer/mixer Tony Visconti was not involved with the original live recordings, his mix gleans an impressive listening experience from somewhat dodgy source material.

David Bowie: Stage (DVD-Audio, EMI/DTS Entertainment)

Here's my review. My favorite Bowie band lineup – including guitarists Carlos Alomar and Adrian Belew – and another solid 5.1 mix by Tony Visconti. This time he engineered the live recording and it shows: Some of the instrumental/electronic tracks are pristine and completely envelop the listening space.

* The Brand New Opry: Another Time (DVD-Audio, AIX)

Traditional and new tunes done in "Opry" style. Shot on HD, multiple audio mixes, hi-res 96kHz/24-bit audio, interviews and more. Musical samples can be found here. Highlights from the disc include "Fool Around," "Grand Design," and "Lowlands." Check 'em out. Believe me - they are even more impressive on DVD-Audio! If you dig the original Hanna-Mceuen tunes, check out their debut CD. Another similar, recommended title in the "All-Spin Zone" is John McEuen & Jimmy Ibbotson: Nitty Gritty Surround.

* Jackson Browne: Running On Empty (DVD-Audio+CD, Rhino)

This audio documentary of being "on the road" is a revelation in surround. "The Road" is one of many shining moments in the album – it begins with half of the song recorded in a hotel room, then segues to the same song performed live for the balance of the track. It's a prime example of the synergies between the composition and recording processes. Flawless!

Les Brown & His Band Of Renown: Session #55 (DVD-Audio, DTS Entertainment)

Here's my archived review.

* BT: Monster (Music From and Inspired By The Film) (DVD-V+CD, DTS Entertainment)

Here's my review. Here's my interview with composer BT.

BT: This Binary Universe (DVD-V+CD, DTS Entertainment)

The music is mind-boggling. It is ambient electronica, with some unbelievable slicing and dicing going on. Perhaps a bit much, but it is definitely something to hear. I don't believe more than two bars pass by without some ear-bending ear-candy. I find it a bit harder to embrace than his score for Monster, which is a masterpiece and should be a part of every music library. Here, it sometimes feels as if we're stuck in a computer, being bounced around like a pinball. We get DTS 48/24, but no hi-res audio, ostensibly to make room for the video program. Video quality is very good: 16:9 anamorphic, and compression seemed tight and smooth - no artifacts visible during a casual view. And these images I'm sure were taxing to the compressionist: lots of constantly moving fine details. The mix is outstanding. BT thankfully doesn't keep things swirling 100% of the time. He carefully uses the 5.1 pallette to extend the scope of the compositions rather than just go for whiz-bang effects. What BT offers - which is unique to this style of music - is his diverse musicianship. It is clearly evident (although moreso in the score for Monster), that he is a true musician and not just a computer technician manipulating sounds. While he comes close to the edge here and nearly falls over into "tweaker"-land - in the musical sense ;) - this may very well be one of those releases that, in time and reflection, will be seen as a benchmark for the advancement of this style of music. Here's my interview with composer BT regarding his score for Monster.

* Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment (SACD, Telarc)

Camilo (piano), Charles Flores (bass) and Dafnis Preito (drums) are on f***ing fire on this one! Very, very impressive. Masterfully recorded by Robert Friedlich.

Celtic Spectacular (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

* Ray Charles and the Count Basie Orchestra: Ray Sings, Basie Swings (SACD, Telarc)

Once in a while, we get a jem of a surround release. Lately, it seems these moments are few and far in between. Bless Telarc and Concord for this release. More often than not, non-linear digital audio tools get a bad rap. Here is a release that makes brilliant use of all the best that technology can give us. This recording combines archival tracks from Ray Charles' live performances from the mid-1970s and brilliant new recordings of arrangements and performances by the Count Basie Orchestra. It is truly stunning. Very aggressive discrete 5.1 surround, and the integration of Charles and the big band orchestra is breathtaking. Great mix and mastering by Michael Bishop.

* Chicago V (DVD-Audio, Rhino)

Here's my review.

* Chopin: Sonatas Opp. 35 & 58, Barcarolle Op. 60, Variations Op. 12 with Artur Pizarro (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Linn)

Good Lord Pizarro can play! Once again, reference-quality sonics and performances in a Linn release. No surprise there.

