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Polyphonic Spree - Together We're Heavy (DVD-A), The
It's hard to exactly describe The Spree, but the original concept, that of a symphonic choral pop band, comes pretty close. Made up of over 20 members at any given time, the band, led by former Tripping Daisy frontman Tim DeLaughter, mixes the instruments of an orchestra with a small choir and the traditional parts of a rock/pop band. Plus, they use a theremin.
The influences seem pretty obvious, including the Beatles and Brian Wilson, though DeLaughter lists Wings, ELO, the Fifth Dimension and The Association among his favorites. "Together We're Heavy" is the group's second album after a "demo" album was released in 2001.
Described by some as "hippie music," The Spree put out such positive vibes in their album, that it's hard to not start tapping your foot or humming along. DeLaughter's voice isn't the greatest in terms of technique, but he's got the exuberance that his brand of gospel rock needs. The reason "Light and Day" was a bit hit was because of the emotion of the song, not any amazing songwriting or instrumental wizardry.
This latest effort brings more of the same, in many ways, but the whole package has more polish to it. Tracks like "A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed" and "Diamonds/Mild Devotion to Majesty" have a Burt Bacharach-like maturity that allows them to sound happy, but express sadness, while "When the Fool Becomes a King" has the layered theatrical sound that good pop makes work for it, instead of against it. "Two Thousand Places," in particular, takes the listener on a aural roller coaster, as it peaks and valleys through mellow passages and energetic movements.
The Beatles' mark on the band is most obvious on the second cut, the single "Hold Me Now," an outpouring of glorious sound, punctuated by DeLaughter and company's vocal exaltations. The use of non-traditional instruments, alongside the old standard piano, Listening to the album, a mix of past listening experiences, including Jon Brion and Supertramp, came to mind, and none of them bad. You can't help but think this music should be using its emotional punch to score a film or musical, instead of pitching cars.
While not overtly spoken of in the lyrics, there's a definite "religious" feel to The Spree, which
The track numbering continues from their first album, "The Beginning Stages of...", so the album kicks off with Section 11. In the liner notes (ported over from the CD), it's suggested that you load the album into you digital media player as one complete track, but as this is a DVD-A, that's not really a problem.
Section 11 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed)
Section 12 (Hold Me Now)
Section 13 (Diamonds/Mild Devotion to Majesty)
Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)
Section 15 (Ensure Your Reservation)
Section 16 (One Man Show)
Section 17 (Suitcase Calling)
Section 18 (Everything Starts at the Seam)
Section 19 (When the Fool Becomes a King)
Section 20 (Together We're Heavy)
DTS Entertainment lists three tracks on the case, a DVD-A 5.1 mix, a DTS 5.1 and a PCM 2.0 Stereo. Well, I can't find that DVD-A mix. When I pop this disc in, there are only DTS and PCM options. I attempted to contact DTS Entertainment to figure out the problem, but they have not responded.
The 24-bit/48KHz DTS track (which requires a DTS decoder in your system) is excellent, presenting the deep sound of The Spree in a form closer to their outstanding live shows than any heard before. The large mix of sources in the music makes it the perfect match for surround sound.
While the 5.1 mix is wonderful, the purer, original PCM Stereo track, also 24-bit/48KHz, is no slouch either. Comparing it to the original album shows a more robust mix on DVD, which is to be expected. It may be a mental thing, but the backing instrumentals seem much clearer.
A pair of videos for The Spree's previous single, "Light and Day," are included, both in anamorphic widescreen. The DVD-A track is again missing, but the DTS and PCM tracks sound as good as the main album. One is a concert video, showing the band's fun live show, while the other is an MTV-style animated effort, with plenty of CGI. Both are enjoyable, and the song is great.
In an unique feature, two songs, "Hold Me Now" and "Two Thousand Places" are presented with mix breakdowns. In this feature, the songs' construction can be heard. Tracks with just the Rhythm, the Rhythm and Orchestra, the Rhythm, Orchestra and Choir and the entire mix can be listened to separately to see how the music is built. For a band with such a layered sound, this is an interesting extra.
Also found on the disc are a text biography of the band, six links for related web sites, lyrics for the 10 songs, photos of the band and artwork that's included in the liner notes. The menus are full-screen, with art and photos used as backgrounds, while an extensive booklet with art and notes (as well as a fold-out poster) is included in the Super Jewel Box packaging.
The Bottom Line
If you're a hard-rock, death-metal, gangsta-rap fan, this music probably won't do much for you. The rest of you should be able to listen to The Spree and find something you like, thanks to their inclusive style. This is an excellent way to experience this album, and I believe it's worth the upgrade for anyone who bought the CD. Now we just have to find that DVD-A track...
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.