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Songs in the Key of Life [Blu-ray Audio]
Review by Gary Tooze
Producer: Universal Music Group
Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Total Music time: 1:45:03.005
Disc Size: 13,209,971,321 bytes
Chapters: 21 (one per song)
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: October 30th, 2013
LPCM Audio English 4608 kbps 2.0 / 96 kHz / 4608 kbps / 24-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3782 kbps 2.0 / 96 kHz / 3782 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 3.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3189 kbps 2.0 / 96 kHz / 3189 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Embedded: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
28-page liner notes leaflet has the song's lyrics
A paper with a code to access the Blu-ray disc digital downloads online
Songs in the Key of Life Track Listing:
NOTE: The Blu-ray audio does contain tracks 18-21 known as "A Something's Extra". The "A Something's Extra" 7" EP was included with the special-edition version of the original LP. These tracks are also on most CD versions of the album, either split between both discs or appended to the end of the second disc. They are here in their entirety on this Blu-ray audio album despite some sites (even Amazon.com at present) not listing them.
Description: Originally released in 1976, the prolific Songs in the Key of Life is a milestone in the career of Stevie Wonder and the last of five consecutive albums widely hailed as his 'classic period'. From his sharp commentaries on American social history and pro-peace supplications to some of his most intimate professions of love, Songs In The Key of Life cast Wonder's music further beyond R&B, funk and disco than ever before. More sprawling than Innervisions and Talking Book, the highly ambitious and experimental double LP became the best-selling and most critically acclaimed album of his career and it went on to win four Grammy Awards including Best Male Pop Vocal and Album of the Year. Highlights include the indelible classics "Isn't She Lovely", "Sir Duke", "I Wish", "Pastime Paradise", "Summer Soft" - all found on this Blu-ray audio album.
On February 19, 1977, Wonder was nominated for seven Grammy Awards,
including Album of the Year, an award that he had already won twice, in
1974 and 1975, for Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First
Finale. In all, Wonder won four out of seven nominations at the
Grammys: Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Male
R&B Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year.
Adopters of Blu-ray immediately notice that lossless audio transfer is one of the most valuable benefits of this new format. Not only surround separation but the depth, resonance and overall purity exporting capabilities of the lossless and uncompressed sound formats. DVDBeaver prefers technical comparison as analysis. Unfortunately, I don't know of a way of extracting the tech info from the Japanese SACD that I own of Songs in the Key of Life to compare to this Blu-ray audio. I can only state my opinion. I have a system with a Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player and can toggle back and forth between my Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray/SACD Player trying to notice/listen to differences. Even though the SACD is great the Blu-ray is just more stable (I notice a lot in track 19 - Ebony Eyes - actually all 4 "A Something's Extra" tracks) exporting more depth.
UME are using the original master tapes transferred to uncompressed files, mastered at 24bit/96kHz. This elevates Blu-ray Audio discs to a new, more pure, level - hopefully the most accurate replication of the original studio sound - when recorded. These can be played with, or without, your video system being on (depending on your set-up!). When my TV is on it shows the track, example:
It's a nice gimmick to have it on but if you don't want to, eventually, burn-in your screen - best to have it off. Too bad it doesn't move - even as a screen saver. When the album completes it does not 'loop' (my didn't anyway - I know some players can.) This would be another area of improvement for the format - the option to 'repeat'.
This Blu-ray audio is transferred at 2.0 channel. I love the lossless options. You can choose from 3 selections: Linear PCM at a whopping 4608 kbps, DTS-HD Master at 3682 kbps or Dolby TrueHD at 3189 kbps. Keen ears will note differences. I've played it at least 10 times and settled on the very robust LPCM which I tend to appreciate for older music that might have a looser high-end. I found this highly impressive, but it's certainly adds value to be able to change the option and sample another format (which one can do on-the-fly from either the onscreen display - see image above - or without your video display on - directly from the Blu-ray audio remote button.) I also listened to the entire album in each format. I'll never tire of having, and playing with, this ability. I can see liking one track in DTS-HD and another in TrueHD.
Does it sound superior to the SACD? Absolutely, the 24-bit has a strength to it that you don't get with the SACD. Songs in the Key of Life has a great range with all sorts of riffs, choir-like vocals, unique sounds (baby crying in Isn't She Lovely etc.) - these have added resonance via the uncompressed transfer. Wonder's narrative-like vocals Village Ghetto Land plus the added orchestral sounds brilliant. The trumpets opening Sir Duke sound rich and deep. Ditto for the piano in Knocks Me Off My Feet. The rhythm and harmony of The Pastime Paradise is hypnotic via this lossless format. What about his subtle vocals in Summer Soft? Perfect!
NOTE: The file size (over 13 Gig) of Songs in the Key of Life puts it in the upper tier of content/volume the Blu-ray audio albums that we've reviewed so far. This was an ambitious double LP from Stevie - and this new Blu-ray Audio disc also contains the 4 extra tracks also found on most (but not all) CDs. There is a ton of value here, folks.
My Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc (like CDs) playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
The only supplement is a 28-page liner notes leaflet with the lyrics and a few expanded pictures of the cover.
The audiophile market is continuing to expand, and improve, with this Blu-ray Audio content. Individuals will want to take advantage of their, often expensive, investment in their Home theatre systems by taking the opportunity to indulge. I can't think of a better Blu-ray Audio album to try more than Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life which will provide untold hours of enjoyment. Our highest recommendation!
January 27th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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