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Dire Straits: Alchemy Live [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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Alchemy was a double live album originally released in 1984 with an accompanying VHS, now released on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time and contains the following:
Main Content (90 minutes)
23rd July 1983, Hammersmith Odeon, London
***Intro*** (Saturday Night At The Movies)
1. Once Upon a Time in the West
2. Expresso Love
3. Romeo & Juliet
4. Private Investigations
5. Sultans of Swing
6. Two Young Lovers
7. Tunnel of Love
8. Telegraph Road
9. Solid Rock
10. Going Home - Theme from 'Local Hero'
Bonus Content (79 minutes)
Live TV Performances
• Tunnel Of Love (The Old Grey Whistle Test 29/11/1980)
• Sultans of Swing (The Old Grey Whistle Test 16/05/1978)
BBC Arena: Dire Straits [58 mins] 22/12/1980
The Blu-ray edition also includes the original accompanying album as downloadable MP3 files.
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Carruthers work on Dire Straits Alchemy Live is very disappointing I must say, the 4:3 aspect ratio is hardly fitting for today's technology of Blu Ray, and the grain in the film is perhaps the major factor as to why Carruthers could not of done a lot to the actual film footage. If anything at all it's hardly any better than VHS quality, which is rather a shame. But then again one can only work with what they have in the first place, and one must remember that the Hammersmith Odeon can be a very dark and dismal place to be quite honest, I've been there myself on a number of occasions. So it's far from the best place to film an actual concert especially with what equipment they had back then. If there are area's Carruthers as touched up, they are certainly in the lighting department, which does come out very good at times during the show. However over all its all rather disappointing.
Chuck Ainlay is the very same sound engineer who was behind the 5.1 SACD mix of Dire Straits Brothers in Arms album, the work he done on that album was tremendous, and for that I have a lot of respect for this guy. Ainlay's work on the sound for Alchemy Live here presented on Blu Ray in a DTS HD 5.1 Master soundtrack is once again shear top notch, it's pure class and by far way better than the vinyl album or any CD release of this album. It plays back at 96khz with shear perfection of great detail to every instrument upon the stage. I have never heard Alchemy Live sound so good, you would have to have been at the actual concert itself to better it. The sound is pure and direct and panned very well with great warmth in putting you directly with the audience, and gives one the sense of actually being there. This alone makes up for the rather poor picture quality, and adds great value to the Blu Ray disc itself. I take my hat off to Chuck for doing yet another marvelous job.
Dire Straits Alchemy Live may have it's downfalls regarding to it's 4:3 picture quality, and in all fairness I would have give this Blu Ray a 1 star here for this. But the sound is totally marvelous and quite breathtaking and worth every one of its 5.1 stars. The concert itself is worthy of its 5 stars no doubt, and the bonus features are once again superb especially with the Arena Documentary giving one some good insight into the bands early career.
I'm sure fans of this timeless gig need no more convincing to upgrade to DVD/Blu-Ray, but the Blu-Ray version left me a little underwhelmed. The 5.1 surround mix simply seemed to be a more subtle remix of the standard PCM Stereo mix, and the rear speakers were totally under-used, some could say even absent.
The picture quality, although a vast improvement from the original VHS, nicely cleaned up and fairly crisp - is hardly 1080p reference material - and the 4:3 format with the black edges does little to bring the concert bang up to date in terms of modern TV's.
The hidden gem on this Blu-Ray however is the BBC 'Arena' Documentary from 1980, which I had never previously seen. It contains some nice insights into how obviously draining the two years of constant touring had been for the band, and captures the time in the run up to the release of the third album, 'Making Movies' just before David Knopfler and Pick Withers left the band. The documentary contains some amazing rare live footage from the early days of the 'Straits including versions of 'Where Do You Think You're Going', 'Down to The Waterline', 'Les Boys' and a version of 'Making Movies' which is radically different from the version which finally made it onto the album itself.
So all in all, anyone who is an avid Dire Straits fan will lap this release up. Those of you without Blu-Ray, don't get too hung up as the DVD contains all these extra goodies - and the jump in picture quality on the Blu-Ray is perhaps for purists only.
In summary I give this 5 out of 5 for the concert and documentary, but 3 out of 5 for a less then perfect Blu-Ray presentation.
The HD DTS is nothing startling either.
The 3 stars are for Mr Knopfler and friends who are all at the top of their game and give the definitive versions of all the songs.
I might sell this on ebay and seek out the DVD version.
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