April 14, 2011
The Monk crossed a long standing line in the sand last Saturday when he bought a 5.1 channel surround sound rig for home listening. To quote Jerry Harrison, “I didn’t think I, would ever do it, until I did it.” My reasons for avoiding this were manifold: primarily the cost, but also the hassle, not to mention the tiny living room in our modest house. But the much higher quality 2.0 system we were listening to at the bed & breakfast we stayed in in Atlanta last month spurred us on to upgrade our wheezing ca. 1985 Akai stereo to something a little more impressive. Best of all, the buy-in was modest. We picked up a 2006 Kenwood 5.1 system for $150 on Craigslist. Dropping a grand never seemed feasible to me since given the choice I’d always rather opt for spending that moolah on vinyl and CDs instead! This was change I could get behind.
The first thing I did after wiring and deciphering how to use the thing was pop in the DVD-A DTS disc I bought in 2005 of one of my favorite albums, “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” by Simple Minds. I was attending a lecture in Washington D.C. and as usual, made sure to visit the Tower Records [r.i.p.] there. This was the single time I’d ever seen this disc and I wisely bought it even though I did not have a surround system at the time. It’s not a stretch to say that this album is one of ten I’d take to the proverbial desert island. I loved it since its 1982 release and in the last 29 years its only grown in my esteem. I love it much more now than when it was released. Part of the reason why is that around 20 years ago I realized that Derek Forbes was the best bass player on the planet and this is the penultimate, and finest, Simple Minds album where his physical, evocative basslines were the fat bones upon which the songs were ultimately constructed.
Simple Minds: New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84] DTS 5.1 DVD-A 
- Someone, Somewhere In Summertime [ext. 5.1 remix]
- Colours Fly + Catherine Wheel
- Promised You A Miracle
- Big Sleep [ext. 5.1 remix]
- Someone Up There Likes You [ext. 5.1 remix]
- New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84] [5.1 ext. remix]
- Glittering Prize [ext. 5.1 remix]
- Hunter + The Hunted [ext. 5.1 remix]
- King Is White + In The Crowd [alt. ext. 5.1 remix]
- In Every Heaven [5.1 mix]
Ronald Prent masterminded this release and he took the effort to make the album remix something special. Most of the cuts sport longer running times since the 22 minute side limitations of vinyl didn’t apply here. In the case of “King Is White + In The Crowd” an alternate take was used instead! Capping the disc is a bonus track, “In Every Heaven,” which was previously unreleased. The track had been released in different form as “Soundtrack To Every Heaven” in instrumental form as a B-side, but this version sports Jim Kerr lyrics and vocals. Sadly, the multitrack masters for “Colours Fly + Catherine Wheel” and their first UK hit “Promised You A Miracle” were lost to the years. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, and this project went underway in any case with tracks 2 and 3 being the straight stereo masters of those cuts. What got delivered instead of those two cuts more than justifies the outlay of time and effort.
Plainly put, this album sound flat out amazing in 5.1. The increased separation adds incredible definition to anything you’d like to concentrate your listening on. It’s more visceral than the stereo version of the album. Peter Walsh’s shimmering production sounds comparatively airbrushed on the stereo mix. All of the elements are coated in a diffuse sheen. Here a living band can be heard in a far more grounded environment. Jim Kerr’s vocals are better defined; no longer sounding like just one more element in a flat mix. And the bassline of Mr. Derek Forbes are even more palpably living and dimensional. Prent’s capable handiwork expands the soundfield without resorting to gimmickry.
I have two other discs in 5.1 but one of them is a SA-CD and my DVD player is not compatible with that format, dating as it does from 2000. Moving forward, what other albums would I like to hear given the 5.1 treatment? Well, hot at the top of the list is “Vienna” by Ultravox. First off, it was a hit, which is necessary for the sort of cost that remixing to 5.1 would entail. Second, Conny Plank’s [r.i.p.] production already sounds incredibly dimensional. Hearing it expanded to 5.1 works in my mind like crazy. Who do I have to pay for this? Then there’s Duran Duran’s career-making “Rio.” That album’s been remixed so many times the master tapes must have wrinkles on them! Can you just imagine the seven minute version of “Hold Back The Rain” in 5.1? Yes? Then here’s a drool cup. Wipe up that mess. A final album I’d be willing to spring bucks for in 5.1 would be Propaganda’s “A Secret Wish.” I consider it the last, classic album of the 80s and ZTT’s finest hour. There is a SA-CD but it’s merely high-res 2.0. 5.1 on this material would cause mass hysteria.
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