Steely Dan-Two Against Nature (DVD-Audio) (2000) (NTSC)

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Released 24-Sep-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Gallery-Photo
Discography
Credits
Lyrics
Credits-Song
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 51:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Walter Becker
Donald Fagen
Case DVD-Audio Jewel
RPI $32.95 Music Steely Dan


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English MLP 96/24 5.1
English MLP 96/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Not being a Steely Dan fan at all, even I have to concede that they did produce some great albums in the 1970s and 1980s — most notably Aja and Gaucho. So why exactly am I sitting down to review an album by a band that has been very silent for a long time? Luck of the draw really — I volunteered to help with clearing a review backlog and this is one of the discs that came. When first sighted, I did try and recall exactly why I was never a Steely Dan fan, and the reason became staggeringly clear the moment that Gaslighting Abbie started playing. That smooth, silky sound that epitomises for me the word muzak brought all that buried disgust back to the surface. In fact, the sound is so typical of what I perceive Steely Dan to be that this sounded like one of those albums from the 1970s. Of course, that is not the case as Two Against Nature was released in 2000, debuted at number 6 in the Billboard 200, attained platinum status and proceeded to win four Grammys in 2001 including the big one: Album Of The Year. Not that winning multiple Grammys means much these days, given the huge numbers that they seem to dole out for the most esoteric categories. Still, it must mean that someone, somewhere, must hold this album in some regard.

    As an aside, the fact that the first studio album from a band in twenty years, and one that is so etched in the 1970s that it is not funny, can win Album Of The Year only serves to confirm the appalling state of popular music in recent times.

    Despite the fact that their sound seems to have barely changed in thirty years, this is actually a quite decent album. That smooth silky sound that I hated so much in the 1970s actually has somewhat more appeal nowadays. It is still not the sort of stuff that I would be throwing into the player on a regular basis, and frankly most of the songs overstay their welcome a bit, but this could find its way there every so often.

    One of the Grammys that the album won was Best Engineered Album/Non Classical. On the evidence here, that was a very deserved win. If nothing else, you do immediately note just how good this album sounds. That some care has been taken with the sound for the album is to seriously understate the situation it would seem. Whilst it is hardly an overtly demonstration-class album in this regard, you sure come to appreciate that its understatement is one of the sound's strengths. I would willingly throw this in the player to demonstrate what good sound is. So if their music is to your taste, there is unlikely to be much here that will not have you thoroughly enjoying fifty minutes of pure nostalgia from a modern day album.

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Track Listing

1. Gaslighting Abbie
2. What A Shame About Me
3. Two Against Nature
4. Janie Runaway
5. Almost Gothic
6. Jack Of Speed
7. Cousin Dupree
8. Negative Girl
9. West Of Hollywood

Transfer Quality

Video

    There is no real video on the disc, as everything comprises NTSC menus and stills. These are clear and sharp, and rather nicely done, within the context of the nature of the album.

Audio

    Stone the crows! There are four soundtracks on the album, and three of them are surround efforts! Well, after the review session you can bet that I was starting to know the music pretty well. The soundtracks on the disc are: a DVD-Audio only MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 5.1 soundtrack, a DVD-Audio only MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 2.0 soundtrack, a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 448 kb/s soundtrack and a DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 1536 kb/s soundtrack. As usual, I listened to the 5.1 soundtracks in their entirety, whilst briefly sampling the 2.0 soundtrack.

    The presence of three surround sound tracks is almost overkill, as there are remarkable similarities between them. If you want the short précis of the order or merit, the Dolby Digital effort is the best, with the dts and MLP pretty much identical, and only marginally behind it. Whatever your choice of soundtrack is here, enforced or otherwise, you are sure to be pleased.

    The DVD-Audio compatible MLP 5.1 soundtrack was again the first through the player, and it really is a nice sounding effort. Obviously the sound has been engineered to maximise that nice smooth sound, and this soundtrack demonstrates it in abundance. There is nothing flashy here at all, but you do notice the nice detail in the rear surrounds, the lovely balance between the front and rear channels, and the generally nice soundscape that is enticingly encompassing. The sound is open and clear, and it suits the music so well that I would almost go as far as to say that this is perhaps the best matching of sound and music that I have heard yet on DVD-Audio. There is absolutely nothing that I can say against the quality of the soundtrack.

    The DVD-Audio compatible MLP 2.0 soundtrack was the second effort sampled, and serves to demonstrate how effective the quietly understated surround soundtrack is. Even so, there is nothing wrong with this soundtrack, at all. Again it features a nice clean, open sound that is superior to CD sound. It seems to have a lot more definition to the sound than anything I have heard on CD recently.

    The DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 soundtrack was the third effort through the player and is something of an ear-opener. Not because it is vastly superior to the MLP 5.1 soundtrack, but rather because it is about as unique a dts soundtrack as I have heard. This does not feature that overt, very present sound that we tend to expect with the format. This is a much more subtle sounding effort that really is very, very similar to the MLP 5.1 soundtrack in every way. If I were to try and describe the sound adequately, I would perhaps have to say that the sound is rather more specific in the channels rather than the usually fuller sounds from every channel. In the end though it sounds really good and the only qualm would be that I would have hoped for just a tad more body in the rear surround channels. One annoying trait with the soundtrack though is that at the end of the album, rather than returning to the menu, the disc simply stops completely. This is also the case with the Dolby Digital soundtrack.

    The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is excellent, and in my book the best on the disc. It is different from the other surround sound efforts in that it has more bass. Whilst the music does not need much in the way of bass, there is little doubt in my mind that it certainly does benefit from the extra presence that the bass here affords it. It is not an overpowering bass sound, but the additional presence and body it gives the music simply lifts everything to a slightly better level. Certainly the added presence gives the music a more encompassing feel and places you more centrally in the overall soundscape.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Booklet

    An okay twelve page effort, even if it just presents the lyrics and credits again. Given the Grammys it won and given the fact that it is the first studio album of the band in twenty years, some commentary would surely not have been out of place?

Gallery - Photo

    Ten highly variable in quality photographs, although tending towards average quality. Accessible in DVD-Audio mode only. Not really worthwhile given the average quality of the photographs.

Discography (Also By Steely Dan)

    Not much of one since it only mentions the previous Alive In America album. A waste of time and space given the extent of their body of music. Accessible in DVD-Audio mode only.

Credits

    Basically repeating those included in the booklet. Accessible in DVD-Audio mode only.

Lyrics

    Exactly what it says and accessible during playback. Accessible in DVD-Audio mode only.

Credits - Song

    Listing of the culprits for each song. Accessible in DVD-Audio mode only.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD-Audio disc is identical in content and format around the world.

Summary

    I went into this review session with rather low expectations since I am no great fan of Steely Dan. The fact that I remain a non-fan is not of great issue here. What is of great issue is that it is a decent album and that the sound engineering has been done extremely well and provides the music with all the support that it needs. Whilst we tend to toss the words "demonstration quality" around with gay abandon at times, and then usually in the context of lots of dynamic sound, this is a terrific example of how sound can be both understated and demonstration quality. I would certainly urge you to check this disc out, even if I would not necessarily say that it is an essential purchase. The extras package is a disappointment, though.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, December 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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