'Elvis 30#1 Hits' 5.1 DVD
- DVD audio review -
- A dream come true -
DVDs are a relatively new concept. The idea is that with multi
channel recordings we are not restricted to the basic 2 channels
of stereo but can increase these to five or more channels
that surround you. Movies and their related DVDs already carry
this information so why not expand the listening pleasure
of music CDs as well?
real difficulty of trying this with the 'Elv1s #1s' CD is
that the majority of tracks were recorded in either 3-track
stereo or mono.
David Bendeth, the producer, had a real challenge on his hands to
make the whole concept work. EIN
interviewed him earlier this week to discover exactly what he had
done to create these surround sound miracles and at last we get
to hear the finished product.
If you are going to try a ground-breaking
event with a new technology then Track One better sound good but "A Little Less Conversation" in 5.1 surround-sound isn't good, it
the 'A.L.L.C' JXL original remix I wrote, "Listening to this new
remix is a revelation. Starting with the original guitar riff &
drums the scene is set as 1968 Then 10 seconds later the extra percussion
kicks in and the sound explodes - Suddenly Elvis is here and NOW
and rockin' in the new millennium". However on this audio DVD the
impact is even greater as the sound totally explodes around the
room. With 42 tracks to play with David Bendeth really has fun.
The fuzz guitar & bongos are deliciously rear right, as the synthesisers
play from left to right and the sound keeps building up & up.
main track has an absolute kicking bass, thanks to the sub woofer,
and halfway through as the second chorus begins the sound is truly
awesome. Listening to it the first time I actually laughed out loud
with joy and delight. The only sin is that the full length remix
just begs for the same treatment.
Down' - The first of the 'studio' multi-tracks places you in the
Jungle Room with Elvis and the band. Immediately you can notice
the variation in the mix with the backing vocals sounding very different.
This new concept where you are sitting in the middle of the studio
surrounded by the musicians is, at first, a very strange audio experience
compared to the 'facing the band' stereo image that we are all used
to. The percussion is separated to the centre speaker, the piano
sounds great while the clavinet is rear right and anyone who has
ever stood in the Jungle Room will surely feel an odd sensation
of familiarity. It is truly fascinating. Interestingly Elvis' vocal
error and even the barking dog at the end are still there.
Love' - I loved the 'E.1s' CD mix of this so much that I actually
listened to this track first. Whereas the FTD CDs let you eavesdrop
on Elvis creating his music & magic this DVD actually places you
in the middle of the studio itself! Elvis and the rhythm section
are cooking right in front of you while the guitars, percussion
and piano are behind you. It gives you a totally different experience
and with the sub woofer emphasising the bass guitar it sounds sensational
and yes, it kicks ass! '
Wonder Of You' - Yet another audio experience since this is live
from the Hilton showroom. This has been mixed very differently from
the 'TTWII' movie DVD. The power of this performance sounds fabulous
but something about the sound image feels a little surreal since
the audience is sitting behind you but so is the orchestra. The
ambience again definitely puts you in the Showroom but you have
to get the visual image of the film out of your head & just soak
up the music all around you.
Minds' - The American Studio tracks are the real standout. Both
of these have incredible instrument separation and again you can
feel the ambience of these very special sessions. The strings &
horns are behind you along with guitars while the rhythm section
and Elvis are up front. You really are 'there' in the studio experiencing
the magic of producer Chips Moman's work & with Elvis making some
of the most important music of his life.
this new audio separation Elvis' vocal stands out even more than
ever. When the band quietens for the bridge "Oh let our love survive.
. " the audio dynamic range of the track is astounding. The strings
& guitar are behind you with Elvis, almost alone, pleading out front.
This is goose bump stuff! The final fade and build-up is so powerful
in this mix that it astounds you. Suspicious Minds has never sounded
The Ghetto'- Elvis is sitting up front along with Tommy Cogbill
on bass & Reggie Young on acoustic guitar. Snare drum at the rear,
the horns & orchestra and backing vocals are also behind you. This
kind of mix totally opens up the track and it honestly feels a little
surreal. I have these dreams where I'm sitting in with Elvis & the
band and this is the sound of my dreams! Before hearing this version
take 11 of 'In The Ghetto' (FTD "Memphis Sessions") was my firm
favourite because it emphasised Elvis' vocal & increased the poignancy
of the song. But this is exceptional and it is like hearing this
classic song for the very first time.
only that but you can of course turn off various speakers and listen
to specific instruments or mix of tracks. Just to start with I tried
experimenting with only Elvis & Reggie Young's acoustic guitar (front
left) along with the snare drum & violins (rear left) on their own.
