Top 10 must-have DVD-Audio/SACDs
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Raise Your Spirit Higher (Heads Up)
The good: A brand-new recording of incredibly beautiful South African a cappella music; stereo and 5.1 SACD mixes; CD-compatible layer for playback on standard CD/DVD players.
The bad: No extras or bonus tracks.
The bottom line: This SACD sounds as warm and natural as the music itself.
Favorite tracks: This recording is loaded with beautiful tunes, but our favorite is "Because I Love." The voices occupy a 180-degree arc, but the vast soundstage feels utterly natural, and that's a rare accomplishment. Beyond the surround mix, the quality of the sound is blessedly full bodied. Ladysmith reached a worldwide audience in 1986 when the all-male South African a cappella group lent their voices to Paul Simon's Graceland album.John Hiatt, Bring The Family (A&M)
The good: John Hiatt's best tunes; stereo and 5.1 SACD mixes; CD-compatible layer for playback on standard CD/DVD players.
The bad: No extras or bonus tracks.
The bottom line: SACD sound reveals so much more passion in Hiatt's heartfelt music.
Favorite tracks: We like "Stood Up" because of the way it reveals Hiatt's raw, pleading vocal. The SACD makes this studio recording sound like a live show, and Hiatt's killer band--Ry Cooder on guitars, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums--is clearly inspired by a great collection of tunes. The surround mix should put you in the middle of the action.The Who, Tommy Deluxe Edition (Geffen)
The good: Newly remastered and remixed two-disc set; 17 bonus tracks of alternate takes; stereo and 5.1 SACD mixes; CD-compatible layer for playback on standard CD/DVD players.
The bad: Some may find the surround mix a little too immersive.
The bottom line: Tommy, can you hear me? Now in 5.1 high-resolution surround, this disc will teach you all you should know.
Favorite tracks: "Pinball Wizard" opens with Pete Townshend's strumming acoustic guitar on the right channel: you've never heard it sound so realistic and present. Ah, but when his electric guitar explodes on the left front and rear channels, your heart should skip a beat. The song--correction, the whole damn album--never had this much power before. Townshend personally remixed his master tapes and created a dramatically enhanced version of Tommy. His 5.1 mix puts you in the center of the band, but we were more impressed with the way drummer Keith Moon's sound finally comes into its own. The second disc of bonus tracks, most in 5.1 surround, is a special treat.Sergei Prokofiev, Ivan the Terrible (Mobile Fidelity)
The good: Jaw-dropping music and sound; recorded in surround in 1979; stereo and 4.0 SACD mixes; CD-compatible layer for playback on standard CD/DVD players.
The bad: A true 5.1 mix would have been even better.
The bottom line: Majestic Russian classical music captured in a vividly naturalistic concert-hall perspective.
Favorite tracks: "On the Bones of Our Enemies" will definitely get a rise out of your enemies--or your next-door neighbors. Actually, you should utter something along the lines of "Oh, my God" when you first hear the forces unleashed on this vivid 1979 surround recording. It's all very Russian and a lot of fun. Mobile Fidelity's advanced remastering system was used to restore the original analog master-tape sound.Beck, Sea Change (Geffen)
The good: Beck gets angsty; surreally sprawling 5.1 and stereo SACD mixes.
The bad: SACD only; won't play on CD/DVD players.
The bottom line: Brokenhearted Beck's muse shifts into overdrive.
Favorite tracks: The orchestrated real strings on "Lonesome Tears" sound like a nod to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." We wished the web of acoustic guitars coursing through "Already Dead" could go on forever. Elliot Scheiner's 5.1 surround mix organically balances intimate and diffuse effects, and we love the way it opens up all of the textural elements of the music. This is very dense stuff and will probably sound like mush on low-fi HTIBs, but if you have a grown-up system, you'll be thrilled.