(2002) - 5.1 Entertainment (Immergent Records)
by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits
Audio Ratings (DVD-A 5.1/PCM 2.0): B-/B
Extras Rating: C+ (see specs
Specs and Features
45 mins, single-sided, single-layered, super jewel case packaging,
band photos or lyrics available during playback, Studio
Scrapbook behind-the-scenes video (4 mins), gallery of
live performance and studio photos (24 images), audio commentary for
each song, Easter egg (Opaline
demo track - PCM 2.0), liner notes insert booklet, album-themed menu
screens, track access (11 tracks - see track
listing below), audio formats: DVD-A 5.1 (96/24), DD 5.1, PCM
by Mark Mazzetti & Gregg Wattenberg
5.1 Mastering by Gary Lux with Mr. Hayes at 5.1 Studios
J.R. Richards (vocals/guitars/keyboards), Rodney Browning Cravens
(guitars/vocals), Jim Wood (keyboards/vocals), Pete Maloney
(drums/percussion/vocals) and Scot Alexander (bass/vocals)
was the first major U.S. album to be released day-and-date in both
CD and DVD-Audio versions. As such, it was said to herald many other
day-and-date releases to follow. Still to follow would probably be a
better way to phrase it because, more than a year later, there
haven't been many similar releases. That aside, Opaline
represents a nice opening salvo for the DVD-A format.
Dishwalla's third studio album is a pleasantly thread-bare,
personal and heartfelt examination of some rather tough emotional
issues. Its tracks touch upon loss, depression and even obsession,
while always maintaining a sort of hopeful quality. J.R. Richards'
soulful vocals intone the listener to buck up and soldier on, while
the band around him explores a surprising variety of musical styles
and influences. Opaline feels
very much like the sound of a band finding their identity, coming
into their own at a time when so many other groups churn through the
pop grinder and fail to maintain their relevance.
Highlights of the album include When
Morning Comes, Mad Life
and the mournful Candleburn.
Of all the tracks, Somewhere in the
Middle perhaps most captures Dishwalla's signature sound,
while the title track itself is a glossy and hypnotic confection.
It's also damned infectious. With a slightly Middle Eastern flavor
and fluid percussion, Opaline
is unique on the album and is still haunting my brain's short-term
In terms of sonic presentation, both the high-resolution 5.1 and
2.0 mixes are clean, well-layered and nicely melodic. It's been my
experience thus far that Meridian Lossless Packing Compression (MLP)
just isn't quite as transparent as the Direct Stream Digital (DSD)
mastering process employed by SACD discs. That said, the sound
presented here is completely rich and smooth in quality. The
surround mix is sparing and relaxed, but effective, with the front
soundstage widened into the surrounds. The result isn't particularly
active, but it's nicely enveloping and pleasant. I prefer the stereo
mix, but it's close enough to be a toss-up.
Those with standard DVD-Video players can choose between Dolby
Digital 5.1 surround and PCM 2.0 stereo options. DVD-Audio players
default automatically to the higher-resolution audio options and,
unfortunately, you can't down-select the lower-resolution options
via the disc's menus (the choices you get are an automatic function
of the type of DVD player you have). The menus are surprisingly
cumbersome, taking their sweet time to grind from page to page.
They're also not anamorphic compatible (which makes little sense
when you consider that most consumers savvy enough to have DVD-Audio
capable players are likely also to have anamorphic displays). Also,
whereas with a DVD-Video disc the "menu" button on your
remote is the one that takes you out of program material, it's
useless with many DVD-Audio discs. "Title" or "Top
Menu" are the non-intuitive choices you must make instead.
These are weakness typical of the DVD-Audio discs I've sampled thus
far... and indicative of the progress than still needs to be made
with the format.
In terms of bonus material, you're given the option of viewing
either lyrics or band photos during each song (lyrics appear by
default). There are two photo galleries, one of the band on stage
and one of them in the studio, which collectively contain 24 images.
There's also a 4-minute Studio Scrapbook
video of the band in the studio set to the song Home.
The best feature by far is the commentary, in which brief audio
snippets of the various band members can be heard, with the
particular song they're discussing playing in the background.
Commentary with all-audio content is a real challenge, but it works
fairly well here. Also included is an Easter egg demo track of Opaline
(44/16 PCM 2.0) - just navigate left from the Opaline
selection in the playlist to highlight the statue's eye.
While it's not the best DVD-Audio release I've experienced thus
far, Dishwalla's Opaline is
good in terms of overall presentation and production quality,
despite its clunky video interface. It's also a damned solid album
from a band that has what it takes to hang around a while.
Definitely worth a look.
Angels or Devils
Somewhere in the Middle
Every Little Thing
When Morning Comes