2. When You Believe [From the Prince of Egypt]
3. Whenever You Call
4. My All
6. Always Be My Baby
7. One Sweet Day
10. Dream Lover
11. I'll Be There
13. I Don't Wanna Cry
15. Love Takes Time
16. Vision of Love
17. I Still Believe
SOUND: This title from Mariah Carey is one of a group of several that are the first SACD titles that I've experienced. Although it's too bad that a multi-channel remix was not included for this early SACD release (an appropriate 5.1 mix would likely effectively bring the music further out into the room), the sound quality of the stereo presentation was enough more than enough to forget about the fact that only the stereo DSD (Direct Stream Digital) presentation was included. There is no CD layer.
The album is, of course, a collection of some (I'm guessing not all - "Heartbreaker" is missing, although it was included on the #1's DVD) of Mariah Carey's hits from across the 90's. The SACD also includes four bonus tracks, including Carey's duet with Whitney Houston, "When You Believe", that was included on the "Prince of Egypt" soundtrack.
Although the title certainly captures a remarkable string of hits and Carey's great voice, it also provides a rather fascinating journey through the singer's changing character and tone, as Carey's songs slowly changed from ballads to more R & B and rap-driven numbers. "Honey" being an early connection to her later "Heartbreaker", for example. Although never a particularly big fan of the singer, several of her catchier, more uptempo numbers ("Dreamlover", "Honey") and a couple of ballads ("When You Believe") certainly stick in my memory.
That said, the SACD's audio quality may vary slightly throughout due to the different recordings, but the songs sounded superb at worst and outstanding at best. The more dynamic songs ("Emotions", "Dream Lover", "Someday" and especially the bassy beats and Mariah's high notes in "Honey", one of the slickest sounding tracks included) certainly show off the clarity and quality of the format, but the ballads and more subtle numbers ("Always Be My Baby", "Hero" and especially "When You Believe")also benefit from the improved sonics of SACD, adding warmth and greater clarity to Mariah's vocals, capturing the singer's vocal range wonderfully, and certainly a good deal better than any recording of hers I've ever heard before. Although I'd liked the sound of the DVD's DD 5.1 and PCM Stereo tracks when I reviewed it a couple years ago, a just-for-fun comparison between "Dream Lover" on the DVD and SACD made the DVD's audio quality pale in comparison, sounding thin and flat. Although the result was obviously going to be in favor of the SACD, the difference was even more dramatic than I'd expected.
Throughout, backing beats and instrumentals ring forth with an exciting clarity. Bass sounds tight and punchy throughout, never muddy or weak. None of the elements overshadow each other on this nicely balanced stereo presentation. The presentation offered a full, wide soundstage that was very involving. Overall, I was amazed by this introduction to the SACD format - although a few tracks on this presentation didn't sound quite as good as the others ("I'll Be There", which I think was recorded during the MTV Unplugged performance, doesn't sound like as good of a recording as the other tracks), at best, the kind of open, detailed, warm and smooth sound here is remarkable and a delightful way to experience this album.
Final Thoughts: Although I'm not a fan of some of the songs, a couple of the ballads and a few of the more uptempo songs are wonderfully catchy, fun and show off Mariah's vocal range superbly. Although the sound quality isn't entirely consistent throughout this SACD, this is certainly the best I've ever heard the singer sound.