Neil Young-Harvest (DVD-Audio) (1972) (NTSC)

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Released 20-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Featurette-Neil Behind The Barn
Featurette-Elliot Mazer In Front Of The Barn
Gallery-Photo
Lyrics
Credits
Discography
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 39:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor
Reprise Records
Warner Vision
Starring Neil Young
Case Gatefold
RPI $32.95 Music Neil Young


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English MLP 96/24 5.1
English MLP 192/24 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

    This is yet another one of the supposedly seminal albums of rock history that has been notably absent from my compact disc collection all these years. There is a simple enough reason why - I am no great fan of Neil Young. Still, the absence of the album from my collection - it did not make my vinyl collection either - does not mean that I am unaware of the album, for how could anyone be unaware of the album? Anyone with an interest in music is almost certain to have heard at least several songs from the album in the thirty-odd years since it was released, with Heart Of Gold undoubtedly at the top of the list.

    Released in 1972, the album made it all the way to number one on many charts around the world and has long since passed multi-platinum status. Not bad for a country-influenced effort that really does not feature the greatest songwriting you will ever hear, as well as some rather poorish recording. Many of the sonic problems with the album were not at all obvious in its original incarnation on vinyl (a format made to hide recording blemishes in my view). Even initial compact disc issues would not have made such blemishes that obvious. The higher scrutiny of MLP sound, however, does expose the limitations of the source material, especially the stuff recorded at Broken Arrow Barn Studio.

    Indeed, it would probably be not too far from the truth to suggest that the source material here is amongst the the poorest yet given surround sound remixing attention. It has not been especially successful, with there being a deal of controversy in the United States with what is presented on this disc for your enjoyment. There has naturally been a wide range of views on the subject, from utter crap to a masterpiece. I can only conclude that those on the masterpiece side of the equation were listening to a different mix than what we have here. The album might be a classic, but the audio transfer is not. You would be very much advised to preview this one before you part with your money. This review has been delayed for weeks whilst I ponder the quality of the MLP surround soundtrack. I have finally come to the conclusion that my initial thoughts were correct - utter crap.

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Track Listing

1. Out On The Weekend
2. Harvest
3. A Man Needs A Maid
4. Heart Of Gold
5. Are You Ready For The Country?
6. Old Man
7. There's A World
8. Alabama
9. The Needle And The Damage Done
10. Words

Transfer Quality

Video

    The only video on the disc are the featurettes in the extras, everything else comprising NTSC menus and stills. These are clear and reasonably sharp.

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the disc: an MLP 5.1 surround soundtrack, an MLP 2.0 stereo soundtrack, a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1. I will confess to having listened to all the soundtracks, but only the 5.1 soundtracks in their entirety. As indicated above, the MLP 5.1 soundtrack has been the subject of several listens in order to confirm my thoughts regarding it. On the other hand, the MLP 2.0 stereo soundtrack has barely been listened to beyond the first three or four songs on the album as it annoys and disappoints me too much.

    The first soundtrack up for listening was the DVD-Audio MLP 5.1 soundtrack, the soundtrack that has been much spoken of in the United States. The bottom line is it is utter crap. The surround encoding is utterly appalling and takes plenty of effort to get used to. When I stick a new DVD-Audio disc into my player for a listen, I usually have no real problems with what emanates from the speakers. I may not always agree with the style of the presentation, but at least it is usually normal in the soundscape it creates. That is, lead vocals have a frontal presence with background vocals being the predominant vocal in the rear surround channels. The instrumental tracks are usually spread around the surrounds to produce a reasonably natural, surround presence and body. Not here. From the opening chords of Out On The Weekend, this is an assault on your senses the likes of which I have not heard in the format before. What we have here is grotesque balancing with the lead vocals heavily mixed into the rear surrounds and with the only frontal presence being in the centre channel - there being no apparent vocal activity in the front surrounds. The result is an appalling surround sound experience where instead of the main activity being in front of you, the main activity is behind you. In fact sitting listening to the soundtrack is very difficult because of this. The only way I could actually confirm there was frontal activity was by muting the rear channels completely.

    Now this may suit some people, but I would guess that most people will have serious problems adjusting to this major imbalance. Whilst I generally don't have much problem with modest amounts of lead vocal in the rears, this soundtrack is to me very annoying. In order to get any sort of reasonable balance to the sound, you are going to have to play around with your normal settings big time - which really is a serious indictment of how bad the sound is. The only way the soundtrack becomes the least bit acceptable is either this or to move your normal listening position way forward (you might try sitting behind the rear speakers too - that seemed to work a bit better). To add to the calamity that is this soundtrack, the mix has been given a little too much bass. Whilst the overall result has copious amounts of body and presence, this really robs the music of its vocal and guitar core, that I personally feel is the serious strong point of the music. The country inspired sounds simply don't work at all in this soundtrack. Then just when I thought it could not get any worse, we get to the tracks recorded at the Broken Arrow Barn Studio. Now okay, I know these were never the best recordings ever in the first place, but surely something better than this could have been achieved in the surround remastering? The vocals come across recessed, muddy and almost indistinct, and the three songs involved really are woefully flat in dynamics. They are very frontal in nature with hardly anything in the rear surrounds - just about the complete antithesis of the rest of the album. I doubt that I could recall anything as bad as this on a mainstream CD release. I am sure there must have been some but I simply am unable to recall them.

    Just in case you missed the point - a completely crap soundtrack.

