Universal Releases 4 Mercury Living Presence SACDs & Announces Elton John SACD Extras

On Tuesday, Universal Music’s Mercury label made U.S. Classical Music fans very happy with the release of the first 4 albums in their long-awaited Mercury Living Presence SACD reissue series. Along with the 4 Mercury Living Presence SACDs, they also released 3 more recent Classical Music albums in Surround Sound Super Audio CD. Other news this week included a listing of the bonus tracks in the 5 upcoming Elton John Surround Sound SACDs as well as the news that the upcoming SACDs from Elton John and Eric Clapton were being moved back a bit on the SACD Release List. Here are the highlights of this week’s SACD news from the Universal Music Group.

4 Mercury Living Presence SACDs Arrive in the U.S. Market
The first 4 albums in the long-awaited Mercury Living Presence SACD reissue series arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday as scheduled. As with most of the Universal Music Group classical music SACDs, the Mercury Living Presence SACD series debuted in the European and Japanese markets ahead of the U.S. In fact, all 10 of the Mercury Living Presence SACDs are now available in those areas.

The new SACDs contain for the first time the original 3 Channel recordings of these well known classical albums. High Fidelity Review readers will recall that Universal Music polled Classical Music fans on their Internet forum as to which titles to bring out first in 3 Channel SACD format, and the initial batch of releases largely reflect the most popular selections from that poll.

Three of the SACDs are single SACD discs selling for $18.98 list price while the Janos Starker performance of Bach Suites for Cello is a two SACD set selling for a $37.98 list price. The SACDs were made by Universal in SACD replication lines in Germany and Hong Kong. In fact, in the case of the Starker SACD set I picked up, Disc 1 was made in Germany while Disc 2 was made in Hong Kong.

Early reaction to the sonic quality and value of the 3 Channel SACD playback option on each disc’s Surround Sound SACD layer has been very positive. As I reported last week, imported copies of two of this week’s releases are being used to demonstrate the new Meitner CDSD SACD Transport, DAC6e 6 Channel DSD Converter and Switchman III preamp/switcher to good effect. Listening to the first four 3 Channel SACDs on my system also validated the early praise. They will be a well appreciated addition to any Classical Music fan’s SACD collection.

  • Antal Dorati, London Symphony Orchestra – Stravinsky: The Firebird (Complete); Tango; Scherzo à la Russe (Mercury Living Classics)
  • Byron Janis, Antal Dorati, London Symphony Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra – Rachmaninov: Piano Concerti 2 & 3; 2 Preludes (Mercury Living Classics)
  • Paul Paray, Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Suppé: Overtures (+Auber) (Mercury Living Classics)
  • Janos Starker – Bach: Six Suites For Solo Cello (2 SACD Set) (Mercury Living Classics)

Three Newer Classical Titles Arrive in Surround Sound SACD
For Classical Music fans looking for full Surround Sound SACD playback, Universal Music has you covered as well this week. They released three more recent titles in Surround Sound Super Audio CD. These include the Cinderella Suite performed by Argerich & Pletnev and two boxed sets – the 3 disc SACD edition of Mozart’s Don Giovanni featuring Bryn Terfel, Claudio Abbado and Chamber Orchestra Europe and the 5 disc SACD set of Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies as performed by Jaap van Zweden conducting the Residentie Orchestra.

  • Argerich & Pletnev – Cinderella Suite from the Ballet for 2 Pianos & La Mere (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Bryn Terfel, Claudio Abbado, Chamber Orchestra Europe – Mozart: Don Giovanni (3 SACD Box Set) (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Jaap van Zweden, Residentie Orchestra – Beethoven: Complete Symphonies (5 SACD Box Set) (Philips)

All seven of this week’s Super Audio CD releases from the Universal Music Group are now available at Tower Records stores and other music stores that carry SACDs. They can also be purchased from Acoustic Sounds, CD Universe, Elusive Disc and Music Direct.Bonus Tracks Announced for Elton John SACD Series
High Fidelity Review readers know that one of the highlights of the Surround Sound edition of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road last year was the bonus track of Candle In The Wind performed acoustically. Looking to repeat that reception, 4 of the 5 upcoming Surround Sound SACDs by Elton John will also have bonus tracks as well.

According to Universal Music, the line up of bonus tracks on the upcoming Elton John Surround Sound SACDs are as follows:

Elton John

  • Bad Side of the Moon
  • Grey Seal
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll MadonnaTumbleweed Connection
  • Into The Old Man’s Shoes
  • Madman Across The Water (Original Version)Honky Chateau
  • Slave (Alternate Version)Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
  • Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  • One Day At A Time
  • Philadelphia Freedom

Universal Music Comments on the Elton John SACD Releases
Universal Music also issued a statement about the Surround Sound SACDs stating that “The legendary career of international singer/songwriter and performer, Elton John, has spanned more than three decades. By all measures, Elton is one of the world’s most successful touring artists and one of the top-selling solo artists of all time. Elton John has sold more than 200 million records world-wide, with 29 consecutive Top 40 hits, earning 35 gold and 25 platinum albums.These classic catalog titles from Elton John all feature new SACD Surround Sound mixes and totally remastered SACD and CD Audio Stereo programs. All were created using the original analog master tapes. These new SACDs update the classic mid-1990’s reissues, including liner notes, graphics and bonus tracks.

