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A view on Blu-ray Audio discs by Daniel Lalla

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire De Melody Nelson [Blu-ray Audio]  

 

 

Review by Daniel Lalla

 

Producer: Universal Music Group (Philips / Mercury Records)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Total Music time: 1’ 01” 48s (Main Album 27”56s, Alternate Album 33”52s)

Disc Size: 9,879,093,248 bytes

Audio:

Main Album: LPCM or DTS-HD 2.0 24/96 or LPCM or DTS-HD 5.1 24/96
Alternate LP: LPCM or DTS-HD 2.0 24/96 only

Chapters: 7 Tracks Main Album + 9 Tracks Alternate Album

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: October 30th, 2013

 

Extras:

A foldout with photos and lyrics and extensive description of the recording process of the album. A paper with a code to access the Blu-ray disc digital downloads online
Digital Download 1.25 GB
Produced By: Jean-Claude Desmarty

 

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson Track Listing:
1. Melody
2. Ballade De Melody Nelson
3. Valse De Melody
4. Ah! Melody
5. L'Hotel Particulier
6. En Melody
7. Cargo Culte
8. Melody - Prise Complete
9. Ballade De Melody Nelson - Prise Voix Alternative
10. Valse De Melody - Prise Voix Alternative
11. Ah Melody - Prise Voix Alternative
12. Melody Lit Babar - Version Chantee
13. Melody Lit Babar - Version Instrumentale
14. L'Hotel Particulier - Prise Complete
15. En Melody - Version Solo De Violon Complet
16. Cargo Culte - Version Instrumentale

 

Comparison material:
1) Deluxe 40th Box Set (2 LP, 2 CD, 2 DVD)

 

 

Awards: The French edition of Rolling Stone magazine named this album the 4th
greatest French rock album (out of 100)
#21 on - Pitchforkmedia: Top 100 Albums of the 1970s

Interesting trivia : The monkey that the very young-looking Melody Nelson (Jane Birkin) is holding is a symbol of her youth and the Lolita like theme that permeates the album. Jane told… that she placed this monkey in Gainsbourg's coffin with him when he died. Gainsbourg’s reference to The Spirit of Ecstasy is the bonnet ornament (or hood ornament in the US) on Rolls-Royce cars. The track ‘Paper Tiger’ from Beck’s Sea Change is, essentially, the same music as the title track to this album and homage to this great work. He worked extensively with Gainsbourg’s actress/musician daughter Charlotte. Gainsbourg apparently surreptitiously recorded Birkin’s laugh with a tape recorder under the bed while someone tickled her for the track ‘En Melody’

Description: If you want the short vulgar version: Un con is driving his Rolls through France when he accidentally bumps in a very young, very sexy girl, falls in love with her, seduces her and has his way with her, bigtime. Can an album be sexy and vulgar, almost pornographic musically and be more than slightly misogynistic, yet still be the coolest thing you’ve ever heard, while maintaining an element of romance? That is the Histoire de Melody Nelson.

The album: The album features a very 70s bassline theme that runs through the entire concept album, which was planned over a year with arranger / composer Jean-Claude Vannier. It then builds a lush instrumentation into a funk-orchestral climax that is breathtaking, like its subject matter. Then a tender French chanson as he falls in love with her. The seduction begins with dancing and ends at a particular hotel with predictable fruits of Gainsbourg’s labour. The track ‘Cargo Culte’ is a bookend that echos the beginning of the odyssey.

 

 

The Blu-ray includes the bonus tracks featured in the 2 CD deluxe edition but in high resolution format. That release had the surround 5.1 tracks and up until now was the only way to get the album in high resolution format. I had to do a downmix stereo extraction of the 5.1 audio at that time. Now the Blu-ray features a stunningly accurate 24/96 stereo and surround mix. The alternate album is only available in stereo, but this is no great loss at all.

Audio: The
Blu-ray includes the bonus tracks featured in the 2 CD deluxe edition but in high resolution format. That release had the surround 5.1 tracks and up until now was the only way to get the album in high resolution format. I had to do a downmix stereo extraction of the 5.1 audio at that time. Now the Blu-ray features a stunningly accurate 24/96 stereo and surround mix. The alternate album is only available in stereo, but this is no great loss at all. As you see from the curves there is barely any clipping in the recording mastering process and I can confirm that the audio is superior to the CD and my stereo downmix of the high resolution tracks on the 40th anniversary edition.

 


The other amazing bit of news is that the download is essentially the same as the stereo track on the
Blu-ray, in high resolution lossless FLAC files, a total of 1.25 GB, almost identical file size to the tracks I extracted from the Blu-ray for analysis

 

 

Analysis: If you see the curves of Track 1, the dynamic range analysis of the album you will see that they pushed it right up to maximum, but certainly don’t seem to compress the album. Pushing the master right up to (with a very very slight clipping) is the approach that some like prog-rock fan and god Steven Wilson use in the wonderful remastering jobs he’s done for King Crimson, ELP, and Yes. Universal seems to have gotten this one right. The bass strings have a buzz when plucked, the percussion is sharp and tight.

DR varies from 7-11 reflecting the natural variation in the types of tracks which are musically varied in style and ‘heaviness’. The music seems to breath and have an airiness not heard on the CD version from the 40th anniversary edition and takes on new life. There are limitations inherent in the recording style from the 70s but it’s part of the sound of the era and the appeal of the album

My recommendations: This album is 28 minutes of sonic bliss, and Universal has done it justice. Their inclusion of the alternate album for the first time at high resolution makes this a must have. Even if you have that 40th anniversary deluxe edition box set (which is wonderful by the way), I STILL recommend this Blu-ray for the 1st time there are high resolution stereo files to go along with the previously released surround tracks on the DVD.

If you want an idea of what the album is all about, you can search YouTube for the 28’ video piece that is the companion to this work. Definitely worth a watch and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. If you like what you hear, I feel the Blu-ray does a wonderful job on the audio. I was not disappointed in any way

How could it have been better? I am struggling here. Perhaps they could have included the video that went along with the album? In regular resolution, it would have been a negligible file size to have thrown in, but you can find it easily on YouTube.


  

Daniel Lalla

April 12th, 2014

 

Tools Used:

MacPro with iTunes 11 using AudirvanaPlus.
XLD used for all file format conversions where needed.
AudioLEq Version 3 (paid version) for analysis and histogram
Output through TEAC UD-501 USB DAC (driverless in Mac OSX) with direct DSD support
Parallels Windows partition with Foobar 2000 with SACD and Dynamic Range plugins, using TEAC ASIO driver
Some album information is drawn from Wikipedia and other sources on the internet.

Daniel Lalla

 

     

 




 

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