Back Add a Comment Share:
The album generating machine that is R.E.M released its 15th studio album in 2001 under the title Reveal in May 2001, 19 years after they started recording together. This was the 7th to come out from the Warner label and as always, was hailed by critics as the best album since Automatic for the People (which was way back in 1992). Modern recording techniques being what they are, I would imagine this was the easiest album from their back catalogue to transition to DVD-Audio and the CD being so recent, really creates a test to see how much better a recently recorded album can be on DVD-Audio when compared to CD.

Reveal

The Album
The critics may claim that this is the best since Automatic, but I would still disagree since Automatic for the People is the album I always go back to when I think of R.E.M. That’s not to say this is bad, not at all. I have found this release to grow on me the more I listen to it. It’s slightly odd percussion and melodic vocals leave more to be noticed with each listen. I do not drag the CD off the shelf too often; in fact this DVD-Audio has already had more play time than my CD. A lot if not all of the tracks are quite complicated musically, with a lot of subtle sound effects and instruments intermittently springing into life which was lost on me with the CD.

The reason I bought the CD was the track Imitation of Life which as the band point out, is a catchy pop song. Since the rest of the album is not like this as I had originally hoped, the CD did not get played very often. Imitation of Life is not the bands favourite song on the album by any means and the excellent documentary included touches this point. However, I digress. The vocals tend to come from all three front speakers on this album, and on Imitation, the rears are used primarily for the orchestral sounds which is also replicated in parts on the fronts. This gives an enormous feeling of being in the middle of the tune. The centre is not specifically used except for the occasional strumming of a guitar, however it does carry the vocals and any surround elements required to give this “stuck in the middle” sensation. There is a lot of bass on this track, and since all the other instruments are so prominent, the vocals are almost drowned out in places. However it is the same on the CD. It makes the track come at you with full force which is I assume, the reason it was mixed this way. What did find throughout the album, which I noticed on this track first, is that the bass level is a lot higher than the CD. The CD sounds a lot brighter, while the DVD-Audio with its extra bass is a lot softer. This I would imagine, is the by product of creating the surround element discussed earlier.

Reveal

I’ve Been High is mixed such that the organ and the complicated percussion are much easier to hear. On the CD it never registered all the nuances that were included in this percussion track. The melodic vocals are cleaner and also easier to hear on this track – it is just easier for your ears to understand what is happening in this track when compared to the CD. Saturn Returns has parts which seem a little flat but they appear to be faithful to the original recording. It might be the higher levels of bass that contribute to this. The electric guitar streams in over the beautiful piano while all manner of weird percussion noises appear in the rears. From the documentary we learn that the percussion was created using techniques from the early part of this centaury, right up until techniques developed only a few months before the albums release.

Reveal

Extras
As I mentioned earlier, this disc comes with a studio documentary in which the band individually discuss tracks from the album, their personal favourites, ways in which the album was created and touring. For some reason Michael Stipe is holding a copy of the Reveal CD and randomly waves it around as he is talking. In typical Stipe madness, he is wearing a suit and flip-flops. Peter Buck appears to be in his or at least someone’s home overlooking the garden in which a squirrel can be seen foraging for bits and pieces. Mike Mills sits in front of what appears to be a harmonium, next to his guitar. It was good to see them all talking freely without the rest of the band as in interviews they all often end up talking over each other. It’s a shame they do not talk about DVD-Audio, but this was obviously recorded before this was planned for DVD-Audio release. Presented in 4:3 and Dolby Digital stereo, this is accessible via all DVD players and clocks in at 32 minutes. Definitely a must see for fans of the band.

The strange animated video for I’ll Take the Rain is included, and it is the single version of this track is played. I won’t attempt to decode what it all means, but basically it’s a dog with a crown, on a skateboard. What with the large capacity of a DVD, it was a shame that all the videos for the singles were not included. The next extra is a photo gallery, again accessible to all DVD players; this collection of 8 photos shows the band I assume working on tracks and recording the album. A discography is also included, however it only features the albums released on the Warner label (the band obviously appearing on the IRS label before). There is also a web link to REM HQ which at first didn’t work on my PC as my pop-up killing software prevented me from entering the site. You will need Flash5 to view this site properly. There is also a link to Warner Brothers Records for information on other artists on this label.

Reveal

Overall
If you bought Reveal on CD, even if you haven’t listened to it much, I would heartily recommend you upgrading to this version. The DVD-Audio release sounds much freer than the CD which sounded like so much was squeezed into the two channels available. Hardcore fans will already be planning to purchase this for the documentary alone, and others should really follow suit.

The album really has grown on me (now I have listened to it more than several times). My only gripe with this is that the production company do not seem to be making use of this format properly. Each track is presented with a nice picture with the songs title and a small menu but DVD-Audio can support 16 pictures per track so it would be nice to see this used. Also, only including one video was a shame, especially since the Imitation of Life video was so good. It would have been little hassle and there is plenty of space left of this disc. DVD-Audio is in its early days and so I hope we have such things as I mentioned to follow. Automatic for the People is due out next from the R.E.M back catalogue and I hope it is given the treatment it deserves. After Reveal, I am definitely looking forward to it.


Links: