R.E.M.-Reveal (DVD-Audio) (2001) (NTSC)

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Released 21-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Featurette-Studio Documentary
Discography
Gallery-Photo
Web Links
Music Video
Credits
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 53:37
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 Peter Buck
Mike Mills
Michael Stipe
Case DVD-Audio Jewel
RPI $32.95 Music R.E.M.


Video (NTSC) Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, during documentary
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Way back in May, 1980 in Athens, Georgia one of the most influential American bands of the last thirty years performed their very first gig. It would be interesting to find out how many people actually present at that gig actually had any inkling of what the band would attain in the ensuing two decades? Like many a new band, R.E.M. started from very humble beginnings, and it was two years before they managed to secure a deal on a small independent record label. Those two years saw the band honing their craft, moving from playing local pubs to working the college circuit, whilst gaining a little airplay with the single Radio Free Europe. The single became a big rotation player on college radio and the deal with I.R.S Records gave the opportunity to release the EP (remember them?) Chronic Town. The band has not looked back since. The years from 1982 through to 1987 saw the band developing a huge following on the college circuit, and word of mouth ensured that the albums Murmur, Reckoning, Fables Of The Reconstruction, Life's Rich Pageant and Document sold in ever increasing numbers. The only trouble was that mainstream music had not been taking enough notice. Whilst Document seemed to bust the band out of the college scene and into the big time with a vengeance, the reality was that the album was just the proof that R.E.M. were already one of the biggest American bands around. After years of slowly convincing the college world of what they had to offer, Document saw R.E.M. proving to the world that there was still life left in American music. Whilst Document arguably remains the pinnacle of achievement for the band, fifteen years later they can still sell albums in large quantities and they are still doing it their own way.

    Reveal is the twelfth original album release from the band and it is probably fair to say that the reaction to it has been somewhat mixed. One reason for this was the lack of a readily apparent "stand out" track. If you pick any album from their discography, there is generally speaking at least one real gem of a track. Reckoning for instance had a couple in So, Central Rain and (Don't Go Back To) Rockville. Document boasted no less than three gems: Finest Worksong, It's The End Of The World As We Know It and The One I Love, whilst even the later albums like Green (Orange Crush and Stand), Out Of Time (Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People) and Automatic For The People (Everybody Hurts and Man On The Moon) managed to include a couple of gems. Straight out, Reveal did not seem to be so blessed and I know that my initial reaction to the album was very mixed. But having been a fan of the band since Murmur, I was convinced that there had to be something worthwhile about the album - it was simply that I was not getting it yet. So the CD went into the CD stacker in the car and went into heavy rotation form a listening point of view. Multiple listenings later it started to dawn on me that this was a worthy album, blessed with some good stuff - just not an album to compare with the heyday of the band. Oh, and multiple means just that - I drove from Perth to Canberra and back and chose ten CDs for that journey, amongst which was Reveal. It is no word of a lie that in three weeks, I heard this album probably well over 30 times. You can take it that I know this album very well!

    I guess that is to some extent the point of Reveal. This is not a bunch of raw young men, with plenty to say to the world. These guys are now a little older, a little more wizened and just a little more comfortable. It is therefore somewhat pointless to compare the album with the gems from the early part of their career and say that it is not "as good". It is an album from a different era, from a very different bunch of men and when looked at on its own terms, is still a better album than 99% of the dross being churned out by the rest of the music industry. In purely simplistic terms, no, it is not as good as say Document or Reckoning. But if you look at those albums, they were better than 99% of the dross being turned out back in the early and mid-1980's. R.E.M. have slipped a little but they still remain ahead of the vast bulk of the music industry, and I for one always look forward to their next album.

    While the raw edge that characterised those early albums might be missing, giving the album a spin reveals that not too much is ailing Reveal. The consistency in the album is probably as good as any album the band has made, and there are some terrific songs here: The Lifting, All The Way To Reno and Imitation Of Life can all bear witness to the continuing excellence of the band. The album is more cohesive than is generally the rule for an R.E.M. album, and I think it fair to say that the band continues to push themselves in new directions with sterling results.

    This album is a very welcome addition to the DVD-Audio discography. Not only is it a great album, but it is a very well produced album that strongly emphasises the importance of R.E.M. to popular music of the last twenty years. Reveal may not be my favourite R.E.M. album, but it is a fine place to start what will hopefully be a significant sequence of releases from the band in the surround sound format. Automatic For The People is already on its way and Document has also been announced for U.S. release early in 2003. Hopefully that album will also make it to Australia real quick. In the meantime, you will not find much better than Reveal on DVD-Audio and this is a disc that should be in every collection.

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Track Listing

1. The Lifting
2. I've Been High
3. All The Way To Reno
4. She Just Wants To Be
5. Disappear
6. Saturn Return
7. Beat A Drum
8. Imitation Of Life
9. Summer Turns To High
10. Chorus And The Ring
11. I'll Take The Rain
12. Beachball

Transfer Quality

Video

    The only video on the disc is the rather lengthy, for DVD-Audio, documentary and music video in the extras, otherwise everything comprises NTSC menus and stills. These are reasonably clear and sharp, although text at times could be a little easier to read. The stills displayed while the songs are being played are not the best you will ever see.

