Our Man In Istanbul
Letter To A Memory
Twilight In Your Hands
SOUND: I think the element that often makes or breaks a surround-sound music recording is simply the mix itself. DTS CDs and DVD-AUDIO have proven that they can provide exceptionally high-quality audio, but if you have the sound sloppily thrown around the listening space, it's not going to be an enjoyable experience. Although I haven't been pleased with a couple of DVD-Audio titles from other companies. DTS, on the other hand, still remains with a clean slate in my book, due to the fact that they bring in some very talented artists to re-purpose these albums for the 5.1 format - people like David Tickle, who has also worked on DTS CDs for Sting and Sheryl Crow.
Tickle again manages to work his magic with the flamenco sound of Steve Stevens. At the album's most intense and energetic, Tickle creates a marvelously enveloping experience, spreading out the instruments around the listener tastefully and agressively, while managing not to be distracting. Mor energetic tracks like "Hamina" create a wildly immersive 360 degree surround feel that practically electrifies the listening space. Stevens' guitar often takes control of the front speakers to great effect - as the album is instrumental (well, except for a few snippets of voices), this really gives his outstanding guitar work a chance to shine brightly. Speaking of the voices, Tickle gets playful with the begining of "Feminova" as a voice (which, amusingly says, "This will twist your heads. Ideal recording for stereo.") bounces from speaker to speaker. Thankfully, this is a one-time deal and doesn't keep spinning around the room on and off throughout the entire song. Some of the slower pieces though, are mixed slightly less agressively, keeping the sounds a little more front-focused.
Audio quality was uniformly terrific on both the DTS 5.1 version or the 44khz/24bit DVD-Audio version. The DVD-Audio version did provide additional clarity, detail and warmth to the sound - but the DTS version did certainly sound fine on its own terms, though. I was particularly pleased with the DVD-Audio version and the amount of detail that it brought to the proceedings as every note that Stevens played rang through with such a convincingly natural and crisp sound that it sounded as if he was playing in the same room. The sort of techno-ish beats that fuel some of the tracks also sounded wonderful, coming through with deep, rich bass.
Overall, although not one of the most outstanding surround-sound music presentations I've ever heard, it certainly is among the best I've heard recently. Stevens is an incredible guitar player and it really shows throughout the album. Mixed superbly by David Tickle, this is really a fine example of how surround sound music should be done.
For those who do not have DVD-Audio capability, there is also a DTS 5.1 audio version and Dolby 2.0 audio version.
Extras: About 6 minutes and 45 seconds worth of Stevens concert footage in DTS 5.1 audio.
Final Thoughts: An outstanding guitar player, Stevens offers a wonderfully energetic and creative album of flamenco music that is really taken to an even higher level by the stellar surround-sound mix. Recommended.