    The MLP 2.0 soundtrack is another poor example of the art and despite the maximum sampling rate, comes across with all the rampant power of a limp lettuce leaf. Well, at least it does when the volume level is kept the same as for the 5.1 soundtrack. Anaemic is one description that jumps to mind, but once you crank the volume up a little, the entire character of the soundtrack changes. Without the murdering effects of surround encoding, the soundtrack is a far more palatable listening exercise - in the main. It could still have done with a bit more pizzazz in the engineering department but on the whole it is a far more entertaining soundtrack than its surround sound cousin.

    The DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 soundtrack is a very decent effort, although it does have some of the surround encoding problems of the MLP soundtrack. It too features too much emphasis of the vocals in the rear surround channels, and the overall balance is still a little too rearward for my taste. However, the sound is a degree smoother than the MLP soundtrack and the bass is certainly less prevalent. The result is a sound that suits the music a lot better. It still has a fair degree of body but where the soundtrack scores is a less muddier sound to those tracks recorded at Broken Arrow Barn Studio. They are still not in the same league as the other tracks, but certainly are noticeably better than in the MLP soundtrack. By no means perfect but infinitely more palatable than the MLP soundtrack.

    If the MLP 5.1 soundtrack is a calamity, then the DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is its ugly twin sister. Only this time the bass is way too prevalent in the mix such that it would do Def Leppard real nice. The only problem is of course that Neil Young is not Def Leppard. As I write this, I am listening to this soundtrack and shaking my head sadly over how badly the thump-thump of the bass in several tracks just about drowns out the lead vocals and guitar. In just about every other respect, this is the twin of the MLP 5.1 soundtrack. Oodles of presence but for all the wrong reasons. Another failure and a half in the mastering process. This definitely does not improve when sitting behind the rear speakers.

    The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a decent effort and if this is the only way you can listen to the disc... well, you just may have the best part of the deal. The sound has a distinct mono feel to it with the centre channel being predominant, but there is actually some subtle front surround channel use included in the mix. Overall, this is about the best way to listen to the album - a very sad state of affairs for this seminal release.

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

Extras

Booklet

    A rather pointless folded up piece of parchment which basically repeats the song lyrics from the disc itself. Surely a seminal album, one of the most important in rock history by all accounts, deserves something better than this?

Featurette - Neil Behind The Barn (approx 10:00)

    Unusually without any time information encoded, this is an interview filmed behind the barn at Broken Arrow. Obviously filmed on a hand held 8mm camera or similar (you have the whirring noise of the camera throughout the interview), all this does is increase my disdain for the man. Hardly the most coherent ten minutes every put to film, it contains little that is of value to the average punter. Of course, diehard Neil Young fans will have by now got the voodoo dolls out and will be firing profane e-mails at me... Presented in a Full Frame format, which is of course not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with wholly inappropriate Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The material itself suffers from the same problems that any 8mm film that is thirty years old suffers. Very much a pointless nostalgic look at a man many proclaim as a genius.

Featurette - Elliot Mazer In Front Of The Barn (approx 2:00)

    Also lacking any time information encoded, this is an interview filmed in front of the barn at Broken Arrow. If I thought the Neil Young effort was pointless, this is even more so. The presentation is the same as the previous effort too.

Gallery - Photo

    Comprising thirteen photos, one for each song with an additional three for Words. Nothing exciting. Accessible during playback in DVD-Audio mode and from the menu only in DVD-Video mode.

Lyrics

    Accessible during playback in DVD-Audio mode, but from only the menu in DVD-Video mode, there is nothing terribly exciting about them.

Credits

    Accessible during playback of each song in DVD-Audio mode, but only from the menu during DVD-Video mode, these are quite good. They provide basic details of the recording date and location and the people involved. Better than the average presentation for such information.

Discography

    A four page text listing of the collective works of Neil Young, covering Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Crazy Horse and his solo stuff (and probably more that I missed). The listing gives the album release dates and record label, but no other details.

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 is identical in content and format around the world.

Summary

    Whilst I might not be a fan of the man or his music, the frequency with which this album appears in Top 100 lists of various kinds indicates that it is a classic album. Accordingly, this should be a release that is heralded in the most expansive manner possible. Instead, we have one of the most misguided surround sound mixes that I have ever heard, a sound mix that basically destroys the entire ambience of the album. When you also consider the ridiculously hollow MLP stereo soundtrack too, this basically falls into the atrocious category as far as the soundtracks are concerned. Whilst it sound better then it ever has on CD, the source material itself simply does not aid the situation at all, with the stuff recorded at Broken Arrow Barn Studio so muddy that it is basically unlistenable. Sadly, when coupled with a pointless extras package, this is a release to be avoided at all costs in my view. I would suspect that the CD recording, which is far cheaper, would be the better way of going.

    To round out a disastrous release, I cannot fail to mention the packaging for this release. With DVD-Audio barely having a foothold in the marketplace, this is not the time to be indulging in different packaging styles. This comes in a cardboard imitation of the old LP cover, complete with slip in pockets for the disc itself. Now cardboard is not a smooth material and constant sliding in and out of a not-so-durable disc into such material seems to me to be fraught with potential problems. Further, even after having the disc just lying around for a few weeks, it is clear that the durability of the cardboard packaging is not the best - it is already starting to look a bit scungy. Throw into the mix the fact that the disc can fly out of the cover without much trouble (I proved that once by picking the DVD up without keeping a grasp on the disc pocket itself) and the fact that the packaging is a different size to the standard DVD-Audio jewel... This is NOT a good idea Warners - lets keep a standardised packaging until such time as DVD-Audio is way more established in the marketplace (itself a doubtful thing at the moment). It was years after mainstream market acceptance of CD before we started seeing stuff straying away from the standard CD jewel case.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, July 13, 2003
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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
I have to agree - Capt Argo (My bio, is nothing to write home about !)
i totally don't agree with this review -
I read most of it... -
I read most of it...(with e-mail adress) -