Mike Oldfield-Tubular Bells 2003 (DVD-Audio) (2003) (NTSC)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio
Music Video-Tubular Bells II - Sentinel (8:07)
Music Video-Tubular Bells III - Far Above The Clouds (4:41)
Discography
Audio-Only Track-Tubular Bells 1971 Demo Tape (42:04)
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 48:41
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Mike Oldfield
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mike Oldfield


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
English MLP 48/24 5.1
English MLP 48/24 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

    It's your twentieth anniversary high school reunion. You walk into the venue alone and immediately see your high school sweetheart, whom you have not seen since you left high school. You instantly recognise him/her, for he/she is as gorgeous as ever - although changed in many, subtle ways. Perhaps a little more taut, a little sharper in features. You indulge in an evening with the person, savouring the fine company like a fine wine. But by the end of the evening, you are yearning for the person of twenty years ago - a little more vibrant, a little more relaxed, a little more fun. Funnily enough, this was the immediate reaction I had when I sat down to contemplate what to write about my indulgence of Tubular Bells 2003. It is unmistakably the same piece of music but changed in subtle ways that might not necessarily be bad but equally might not be good.

    For those amongst you who are not familiar with Mike Oldfield, he conceived an album way back in the seventies on which he played all the instruments. Said album was rejected by just about every major record company that you can think of, until finally a gentleman by the name of Richard Branson decided to take a punt on it for his new record company, Virgin Records. Catalogue number V2001, the album turned out to be one of the most phenomenally successful albums of all time, and launched the Virgin empire, making Mr Branson a phenomenally wealthy gentleman in the process; the album remains a good seller even today. That album was of course Tubular Bells.

    Never actually shaking the fact that Tubular Bells was one of the most phenomenally successful albums of all time, Mike Oldfield went on to make some great albums, including valiant attempts to both move away from the album as well as to celebrate the album. In the thirty years since the original album was released, there have been significant advances in recording technology and so it was perhaps inevitable that the man should unashamedly return to the music again. The result of that is what is contained on this disc - a re-recording of the music to take advantage of those technical advances, as well as address some of the perceived mistakes in the original album.

    I prefer to look at the music as a stand-alone piece rather than look back at the original, even though it is exceedingly difficult to ignore the fact that the original album was so damned good - and one of the most important albums of the rock era. As a new recording, this is excellent stuff indeed, but one does have to ponder why the recording is only 48kHz and 24 bit rather than a full blown 96kHz - as permitted by all this new technology that was supposedly being used to make and mix the recording. Very much a recording to investigate, but some will have issues with the style of the surround encoding.

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Track Listing

1. Introduction
2. Fast Guitars
3. Basses
4. Latin
5. A Minor Tune
6. Blues
7. Thrash
8. Jazz
9. Ghost Bells
10. Russian
11. Finale
12. Harmonics
13. Peace
14. Bagpipe Guitars
15. Caveman
16. Ambient Guitars
17. The Sailor's Hornpipe

Transfer Quality

Video

    The only video on the disc is the music video in the extras, everything else comprising NTSC menus and stills. These are clear and quite sharp. The titles on the menu suffers from some rather obvious artefacting.

Audio

    There is a decent selection of audio choices on this release: 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 soundtrack. I listened to all barring the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack in their entirety: I sampled a decent portion of the latter track.

    The first soundtrack up for listening was the DVD-Audio MLP 5.1 soundtrack. This is a nice soundtrack, quite decent in fidelity but surprisingly disappointing to my ears. Aside from slightly unusual surround encoding that some might not agree with, the main issue seemed to be a distinct lack of dynamic. The big climax of the tubular bells in the Finale to Part One has all the impact of a couple of taps on an empty tin can. At the same listening volume, the 2.0 soundtrack offers a much more impressive contribution by the bells. The unusual surround encoding is simply that the same instrument is mixed at times in both front and rear surround channels, as well as wandering at times around the channels, which is where some people might not agree with the soundtrack. Funnily enough, it is the vocals in Caveman that most obviously demonstrate this, as they wander between the front and rear surround channels. Personally, I don't have that much of an issue with the overall mix, but appreciate that it could perhaps have been better. The soundtrack also seems just a little bit congested, certainly not as open and clear as the 2.0 effort.

    The MLP 2.0 soundtrack on the other hand is terrific. The sound is really clean and open, obviously with no great presence in the sound but with a gorgeous clarity and fidelity that really allows the music to shine. As indicated above, the sound is certainly an improvement upon the six channel effort in all respects, one of those rare instances where the lack of dynamic is not a problem. Instead of presence and dynamics, we get gorgeous open sound that I could listen to all day long. In my opinion, this is the best soundtrack on the disc.

