2013 was a really great year for music with many fine releases by artists old and new. Here is a look at some of my favorite music-related movies, surround sound discs, HD downloads, vinyl LPs and archival releases from throughout the year. I have to acknowledge some notable omissions since I haven’t heard them yet, including the 5.1 surround versions of Van Morrison’s Moondance and The Band Live at Academy of Music 1971, plus new releases from Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam. There is so much out there, but this a good place to start catching up on some things you may have missed.
Grateful Dead — Sunshine Daydream (Blu-ray, LP and CD) With awesome archival support, mixing and remastering via Plangent Processes and David Glasser (Blu-ray) and Jeffrey Norman (CD, 5.1 mix), this legendary never before officially released lost film and soundtrack was restored beyond almost every Dead Head’s wildest imagination. The Dolby TrueHD audio on the Blu-ray Disc is clear, full-bodied and tight. The 5.1 surround mix delivers a good basic live concert mix (mostly from a live stage perspective). And the CDs containing the entire concert are wonderful. Essential for Dead Heads and anyone interested in seeing what the ’60s vibe was all about, this is a great place to start, even if it did take place in 1972.
Sound City (Blu-ray and LP)
If you like movies about rock and roll and want an important lesson in both the history and process of making hit recordings, Dave Grohl’s Sound City is essential viewing. If you just want to play some new rock ‘n’ roll turned up real loud like you (or your Dad!) used to do back in the day – you know, the stereo cranked up to 11 and all that – well then, the companion soundtrack LP, subtitled “Real to Real,” is just what the doctor ordered. Pressed on high quality, thick, audiophile-worthy vinyl!
While Godfrey Reggio’s groundbreaking trio of films – Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqatsi and Nogoyqatsi – remain stunning and look better than ever, now you can also hear Philip Glass’ stellar soundtracks to them in 5.1 surround from Criterion on Blu-ray disc. While I would have liked to have heard a bit more discrete multi-channel activity, I do understand that the focus must remain on the films which frankly are already intense enough as they are. That said, these discs look and sound great. Side note: I realize this set came out in mid-December 2012, but in my book, that makes it essentially a 2013 release.
Frank Zappa’s A Token of His Extreme (DVD)
() The legendary 1974 Zappa TV special finally sees the light of day, showcasing peak Roxy-era band performances in a mix made by Zappa himself back in the day. This is a DVD-only release, but I suspect that was due to the fact that the program was taped on video, which means it has limited video resolution and thus is serviced adequately by the standard DVD. format
Surround Sound Audio-Only Releases
XTC’s Nonsuch (Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, CD)
Steven Wilson’s new 5.1 surround mix is tastefully immersive, making sure the music doesn’t loose its rock tightness, yet taking advantage of the surrounds wherever it makes sense. This reissue arguably reinvents the album for your reconsideration as one of the great lost pop masterpieces of the early 1990s.
Yes’ Close to the Edge (Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, CD)
() You read that correctly. Yes’ masterwork has been remixed into 5.1 Surround (again, by Steven Wilson). The new mix is intense, immersive, intriguing and retains the integrity of the original album’s sound. The band and artist Roger Dean oversaw this reissue personally and it shows, as they got all the packaging details near perfect this time around.
Primus’ Sailing the Seas of Cheese (Blu-ray, CD)
Les Claypool finds the sweet spot, transforming his band’s early ’90s breakthrough alternative hit into an immersive listen that even the most dubious prog-rock cynic will want to check out.
Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick (DVD, CD)
The 1972 prog rock classic in 5.1 surround? You betcha! They also put out 1970’s Benefit in 5.1 this year. Kudos again to surround engineer/producer Steven Wilson for figuring out how to do these mixes in a way that the artists and fans are excited about.
By Mark Smotroff, HomeTheaterReview