The (abbreviated, oddly curated) songs of Glee
So when I heard about Glee Encore, which strips away unimportant stuff like characters and plot and all, leaving behind just the music, I was actually pretty interested. Being able to revisit the songs I enjoyed and some of the really well-done "videos" built around those songs is actually a decent idea. The song that most anyone identifies with the series, Journey's Don't Stop Believin'" from the pilot episode, was presented is such a perfect way, that it basically set the stage for the entire season with just a pair of well-timed cut-aways. Though more than a bit cloying, pairing deaf students and the Glee group on Imagine was rather memorable, as was the emotional take on Rose's Turn by Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and the remake of Madonna's black and white Vogue video, starring Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). When the show gets it right, it is tremendously entertaining. However, if you've been downloading the songs on iTunes or buying the soundtrack CDs, this disc isn't likely the presentation you're looking for. That's because it delivers the songs as they were heard on the show. Thus, the vast majority of the songs aren't the full-length album versions. For example, the quality duet on Alone by Matt Morrison and Kristen Chenoweth runs under 90 seconds long, while Cory Monteith's version of Jessie's Girl is only around 10 seconds longer. Sure, the visuals are nice, but if you really enjoy the song, you want to enjoy the song, not a digest version of it. It would have been nice if they could have fleshed out the show performances by letting an editor cut together some clips to the songs, but overall, this just seems like a lazy cash grab. That's the only way to explain why the opening titles were left on the clip for Fire, a completely out-of-place element for this best-of release.
Looking over the songs that made it onto this disc, one wonders why it features just 34 of the 128 tracks performed in Season One, but one might guess that licensing fees were a major determinant, considering that some of the show's biggest songs, performances and guest appearances, including Single Ladies, Loser and Dream On, were all left out. Thus, you get no Neil Patrick Harris, you get no Idina Menzel on Poker Face and you miss out on the classic Olivia Newton-John duet with Jane Lynch on Physical, not to mention losing the visual spectacle of Bust Your Windows, the mash-up fun of Halo/Walking on Sunshine or the iconic half-season finale My Life Would Suck Without You. There's not even an attempt to balance out the presentation, as five episodes have zero representation at all, and you couldn't say they didn't have worthy tunes, since the excellent "Dream On" featured several excellent songs.
Presented with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, these mixes aren't worthy of a feature film, but they are more than fine for a TV series, presenting the audio clearly, with nice strength in the music. The level of dynamic mixing isn't going to turn many heads, with the majority of the sound coming front and center, with some minor atmospheric effects and musical enhancement handed off to the rear speakers. What's annoying though, especially when you're using the shuffle feature, is the inconsistent levels on the songs. You'll frequently find yourself picking up the remote to raise and lower the volume to keep it at a comfortable level.