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


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Wishbone Ash: Bare Bones
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

Wishbone Ash: Bare Bones (DVD-Audio) Album Rating: B+

Audio Ratings (DVD-A 5.1/DD 5.1): A-/B-

Extras Rating: D+ (see details below)

Specs and Features

50 mins, single-sided, single-layered, super jewel case packaging, band photos during song playback, liner notes, album credits, speaker set-up utility, 4-page booklet, album-themed menu screens, track access (11 tracks - see track listing below), audio formats: DVD-A 5.1 (96/24) & DD 5.1

Produced by Andy Powell
5.1 Mastering by Charlie Watts

Andy Powell (vocals/guitars), Ben Granfelt (vocals/guitars)
Bob Skeat (vocals/bass/keyboard), Ray Weston (drums)



I'm glad that this title could be one of our inaugural reviews of the high-resolution, DVD-Audio format. Wishbone Ash have been through various lineups. On this release, they have chosen to re-do many classics from those various lineups, including the wonderful Everybody Needs a Friend, in an unplugged style. The songs are from as early as the first Wishbone Ash album (Errors of My Ways), up through to their more recent releases.

Andy Powell, the lone mainstay of Wishbone Ash, having been the core remaining member, continues to carry the torch, keeping the beauty of WBA alive and delighting fans everywhere with continuation. On this album, Andy provides the vocals for all but one track and does a great and endearing job. He also maintains the integrity of the songs and keeps them sounding close as the originals, but with beautiful additions.

For example, in Errors of my Ways, an accordion and violin are introduced that lend a haunting quality to the track. The improvement is stunning. The same applies to Everybody Needs a Friend, with its stripped down but extraordinarily gorgeous rendition, that resonates long after the song has ended. For purists, the lead lines are note for note and incredible to hear reproduced long after their appearance on their Wishbone Four. Every other song on this collection is reproduced with heart and love. Bluesy Hard Times, Baby Don't Mind and the funky Love Abuse are stylishly presented and delivered with respect to their origins (as is every song on this disc). This work only serves to highlight the guitar genius of Andy Powell. There is none other like him.

This disc features the superbly enhanced audio resolution that only DVD-Audio format (along with its rival SACD) can deliver. Bare Bones has been released by 5.1 Entertainment on its imprint label, Silverline.

The disc presents the songs in the same sequential order as its CD counterpart. If you watch this with a TV, you'll get still photos of the band that accompany every song. The disc begins with a menu, much like a DVD-Video disc, that provides you with four options (along with a background picture that represents the cover art of the disc). The first is the play list, from which you can easily select the song that you wish to hear. The second option provides several screens of textual explanation and information about the DVD-Audio format. The third option helps you to configure your speakers so as to achieve the optimal listening experience. The final option is a liner notes section with every song extensively credited, including the remastering crew for this particular disc. The menu system on some DVD-Audio discs seems to be slow and overly cumbersome compared to DVD-Video discs, and this is an area that definitely needs improvement as the format grows. But then again, menus and pictures aren't why you buy a DVD-Audio disc to begin with.

So how does the disc sound? Well... while I generally abhor the 5.1 remixing of older titles that were created in stereo (back when that's all there was), I don't mind hearing what's done for those people who like it. I also don't mind new music mixed in multi-channel formats, because the technology is there for those artists who wish to use it. In fact, I embrace the idea. It's all about creativity and using the tools available. My beef is with audio engineers fiddling with original mono or stereo recordings - people who have no idea what the original artists intended. The usual result is a remix that may, or may not, be what the original artists wanted. For this disc, fortunately, the 5.1 mix is pretty incredible. Sound-staging is accurate and provides a 'you are there' experience. The instruments are all heard in their full splendor: drums are fuller, the bass is deeper and more resonant, and the guitars sound as if they were played right in front of me. Each track is more full bodied and richer compared to its original CD stereo counterpart.

Note that there is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track available here for those who have DVD players that are not DVD-Audio compatible. It's good but only just, and certainly doesn't compare to the fidelity of the DVD-Audio version. It certainly isn't a good enough reason to buy this disc is you don't get have true DVD-Audio capability.

Bare Bones is presented in a sturdy super jewel case that is larger than a conventional case used to store CDs. A 4-page booklet is included that provides all the info that the original CD booklet offered. The difference is that the photos that are on the CD booklet are not included on the DVD-A booklet, but are available as the visual part of every song. So, you're not cheated. All the same, as a purist, I would have liked exact duplication of the booklet.

I'm very excited by the prospect of not only hearing new music in greater clarity on DVD-Audio and SACD, but also music I've known and loved for years. As long as the original audio format (mono, stereo, etc.) is respected and represented on these discs, the advent of high-resolution music can't happen fast enough. Bare Bones is a terrific disc sonically, and I eagerly await similar re-releases of all of Wishbone Ash's library.

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


Track Listing:

Wings of Desire
Errors of My Ways
Master of Disguise
You Won't Take Me Down
Love Abuse
(Won't You Give Him) One More Chance
Baby Don't Mind
Living Proof
Hard Times
Strange Affair
Everybody Needs a Friend




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