Styx-Return to Paradise (1997) (NTSC)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Notes-About The Band
Featurette-Backstage With Tommy
Audio-Only Track-Brave New World
|Year Of Production||1997|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
Dennis de Young
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
|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|
Well, talk about blasts from the past. Here is one where I certainly did not expect to see the band on DVD. Man this takes me back to those heady (music) days of the late 1970s and early 1980s where quality bands seemed to abound. Styx might not be a name that is well recognised today, but in that era they were one of the big bands. Most of their fame is based upon two songs - Lady and Babe - that are still heard on the radio, but to suggest that is all they did is to seriously understate their importance in that era.
Significantly based around the great song writing of Dennis de Young and Tommy Shaw, and the vocal talents of both of them, Styx reached its peak with a succession of five big albums: Grand Illusion (1977), Pieces Of Eight (1978), Cornerstone (1979), Paradise Theater (1981) and Kilroy Was Here (1983). For six magical years they seemed to be incapable of doing any wrong, although they reached their absolute peak with the Paradise Theater album. That album obviously provides the reference for the DVD title. This performance was filmed at the last gig of the band's reunion tour of 1996 and there is no better place to record the band than in their home town of Chicago. For 100 magical minutes we are transported back to 1981 and can listen again to a band doing some of its greatest hits live, to an adoring crowd.
For those who don't know Styx, they were really heavy on their song writing but also on being able to produce the same sound in concert as they did on albums. This concert demonstrates just how good they are at it too. The playing is as strong as ever, the vocals are as strong as ever and the reproduction is uncannily like an album recording at times. If it sounds like I am about to wax lyrical about the band, you aren't far wrong. Returning to the music after so long has just left me on this great high. However, I will save you all the waxing and just encourage you to check this band out. You will rarely see concert performances as good as this one.
Cutting to the chase, there really are a lot of reasons to check this concert out. Demonstrating just how lousy most of today's artists are when it comes to the live arena, this is almost an exercise in proving just how great live music can be. Fans will rejoice that this concert has arrived on DVD. They might not rejoice about the presentation though...
|1. Rockin' The Paradise|
2. Blue Collar Man
4. Too Much Time On My Hands
6. Suite Madame Blue
7. Crystal Ball
8. Grand Illusion
9. Fooling Yourself
|10. Show Me The Way|
11. Boat On The River
14. Miss America
15. Come Sail Away
17. The Best Of Times
Unfortunately it would seem that Warner Vision Australia has succumbed to the same malady that afflicts its cousin. One can hope that the recovery will be swift. Yes, this DVD is an NTSC formatted effort, therefore you will need a display device and player capable of handling the format.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is assumed to be Full Frame, and it is not 16x9 enhanced.
Being a concert video, we know the sort of problems that are going to be seen even before we push the play button. Generally excellent stuff, with the usual lapses here and there in focus and framing. The stage lighting does its usual best to wash out detail at times, most especially with the drums in this instance. The detail in them tends to disappear under the intense lighting, but otherwise detail and definition is very good. Shadow detail is what we would expect from a concert video, certainly pretty good for the genre, but not in the same league as a feature film of equivalent age. There is no real problem with grain at all here, so the transfer has a nice clarity to it. There are no indications of low level noise at all.
The colours are very nicely saturated throughout, with plenty of depth to them. There are just a few odd hints of over saturation here and there as a result of the stage lighting, but nothing that unusual for this sort of material. The main problem involves the flaring orange shirt that James Young wears later in the concert, which as well as being over saturated also has some slight bleed at 68:35.
There are no issues with MPEG artefacts, but you will almost certainly have issue with film-to-video artefacts. Aliasing is the main problem and it turns up everywhere: Dennis de Young's shoulders at 2:20 and 3:02, in the edge of the stage at 4:14 and 9:31, in the guitar at 5:02 and 18:20, in the microphone cord at 13:36 and so on. It is not difficult to miss the aliasing, which is unfortunately joined by a bit of moiré artefacting at 37:07 and 76:40, as well as some cross colouration in the microphone at 62:10. Film artefacts are not an issue in the transfer.
This is a single sided, single layer DVD, so there is no layer change to contend with.
Regrettably for our hearing impaired friends, there are no subtitles on the DVD. They will be missed at times if you listen to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack...
There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 effort and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. I suffered the 5.1 soundtrack in its entirety, but only sampled the vastly superior 2.0 soundtrack for two songs.
