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Misunderstood but rewarding
on 20 April 2010
I'll expand on the technical side, since information is scarce (and only available on the disc menu rather than the packaging). I have the Blu-ray version and the 24bit / 96khz resolution has been used for the Stereo and Quadraphonic mixes. You need a modern AVR to play these with the right HDMI connections. A third option is available which offers the surround in Dolby AC3 4.0 but that doesn't specify whether the sound files are 24/96 - I assume (and hope) they are. It's a standard video Blu-ray Disc so you need a screen to navigate the disc - the menu image remains static throughout each track. I'd guess the DVD (which is DVD video and NOT DVD-A) has the same specs (though it may be 48khz) and this is just offering alternative formats. It's region free, so no compatibility problems.
I compared the new version to the original stereo vinyl. Which was interesting. Oh... and both benefit from playing loud. The 1975 vinyl is actually way louder (which makes comparisons difficult when you have to adjust the volume constantly) - it's a fierce beast more visceral, less cerebral, which is my fancy way of saying more balls, less head. That original stereo vinyl mix is less cluttered and has more attack. However, that makes it harder to listen to - it's almost too simple and intense. The surround (and 4 channel 'stereo') is subtler and more akin to a sonic bath than a shower.
The music? For convenience, let's just stick with sonics. In all the reviews I've read no-one has referenced Neil young's 'Arc', yet I'd say that was the album closest in spirit to this (though much later). Guitar players can really fall in love with that random element called feedback! I never subscribed to the notion that this was an attempt to piss off the record company. There are other ways to do that. No, this is exploration and sincerely intentioned.
Oddly I HAVE played this record on many occasions since 1975. Not all four sides. Just random needle drops. That's because it provokes an emotional response in me. If you've had a bad day and are feeling coiled, then it's great to play loud and cleanse your conscious worries. You can't ignore it and get the mock soothing that background music provides - the absence of lyric, melody or rhythm combined with the sonic assault, allows me to turn inward, retreat and, strangely, feel pacified. The punk version of temple bells.
I've also heard the 'Metal Machine Trio's' album. It's very good but is a very different beast - more conventionally musical. Bet it's great live as well. The conclusion is that if you like Lou Reed for music like 'Perfect Day' then steer clear of the rocks and avoid this. If you're a more adventurous Mr. Ulysses, then get tied to the mast and you may just allow a different siren to bleed through your ear-plugs.