It is truly fascinating. You can spend hours investigating just
one song and how the band created such masterpieces. There is no
doubt in my mind that IF you own a 5.1 sound system then just these
first 6 tracks alone are worth the price of this DVD.
In The Chapel'- This is the first of the 12 sixties 3-track songs
on the DVD. From now on David Bendeth has to work some of his magic
to create the 5.1 surround-sound and this is a great start. The
double-bass really resonates and the increased audio separation
lifts Elvis' vocal making it sound even more delicate than ever.
The backing vocals are wrapped around you (this in some ways feels
a little odd as you might expect The Jordanaires to be standing
on your right or left!) but the sound places you perfectly in the
middle of that small Studio B in Nashville. There is no doubt that
some of the sixties tracks work better than others in surround-sound.
really 'in the middle' of the studio with 'Devil In Disguise' while
it is fabulous to have the piano on 'It's Now or Never' being played
directly behind your right shoulder. It is also strange that just
by getting up & moving around the room you totally change the audio
mix of the track. Turn around and you are in Studio B with Elvis
singing right behind you! The spaciousness of the new sound increases
a songs' dynamics and so I found that the ballads really benefited
from these mixes the most.
I must have heard them far too many times already I particularly
enjoyed the depth brought to 'Can't Help Falling in Love'. The steel
guitar, drums behind you & backing vocals are exquisite.
original of 'Are you Lonesome Tonight' there always was an incredible
audio depth. If you listened closely you could hear The Jordanaires
clothes rustle and Hank Garland's acoustic guitar creaking and on
this mix that special moment in Studio B has really been captured.
Turn the lights down and listen. Beautiful stuff. If you try listening
to the various separate channels on these 3-track originals you
can notice the phasing, echo & equalisation derived from Bendeth's
clever technique that was used to create the new surround image.
These tracks don't particularly benefit from separate scrutiny of
each channel but the over-all sound is excellent.
Latest Flame' is a stand out where you can feel the party-vibe of
the band as they play their hearts out all around you. All three
guitars sound lovely & bright, the drums are tight and Floyd Cramer's
piano work shines. This makes it even more of a shame that we never
got a new remaster of the dynamic 'Little Sister'.
To Sender' which always had a depressingly poor Radio Recorders
movie soundtrack sound once again glows as Boots Randolph jumps
into the left of the room blowing his funky horn while the backing
vocals and Elvis sound just right. On the 'E.1s' CD the jump when
the songs went from mono to the astounding stereo sound of the sixties
was a little unnerving.
remaining tracks that follow here were all mono with which the E.1's
team have tried to work their surround-sound magic. The interesting
point is that these mono tracks really do seem to surround you!
I know that people are going to complain that mono should stay mono
but that defeats the purpose of this DVD. There is no doubt that
some tracks benefit more from the new mix than others and for me
the first mono track 'A Big Hunk o' Love' is not one of the best
but the clever issue here is that you don't notice that it sounds
particularly different from the stereo remixed track 'Stuck On You'
that precedes it.
first listening I thought that the original songs that were already
echoey, eg 'Don't Be Cruel' & 'All Shook Up', didn't seem to work
so well. However having lived with this DVD for several days I find
myself changing my mind. These 5.1 re worked mono tracks definitely
sound better being played loud and sometimes I found myself searching
for that right listening spot in the room. The higher volume, of
course, maybe intentional since this would have been the sound of
Elvis and the band working in the studio.
further listening I suddenly discovered the new magic of 'Don't
Be Cruel' and what David Bendeth was trying to achieve. Elvis' back-slap
on his guitar, D.J's cool drums and The Jordanaires sounding perfect
as I sat in the RCA New York studio listening to a masterpiece being
'Teddy Bear' has been mixed to suit the image of Elvis
rockin' on stage just like in the "Loving You" movie. While in the
same way the New Orleans Nightclub sound of "King Creole" has really
been captured on 'Hard Headed Woman' with Elvis on stage along with
the Dixieland horns playing to the crowd below.
the fabulous rolling guitar sound of 'One Night' where you feel
that you are in the studio with the band really rocking around you
while a track like 'Don't' has amazing audio placement. Elvis' voice
really embraces you here and there is a magic as The Jordanaires
slide up the scale at 1min 20 with "Don't, Don't, Don't". Delicious.
Sometimes it does feel odd that you can't quite pin-point where
the instruments are coming from particularly when you can skip the
DVD back and do a comparison to one of the later multi-track originals.
However every track is still quite fascinating to sit amongst.
be honest I still can't understand 'All Shook Up' and I do prefer
the explosive binaural version of 'Jailhouse Rock' on the "Silver
Screen Stereo" FTD CD.