Chopin/Loewe: Piano Concertos No. 2 (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Pentatone)

* Eric Clapton: 461 Ocean Boulevard (SACD, Polydor)

Produced by the late, great Tom Dowd, this classic album sports an excellent surround mix by Simon Climie. Sound quality is phenomenal.

Eric Clapton: Slowhand (SACD, Polydor)

Another classic album by Clapton. The surround mix by original producer Glyn Johns is solid, but not as assured or immersive as Simon Climie's mix for 461 Ocean Boulevard. Sound quality is also very good, but also not as crystal clear as 461. Still an essential addition to any music library.

Eric Clapton: Reptile (DVD-Audio, Reprise)

* John Coltrane: Soultrane (Hybrid Mono SACD, Mobile Fidelity)

As of October 2006, this one's getting hard to find. A mono hi-res re-master from Mo-Fi. This is a classic album that should take its place alongside Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" (also in the Zone, see below) in everyone's music library. If you can find it, pick it up before it disappears.

The Conga Kings: Jazz Descargas (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Chesky)

I love descargas (jams), and also have a passion for polyrhythmic conga playing. To have these fantastic performances by legendary old and new-school Latin jazz players like Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Chocolate captured in hi-res surround is a real treat. The surround mix is very reserved, and I would have preferred a bit more room ambience, but it's still a fantastic listen.

Cell #5: Correctional Facilities (DVD-Audio, Myutopia)

As of October 2006, this one's getting hard to find. A real hoot! Musically simplistic, but an infectious barrage of grooves, electronic noises, DJ-style scratching, and "low, low sh*t!" in an incredibly aggressive, fully discrete 5.1 mix.

* David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name (DVD-Audio+CD, Rhino)

Here are some of my impressions. An amazing album; a fantastic hi-res surround release from Rhino. As of March 2007, this title is out of print – only a few months after its release. Grab a copy while you can!

The Crystal Method: Legion Of Boom (DVD-Audio, DTS Entertainment)

Here's my review.

Peppino D'Agostino: Acoustic Guitar (DVD-Audio, AIX)

Here's my archived review.

* Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue (Non-Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Columbia/Legacy)

Profiled in my March-April 2005 "All-Spin" Zone in DVD Etc. Magazine.

* Al Di Meola: Flesh On Flesh (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Here's my review.

Dire Straits: Brothers In Arms, 20th Anniversary Edition (SACD, Warner, also available as a hi-res DualDisc)

Here's my somewhat lukewarm review. However, it's such a landmark album, I still find that I listen to it quite a bit. Still, could be better...

The Doobie Brothers: The Captain And Me (DVD-Audio, Rhino)

Here's my archived review. Looks like this title is getting harder to find. I recommend picking it up asap if you can find it.

The Doors: Perception Box (DVD-Audio+CD)

Here's my review.

Duran Duran: Astronaut (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Epic)

Here's my review. I had written off the band and was pleasantly surprised with this one. Probably one of my favorite releases from the band (they're back to the original line-up for now). There are something like three or four versions of this album on the shelves; I only recommend the SACD, as it is the only version that includes hi-res surround and stereo mixes.

* Dvorák: Violin Concerto, Czech Suite (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Linn)

Dvorák/Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 9 "New World"/Overture "Romeo And Juliet" (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Pentatone)

* Eagles: Hotel California (DVD-Audio, Elektra)

A classic album that's unfortunately hard to find on DVD-A. Pick it up, if you can find it.

* Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery (DVD-Audio, Rhino)

The bad news: this is one of Rhino's early DVD-Audio releases, and it unfortunately does not include the original stereo mix. It's also getting hard to find. The good news: the 5.1 mix is so amazing, you will not care to hear this classic prog-rock album in stereo again. Pick it up if you can find it.

Donald Fagan: The Nightfly (DVD-Audio, Warner/Rhino)

Here's my archived review. I would have asterisked this one, as I love it and it's a classic; however, the sonics are somewhat thin, compared (perhaps unfairly so) to his later solo releases, but also compared to Steely Dan's "Gaucho," which was recorded two years prior to Fagen's first solo album. The Nightfly and Kamakiriad are now hard to find. Rumor has it, Fagen wants all three of his solo albums to come out as a box set. Let's see...

