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review added: 10/24/02
updated: 11/12/02


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REO Speedwagon: Live Plus
2002 (2002) - BMG/Sanctuary (5.1 Entertainment/Silverline)

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

DVD-AudioMulti-channelMeridian Lossless Packing CompressionDVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital

REO Speedwagon: Live Plus (DVD-Audio) Album Rating: B

Audio Ratings (DVD-A 5.1/DD 5.1): C-/D-

Extras Rating: C (see details below)

Specs and Features

65 mins, single-sided, single-layered, "super jewel box" packaging, band photos during song playback, music video for Music Man, 10 interview vignettes with Kevin Cronin and Neal Doughty, photo gallery, liner notes, album credits, speaker set-up utility, 4-page booklet, album-themed menu screens, track access (13 tracks - see track listing below), audio formats: DVD-A 5.1 (96/24) & DD 5.1

Produced by Joe Vannelli & Kevin Cronin
5.1 Mastering by 5.1 Studios

Neal Doughty (keyboards), Kevin Cronin (vocals/guitars), Bruce Hall (bass/vocals)
Dave Amato (lead guitar/vocals), Bryan Hitt (drums)



The music machine known as REO Speedwagon has released yet another disc for their fans, this one chronicling a live show in St. Louis at the Riverport Amphitheatre on 6/9/00. And yes, that curious design on the cover is the Arch.

Over the years, REO have authored some enduring hits, ranging from their early years in the early 70s until the late 80s when their hits dried up. Kevin Cronin, REO's most visible personality, joined the band in 1972 to release their 2nd album (REO TWO) only to leave and not reappear until their 6th album (REO) four years later. Mainstay Neal Doughty has been there from the very beginning. However, REO became a powerhouse, not only by releasing hits in a continuous stream but touring constantly to support their albums.

This title dips well into the band's catalog to provide a well rounded snapshot of their history. With songs like Music Man, 157 Riverside Avenue, Ridin' the Storm Out and Keep Pushin' as classics, and the hit machine tunes like Take It on the Run, Can't Fight This Feeling, Time for Me to Fly and Keep on Loving You, this live set delivers a satisfying collection

As a unit that has been around a while, REO shows their undying love for their craft on this disc. Rare is the instance where you can hear a band having such a great time as you do here. Cronin works the crowd with banter that introduces each song, and you can tell he's having fun. As a musical entity, the band has never been tighter. With a couple of new additions (like Dave Amato, of Ted Nugent fame, dishing out steaming and fiery lead lines and Bryan Hitt, formerly of Wang Chung, with solid drumming), REO Speedwagon shows that they're still at the top of their game.

This disc does not replace the genius and excellence of 1977's Live: You Get What You Play For. For REO, that album is the live document that defines the band. But this album does stand up on its own. While you can tell the band is older, you can also tell that they have their performance honed to a science and that they understand their audience. So, if you're an REO fan, this disc will satisfy with an updated look at where they're at now.

High resolution audio discs are the future of music dissemination. However, at this point, they're a mixed bag. With various styles and genres to be tapped, caution must be exercised when re-mixing and re-mastering in order to present the music in such a way so as to preserve the original intent of the recording. That's important. But, from time to time, you run into a mix that isn't stellar. This can happen with live discs.

This DVD-Audio title from 5.1 Entertainment (via their imprint label, Silverline) hints at how live albums can benefit greatly from the advancement of sound technology, but also reveals how a less than proper mix can be detrimental to the entire experience. The 5.1 mix here is very off-kilter. The vocal tracks sound flat and unimpressive, maintaining a consistent level. The drums are clear, while the rest of the instruments merge in and out creating a mix that's not so indicative of live sets. Live shows should come alive with 6-channel encoding, creating sound-staging that recreates the experience of being in the audience. This one misses the mark in that regard.

This disc also includes a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 option, as you might find on a typical DVD-Video concert disc, that allows compatibility with all DVD players. But why you would purchase this disc if you don't yet have DVD-Audio capability is beyond me. The Dolby Digital 5.1 music is not especially good, exhibiting all of the presentation problems of the DVD-Audio 5.1 track, but none of the fidelity improvements owing to the added resolution.

If you watch this with a TV, you'll get still color photos of the band accompanying every song. The main menu is themed with the cover art of the disc and provides you with eight menu options. The first is the playlist from which you can easily select the song that you wish to hear. The second option features a video of Music Man from the DVD of the same name. The third option offers up 10 separate interview vignettes with Kevin Cronin and Neal Doughty, ranging in topic from a history of the band to the present tour. This section is not without its problems however. While I have no complaints about the interviews themselves, I'm a little put off by the accessing process. After watching one interview, you're dumped back to the menu to choose another interview. It would have been convenient to have a "play all" feature, allowing you go from one to the next automatically (unfortunately, DVD-Audio menus aren't very user friendly this early in the game). The next option offers up a photo album of 15 B/W and color shots of the band. Menu option five provides liner notes, while the other options are "About DVD-Audio", a speaker set-up utility and album credits.

REO Speedwagon: Live Plus is packaged in a sturdy super jewel case that is larger than a conventional case used to store CDs. Opening the disc is not a difficult task but the disc is securely sealed when closed. The height of the disc casing takes a little getting used to, but storage of the disc was well thought out by the manufacturers, allowing placement of the spine information on both the side and bottom. If stored at its full height, it will take more space than you're used to. But if turned on its side, it fits nicely in most CD racks (and the spine still identifies the disc).

A 4-page booklet is included that provides ample information, including an abundance of disc credits and a snapshot of Cronin bathed in lights facing his audience. A track listing is also available here. One bad thing here is the noticeable absence of track timing information. It isn't on the disc or the insert. It seems trivial, but some of us actually want that information. Call it a hangover from the past. Old habits die hard. As the DVD-Audio format is in its infancy, it would be nice to see this included in future releases.

5.1 Entertainment and Silverline Records have positioned themselves to deliver high quality DVD-Audio product to the marketplace, with not only current material but also the extensive catalogs that are out there to license. Providing not only 6-channel sound compatible with all existing DVD players, but also high-resolution 6-channel sound (and even, on some discs, high-resolution stereo for purists), the promise of DVD-Audio is undeniable. REO Speedwagon have a few great albums in their catalog that beg to be released in DVD-Audio and SACD. If you ask me, two must have titles are REO TWO and Live: You Get What You Play For. In any case, Live Plus is a start.

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


Track Listing:

Don't Let Him Go
Music Man
Take It on the Run
Keep Pushin'
Can't Fight This Feeling
Tough Guys
That Ain't Love
Time for Me to Fly
Back on the Road Again
Keep on Loving You
Roll with the Changes
Ridin' the Storm Out
157 Riverside Avenue




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