|The Fixx - 1011 Woodland|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Tuesday, 28 January 2003|
The ‘80s were, in my opinion, pretty dismal for music. Michael Jackson ruled the pop scene, Bon Jovi and Twisted Sister vied for rock status, and Tears for Fears were considered punk. Labels for the type of music a band fit into at that time were somewhat confusing. The Fixx could be called new wave, or even synthpop. With a darker sound than bands like Duran Duran, Men at Work, or Depeche Mode, they were able to differentiate themselves somewhat in a crowded market of bands that sounded a lot alike.
A year after launching an artistically successful effort called Elemental in 1998, the Fixx has returned with 1011 Woodland. Named after the studio in which the 17 songs have been completely revamped, the band took a stripped-down acoustic approach when re-recording. To the band's credit, they balance the predictable hits, "One Thing Leads to Another,” "Saved By Zero,” and "Secret Separation" with lesser-heard tracks like “Outside,” which sounds fresh and vibrant. The guitar work changing from speaker to speaker is gimmicky, but the resolution and ambience is enjoyable and sounds leagues better than the original CD version.
“Woman on a Train” benefits from the makeover by better vocal textures and bass lines, courtesy of 96 kHz/24-bit resolution. Fans used to hearing the original will get a nice surprise with the improved sound and slightly different arrangement, and with a different guitar riff at the beginning of the song. This also happens with other tunes, like “Stand or Fall,” with a different ending than the studio version. This tune deviates the most from the original, and while it captures all of the instruments and vocals with a very organic sound, I was a bit disappointed in this version. Actually, all of the songs have a different sound that may not be to the liking of a casual fan. Some tunes sounded better sonically, but I preferred the original to the re-recorded version, like “Cameras in Paris” and “Saved by Zero.” The hardcore fan will love the different take, but I must admit that I’m not sure that it worked for me.
"Lost Planes" misses the driving synth riff in the original, but it manages to capture the energy in a bit more laid-back, mature manner. That seems to be the theme of most of these songs: a more mature approach to their arrangements. Most work, but a few seem to lose some of their original allure and vitality. “Driven” has most of the sound coming from the front three speakers, as most tunes do. But partway through the song, the recording engineer decided to put some of the backing vocals in the rear speakers, perhaps to try to envelope the listener within the song. It ended up coming across a bit awkward, not blending very well with the rest of the sound. For all of the format’s strengths, DVD-A cannot make every song sound good with 5.1.
“Outside” suffered as well from misplaced instruments. Oram’s guitar work would have been outstanding if they hadn’t chosen to have it jumping from speaker to speaker. It just doesn’t work well with this tune. To me, it has the effect of someone walking into the room while you’re listening and getting your attention, distracting you momentarily. Then you find yourself trying to get realigned with the groove you had before the distraction. It was especially an issue with this song, as the tune paints a nice aural landscape, with a warm midrange and spacious ambience that makes it pretty special.
This is DVD-A for Fixx fanatics more than for casual fans who most likely would prefer the original versions. Reading Cy Curnin's introduction in the booklet, this recording was obviously very important to the band and they took great care in recording it. But I wonder why they didn’t create new material instead of putting the effort into rewriting the older songs. The tunes have more of a live feel to them than the older versions, certainly not like a concert performance, but a back to the basics approach. True fans will not be disappointed in the added bandwidth of 96kHz/24-bit format, which adds more dimension to the sound. Some of the 5.1 mixing didn’t serve the songs as well as they possibly could have, due mostly to some awkward placement of instruments or vocals that called my attention away from the base of the song. The use of five channels presents a challenge to standard recording practices as it can enhance the experience or distract the listener from what the intended effect was, which is just to enjoy the music.
Extras include artist commentary by song, a photo gallery, still photos over each track, and some video footage, including outtakes of various songs.