I wonder what David Bendeth could have achieved
had he been given the binaural tape of that along with the 'Love
Me Tender' stereo master. In fact 'Love Me Tender' is no disappointment
here and again delights with its new audio openness. It is an extraordinary
experience if you go back and compare it to the original hiss-laden
it was the surprise of 'Hound Dog' that again had me grinning. The
band is really rockin' out front with The Jordanaires surrounding
you just clapping their hearts out and Shorty Long's piano playing
really standing out behind you in the mix. I loved the pristine
version on 'E.1s' CD but this is fabulous fun. Makes you want to
get up & dance with them. Really!
Hotel' sounds very spacious and is gem. The sub-woofer emphasises
Bill Blacks' bass and the tinkling piano is also brought out in
this version. I could just imagine Elvis standing in that church
hallway in Nashville. Fascinating.
Special Bonus tracks - These are no longer in 5.1 surround sound
and your system should automatically switch back to plain stereo.
Having enjoyed the DVD so much I was extremely disappointed to discover
that none of these bonus tracks run their full length. I know the
point was that these were just 'bonuses' and not the reason to buy
this DVD however I was shattered (as I'm sure any Elvis fan will
be) not to get the complete 'In the Ghetto' solo vocal track here.
A:B Tests are exactly what you imagine showing the difference between
the original master tapes and the newly mastered & mixed versions
from the 'E.1s' CD. Short and sweet & to the point, 'Devil In Disguise' for instance runs only 1 minute! I was so excited at the prospect
of getting Elvis' complete isolated vocal from 'In the Ghetto' but
unfortunately that also only runs for 1 ½ minutes. It is a real
shame since after the 'taster' promo I was desperate to hear the
whole song 'a cappella'. What a sadly missed opportunity. Maybe
this is an idea Ernst and the FTD team could think about for that
future "Memphis Sessions 2" CD.
is the same for 'Suspicious Minds' where David Bendeth obviously
knew that we'd love to hear Elvis talking to himself - "Sing the
Song Man" - but, of course, as an Elvis fan I really needed to hear
the whole 3½ minutes of self-harmony rather than this small 1.10
fragment. Finally there is 'Crying In the Chapel' which contains
the false start of take 2 and Elvis laughing about the Jordanaires
whispering. This is a fun look at the atmosphere of Elvis in the
recording studio and as it hasn't been officially released before
it is a lovely snippet. However
for dedicated fans this is the same as has previously been out on
bootlegs ("Stand by Me") for a while.
(Note - David Bendeth later
informed EIN that the full solo versions of Elvis' vocal tracks
were not allowed by RCA due to the obvious potential for DJ sampling)
Verdict - If you already own a 5.1 surround-sound system then the first
6 tracks are worth the price of the CD alone. Being able to listen
to each individual audio track and the various permutations means
that, if you are someone like me, you can really investigate every
nuance of every song. You can listen to 'In The Ghetto' with just
Elvis and the guitars or add the horns and remove the bass. There
are literally more than 100 combinations you try for every multi-track
song! So for the Elvis audio fetishists there is hours of listening
fun and entertainment.
there is just as much pleasure in sitting back and letting this
brand new, fabulous listening experience wash over you. I'm sure
there will be a lot of complaints with people being picky about
the mono tracks and other minor details but I loved the total experience
and there is so much more to explore on an audio DVD like this.
Sound 5.1 is not a static environment and it is a technical tool
with which you can create some amazing audio innovations. Here some
of them are audio reality and some of them are fantasy. However
what is certain is that this audio DVD is certainly ground-breaking
and with it Elvis fans have been served a huge platter of total
audio delights! Personally I would love David Bendeth and his team
to remix all the songs on the 'Memphis Sessions' as the sound on
these are exceptional and stand out above everything else.
the complete 'Elvis Is Back' sessions would suit me just fine too!
This DVD will not play on your CD player and to truly appreciate
it you need a system with equal power good quality speakers both
front & rear along with a sub-woofer. Make sure the speakers are
facing you from all sides and you will find yourself sitting dead
centre with Elvis & the band. Hopefully you will end up in seventh
heaven like me.
popularity of movies on DVD has increased so much recently that
the cost of a good 5.1 system has suddenly plunged to a very realistic
price. You can find good quality systems with 100 watt speakers
at under $1000. However make sure you get a good demonstration before
you rush out & purchase them. Tell them that Elvis sent you!
Click here for EIN's in-depth 'Elvis 30#1s' CD review
Click here for EIN's interview with the Producer David Bendeth
Click here for EIN's in-depth '2nd To None' CD review
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