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Archive for July 15th, 2011

Review: Michael Giacchino, “Up: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

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Well, the release of Up is such big news here at Second Disc HQ that we felt one review just wasn’t enough!  We hope you’re as excited as we are about our first-ever “tag team” review.  To start things off, here’s Mike Duquette…

It’s fitting, really, that Intrada’s first soundtrack reissue in conjunction with The Walt Disney Company is a score to a film about fulfilling a lifelong dream. It’s been a dream of Disney fans for years to see some sort of stable catalogue presentation from the beloved film studio.

Granted, the catalogue presence from Walt Disney Records was and is top-notch, thanks to guys like producer Randy Thornton, who’s overseen a lot of the great releases from the fabled Disney vault throughout the past few decades. (The 40th anniversary edition of the Mary Poppins soundtrack and box sets for both Disneyland’s 50th anniversary and the 1964 World’s Fair exhibits are just three such projects par excellence.) But Walt Disney Records isn’t a major label, and doesn’t have the muscle like Rhino or Legacy might in getting those catalogue projects out there.

That’s where Intrada came in. Their sterling reputation as a label that knows how to put together a great soundtrack – and the knowledge of what will sell (recall the sellouts of their Predator and Spacecamp reissues in under a day each) – makes them the ideal partners to spread the Disney magic to the hungry, loving soundtrack collector’s market.

Thus, the first release from the label/studio partnership: the Oscar and Grammy-winning soundtrack to Disney/Pixar’s Up (Walt Disney Records/Intrada D0013727-02), composed by Michael Giacchino. It’s not the deepest catalogue offering from a musical legacy that stretches back nearly 75 years – but it does finally right a major wrong in not having the soundtrack on physical media. And, it’s a hell of a score.

Giacchino, whose star rose off the backs of scores to television shows like Alias and Lost as well as video games in the Medal of Honor series, solidified his reputation with scores to Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille. But it’s Up that made him a star, in this writer’s book. Maybe it’s the subject material. The film’s plot – an old man with a bunch of balloons and a shared dream with his late wife travels down to South America and has the adventure of a lifetime – was stunningly simple yet wildly sublime.

Everything about the movie, from key scenes (the sob-inducing, wordless overture, in which the birth and death of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen’s lifelong relationship is chronicled), to delightful characters (who wouldn’t want a dog like Dug, the lovable mutt with a collar that allows him to speak?) to appealing geometric patterns (notice Carl’s square build in contrast to the round frame of eight-year-old stowaway Russell), makes Up a high watermark in animation, right up there with Mickey Mouse steering Steamboat Willie along the river, the presentation of Simba, the Lion King, before an adoring audience of savannah dwellers and Woody and Buzz Lightyear’s high-flying adventure over a moving van.

Notice that all those moments are marked by great music, too. Giacchino doesn’t disappoint, creating themes and motifs in the great tradition of film composers from Korngold to Williams. The ragtime-esque adventure theme, the beautiful waltz that accompanies Carl and Ellie’s life together, the sinister overtones of the villainous Charles Muntz – all of them paint the kind of musical picture that can be enjoyed without the visual accompaniment, the hallmark of all great film soundtracks.

Mike looks at Intrada’s presentation of the score after the jump, and Joe offers his views! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

July 15, 2011 at 11:08

Eagles, Deep Purple, Yes! Out-Of-Print DVD-Audios Coming To SACD

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It wasn’t so long ago that high-resolution audio formats like SACD and DVD-Audio were shelved alongside CDs at major retailers such as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble and Borders. Yet with today’s retail landscape perhaps irrevocably altered (and still evolving and shrinking, thanks to the likely-imminent liquidation of Borders), those formats have been consigned to niche shoppers. For those who discovered high-rez and 5.1 audio late, the best source for many releases has been eBay, often at outrageously steep prices. Well, slight relief may be forthcoming. The Japanese SACD market has been booming of late, with Universal having issued a number of titles as stereo SACDs, including some new to the format. Now, Warner Japan is one-upping its rival label with the August release of five 5.1 surround SACDs drawn from the long-dormant Warner Bros./Rhino DVD-Audio line and six further additions in September. Unlike the Universal titles, these will be hybrid multichannel SACDs, with the stereo layer playable on all CD players. And while the prices of Japanese SACDs are indeed high, they’re in most cases lower than what the original DVD-Audio titles are currently commanding on the secondhand market.

The five titles launching the series are all bona fide classics of popular music: Eagles’ Hotel California; Deep Purple’s Machine Head; Yes’ Fragile; Chicago’s Chicago V and Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New. These will be followed in September by another round of five acclaimed titles: Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Doobie Brothers’ The Captain and Me, Foreigner’s 4 and The Doors’ self-titled debut album. The majority of these titles were originally mixed for surround and released by Rhino on DVD-Audio between 2001 and 2003. The Nightfly was reissued in 2004 as a short-lived experiment in the DualDisc format and again as an “MVI” disc in the 2007 Nightfly Trilogy box set (that last one lacking Advanced Resolution), while the surround mix of The Doors arrived in 2006 as part of Rhino’s Perception box.

For collectors, these could be a great boon. CDJapan (one of the many trusted sites from which to purchase Japanese imports) offers the titles at roughly $38 USD a pop.  At the time of this writing, the least-expensive Amazon Marketplace prices for the original DVD-As (most, used) are much higher: $124.95 for Hotel California, $69.69 for Machine Head, $50.00 for Fragile, and $69.93 for Chicago V. What’s New is the most affordable title of the first batch in the DVD-A format, available now for $25.50. Of the second batch, Foreigner 4 is another high-priced title at $124.97; the others hover around the $50.00 mark, and The Doors is making its stand-alone surround debut.

Three of these titles have been mixed into surround by the dean of the format, Elliot Scheiner. His 5.1 mixes are notable for generous (but not gimmicky!) use of all channels for a truly immersive, atmospheric listening experience. The Scheiner titles included in the first two waves are Hotel California, The Nightfly, and The Captain and Me.  Any of those three would make a terrific introduction to surround music and, in fact, The Nightfly is this author’s reference-quality disc of choice.

Hit the jump for the complete track listings to these titles! We have included the bonus tracks present on the original DVD-Audio releases, as it is thought they will be included on the new SACDs. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 15, 2011 at 09:49