    The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is another wonderful soundtrack, although it does to some extent demonstrate the same sort of surround encoding as the MLP soundtrack. The bass gets a little over the top at times, but nothing that even I would consider excessive or annoying. What it contributes in a little excess reverb is more than made up for by the presence it adds to the overall soundtrack. If the soundtrack has a fault, other than the underlying surround encoding style, it is that perhaps it is perhaps a little too analytical. The separation of the instruments is a little too sharp, a little too obvious and I think it just robs the overall presentation a little of naturalness.

    The DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 soundtrack is another excellent effort, with the usual smoother sound than the Dolby Digital soundtrack, and with a chunk more body than the MLP soundtrack. With the less focused bass that the format brings to the mix, the result is a much more natural sounding effort. This makes the soundtrack very easy on the ear, but still having a load of presence in the sound and a fair chunk of dynamic. The surround encoding is good, within the qualification of the style of the encoding adopted.

    The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a very decent sounding effort that does a good job of presenting the music.

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

Extras

    Most DVD-Audio releases to date have provided some extras but nothing that really is memorable, at least to my mind. So that basic rule had to be broken eventually, and this is the release to do it.

Booklet

   Presumably the release will include a booklet, but unfortunately we have only been provided with a pre production sample of the disc, and therefore cannot confirm that this is the case.

Music Video - Tubular Bells II: Sentinel (8:07)

   An excellent extract from the previously released Tubular Bells II & III - Live demonstrating some d*** fine music. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, this provides a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 sound. The video transfer suffers a little bit from some aliasing, but nothing more than would generally be expected from a concert video. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is terrific, with some lovely presence and gorgeous fidelity. The Linear PCM sound is an excellent example of this sort of sound but not in the same league as the Dolby Digital effort.

Music Video - Tubular Bells III: Far Above The Clouds (4:41)

   Not quite of the same quality from an image point of view as Sentinel but terrific music nonetheless, lifted from the same DVD. So it is presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced. The audio choices are also the same, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound being very good and the Linear PCM sound being quite excellent. Again, there is some aliasing but nothing much to worry about.

Discography

   Unfortunately it is not complete, ignoring all the really essential earlier albums, including Tubular Bells, Ommadawn and Hergest Ridge. Of course, they were released on another label weren't they?

Audio Only Track - 1971 Demo Tapes: Tubular Bells (42:04)

   The piece de resistance of this package and by far and away the best thing I have ever encountered on a DVD-Audio disc. This is almost priceless stuff, and as a music fan is simply magical. To listen to the original demo tapes of one of the most influential and successful albums of all time is a privilege that almost defies words. To hear the original thoughts on the concept of the album and equate them to the original album, and this re-recording thirty-odd years on is staggeringly interesting. Sure there is some damage to the tapes that no amount of restoration could fix, sure there are a few obvious drop outs, sure there are some obvious flubs in the music, but all of this is forgiven with such a vitally important piece of rock history. The tapes are split into five sections: Tubular Bells Long (22:56), Caveman Lead In (2:45), Caveman (5:04), Peace Demo A (6:59) and Peace Demo B (4:16). Tubular Bells Long is almost a complete view of Part One of the album, obviously rather raw and utterly fascinating. Caveman Lead In eventually surfaced on the original album as Bagpipe Guitars, the demo being very close to the final version. Caveman is of course the demo for the same piece on the original album, although sounding rather different in this raw form. The two Peace Demos are an interesting take on how the final album version developed - and develop it did from these at times very raw, slightly distorted efforts. Despite the problems at times, this forty two minute delving into musical history is an absolute stunner of an extra.

R4 vs R1

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

    This is the same disc as has been or will be released worldwide.

Summary

    This represents one of the few occasions that I have ever "hounded" a distributor for release information, so you can guess how excited I was to get the disc for review. The importance of the original album release in 1973 cannot be underestimated and to hear Mike Oldfield returning to such familiar music to re-record it to take advantage of recording advances over that time is quite fascinating. Whilst being a tad ambivalent about the musical reappraisal, and the surround sound mix itself, the concept is an absolute winner in every way. Tubular Bells 2003 is a fine release in its own right but it is so very nearly upstaged by the original demo tapes for the original album. A pity therefore that the opportunity was not taken to re-release Tubular Bells on DVD-Audio at the same time, in order that definite comparisons could be made. Nonetheless, we can only trust that Mike Oldfield will now return to the original albums and do surround sound mixes of them all. It represents one of the essential bodies of instrumental music of the rock era.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. 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)
Local Availability - john REPLY POSTED
What about the Origional on SACD -
MLP dynamics -