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Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon(1973-2011)
Disc 1 / CD 1: Album
Disc 2 / CD 2: The album performed live in 1974
Disc 3 / DVD 1: Two surround mixes and stereo mix
Disc 4 / DVD 2: Various video content
Disc 5 / BD: The two DVDs combined, with HD audio and video
Disc 6 / CD 3: Demo, live and studio tracks
For more about Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon and the Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray release, see Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 27, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Roger Waters
» See full cast & crew
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray Review
We're definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 27, 2011
Was there a more unlikely success story in the British Invasion than Pink Floyd? In fact it's instructive to note that most wouldn't even include Pink Floyd as part of the British Invasion, despite the fact that the band was formed and had its first chart successes in the mid-sixties, considered by most the high water mark of Brits invading the sonic shores of the United States. But while millions were going slightly crazy enjoying the pop inflected tunes by The Beatles or even Herman's Hermits (heaven forfend), Pink Floyd was slowly but surely pointing the way toward a more progressive approach, one that The Beatles wouldn't even fully embrace for at least a couple of years, when they hit the concept album sweepstakes with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (and we can argue later about whether that release is really a concept album or not). While Pink Floyd may have been remarkably prescient in their approach, they had to wait for several years before they really hit pay dirt, at least on the U.S. side of things. Dark Side of the Moon was released stateside in March of 1973 and instantly became the band's biggest seller, ushering in untold riches for David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright. The album charted on Billboard's Top LPs and Tapes listing for an absolutely astounding 741 weeks, from 1973 to 1988, longer than any other album in history. Dark Side of the Moon has become such an iconic album that it's one of the few rock (progressive or otherwise) releases that virtually everyone recognizes, from its almost hagiographic cover art to many of the songs it contains. Now the Blu-ray era is allowing Floyd fans and perhaps more than a few curious neophytes the chance to revisit some of the Floyd canon with a series of deluxe (and frankly pretty spendy) releases that offer the original albums upgraded to high definition audio as well as providing a glut of supplementary materials.
The mammoth Immersion Box Set includes 3 CDs, 2 DVDs and a Blu-ray, as well as a glut of interesting, if sometimes odd, supplemental material. It's rather hard to know what is the "main" feature in something this huge and far ranging, and what indeed becomes the supplemental material, so this main body of the review will cover the Blu-ray content, and then we'll include everything else in this immense package in the Supplements section below.
Of course the main attraction of the Blu-ray is the high resolution audio which offers us the 5.1 SACD mix of Dark Side of the Moon which was accomplished in 2003, now presented in LPCM 5.1 at 96kHz/24-bit. For the record, the Blu-ray also contains the 1973 stereo mix in LPCM 2.0, 96kHz/24-bit as well as the 1973 quadrophonic mix presented in LPCM 4.0, 96kHz/24-bit. This may sound like heresy, but there were actually several songs I personally preferred in the LPCM 4.0 mix, though it can't be denied that the added spaciousness and especially low end of the 5.1 made me return repeatedly to that mix to resample various moments of each song. While the 4.0 mix perhaps offers more substance in terms of midrange, simply because instruments are slightly more massed, the 5.1 is incredibly spacious and the surround activity (identical to the SACD 5.1 mix, obviously) is often incredible, if sometimes quite subtle. The washes of guitar, at times so redolent of the Beatles (especially tunes like "Because"), bounce gently between the side channels, but the most obvious use of discrete channelization comes in "Money," when the iconic opening percussion riff which Nick Mason assembled out of seven pieces of spliced tape of sound effects (as he discusses in the documentary also included on the Blu-ray) ping pong back and forth between left and right channels giving a nice whiplash effect.
As the guys themselves mention in the documentary, the 5.1 mix (which they were commenting on after the SACD version, not the Blu-ray) does allow the listener into the music as never before, and that allows those who may have grown up with the album to discover all sort of new treasures buried in the multi-track recordings. I personally had never heard the spoken elements quite so clearly before, and several small instrumental colorings, like the drop of a Fender Rhodes note here or there suddenly sparkle with new found sonic brilliance.
On the visual side of the prism, the Blu-ray includes three items:
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you came to this set for its video content, you, like several former members of Pink Floyd, should probably have your head examined. (I jest of course, but you get the idea). All of the video content on the Blu-ray is encoded via AVC in 1080i and in either a windowboxed 1.66:1 AR or 1.33:1. The best looking item here is the 2003 documentary, especially with regard to the then contemporary interview segments, which pop nicely and have good fine detail, accurate color and very good contrast. Some of the archival footage certainly shows its age, as is to be expected. The concert footage, which goes without saying is archival, is fairly ragged looking, with lots of grain, low contrast and omnipresent crush which makes a lot of what's going on very hard to make out. The Concert Screen Films are somewhere in the middle, with decent looking quality (especially with regard to the North American Tour) and okay color. There's nothing here that's going to set any videophile hearts on fire, but taken as the historically important items they are, these are interesting video supplements to what is after all an audiophile set.
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As discussed above in the main body of the review, the Blu-ray offers three astoundingly good lossless audio options, all LPCM at 96kHz/24-bit. The three choices are 2.0 (the original stereo mix of the album done in 1973), 4.0 (the original quad mix of the album done in 1973) and a 5.1 repurposing originally done for the SACD released in 2003. I'll dispense with the stereo mix, which sounds fantastic, but doesn't offer the pleasures of either of the surround mixes. If you don't have the ability to listen to either of the surround mixes, you'll still probably immensely enjoy the 2.0 mix, which offers incredible fidelity and a really robust low end. But the two surround mixes are where this Blu-ray really shines. As I mention above in the main body of the review, I actually liked the more focused center that the 4.0 mix provides. Instruments are still clear and discretely positioned, but there just seemed to be a more concentrated midrange right in front of me that was more dispersed in the 5.1 mix. That said, the 5.1 mix is absolutely mind blowing in its surround activity. I frankly had never heard the SACD and so this was a new experience for me, and it brought a whole new level of appreciation for this album, which I obviously already held in very high esteem. Some of the surround placement is quite subtle, just a note here or a wash there, but there's some very fun and involving use of panning (listen to how the spoken elements drift across the soundfield at times), as well as some really incredible use of discrete channelization, of which the best example is no doubt the opening of "Money," where the different sound effects ping pong back and forth between the left and right channels. A close runner up (no pun intended) would be "On the Run," which has its stereo panning effects considerably amplified and extended. Fidelity is superb throughout all of these tracks. I was especially struck by how full the low end sounded without overpowering the rest of the mix. Vocals are really well balanced and nicely prioritized and the layering of the instruments is beautifully rendered. Any fans of Pink Floyd are going to be in sonic heaven when they listen to this Blu-ray.
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray is only one of six discs included in this huge set. Other material, which ranges from the great to the patently strange, includes:
Okay, here's where things get a bit more strange:
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is one of those sets whose allure is going to be directly tied to how big of a fan of the band and the album individuals are. It's fairly pricey, but it does come with an amazing assortment of content. Some it may be definitely questionable (coasters? marbles?), but the audio elements are astounding and extremely diverse. The lossless audio on the Blu-ray is quite simply amazing, easily one of the standout releases of the year and reference quality audio for those with a 5.1 setup who like to turn things "up to 11." While the rest may strike some as needless "swag," the alternate mix of the original album as well as its live performance version, not to mention the CD of previously unreleased demos and other rarities makes this a Pink Floyd collector's dream come true. With this much content, you have more than enough to make an alternate soundtrack for The Wizard of Oz several times over. Highly recommended.
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