Can you spell crap? Well, that is about the best word I can think of to describe the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Harking back to the bad old days of Sony Music 5.1 efforts, the only people who would find this palatable would be those cloth-eared souls who think the height of music listening is to pack five 160 watt subwoofers into the boot of their car and turn the volume all the way up to 140 db - usually whilst playing something god awful like Pantera. For the more discerning music listener, this 5.1 soundtrack will be virtually unlistenable unless you actively shut down your subwoofer. It was the only thing that worked for me. The bass is grotesquely mixed into the whole soundscape, such that it does overpower the vocals completely in the mix at times. Even the other instruments like the guitars are overpowered by the constant thump at times. The problem commences in Rockin' The Paradise and constantly surfaces thereafter. The result is that, at times, the vocals are virtually unintelligible. If you have a need to hear the vocals in the music - and let's face it, Styx is one band where you do need to - you are going to have to resort to the far more palatable 2.0 soundtrack. Thankfully, there appears to be no audio sync issues with the transfers.
One of the reasons that Styx was one of the biggest bands of the 1970s was the quality of the song writing. It is when returning to something like this DVD after maybe fifteen or more years absence from the band's music that really hammers the fact home. The classic songs like Lady or Babe, amongst a whole heap of others, just demonstrate how great Dennis De Young and Tommy Shaw were at song writing in particular. Returning to their songs after so many years is one of the great joys of this DVD.
Having already ascertained that the Dolby Digital 5.1 is crap owing to some grotesque engineering of the soundtrack that seems to muddy the mix somewhat, is there anything positive to be said about the soundtrack? Well, actually, yes. If you can get the LFE channel overload down to a reasonable level, you will be able to hear what is fundamentally an excellent soundtrack. The sound just has exquisite amounts of body to it, and this combined with excellent surround channel activity produces a really robust, full sound that does everything the music needs. The rear surrounds carry plenty of audience ambience as well as a lot of the background detail in the music. The front speakers mirror the excellence and the end result, ignoring the LFE problem, is about as good as it gets with the soundscape. The only issue that might have been improved slightly would have been to mix the vocals a little more forward in the mix.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack might be positively anorexic in comparison to the Dolby Digital 5.1, but straight out it is a better listening proposition. Without the LFE channel problems, turn the volume up on this soundtrack and it is a very pleasurable soundtrack to enjoy. The vocals in particular come up extremely well, as the soundtrack is very well balanced. If you are unable to handle six channel sound, then you should have little cause to complain about the two channel soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
Considering that this is all crammed onto a single layer single sided DVD, this is not a bad package on paper.
Some decent audio and animation accompanies the main menu, which is a bit cluttered to my mind, but does the job it has to do.
Quite how you can adequately condense the history of Styx into four pages is a bit of a mystery, but whoever wrote this managed it. Strictly for non-fans only.
Unfortunately, just a basic album listing taking up just the single page.
Want to know why I think web stuff on DVD's is a waste of time, space and effort? Check this idiotic collection out. If you go to the trouble of clicking the weblinks.exe icon using your PC file manager, you get a page with three choices to select. Click on The Official Styx Web Site link and you are taken to www.paradisetheatre.com. Which is not too bad I guess - if you are looking for a domain to buy... Click on the CMC International Records link and you are taken to www.cmcinternational.com where you can investigate their catalogue (that is, advertising). Click on the DVD Bonus link and you are taken to - nowhere. All you get is an HTTP 404 error, page cannot be located. The page you are trying to get to is www.cmcinternational.com/dvdspecial. Can you spell crap? The extras package loses a star for this pointless waste of time.
Drummer Todd Sucherman has a video camera. He uses it to take home movies during the endless trips on the road, the endless tune up sessions before gigs and actually at gigs. So we get to see some of that footage. Most of it is as interesting as most home videos. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There is no time encoding included but this seems to run for about eight minutes.
Comprising eighty photographs, mainly in the format of three overlapping photos per page. The whole show is self running, at a rather rapid pace I might add. With some of the photos being rather small, with the overlapping and with the lack of annotation, this really is not terrific stuff.
Well not so much backstage as in the studio with Tommy Shaw, in interview mode. The featurette has no time encoding but seems to run for about four minutes or so. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Apart from the fact that it is way too short, this is probably the most interesting extra included in the package.
More of an advert for the album of the same name, this title track can be played over the menu with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. If you are a fan of Styx, you probably know what sort of sound you will get here. I have to say that I quite like the song, so I might just have to check out a band I have not investigated since the Kilroy Was Here album.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
From the only review that I have tracked down, it would appear that the Region 1 version of the DVD is very similar in content to the Region 4. Given that the Region 4 is an all-region NTSC formatted DVD, this is not surprising. Just for the sake of completeness, the review found makes only a relative note about a couple of tracks where the two channel mix is preferred to the six channel mix.
Styx - Return To Paradise is a tremendously enjoyable concert, demonstrating in abundance why Styx were one of the biggest bands around in the late 1970s and early 1980s. To return to some songs that I have not really heard in twenty years has been a joy, diminished only by the rather lousy LFE mix in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The extras are a bit impoverished but considering the length, and excellence, of the concert, this is no great issue.
|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|