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Sting - Brand New Day Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 May 2000

Brand New Day
format: 5.1 CD
label: DTS Entertainment
release year: 2000
performance: 7
sound 9
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

ImageWhen I first reviewed Sting’s ‘Brand New Day’ last fall, I was unimpressed with the lyrical content. The recording and production were up to Sting’s exceedingly high standards, but the record’s mood was clearly down, focusing on love lost and, with the exception of the last track, "Brand New Day," it showed very little optimism.

The DTS Entertainment 5.1 release of the record gave me my first opportunity to listen to the album all over again. The lyrical content hasn’t changed but the resolution, depth and emotional impact have. The DTS 5.1 mix, which requires a 5.1 decoder and 5.1 loudspeaker set-up to make it fully enjoyable, squeezes a 24-bit 5.1 mix onto the CD, which results in a huge improvement in ‘Brand New Day’s’ presence. Sting’s voice is richer, raspier and mixed more dramatically.

‘Brand New Day’ starts out with a new twist on the 5.1 mix. The first notes of the tune come from your .1 channel. I know this reads a little funny, but it works. Bass is called bass because it is the foundation of a musical structure. The mix quickly develops into a fully encompassing 360-degree field, with brushed drums and some percussive elements mixed into the rear channels and strings moving from front to back, depending on the verse. The key to the mix on this first cut "A Thousand Years" is its subtlety. Unless someone (like me) gets you thinking about the surround mix, by the time you get to the second cut, you won’t notice what is going on. You’ll just be sucked into the record. If you invite your girlfriend in and have her listen to the two-channel version for 60 seconds and then you drop in the DTS 5.1 version, she’ll tell you there is no comparison. You’ll probably end up listening the whole album. Scratch that – pull the Sting record off after the first cut and drop in the 5.1 mix of Marvin Gaye’s "Let’s Get It On." But I digress.

The big single from ‘Brand New Day’ is "Desert Rose," a tune that very much lends itself to a 5.1 mix. The track kicks off with a Duran Duran-esque programmed keyboard section that smoothly swirls around your five channels. The vocal style for both Sting and the background singers has a tribal chanting vibe. The extra resolution and three front channels allow for absolutely amazing placement in the front of the mix. The strings and layered vocals sneak up as the melody progresses though a few verses. What makes this track possibly the best 5.1 demo to date is the simplicity amidst the complexity of a busy mix. The end result is seamless, far better than the two-channel version.

MP3, Napster and other undiscovered formats of downloadable music will, with 100 percent certainty, change the music business forever. Since 1983, 16-bit 44.1 MHz compact discs have been the format of choice, but not for much longer. With the commercial success of DVD, over 30,000,000 multi-channel systems have been installed worldwide (excluding the obvious car audio market). Record companies will soon be embracing 5.1 audio soundtracks on DVD audio discs in order to tempt us, the buying public, to invest in music that is not freely downloadable on the Internet. This Sting record is a great example of what can be done with a modern record. It is also a good example of how tasteful a 5.1 mix can be. Does the DTS 5.1 mix of Sting’s ‘Brand New Day’ make it a different record lyrically? Of course not. But what it does do is make the mix so much more interesting that I have listened to the whole record at least six times from start to finish. That’s not bad, considering I hadn’t touched the two-channel disc since I reviewed it last year.

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