HE: Bob Dylan & Norah Jones Featured in SACD Listening Room

Part of yesterday’s press day was a session in Sony’s SACD listening room. In the listening room, members of the press were provided with an update on the upcoming Bob Dylan Remastered SACDs including the news that a 16th Dylan SACD would be available in October. In addition, tracks from several future SACD releases were played including discs from Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Steely Dan and Sam Cooke. Here are some highlights from that session.

A Bob Dylan SACD Update from Legacy Recordings
Steven Berkowitz, Senior Vice President A&R at Legacy Recordings provided members of the media with an update on the upcoming Bob Dylan Remastered SACD series. As noted in earlier stories, the Dylan Remastered SACD Series will feature his albums on single inventory, Hybrid Stereo and Multichannel SACD reissues.

Legacy’s Berkowitz heads up the Dylan Remastered project and referred to it as an “enjoyable but daunting task”. He noted Dylan’s “iconic” status in the pop world and his “40 years of recording history”.

The project team combed through all of Dylan’s recordings including issues on vinyl LP, CD, Mini Disc, Half Speed LP, Direct to Disc, Quadraphonic and SACD as well as the original master tapes to find the original intent behind each of the songs in the Dylan catalog. To assist with this phase of the work, Berkowitz assembled a team that included noted reissue specialist Bob Irwin along with several Sony Studios veterans including Ditier Deutesch, Dan DeVito and Vic Anesini. Their goal according to Berkowotz was to “make them right” when the reissued series tracks were finished.

Berkowitz also talked about the “all star team” that he put together to handle the remastering of the songs as well as create new 5.1 remixes for some of the albums. Work on the Stereo tracks was handled by Chris Shaw who is Bob Dylan’s current engineer with Stereo remastering being done by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. For the 5.1 Surround Sound mixes, he turned to well known industry producer/engineers Phil Ramone and Elliot Scheiner with the 5.1 mastering tasks were assigned to George Marino, also at Sterling Sound. Finally, SACD authoring was handled by Darcy Proper at Sony Studios who Berkowitz referred to as Scheiner’s “favorite engineer” for this work.

Bob Dylan SACD Sampler
To provide members of the media with a flavor of the Dylan Remastered material, Sony handed out a 6 track Multichannel SACD for reporters who were at the event. They noted that this sampler would otherwise not be available to the press or public.

The tracks on the sampler included:

  1. All I Really Want to Do – from Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall, The Bootleg Series, Volume 6
  2. Love Minus Zero/No Limit – from Bringing It Back Home
  3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again – from Blonde on Blonde
  4. Tangled Up In Blue – from Blood On The Tracks
  5. Gotta Serve Somebody – from Slow Train Coming
  6. Moonlight – from Love & Theft

Leading off the demonstrations, Berkowitz played track 1 which is from a previously unreleased Bootleg Series album recorded live in 1964. He told the group that this Dylan Remastered SACD would be coming out in October and would be the 16th disc in the series. The song features a 22 year old Dylan, singing with some enthusiasm and raw energy. This track is also interesting since it sounds like Dylan may have had a drink or two before the performance. (There was some talk in the listening session about Dylan being “a bit typsy”).

Moving to some more recent Dylan recordings, Berkowitz also played tracks 5 (Gotta Serve Somebody) and 6 (Moonlight). As you would expect, these tracks were much more polished sounding and featured very nice sonics and detail on Dylan’s vocals, guitar and the backing musicians. What is suggests is that the series will feature both historic, older recordings as well as more recent and sonically impressive material.

More on the Dylan Remastered SACD Series
Leagcy also handed out a press release on the Dylan Remastered SACD series that listed the first 15 albums in the Dylan SACD series, their original release date and a brief write up on each. Here’s what the release had to say in that regard:

  1. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (released May 1963) – Includes “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna fall.” Freewheelin’ was Dylan’s second Columbia album, but his first collection of all original songs. Produced by John Hammond.
  2. Another Side of Bob Dylan (released August 1964) – Includes “All I Really Want to Do,” “Spanish Harlem Incident,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “My Back Pages.” “A rich, complex album” (Paul Williams, Crawdaddy). Produced by Tom Wilson.
  3. Bringing It All Back Home (released March 1965) – Includes “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Gates of Eden,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” The first Dylan album to include accompaniment by an electric band, and his first Top Ten LP. Produced by Tom Wilson.
  4. Highway 61 Revisited (released August 1965) – Includes the No. 2 hit single “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Desolation Row.” Produced by Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston.
  5. Blonde on Blonde (released May 1966) – Includes “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” “Visions of Johanna,” “Just Like a Woman,” “I Want You.” This landmark double LP was the first Bob Dylan album recorded in Nashville. Produced by Bob Johnston.
  6. John Wesley Harding (released December 1967) – Includes “John Wesley Harding,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and “Drifter’s Escape.” With the inclusion of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” Dylan returned rock to its country roots. Produced by Bob Johnston.
  7. Nashville Skyline (released April 1969) – Includes “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Country Pie.” Produced by Bob Johnston.
  8. Planet Waves (released January 1974) – Includes “On a Night Like This,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “Forever Young,” “You Angel You.” With instrumental backing by The Band, Planet Waves became Dylan’s first Number One album. Produced by Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Rob Fraboni.
  9. Blood On The Tracks (released January 1975) – Includes “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “If You See Her, Say Hello,” “Shelter from the Storm.” “The writing is the source of the record’s power. There are times when he sounds closer, more intimate and more real than anyone else.” (Jon Landau, Rolling Stone) Produced by Bob Dylan.
  10. Desire (released January 1976) – Includes “Hurricane,” “Black Diamond Bay,” “One More Cup of Coffee,” “Oh, Sister.” Desire features violinist Scarlett Rivera and songs co-written with Jacques Levy. Produced by Don Devito.
  11. Slow Train Coming (released August 1979) – Includes the Grammy Award-winning single “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “I Believe in You,” “Slow Train,” “When He Returns.” Produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett.
  12. Infidels (released November 1983) – Includes “Jokerman,” “License to Kill,” “I and I,” “Sweetheart Like You.” Dylan’s sidemen include Mick Taylor (guitar), Mark Knopfler (guitar), Sly Dunbar (drums), and Robbie Shakespeare (bass). “Eight vigorous songs that teem with self-effacing introspection and wit.” (Christopher Connelly, Rolling Stone). Produced by Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.
  13. Oh Mercy (released September, 1989) – Includes “Political World,” “Everything Is Broken,” “Ring Them Bells,” “Man in the Long Black Coat.” Recorded in New Orleans with Louisiana musicians including Cyril Neville (percussion), Rockin’ Dopsie (accordion), Willie Green (drums), and Mason Ruffner (guitar). Produced by Daniel Lanois.
  14. Street Legal (released June, 1978) – Includes “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power),” “Changing of the Guards,” “Baby, Stop Crying,” and “Is Your Love in Vain?” Produced by Don Devito.
  15. “Love and Theft” (September, 2001) – Includes “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, “Mississippi,” “Summer Days,” “High Water (for Charley Patton).” “All pop music is love and theft, and in 40 years of records whose sources have inspired volumes of scholastic exegesis, Dylan has never embraced that truth so warmly. Jokes, riddles, aperçus, and revelations will surface for years. Grade: A Plus.” (Robert Christgau, The Village Voice)

Release on August 19th
The first 15 discs in the Bob Dylan Remastered Series are due out on August 19th. In response to a question, Berkowitz said that the work on the series is “on schedule” and “I think we’re going to make it” in terms of the SACDs arriving in stores on August 19th. I’m sure that Bob Dylan fans will be watching the store shelves for these SACD releases.

Listening to Some Additional Upcoming SACDs
After listening to three songs from the Dylan SACD Sampler, we then heard selections from several more upcoming SACDs. This session was hosted by David Kawakami and Colin Cigarran from the Sony SACD Project.

First up was three tracks from the upcoming Multichannel SACD of “Gaucho” by Steely Dan that is scheduled for release from MCA in “late summer”. According to Kawakami, engineer Elliot Scheiner asked Universal and the band for permission to remix the album for Multichannel SACD release. Listening to the tracks “Babylon Sisters”, “Time Out Of Mind” and “Third World Man”, we heard an even more detailed and more discrete surround sound mix then the one now appearing in release on a 5.1 DTS Music Disc. From what we heard in the demo, the Gaucho SACD will be a popular one for Steely Dan fans and audiophiles alike.

Next up was “Cold Cold Heart” from the Norah Jones Multichannel SACD “Come Away With Me” which is due out next Tuesday. Unlike the recent concert DVD Video by Jones which some feel is subwoofer heavy, the Multichannel SACD features impressive sonics and clarity on Jones’ vocals as well as the bass and piano on the song. This one should be another fan and audiophile favorite.

We also heard a couple of tunes from Sam Cooke’s “Live at the Copa” Multichannel SACD which is due out on June 17th. The Cooke SACD, which was remastered by Bob Ludwig, uses a 4 track analog master tape to recreate the live performance. It features Cooke in the front channels with the rear channels used for ambience. The disc features a nice room filling live sound with good bass and some nice detail on Cooke’s vocals and the instruments.

Finally, we were treated to “Sweet Emotion” from Aerosmith’s upcoming Multichannel SACD of “Toys In The Attic”. According to Cigarran, the band recently signed off on the project so the Multichannel SACD should be available in the Fall. Of interest in this demo track was the very clear and detailed playback of the drum and percussion sounds and cadences. A very good use of the SACD format’s features.

Playback Equipment In The Room
The playback in the room was handled by Sony’s upcoming SCD-XA9000ES Multichannel SACD player and their new STR-DA9000ES ES Series Receiver. The two products were connected via firewire which was denoted with a blue LED on the DA9000ES receiver. This combo drove Wilson Audio speakers in a surround sound array.