Audio

    The rather informationally-improved cover slick discloses that the disc can be played three ways: Advanced Resolution Stereo, Advanced Resolution Multi-Channel Surround and DVD-Video Compatible Dolby Digital. These three soundtracks are respectively a DVD-Audio only MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 2.0 soundtrack, a DVD-Audio only MLP 96 kHz/24 bit 5.1 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 briefly sampled the 2.0 soundtrack.

    Rest assured that the difference between listening to this album in surround sound as opposed to the stereo of CD is way bigger than the difference between chalk and cheese. Having become so familiar with the CD version of the album, it was a definite ear-buster to hear the album in surround sound. So pronounced is the difference, I would readily recommend this album as an excellent example to use for direct A-B comparison to demonstrate why surround sound should overwhelm CD.

    First up was the DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Why do we have to suffer so many poorly engineered DVD-Video releases when the ability to produce quality soundtracks of this calibre exist? This is about the best engineered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack I have heard on a DVD-Audio disc and it beats to a pulp nearly every such soundtrack I have heard on DVD-Video. This is some seriously good surround encoding and if you can only play DVD-Audio discs in DVD-Video mode, rush out and get this disc - it is that good. It all begins with some wonderfully strong vocals in the front channels, along with the main instrument tracks, and some nice supporting instrumental tracks in the rear channels. The definition in the sound is almost clinical in its precision, yet the sound produces a great presence that makes you feel that you are a part of an intimate live performance just for you. Indeed, about the only complaint I have about the soundtrack is that the balance could perhaps have been just a little better, so that you are just a little more centralised in the overall soundscape.

    The soundtrack features some really solid bass that is strong but not overpowering. This is very noticeable on I've Been High for instance, a track that is also a good example of the very nice detail that can be found in the rear channels. I found myself sitting there picking up more and more little nuances in the instrumental mix in the rear channels the longer the album went. There is some very nice detail for instance in Beat A Drum and the string detail in Imitation Of Life is almost exquisite - especially since it is barely noticeable in the CD version. There is just a touch of bass reverb in Disappear and Summer Turns To High, but nothing that I find really objectionable. All in all, this is really terrific stuff.

    The DVD-Audio compatible MLP 5.1 soundtrack is actually the slightly weaker sounding effort here, but really only because it has a slightly different style to the mix. There is noticeably less bass in the soundtrack, with the result that the sound is a lot smoother and a little less dynamic. Despite that, it too is an excellent soundtrack, with the same quality of surround encoding as given the Dolby Digital soundtrack. If anything, it is slightly more precise in the rear channel surround encoding, accompanying slightly less strong front channel vocals - adding up to a slightly better balanced soundtrack than the Dolby Digital effort. With less bass overall in the mix, there are no problems with reverb anywhere and all in all this is an excellent sounding effort indeed albeit a soundtrack that has slightly less presence.

    The DVD-Audio compatible MLP 2.0 soundtrack is very good based upon the sample that I listened to.

Extras

Booklet

    An inadequate fold out effort that does little more than provide the lyrics to the songs.

Featurette - Studio Documentary (32:17)

    The first thing that set me back on my heels with this was the length of documentary! This is the longest effort I recall on the format so far, and it is actually not a bad effort at all. Apart from some arty introduction and arty video clips during the programme, the documentary is comprised of excellent quality video interview material with the band members, discussing various aspects of the album and the songs. I found this very interesting, but then again I am a fan of the band. The only downer on the whole deal is the fact that the sound is reverberant for the interview segments with Mike Mills, more than likely due to poor quality recording equipment. The presentation is of course 1.33:1 full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. An excellent inclusion.

Discography

    Not a complete discography, covering only the preceding six studio albums. Offers just an album cover and a track listing.

Gallery - Photo

    Eight good quality colour photos, albeit lacking annotation.

Web Links

    Another waste of time and space - toss the disc into your DVD-ROM player, navigate to the ROM folder and there you will find html documents to navigate to Warners Bros Records (www.warnerbrosrecords.com) and R.E.M.H.Q. (www.remhq.com).

Music Video - I'll Take The Rain (4:36)

    Quite a cute effort, unfortunately slightly marred by aliasing (typical NTSC format stuff) and a dash of cross colouration. Presented in a 1.33:1 full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. A nice inclusion.

Credits

    Basically repeating those included in the booklet.

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

    From the moment that I attended the launch of DVD-Audio, I have been awaiting this disc. The wait was worth it and this is easily added to the essential collection list. Musically a great album, the engineering has done the music proud and this is a rare example of an almost perfect DVD-Audio disc. Just get it. I also would like to compliment Warner Vision for the improved presentation of the contents on the back cover. This now clearly lists the contents and what hardware you require to play it. Makes everything much less confusing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, December 22, 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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