|Blue Oyster Cult - A Long Day's Night|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 06 May 2003|
Originally recorded on June 21, 2002 on the summer solstice at the Navy Pier/Skyline Stage in Chicago, Blue Oyster Cult decided to work without a net that night. Most live albums are based on the best tracks from several evenings’ performances, but A Long Day’s Night was recorded in one take, in front of a live audience. The DVD video and stereo CD versions of A Long Day’s Night were released in 2002, and now Silverline records has remixed the evening’s performance into 5.1 surround sound for the DVD-Audio disc. Mixed by Rich Tozzoli, this disc features the option of 24/96 DVD-Audio for those of you with DVD-Audio players, as well as 24-bit/48kHz Dolby Digital for those with only regular DVD players.
By its very nature as a live recording, there seemingly wasn’t much of a chance for Tozzoli to be overly experimental with the mix. The rear channels exist mainly to add natural ambience to the recording, giving the listener a feeling of being somewhere in the center of the concert hall. The lead vocals spend most of their time in the center channel, with backing vocals coming from the front left front, right front and rears most often. Drum fills move nicely across the front soundstage, but rarely do percussive effects find their way into the rears. When guitar solos are taken, it sounds as if the effects channel from the band’s guitar rigs were mixed into the rears, making for a sound that is not what you’d expect to hear at a live event. However, it is a creative technique that I have not heard too often on a recording on this nature. Other than that, there are no surround elements that call attention to themselves, like the hard front/back left/right pans on surround albums such as Ministry’s latest album Animositisomina. Subtlety is good in this case, as it doesn’t distract from the music when it comes to recreating a live experience in your surround system.
Nearly all of the vocal harmonies seem to be mixed louder on the live versions of these songs than the studio albums. This tends to be the norm for classic rock bands who spent months in the studio recording the original versions of the songs, then countless years on the road playing the tunes over and over again. As the years roll on and the hearing rolls off, it’s often necessary to give the stage monitors a little extra “oomph” to be sure all of the harmonies are in key. The band has all of their parts nailed like road-tested veterans and it’s interesting to hear all of the vocal parts accented in a much different way than on the studio albums.
Not being a Blue Oyster Cult cult member, I was only marginally familiar with some of the bands lesser-known songs, but one tune that stuck out in my mind (other than the band’s three radio hits) was the instrumental “Buck’s Boogie.” This jam highlights the guitar work of singer/vocalist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser. Playing a white guitar, shaped like a piece of Swiss cheese, of all things, the song chugs along with a rocking blues riff that is a platform for some Eddie Van Halen-style tapping guitar gymnastics. Who knew Blue Oyster Cult could still pull this stuff off after over 30 years? I wouldn’t put them in the leagues of Yes or Rush when it comes to musical virtuosity, but Blue Oyster Cult shows that they aren’t just a three-hit-wonder band. They can rock with the best of them and could play circles around the Rolling Stones, who are still touring the world in their steel wheelchairs.
The album’s closer, and arguably the biggest Blue Oyster Cult hit, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” rocks along at a faster than studio pace. The opening guitar riff is not as clean on this disc, as guitarist/vocalist Roeser plucks the song’s famous arpeggio riff. More distortion makes “Reaper” rock harder, but causes the distinct notes to blend into one as the song kicks in. By the end of the show, the band is exhausted but amped up, which leads to a slightly sloppy yet overall exciting rendition of the tune that everyone in the audience was waiting for all night. Again, no major tricks were done with the surround mix, other than minor guitar reverb and audience sounds to provide ambience.
Utilizing the power of the DVD-Audio format, Silverline has included a live video performance from the show, most likely taken from the DVD-Video versions of A Long Day’s Night. The audio for this video clip is the Dolby Digital version, but when your eyes are ears are working together, the loss of resolution in the audio quality seems negligible. After sitting and patiently listening to every track on the album, my impatient Gen X brain was longing for more than just static images of the band on screen and the attention deficit disorder in me was appeased by finally getting to see the band live and in action on this video clip.
Blue Oyster Cult is never going to fill stadiums like the Rolling Stones or the Eagles do, but for the diehard fans who have been following the band since their humble Long Island beginnings in the late ‘60s, A Long Day’s Night on DVD-Audio will be a rewarding experience and just scratches the surface when it comes to the capabilities of the DVD-Audio format. It’s not a disc that will covert anyone to the DVD-Audio per se, but with some interesting extras, a subtle but effective “live experience” surround mix and excellent 24/96 sound, it’s clearly an absolute must-have for a fans of the band, even if they already own the DVD-Video and/or CD versions. For those who just know the three hit songs, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” “Burning For You” and “Godzilla,” it could be a decent addition to the DVD-Audio disc collection, but it not an essential disc to have