* Donald Fagan: Kamakiriad (DVD-Audio, Warner Strategic Marketing/Rhino)

Here's my archived review.

* Donald Fagen: Morph The Cat (DVD-Audio+CD)

Here's my review.

Bryan Ferry: Boys and Girls (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Virgin/EMI)

Here's my review. Another stellar 5.1 re-mix by Bob Clearmountain, and the release is almost as good as Roxy Music's Avalon (also profiled in the "All-Spin Zone." My only beef with Boys and Girls is that it's mastered about 3-4db louder than Avalon, and the loss of that dynamic range is unfortunate for such an atmospheric, subtle, and layered work. Nevertheless, the 5.1 hi-res surround mix in this release is IMHO the definitive version of the album - the tracks simply sound claustraphobic in their original stereo incarnation.

The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (DVD-Audio+CD, Warner)

Here's my interview with Steve Drozd. The Lips are a hard band to describe to those unfamiliar with their oeuvre. I can say that they sometimes sound like Neil Young in outer space, or at times they're a bit like Pink Floyd performing in the Theater of the Absurd. And I would be wrong. Yoshimi is a bizarre, whimsical album with a diverse palette of sounds and styles. This is on my recommended list because of its audacity in content and groundbreaking DVD-Audio implementation. My big beef with the audio quality is that it's been aggressively dynamically limited, and there's quite a bit of sibilance in the high-end. Their previous release, "The Soft Bulletin," is also fantastic, musically, but is even more dynamically compressed. I don't have their new "At War With The Mystics" yet, but I'm looking forward to it. These folks push the surround envelope!

* Bela Fleck: Drive (Hybrid Stereo SACD, Mobile Fidelity)

This is a stereo-only SACD, but it is indeed an amazing one. Profiled in my "All-Spin" Zone in the August-September 2005 issue of HDTV Etc. Magazine.

* Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (DVD-Audio, Warner)

Florilegium & Bolivian Soloists: Bolivian Baroque (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD+DVD-Video, Channel Classics)

Profiled in my "All-Spin" Zone in the August-September 2005 issue of HDTV Etc. Magazine.

Foreigner 4 (DVD-Audio, Rhino)

Hard to find. Grab it while you can! Here's my review.

* Peter Gabriel: Up (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Geffen Records)

I finally had a chance to catch Up with my listening and give this disc a spin. It is fantastic. The hi-res 5.1 mix – compared to the stereo CD layer – is night and day, sonically. The stereo mix has been sliced of approx. 6-8db of dynamic range, and is a contender in the Loudness Wars. The 5.1 mix is a wonderful extension of the album, which is comprised of odd shifts in tone, timbre, and dynamics. When cranked to reference level, the 5.1 mix is one of the most striking, riveting, and assaultive experiences I've heard in some time. It took my breath away. As for the compositions, Up has become one of my fave PG works. It's personal and obscure in a fascinating, non-Top 40 kinda way, and I love it for that. This is the type of music I crave to buy and keep as hi-res rather than download as some crappy mp3. Turn Up the volume and give it a shot.

David Garfield: The Retro Jazz Quintet (DVD-Audio, AIX)

* Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On (DVD-Audio, Motown, also available as SACD)

Man, when the first wah-wah guitar notes of the title track materialize between the the front-left and rear-left channels, I just knew I was gonna dig this title. The 5.1 mix by Jeff Glixman maintains the mood of the stereo mix, and opens up the back vox and string arrangements for a nice 360 degree musical experience. One for the library! Also includes the original stereo mix in whopping 192kHz/24-bit resolution (surround is at a very healthy 96/24).

Mauro Giuliani/Joaquín Rodrigo: Guitar Concertos (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Pentatone)

The Film Music Of Jerry Goldsmith (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Here's my archived review.

Hiromi: Brain (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Holst: The Planets (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Mobile Fidelity)

Profiled in my March-April 2005 "All-Spin" Zone in DVD Etc. Magazine.