An extensive marketing campaign will be launched in support of the releases of these monumental catalog titles on SACD, which will also include the new Elton John album Peachtree Road on 11/9. Radio buys, listening parties and system product give-aways will be conducted in key markets in conjunction with local radio stations. The radio markets will include New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Houston, Phoenix, Denver, Hartford and Seattle. Consumer advertising will also run supporting these releases in
Rolling Stone, Spin, Tracks, Blender, Sound & Vision & Absolute Sound.”

Release Dates for Eric Clapton and Elton John Moved Back
Turning on news on the release date front, Universal Music has announced a one week delay in the release of the upcoming Surround Sound SACDs from Eric Clapton and Elton John. These SACDs are now due in stores on November 2, 2004.

Upcoming Universal Music SACD Release List
Here’s the complete list of upcoming SACDs from Universal Music in the U.S. market that includes the additions and changes mentioned above:

October 19, 2004 SACD Release

  • Antal Dorati, Philharmonia Hugarica Orchestra – Respighi: Ancient Airs & Dances for Lute (Mercury Living Classics)October 26, 2004 SACD Release
  • Nick Drake – A Collection [Greatest Hits] (Island)November 2, 2004 SACD Releases
  • Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard (Polydor)
  • Eric Clapton – Slow Hand (Polydor)
  • Derek & the Dominoes – Layla (Polydor)
  • Elton John – Captain Fantastic (Universal/Rocket)
  • Elton John – Elton John (Universal/Rocket)
  • Elton John – Honky Chateau (Universal/Rocket)
  • Elton John – Madman Across The Water (Universal/Rocket)
  • Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection (Universal/Rocket)November 9, 2004 SACD Releases
  • Chet Baker – Baker’s Holiday: Chet Baker Plays & Sings The Billie Holiday Songbook (Verve)
  • Andrea Bocelli – Andrea [Limited Edition Digi-Pak] (Philips Classics)
  • The Carpenters – Singles: 1969-1981 (A&M Records)
  • John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman (Impulse)
  • Cotrubas, Domingo, Kleiber, Bayerischer, Staatsorchester – Verdi: La Traviata (2 SACD Set) (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Richard Croft, Minkowski, Les Musiciens du Louvre – Gluck: Orphee et Eurydice (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Antal Dorati, London Sympohny Orchestra – Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol (Mercury Living Presence)
  • Akiko Suwanai, Charles Duoit, Philharmonia Orchestra – Poeme (Philips Classics)
  • Frederick Fennell, Eastman Wind Ensemble – Sousa Marches (Mercury Living Classics)
  • Renee Fleming – Handel (Decca Classics)
  • Juan Diego Florez – Great Tenor Arias (Decca Classics)
  • Ferenc Fricsay – Rosette Collection: Mozart: Magic Flute (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Paul Mc Creesh, Gabrieli Consort & Players – Music for San Rocco (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Hilary Hahn, Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra – Elgar: Violin Concerto Op. 61 & Williams: The Lark Ascending (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Herbie Hancock – Gershwin’s World (Verve)
  • Howard Hanson, Eastman Rochester Orchestra – Hanson: Symphonies No. 1 (Nordic) & 2 (Romantic); Song of Democracy (Mercury Living Classics)
  • Joe Henderson – Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (Verve)
  • Shirley Horn – Here’s to Live: Shirley Horn With Strings (Verve)
  • Elton John – Peachtree Road (Universal/Rocket)
  • Los Romeros, Victor Alessandro, San Antonio Symphony Orchestra – Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (Mercury Living Presence)
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers – Burnin’ (Island)
  • Michael McDonald – Motown Two (Motown)
  • Anna Netrebko, Claudio Abbado, Mahler Chamber Orchestra – Sempre Libera (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Seiji Ozawa, Saito Kinen Orchestra – Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 (Philips Classics)
  • Paul Paray, Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Chabrier: Espana, Rhapsody & Roussel: Suite in F (Mercury Living Presence)November 23, 2004 SACD Releases
  • Keane – Hopes and Fears (Interscope)
  • Nine Inch Nails – Downward Spiral (Nothing/Interscope)SACD Releases Coming Soon
  • Count Basie & His Orchestra – April In Paris (Verve)
  • Dorati, Enescu, London Symphony Orch – Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies (Decca Classics)
  • John Fogerty – Deja Vu All Over Again (Geffen)
  • Ferenc Fricsay – Rosette Collection: Mozart: Magic Flute (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Tonu Kaljuste – Te Deum (ECM)
  • Eleni Karaindrou – Soundtrack: Ulysses’ Gaze (ECM)
  • Christina Milian – It’s About Time (Island)
  • Motley Crüe – Greatest Hits (Hip-O Records)
  • Anne Sofie Mutter, Andre Previn, London Symphony Orchestra – Tchaikovsky & Korngold: Violin Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Zimerman, Polish Festival Orchestra – Chopin: Piano Concertos No. 1 & 2 (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Linda Ronstadt – Humming to Myself (Verve)
  • Andreas Scholl – Senesino Album (Decca Classics)