If you have gone to the movies or watched television during the last half a century, then the chances are you have heard at least one of Jerry Goldsmith’s themes. He has been writing music since the early 1950s – to the delight of audiences all over the world – and his soundtracks span all varieties of theatrical content, from historical movies such as ‘Patton’, to science fiction movies such as ‘Star Trek’ and almost everything in between.
Not content with just writing movie and television scores, Jerry Goldsmith has also acted as a guest conductor for many of the world’s best-known orchestras, from the United States to Europe and Japan. Most recently he made his debut as a conductor at New York City’s famous Carnegie Hall during the 1998-1999 season.
It is not surprising therefore, that Telarc would enlist the help of such an esteemed composer and conductor to aid in one of their most technically advanced recordings to date. In January 2000, the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Goldsmith, performed not only some of his most recognizable themes in their entirety, but also selected medleys from his portfolio. The result; the album entitled ‘The Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith’, the subject of this review.
I have come to expect great things from the people at Telarc; they have always been at the forefront of recording technologies, always seeking new ways to make their productions better, realistic and true to life. The use of Sony’s DSD Sonoma, Phillips/Augan DSD multi-channel hard disk and optical recorders has allowed them to elevate their recordings to a new level of clarity and detail. In other words, they are now not only able to capture multi-channel sound, but do so with a resolution and fidelity that few are able to achieve.
‘The Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith’ was produced as a hybrid multi-channel SACD, meaning that in addition to the standard single layer SACD which would include just the high-resolution DSD recording in stereo and/or multi-channel surround sound; it also contains the entire recording in Red-book format, better known to consumers as an audio Compact Disc. While the sound isn’t as detailed as the higher resolution format, it does allow this disc to be enjoyed on conventional CD players.
Starting this review as I do all others, I first listened to the Red-book version of the recording. My main reason for doing so is that it is hard to listen to the more detailed sound of a good DSD recording and then objectively evaluate the standard CD version, without making some unfair comparisons. However, I found that the 44.1kHz PCM version, as with other SACD recordings, definitely benefited by being recording in the DSD format. During the sixth track, ‘Medley of Television Themes’, if I closed my eyes I could almost envisage the glory of the orchestra before me. The soundstage was ideally situated across the front of the room, and while the orchestral instruments blended together to some extent, they certainly didn’t suffer from a loss of expansiveness.
Unlike the Red-book version, which suffers (as most do) from the lack of resolution inherent in CD music recording, when it comes to the SACD layer nothing could be further from the truth. Right from the cymbals of the opening track, ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’, you can tell this is something special. The compression that is often a result of CD’s lesser resolution just doesn’t exist here. The soundstage opens up and you are able to hear individual instruments, and much like the experience of an actual orchestral concert, they surround and make you a part of the experience.
On track four, ‘The Boys from Brazil’, the separation of the orchestra is so great that you are able to pinpoint the positions of the instruments on the stage. The playing of those instruments has almost magical qualities and I felt as though I was being lifted out of my body to a place in the actual movie. The low frequencies are deep and solid and only serve to make you want to hear more of the album… But what is even better is that the more of the album you listen to, the more you can’t wait to hear it again.
As if the stereo DSD version wasn’t enough to sell this SACD, the album also includes a multi-channel version of the recording. I am not always a huge fan of the multi-channel mixes you find on many SACDs, finding that sometimes the people who produce the album take too much artistic license and reduce what could be a heightened experience into something messy from the days of Quadraphonics, however in this case, that wasn’t true at all.
As I mentioned, ‘The Boys from Brazil’ is extremely enjoyable as a stereo recording, but takes on an even deeper meaning as a multi-channel presentation. Now, not only is the orchestra in front of you, but it also fills the entire room, placing you, the listener, in a concert hall surrounded by the sounds of musical harmony. The result is lively and exciting, but as is the case with the piece itself, also deep and entrancing.
Perhaps the best example of the power of multi-channel DSD playback comes by way of track seven, ‘Rudy’. While you might never have heard of the movie – the true story of a man from a working class family succeeding in his dream of becoming a part of the famed football team at Notre Dame – listen to this track and you will be inspired. The power of the music is enough to make even the most stoic man shed a tear as he pictures the haunting and difficult journey undertaken by Rudy to realize his dream.
While all the tracks on this album are wonderful, the music from ‘Rudy’ perhaps best sums up this SACD release from Telarc. Just as Rudy eventually succeeds in his dream of being a member of that famed team, Telarc has also succeeded in producing a recording that epitomizes all the hard work that has made today’s higher-resolution formats possible and more importantly, the even harder work that makes those higher-resolution formats so realistic when replayed at home.
I fully recommend this SACD to anyone who wants to experience what SACD discs have to offer. Even if you only listen to the Red-book CD layer you won’t be disappointed, but once you have listened the SACD DSD multi-channel layer, don’t expect to ever hear things quite the same again…