Alan Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountains (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Inside The Music: New Wave (DVD-Audio, Silverline)

Hard to find - get it if you can. Here's my archived review. Ok, ok, don't write off this list just yet! The reason this title (and the one below it) is included in my "All-Spin" Zone is because I don't think you will ever again see '80s pop-catalog titles compiled in this way, mixed in bonafide 5.1 surround. Some will say this is a good thing. I personally find it very cool to hear stuff like the long guitar solo version of "My Sharona," "Tenderness," and "She's A Beauty" in 5.1 surround on one compilation. The stuff we took for granted a few years ago! Yes, I know, the 5.1 mix for "Eyes Without A Face" is one of the worst things in recent (or distant) memory, but it's still fun – in a bumper car-slamming sorta way.

Inside The Music: Women On Top (DVD-Audio, Silverline)

Ditto. Here's my review.

* Elton John: Elton John (SACD, Island)

Trust me - just buy all of 'em. They're that good. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that listening to these surround versions was my first exposure to these classic albums. Better late than never, huh? But what a way to hear them! The surround mixes by Greg Penny are astonishing in their clarity and use of the surround sound space. The music and lyrics are exquisite. The performances sublime. I can't recommend these discs more highly. Alas, I have it under good authority that you will not see these or other Universal SACDs for very much longer. Whether they will return as DVD-Audio or DualDisc titles I don't get them while they last!

* Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (SACD, Island)

See my comments above. This is one of his most obscure albums, but it's altogether satisfying and one of my faves. The bonus track of the original, early recording of "Madman Across The Water" is worth the price of admission alone.

* Elton John: Madman Across The Water (SACD, Island)

See my comments above. "Tiny Dancer" is heavenly. Sounds like it was recorded yesterday.

* Elton John: Honky Chateau (SACD, Island)

See my comments above. "Rocket Man" is something to behold in surround.

* Elton John: Captain Fantastic (SACD, Island)

See my comments above. Bonus tracks include "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," "One Day At A Time," and "Philadelphia Freedom."

* Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (DVD-Audio, Island)

See my comments above. Arguably EJ's greatest masterpiece. Also available as an SACD; however, here I would recommend the DVD-Audio set, which includes a one hour documentary on the making of the album. I think it's also cheaper. Go figure.

* Jaco Pastorius Big Band: The Word Is Out (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Heads Up)

Here's the scoop behind the Telarc JPBB titles. All I can say is: wow! This new (2006), sophomore release from the JPBB is arguably more satisfying than their award-winning, hot-selling debut. Maybe it's because some of the compositions are a bit more obscure...maybe it's the variety of guest instrumentalists like Israel “Cachao” López, Jr., Mark Egan, Will Lee, Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Hiram Bullock, Mike Stern, Ed Calle, Bob Mintzer, Toots Thielmans, and others...or maybe it's because the mix is much more polished and immersive (the debut release was recorded "live," and mixed "on the fly," according to Heads Up founder, Dave Love). Regardless, it's definitely one for your shelf. And did I forget to mention that Jaco plays on "Beaver Patrol" via the wonders of technology (a la Natalie/Nat King Cole)?

* Laurence Juber: Guitar Noir (DVD-Audio, AIX)

If I had to pick the best-sounding recording in the entire "All-Spin Zone," this is it. Here's my review.

* The Katona Twins/Astor Piazzolla: Le Grand Tango (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Channel Classics)

Here's my review.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Long Walk To Freedom (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Ladysmith's new release (2006) and my favorite one of theirs on Dave Love's excellent Heads Up International label. Guest performers Melissa Etheridge, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, and others add their pipes to the South African group's breathtaking vocals in a 360-degree 5.1 mix setting. My only gripe: it's mastered quite loud for a vocal release. Totally uneccesary! Who are they competing with in the Loudness Wars, The Flaming Lips?

* The Lord Of The Rings – The Fellowship Of The Rings: The Complete Score (DVD-Audio+CD, Reprise)

Here's my review.

* The Lord Of The Rings – The Two Towers: The Complete Score (DVD-Audio+CD, Reprise)

Highly recommended! Once again confirms my belief that these scores rank among the best in cinematic history. Compared to Fellowship, the surrounds in Two Towers seem about 2-3db louder. Not a night and day difference, but I did notice it. There were some that felt Fellowship was a bit subtle in the surround department (I had no prob with it); perhaps those folks will be more pleased with this second instsallment. A wonderful, wonderful set!

* Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: Guitar Heroes (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

The formation of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet is the coolest thing to happen to the acoustic guitar since Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists. Intricate, polyrhythmic lines in odd meters surround the listening space in a 360-degree mix. Unfortunately, their newest release (2006), Spin, eschews the full surround placement of guitars and opts for a more conservative ambience-in-the-back mix, so for now, 2004's Guitar Heroes is the recommended title.

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: Brazil (SACD, Telarc)

The music is intoxicating. The musicianship, amazing. The production and surround mix by Robert Friedrich, outstanding! Those LAGQ fans disappointed by the conservative, ambient-style surround mix of 2006's Spin will find lots to love in Brazil, which returns to the guitar-in-each-corner aggressive surround approach of Guitar Heroes. LAGQ's arrangements in Brazil have expanded to include flute, sax, percussion, and vocals on several of the tracks. The only nitpick I have is that the disc plays rather loud for an acoustic, classical guitar-themed album. Not that it's dynamically compressed, but since there aren't huge transient peaks naturally occurring in the material, the overall level seems to have been "normalized," or raised a bit more than I would like. Still, the clarity of the native DSD recording (recorded on the Sonoma 32-track workstation at George Lucas' Skywalker Sound this past March) once again reveals that there's nothing like hi-res surround. I mean, nothing.

* Mahler: Symphony No. 1 (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

* Mahler: Symphony No. 3 (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Here's my review.

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Mahler: Symphony No. 6 (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

The Mavericks (DualDisc, Silverline)

Here's my review.

* John McEuen & Jimmy Ibbotson: Nitty Gritty Surround (DVD-Audio, AIX)

To antithetically paraphrase Roger Ebert: "I love, love, love" this album! I'm not the biggest fan of bluegrass, but this is a perfect disc for like-eared music listeners. A mix of folk, jazz, and yes: I even hear a little Latin influence in "Swing To Bop." Another similar, recommended title in the "All-Spin Zone" is The Brand New Opry: Another Time.

Medeski Martin And Wood: Uninvisible (DVD-Audio, DTS Entertainment)

I call them "the Booker T. & The MGs from Mars." Here's my review.

Dorian Michael: Acoustic Blues (DVD-Audio, AIX)

Steve Miller Band: Fly Like An Eagle (DTS-CD, DTS Entertainment)

The original quad mix from 1976 repurposed into 5.1 surround is presented here on a DTS-CD. Somewhat of a collector's item, now that the 30th Anniversary Special Limited Edition is out (see below). There are pros and cons to each version (read some of my comparisons here, and here), and while unfortunately neither are hi-res, they are very exciting ways of experiencing this legendary release.

Steve Miller Band: Fly Like An Eagle, 30th Anniversary Special Limited Edition (CD+DVD-Video, Capitol)

A new 5.1 mix by Ed Cherney is presented on a DVD-V in Dolby Digital only. Read some of my comparisons of this version and the DTS-CD here, and here. A concert (over two hours), 30-minute interview with Steve on recording the album, and a remastered CD are also included in the set. Capitol tells me there are no plans for hi-res DVD-Audio or DualDisc "at the moment." Believe me this one will fall off the "All Spin Zone" to make room for a hi-res version pronto. Bring it on!

* Jane Monheit: Never Never Land (DualDisc, Silverline)

Jane Monheit: Come Dream With Me (DVD-Audio, Silverline, also available as a DualDisc)

Here's my review.

Moonlight Acoustica (DVD-Audio, AIX)

A fantastic 53-minute electro-acoustic jam with Carl Verheyen and Laurence Juber (both also in the "All-Spin Zone") in top form. Lots of high points throughout, including a riveting percussion solo by Alberto Lopez. I'm also grateful that the one 53-minute track is indexed so one can skip to a particular solo (instead of fast-forwarding). The jam is very organic, with changes in tempo and mood, written/structured by AIX founder, Mark Waldrep, Ph.D. Video quality is also excellent – this is one area that has improved immensely since the first AIX DVD-Audio releases appeared about 6 years ago. Before it was just about documenting the session, visually, but since the switch to HD cameras, it's truly a pleasure to listen and watch. Musical samples can be found here.

