George Benson-Breezin' (DVD-Audio) (1976) (NTSC)
Main Menu Audio
Audio-Only Track-Shark Bite; Down Here On The Ground
Featurette-Video Interviews (9:40)
|Year Of Production||1976|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English MLP 96/24 5.1
English MLP 96/24 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Quite where do you peg George Benson as far as musical categories are concerned, even after all these years? At the time he signed with Warner Bros he was pretty well-known as a jazz guitarist, but once signed he broke out the mold and headed off as a singer as well as an instrumentalist. Where his subsequent music can be plugged depends upon how much you appreciate his music. Easily plugged into jazz but equally at home as R&B, as well as pop. The unkind souls cheerfully plug it as "muzak" - the sort of stuff that populates elevators or is used as background music in business houses. Personally, I was never a great fan of the man, even though the CD equivalent of this disc is in my collection. There just seemed to be nothing that interesting about the album and as a result I did not investigate his output further. He was well and truly plugged into the muzak category as far as I was concerned.
Not that my opinion would count for much in view of the fact that the album went triple platinum in the US and it topped the Billboard Jazz, R&B and Pop charts at the same time. The album also won three Grammys along with a bunch of critical acclaim. Notwithstanding the fact that I had little enthusiasm for the album on its initial release, for some reason it did manage to make its way into my record collection. Yes, that was record, not a CD - you remember those big pieces of flat black vinyl that used to wear badly and sounded pretty ropey? Whilst a comparison with an LP would be laughable, at least I was not entirely unfamiliar with the album, even in a negative sense.
So there was some trepidation as I fired up the player and loaded this disc. After all, there is nothing quite like fifty-odd minutes of muzak to put me to sleep - not that I could not do with the sleep, mind you. Anyway, since this was likely to be a session of tiresome proportions, I felt it appropriate to start the review with the Advanced Resolution surround sound soundtrack.
Well, having been not exactly looking forward to the review, it would seem that "muzak" has found a medium where it actually works well and cannot be dismissed as background music. More to the point, it has been given a medium that perhaps finally allows some of the inner subtlety of the music to be released. The original album of course only comprised six songs, five being instrumentals with just the one vocal track (This Masquerade). On the strength of what can be heard here, they are not what you could call classics but they certainly are enjoyable listens. Added on as a bonus are two tracks - Shark Bite and Down Here On The Ground - that add musically to the original album as well as extending the programme to a much more decent length than would otherwise be the case.
It would be very rash to suggest that my view of the album has changed significantly after having listened to this DVD-Audio disc. It would however be fair to say that the format has finally allowed me to hear the music the way it should be heard and that certainly has made the music much more enjoyable. For those more familiar with the album this may not be quite so great a revelation, but I would suggest that they too will hear something very different, and much improved, to what they have heard before.
2. This Masquerade
3. Six To Four
|5. So This Is Love?|
7. Shark Bite
8. Down Here On The Ground
The only video on the disc is the interview material in the extras, otherwise everything comprises NTSC menus and stills. These are quite clear and sharp, with the text being easy to read.
The disc contains three sound format choices: the default DVD-Audio MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 5.1 soundtrack, a DVD-Audio MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 2.0 soundtrack and a DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 448 Kb/s soundtrack. I listened to the 5.1 soundtracks in their entirety and sampled a chunk of the 2.0 soundtrack.
The original release was recorded and mixed by Al Schmitt so it is very pleasing to see that the 5.1 remix has been produced by him. I don't believe it coincidental that the DVD-Audio discs that have impressed me the most on review have been those where the original recording personnel are involved in some manner. Whilst appreciating that it is not always possible for this to happen, it does illustrate to me that the concept of artistic integrity in the remastering process is of paramount importance and wherever and whenever it is possible, original personnel should be involved.
The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a good effort, with plenty of body and presence to it. It does not however bear comparison with the MLP 5.1 soundtrack. The style of music does not give the opportunity to demonstrate the wide dynamics that is possible in surround sound encoding, but that is hardly the point here. The main attributes the soundtrack needs to give this music are clarity and space and that it does give in abundance. The result is a really nice sound, way better than elevator music, that does the music every favour it needs to convince you of how good it can be. If it were not for the excellent MLP 5.1 soundtrack, I would be quite happy listening to this soundtrack. It plays over the track listing menu, which is the downside to it - not the most enthralling presentation and turning the video off might not be a bad idea for this soundtrack.
Whilst the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is good, it is nowhere near the quality of the MLP 5.1 soundtrack. Two songs demonstrate how good this soundtrack is. This Masquerade has lots of light percussion/rhythm contribution that percolates away in the background through the rear surrounds and it gives this song so much presence and bite that it is not funny. On LP this was never really heard at all, with the result that the song was a tad on the wimpish side. Not here - the music has much more presence with plenty of body. The other track is Six To Four and this is distinctive for the quality of the mixing - the instruments are beautifully separated and the Moog synthesizer in particular just comes so cleanly and distinctively out of the rear channels that you really get the feeling that you are sitting smack bang in the middle of the recording studio with the instruments ranged around you. Whilst I would never have picked this sort of an album as a demonstration of how well instruments can be pinpointed in a surround mix, this actually is thus far one of the best demonstrations I have heard of it. Truly a delightful listening experience and one that should convince that surround sound is the way to listen to music. The bass channel is not especially well used but that is hardly unexpected in this style of music.
The DVD-Audio MLP 2.0 soundtrack is also very nice in every respect judging by what I have sampled. Obviously this sounds more like the what the original CD would have sounded like, just with loads more air and clarity.
|Surround Channel Use|
A decent 12-page booklet that delves a little into the history of George Benson coming to Warner Bros as well as the gestation and compilation of the album. Also contains the usual track listing and so on, being noteworthy for showing the catalogue number for the release of Shark Bite as a B-side to a single.
Bonus tracks recorded during the same sessions that resulted in the original album tracks. As a result they fit right into proceedings pretty well and flesh out what would otherwise have been a mediocre length album.
Which would hardly seem to be a bonus on what is virtually an instrumental album! Since This Masquerade and the bonus Down Here On The Ground are the only vocal tracks on the disc, it is not a huge extra even though welcome.
Featuring interview snippets with Tommy LiPuma (original album producer), Al Schmitt, George Benson, Ronnie Foster, Phil Upchurch, Stanley Banks and Harvey Mason, this provides a reasonably concise encapsulation of how the guys came to be involved n the album and with George Benson. It is presented in Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The definition of the video is a bit soft but otherwise acceptable enough, although there is some macro-blocking, such as at 4:46, and cross colouration, such as at 8:16. The sound is a bit echoic and recessed at times, reflecting the differing recording places, as well as having been mixed a little too extravagantly in the rear channels - there is far too much prominence of the dialogue in the rear surrounds for my taste. The visual experience of having the guy in front of you talking is not matched by the audio which seems to be rearward biased, thus coming from behind you.
Seven pages of easy-to-read text about George Benson.
Four pages of text covering the original album release and the DVD-Audio reissue.
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.
Yes, the album actually starts to come into its own more in surround sound, so if you are not a fan of the album or the performer you might want to check this one out for a reassessment. Overall, the sound is one of the better ones I have so far heard on DVD-Audio and shows that you don't need to get real flashy to get excellent sound results. Well worth checking this disc out.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|