|Queen - The Game|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 29 April 2003|
In the spirit of low corporate productivity, I once had an employee who felt the need to record things backwards into his Mac, play them back and then vocally repeat them back into the mic as closely as he could to the backwards version. He would then flip his imitation of the backwards version around (using digital audio editing software) and compare his version to the original. One of the funniest things he ever did was record the line “Another One Bites The Dust” backwards. Once flipped around, it sounds phonetically like “on-a-warium-klumps-it-nufs-it.” After an hour or so of practice, he could repeat his version so well that it was almost identical to the original recording he made of the line. Can you believe I actually employed this guy?
In listening to Queen’s The Game, I couldn’t help but think of backwards audio. While I didn’t hear too many things recorded backwards, I did hear a number of familiar songs mixed specifically for 5.1 surround sound. DTS Entertainment’s remixed version of the album on DVD-Audio has, as you would expect, a full MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) version, plus a 5.1 DTS default track that also sounds pretty nice in 5.1 surround for those who don’t have a DVD-Audio player but do have a DVD-Video player. The last time I checked, there were about 75,000,000 people hooked up for DVD-Video. If you are missing the 5.1 speaker setup, there is a high-resolution PCM stereo track also included on the disc.
Unlike Queen’s A Night at the Opera DVD-Audio, produced for DVD-Audio by DTS, The Game doesn’t have a video included as an added value, but it is an aggressive yet compelling mix for surround sound. I just finished reviewing the all-time classic, Miles Davis Kind of Blue, on the SACD format in surround. It was mixed into surround mainly to use the center speaker and sub channels to increase the size and depth of the soundstage. Thankfully, very little was put into the rear channels on Kind of Blue. The Game is mixed completely differently, resulting in a more adventurous mix that matches the outlandish style of the band’s music perfectly. A closer analogy to the surround mix would be the DVD-Audio mix of Yes’ Fragile.
The first track, “Play The Game,” may not be one of the biggest radio classics from Queen, but the melody is certainly familiar, with rock opera overtones. The first effect, as the song starts, seemingly implodes on you, grabbing your attention to let you know that you are NOT listening to a standard stereo CD. Queen is known for big overdubbed vocals and vocal harmonies, and surround mixing engineer Justin Shirley-Smith is liberal in his use of panning and vocal placements with the rear speakers.
The second track, Brian May’s “Dragon Attack,” is based around a classic early 1980s “attitude” riff of the kind you would hear on a Billy Squire hit. It exudes cockiness and invites thoughts of a time when being a guitar god was almost a necessity for becoming a pop icon. Most notably on the track, the drum fills are neatly mixed all over, which gives you something unique to listen for. When the song breaks down to a highly overdubbed a cappella break, the surrounding nature of the mix really shines. There is nothing a stereo mix can do to make music encircle you the way that this track does. On my first scan through the disc, I thought “Dragon Attack” was going to be some wannabe Yngwie Malmsteen song. I was way off – it is an unexpected winner.
“Another One Bites the Dust” is one of the big hits from The Game and it gets new life when mixed for surround. I have heard the song hundreds of times on the radio and at sporting events, but on the DVD-Audio version, certain effects are more meaningful. For example, the swirling effects that precede the first guitar riff are mixed to zoom in from back to front. The second time through, the back-to-front effects focus the listener right back up front for a little Brian May guitar chop. There is a gaited reverb on the drum chop that leads into the chorus, which on the DVD-Audio version sounds huge, with decay that lasts in ways I don’t remember ever hearing on CD.
The other big hit from The Game is the rockabilly tune “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which is one bit Elvis and another bit over-the-top Queen. With a melody that is as catchy as it gets, there is no denying this hit song still has appeal all these years later, but what is even more interesting is the mix that puts the backup vocals and guitar solo behind you, which adds three-dimensionality to a track that you have heard over and over in more two-dimensional stereo.
Queen was a fun band that never took itself too seriously, which makes for a good-time listening experience for this record, assuming you aren’t already familiar with all of the tracks. The Game is the second Queen album remixed for 5.1 by DTS Entertainment, after A Night at The Opera, which as an album isn’t as strong as The Game. As noted earlier, The Game is without a music video, but it does have onscreen lyrics and some photos as added values. The goodies are not the reason you should buy this disk – you should purchase it for the successfully adventurous surround sound mix. If you are looking for a record that will give your rear speakers and subwoofer a workout for something more than “ambient sound,” pick up Queen The Game on DVD-Audio and crank it up.