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review added: 4/7/03

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Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
1973 (2003) - Capitol/EMI

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

Super Audio CDStereo/Multi-ChannelDirect Stream DigitalCompact Disc Audio compatible

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (SACD) Album Rating: A+

Audio Ratings (SACD 5.1/2.0): A+/A+

Extras Rating: N/A

Specs and Features

43 mins, single-sided, dual-layered (SACD/CD Hybrid Disc), CD jewel case packaging, liner notes booklet, track access (10 tracks - see track listing below), audio formats: SACD DSD 5.1 & 2.0, CD PCM 2.0

Engineered by Alan Parsons
Produced by Pink Floyd
5.1 Surround Mix by James Guthrie
5.1/Stereo Mastering by Doug Sax and James Guthrie at das boot recording DSD Authoring for SACD by Gus Skinas

David Gilmour (vocals/guitars/VCS3), Nick Mason (percussion/tape effects), Richard Wright (keyboards/vocals/VCS3), Roger Waters (bass guitar/vocals/VCS3/tape effects)



"There's someone in my head but it's not me..."

What can be said about this album that hasn't already been said? Of course, we have to put away our dictionary of superlatives, otherwise we would tap into it quite extensively here. And with good reason. Pink Floyd's seminal work, Dark Side of the Moon, is already sealed in history.

Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd's best known musical plunge into the inner workings of insanity. Because it delivers a timeless and haunting quality, it becomes an extraordinarily commanding experience. Spliced with the need to address member Syd Barrett's descent into the uncharted territories of the mind, and the obvious ability to create and express their observations, Pink Floyd embarked on a journey so remarkable that it set them apart in dramatic fashion. It set them apart from other psychedelic and though-provoking bands of their period. It also set them apart, in that sales of this album are a thing of legend.

Interestingly, not only did DSotM explore the mind of Syd Barrett (shrouded with schizophrenia which was strengthened by his LSD usage - he was replaced by Dave Gilmour to allow for his writing without having to tour or record), it also unleashed a generation of drug users to "experience" the album. No message, no censure... just pure introspection.

To comment further on the artistic quality of these songs is foolish. Volumes have been written (in much better detail) about these tracks in the great expanse of the album's 30-year history. Better to talk about the effects of the added high-resolution and surround mix instead.

At this point in the early timeline of SACD, even with several high profile titles already available (The Rolling Stones/The Police) and soon to be (Peter Gabriel/ Bob Dylan), this new version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon instantly becomes the single most essential SACD to date. This release is nothing less than a milestone for the format. The 1973 stereo original, although incredible in its own right, still felt caged. We knew back then that there was room for it to grow. When the Quadraphonic format hit the market, which album do you suppose was tapped for expansion? Of course... Pink Floyd's DSotM. Now, with the advent of 5.1 sound and high resolution quality, it's a natural choice to re-realize this classic.

Designed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the album, this remix also strives to be more than just another remastering effort. It's designed to be a gift to the fans in every way. It was decided from the beginning to remaster the album using DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology, and to also price the disc competitively with standard 'redbook' CDs. Even the date of the original's release was closely followed for the SACD hybrid to achieve a sense of harmony.

That said, it was decided by the powers that be to have James Guthrie (a close associate of the band for quite some time) mix and master the 5.1 and stereo components of the album. And while it may be a bit of a shock that original engineer, Alan Parsons, was not invited to assist in the production, the album has not suffered in any way. Simply put, DSotM shines in every aspect of this disc.

The production quality of the new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes is nothing short of astonishing - the SACD is a sonic masterpiece. Every note of every song comes alive. Every instrument and sound is allowed to speak, this time with true audio purity. And that's just the stereo! The surround mix expands on the chilling aspects of DSotM. Each channel becomes a conduit to a vital engulfment of the listener. To say that it's an immersive experience is to short-change the effect. The reality is in the surrealism - you become the estranged mind. In a 'closed -eye' environment, you become transported. The mix, in its purity, is the driving engine.

There is no gimmicky placement of effects. The 5.1 mix here feels quite natural in a progressive sense. From the cash register sound effects in Money, to the clocks and guitar swirls of Time, the mix for each song is done with just the right touch and sensibility. The way I see it, James Guthrie should be asked to do every 5.1 SACD project from here on out. For every band.

But as good as the new 5.1 mix is, this writer is still left with the feeling that DSotM hasn't yet reached its full potential. It still feels caged. That's not to detract from the beauty of this SACD in any way... it's just a telling reminder of how great and enduring this album truly is.

It should be noted that there is little in the way of extras here. But you do get a hybrid "redbook" layer, compatible with all existing CD players. And the 20-page insert booklet, that accompanies the disc, is complete with new photographs and artwork, along with a look at the original art and other odds and ends. The lyrics are included too, along with credits for every aspect of this work.

Any way you slice it, this is a high quality effort from one of Rock's greatest bands. With a redone cover by Storm Thorgenson, updated to instill modernity to a classic, this new release of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is truly an ongoing, and enthralling, experience. Whether you listen to it as background music in the car (thanks to its CD transportability) or soak in all of its high-resolution potential, you'll be captured by the power of the material. And the quality of this SACD, whichever mix you choose, absolutely brings it alive.

"And if the band you're playing in starts playing different tunes...
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon..."


Matt Rowe
mattrowe@thedigitalbits.com
Visit Matt Rowe's MusicTAP ------ Music Flows There!


Track Listing:

Speak to Me
Breathe
On the Run
Time
The Great Gig in the Sky
Money
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
Eclipse


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