REDUX: Someone, Somewhere in Surround Sound – Simple Minds in 5.1 DTS

blast-from-the-past-header

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.

Virgin | Euro | DVD-A 5.1 DTS | 2005 | DVDAV 2230

Simple Minds: New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84] DTS 5.1  DVD-A [2005]

  1. Someone, Somewhere In Summertime [ext. 5.1 remix]
  2. Colours Fly + Catherine Wheel
  3. Promised You A Miracle
  4. Big Sleep [ext. 5.1 remix]
  5. Someone Up There Likes You [ext. 5.1 remix]
  6. New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84] [5.1 ext. remix]
  7. Glittering Prize [ext. 5.1 remix]
  8. Hunter + The Hunted [ext. 5.1 remix]
  9. King Is White + In The Crowd [alt. ext. 5.1 remix]
  10. 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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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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8 Responses to REDUX: Someone, Somewhere in Surround Sound – Simple Minds in 5.1 DTS

  1. Echorich says:

    I think I would like to hear 5.1 of any of the first 3 David Sylvian solo albums, but especially the complete Gone To Earth. I have yet to be fully satisfied with CD mastering of this immense album and to hear it lovingly enhanced to 5.1 might just be what the album deserves as a digital release.
    I also wonder what some very analog synth albums might sound like in 5.1 such as Pleasure Principle or Metamatic. Finally as a perverse choice I’d like to hear PiL’s Metal Box and Flowers Of Romance in this aural format.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Well, Mark Reeder has remixed “Underpass” in 5.1 on the DVD that accompanies John Foxx’s “Metatronic” compilation and I can tell you it makes one hungry for more! But bonus points for suggesting my favorite PiL album!!! That’s genius! That brings to mind a favorite Numan album, but not “Pleasure Principle.” I’d pay good money for “Dance” in 5.1!

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      • Echorich says:

        Well any Numan album through Dance really could benefit from 5.1 since that’s where the initial innovation is in his work. I enjoy I, Assassin, but always felt like it was almost the seconds from Dance. Warrior is an album FULL of it’s own issues and could have held so much promise being with the Bill Nelson connection, but their attempt to work together was really 3 years too late happening and the album suffers from being Numan trying to be on trend rather than setting trend. We’ve discussed our mutual appreciation for the Numa albums and for me The Fury is the high point of that era.
        I’ve always come to audio sound innovation late. Being that I don’t tend to watch movies on my tv, surround sound and 5.1 never really grabbed me, but for pure sound recording improvement of music I have always loved, 5.1 can be gorgeous. If only it was something that could be accomplished on the fly by the at home enthusiast to create the perfection of sound that so much music deserves.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – Too right on the restrictive conditions for 5.1. It really doesn’t fit my lifestyle, in all honesty. We only watch DVDs on our fully obsolete CRT TV, so 5.1, even in our tiny living room, adds to the experience. And with movies, you have to sit in the sweet spot and do nothing else, so there you are.

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  2. nick says:

    Mark Reeder also had a 2cd/ dvd collection called ‘Five Point One’ which has dvd of 5.1 mixes, including the 2 John Foxx mixes and many more – its a brilliant collection and is superb in 5.1 too. Would love any of Kraftwerk’s albums in 5.1, mostly Computer World which could be stunning given the right treatment.
    I bought the first 5 Depeche Mode cd/dvd 5.1 reissues a few years back and i have nothing but praise for the work that went into producing them. I particularly love ‘Speak & Spell’ which i think has been given a new lease of life – for a 20+ year old album it sounds so fresh.
    Yazoo’s ‘Upstairs At Erics’ from the box set is equally as good in its 5.1 guise.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Nick – I came this close to purchasing Mark Reeder’s “5.1” yesterday, but held off for another day. I need it for the extended Foxx mixes for the collection at the very least. He did great work on “Underpass,” that’s for certain. I had forgotten about those DM hybrid discs. I have two of Talking Heads’ issues [“Fear,” Remain”], and they’re good fun, but I’d pick up the right DM album [“Some Great Reward,” since you asked] on hybrid if the price were right. I had no idea Yazoo also got that treatment!

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  3. Simon H says:

    I loved this album on release but like you, for me it’s just got better and better over the years. I find it hard to listen to one track without playing the whole thing. Saw them at the time and they were suitably stunning, at the end of the gig the audience refused to leave, even after the house lights when up, eventually 15 minutes later they came back for a genuine encore, at least that’s how I recall it after all this time!
    I have a decent ish stereo and it sounds great on that (in particular Mr Forbes) but I’d love to hear it in 5.1, no chance of that though, my wife won’t allow more cables taking over the room…
    I’ve increasingly felt the band reached some kind of pinnacle of alternative pop with New Gold Dream, sadly it turned out to be blind alley as no one took it further, least of all them. I still think this is one of the greatest albums ever made, it’s that good, but what do I know:)

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Simon H – Yes, in the context of 1982, NGD was just one flower of many in the garden, but time has been exceptionally kind to this blossom. Whereas others, equally colorful at the time, have dimmed and dried with the passage of the years. As seen in retrospect, their accomplishment is all the more stunning. How perfect that it was their commercial breakthrough, though they had achieved one artistically with “Empires + Dance” in my opinion. I still remember my astonishment when listening to the first CD of NGD to discover that the title cut [my favorite song from it] was present in an extended version that I had no clue about at the time. Of course, I’ve subsequently discovered that it’s the Italian 12″ mix but to this day’ I’ve never seen that record!

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