* Mozart: Complete Sonatas For Keyboard And Violin with Rachel Podger and Gary Cooper, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Channel Classics)

You can expect great things from Channel Classics and these two volumes are no exception. Podger – who's virtuosity explodes in Vivaldi's La Stravaganza (also in the "All-Spin" Zone) – is once again in top form here, and it's no surprise. Cooper's fortepiano provides a rich, dark counterpoint to Podger's crisp violin, and the intimate setting is captured in a reserved (but appropriate) surround mix by engineer/mixer/Channel founder Jared Sacks.

* Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Harmonia Mundi)

Here's my review.

* Mozart: Wind Concertos (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Linn)

As is the case with the other Linn releases in the "All Spin Zone," a reference recording, delightful performances. 'Nuff said!

Graham Nash: Songs For Survivors (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

* Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells 2003 (DVD-A, Warner Strategic Marketing/Rhino)

Hard to find - pick it up if you can find it!

Orff: Carmina Burana (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

* Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Capitol)

This is the official 2003 30th Anniversary release with the 5.1 mix by James Guthrie. A classic album, and a wonder to behold in surround. Buy it now! A professionally produced, full-blown DVD-Audio disc bootleg of the original quad mix by Alan Parsons was produced in late December 2005 and surfaced on the Internet in late February 2006. I have heard it and it is utterly amazing. It certainly sounds like it's from the original 4-track quad masters – the audio quality is that good. I would never eschew the official SACD, but for historical purposes, it's great to hear the original quad mix. Don't ask me how to get it – I have no idea! Here are some of my impressions while comparing both mixes. Here's Guthrie and Parsons discussing their respective mixes and comparing them to each other – a fascinating read. Here's the whole debate about DSD and MLP, a war of words fueled by this title.

John Pizzarelli: Live At Birdland (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Here's my review.

* John Pizzarelli: Dear Mr. Sinatra (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Here's my interview with John. Wow! Once again, a big band recording makes the "All Spin Zone" (see also The Big Phat Band's XXL and Les Brown & His Band of Renown's Session #55). John adds his cool, laid-back vocals and guitar playing to inspired arrangements and performances by The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The dynamic range in this recording is HUGE! What a treat! Without a doubt one of the best releases of 2006. My interview with John will appear in the October/November 2006 issue of HDTV Etc. Magazine.

The Polyphonic Spree: Together We're Heavy (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

Popov/Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1/Theme And Variations (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc)

Here's my review.

* Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream (DVD-Audio+CD, Transmission Recordings)

Here's my review. After two stellar DVD-Audio surround releases on the DTS Entertainment label, Porcupine Tree flies solo by re-releasing on their own a CD+DVD-Audio package of their out of print release from 1999, Stupid Dream. Band founder/front man Steven Wilson helms the new stereo and 5.1 mixes, and the end result is one of the finest rock music experiences in recent memory, presented in a first-rate package of such quality that it eclipses most major label offerings.

Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

Here's my review. Here's my interview with Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree.

* Willy Porter (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Six Degrees)

Getting hard to find - pick it up! Here's my review.

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky/Lieutenant Kijé (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Mobile Fidelity)

I like Prokofiev and the good folks at MoFi never disappoint. This is a remastered, original quad recording from the '70s, polished to perfection. Solid performances by the St. Louis Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin also make this worth picking up if you're a fan of Russian music. And I must say: Sting totally ripped off the theme from "Lieutenant Kijé" for his "Russians" – or is it an homage? A fromage? An "I don't know what?" Why am I channeling French while discussing Russian music?

Prokofiev: Ivan The Terrible (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Mobile Fidelity)

Here's my review.

Queen: A Night At The Opera (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

A classic and unbelievably getting hard to find on DVD-A. Pick it up if you see it!

Queen: The Game (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

Here's my review.

R.E.M.: Green (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: Out Of Time (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: Automatic For The People (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: Monster (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: New Adventures In Hi-Fi (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: Up (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: Reveal (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

R.E.M.: In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. (DVD-A+CD, Warner)

Bonnie Raitt: Nick Of Time (DVD-A, Capitol)

Profiled in my March-April 2005 "All-Spin" Zone in DVD Etc. Magazine.

* Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2/Rhapsody On A Theme By Paganini (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Pentatone)

Here's my review.

* Roxy Music: Avalon (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Virgin/EMI)

Here's my review.

Joe Satriani: Strange Beautiful Music (Non-Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Sony)

Here's my review.

* Seal: Best 1991-2004 (DVD-A, Warner)

Here's my review. An incredible package and value. The entire greatest hits album in hi-res surround, PLUS an entire acoustic album of the songs (also in hi-res surround), PLUS 10 music videos. That's two hours and 15 minutes of music, and 40 minutes of music videos. The surround mixes by Tim Weidner are aggressive, yet faithful to the mood of the original stereo mixes (also included in hi-res). With the exception of "Crazy," which is a bit sibilant in the high frequencies, the mixes are slam dunks.

Paul Simon: You're The One (DVD-A, Warner)

Simple Minds: Once Upon A Time (DVD-A, EMI/DTS Entertainment)

Here's my review.

Spyro Gyra: Wrapped In A Dream (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Heads Up)

Another new (2006), delightful release from Heads Up. What stands out here, in addition to the usual excellent performances by SG, is the surround mix. Very immersive, very involving, very cool.

* Steely Dan: Gaucho (DVD-A, MCA, also available as SACD)

The SACD may be going out of print.

* Steely Dan: Two Against Nature (DVD-A, Giant)

* Steve Stevens: Flamenco A Go-Go (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

Here's my archived review.

* Stravinsky/Ravel: Firebird Suite/Boléro (DVD-A, AIX)

Here's my archived review.

* Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps (The Rite Of Spring)/L'oiseau De Feu (The Firebird Suite) (Non-Hybrid Stereo SACD, Sony)

Maestro Stravinsky conducts. My favorite version. The only recording I've heard that gets most of the rhythms right – and that's saying something!

* Tierney Sutton: On The Other Side (SACD, Telarc)

Ironic interpretations of traditionally "happy" songs ("You Are My Sunshine," "Get Happy," etc.). A masterpiece; wonderfully performed and recorded.

T. Rex: Electric Warrior (DVD-A, Rhino)

Talking Heads: 77 (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings And Food (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

Talking Heads: Fear Of Music (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

* Talking Heads: Remain In Light (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

* Talking Heads: Speaking In Tongues (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

Talking Heads: Little Creatures (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

Talking Heads: True Stories (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

Talking Heads: Naked (Hi-Res DualDisc, Rhino, also available in the "Brick" box set)

The Thorns (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Aware/Columbia)

Getting hard to find. Alright, the 5.1 mix is uneven and inconsistent, but this is one of the best debut albums of the new millennium, and there's some great music in here. When faced with the choice of picking up a standard CD, a DualDisc without hi-res audio, and this hybrid/multi-channel version – without hesitation I recommend the SACD.

Tipper: Surrounded (DVD-A, Myutopia, also available as DualDisc)

Here's my review. Here's my interview with Tipper.

Shania Twain: Up! (DVD-A, Mercury, also available as SACD)

Here's my review.

The Carl Verheyen Band: Rumor Mill (Hi-Res DualDisc+DVD-V, AIX)

Here's my review.

* Vivaldi: La Stravaganza (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Channel Classics)

Here's my review.

Wagner: Die Walkure (SACD, Melba)

Here's my review.

* The Who: Tommy (DVD-A, Geffen, also available as SACD)

The SACD may be going out of print. I still would recommend the DVD-Audio set as it includes a fascinating interview with Townshend covering the process of mixing this classic album in surround.

* Neil Young: Harvest (DVD-A, Reprise)

Neil Young: Greatest Hits (DVD-V with 96kHz/24-bit stereo+CD, Reprise)

* Yes: Fragile (DVD-A, Rhino)

Here's my review.

Frank Zappa: Halloween (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

Frank Zappa: QuAUDIOPHILIAc (DVD-A, DTS Entertainment)

Zephyr: Voices Unbound (DVD-A, AIX)

Here's my archived review.


© F.E.M.