|Review by fredblue May 16, 2009 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
|Initially I couldn't understand how no users here on sa-cd.net had already reviewed this disc. Now I'm beginning to understand. It's very hard to find and probably also not an artist on many SACD-equipment owners' radar!?
Anyway, after many false starts and attempts to track this one down I finally snagged one. It felt like a great achievement as every shop, seller and dealer I bought it from or approached turned out only to have the regular redbook and not the SACD! Not so unusual, this has happened once or twice before with a seller getting their info wrong, but everyone who said they had this one on SACD didn't, as opposed to one or two failures in the past! From this, I can only deduce it's now a rare SACD. Perhaps it was all along?
I eventually picked it up (for a rather hefty price!) on Tower records' website. And while I can't fault Tower at all for their service and their price as it's been such a toughy to find, it's all a bit of a disappointment and certainly not worth my efforts.
I'll leave any subjective viewpoint on the artist himself, or this albums' quality/content, and purely focus on the SACD presentation. I can only begin by saying the surround mix is inconsistent and that is the 'nicest' thing I can say about it. Sometimes it's discrete, sometimes there's virtually nothing going on in the rears and in some instances there's merely some ambiance from the fronts. For some reason some of the backing vocals that are channeled through the rears have a rather "tinny" timbre to them. That's all I can describe it as really. Not the full, lush, full-range sound I am used to hearing from well mixed Multi-channel SACD's.
Now that's just the beginning of my gripes on this one, I'm afraid.. although I've not had the chance to sample the Stereo SACD layer yet, so that might be fantastic but I'm not sure I will make the time. As churlish as it may sound, on the "strength" of the multi-channel layer, I doubt it's going to be worth it.
Why? Because I believe this album to have been rather poorly recorded in the first place and no amount of high-resolution SACD "wizardry" can make up for that. For the most part Ronan's vocals are fed through the centre channel, as well as bled over into the front pair but they are so thin and brittle sounding, with no warmth or ambience to them. This is the first time I have experienced, or rather endured, such a grating and unpleasant "metallic" edge to the vocals in over 50 Multi-channel SACD discs.
Worse still, everything is "pumped up" so it's loud but there's no real dynamics to the sound. Drums have no power but they are over-loud. Bass is all over the place from track to track. Synth sounds and effects have no "texture" to them. Everything is lightweight and splashy, even by "pop" standards of presentation and it makes the record a chore to listen to.
Moreover, the track I was most looking forward to, as it was the one I played constantly when it first came out, "Lovin' each day", seems to be a slower mix and a different edit from the single version, which takes all the vitality out of the track! Not sure it's a fault of the SACD mix itself, more of the Producer perhaps, but the rears did seem to be behaving strangely in this track also, as if elements of the stereo mix had been incorporated into the 5.1 remix that perhaps shouldn't be "heard" or that something was amiss with the mixing/mastering - hard for me to explain unless you hear it yourself to see what I'm getting at, particularly as it's not something I've experienced on SACD before.
In short, the strange sonic 'qualities' of my favourite track from this album ultimately ruined the whole thing and put the final nail in the coffin, for me, of this all-round sonic letdown of a multi-channel SACD. Such a disappointment, especially in view of the hard work involved actually obtaining a copy..!
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