Mobile Fidelity Tri-Vista SACD Player
Sunfire Classic Tube Preamplifier
Tara Labs RSC Air 1 Interconnects
Monster Sigma Retro Interconnects
Kimber Kable Select KS-3035 Speaker Cables
MIT Z-Cord III Power Cord
Manley Labs Mahi Monoblock Tube Amplifiers
06/11/2003 8:20p ET
Brett Rudolph - Reviewer
For those of you who have never heard of The Kinks, let’s just say you are definitely missing a lot of American and British culture from the early seventies, to be sure. The group, like the Beatles and several others definitely brought British pop music to the United States with a vengeance. Although it was certainly a mix of different styles and lyrical content, it tended to range from angry to mournful in many ways. Yet, the Kinks were one of those groups who like to buck the system in some ways. This album is a good example.
Everybody’s In Show-Biz was The Kinks' second RCA release. It was a sort of conglomeration of unrelated fun songs that had more to do with being drunk and mind altered than anything else. The original release had 21 songs on it. While I'm not an authority on numerology, I can guess what that meant, can you? Seriously though, if the album was nothing else, it was fun...on the surface anyway.
The behind the scenes footage of this album reveal a huge change in the group itself. While the band did go on to do greater things, this album, for all its hilarity and fun, wasn’t the true vision of the members. Both Ray Davies and Dave Davies, the band’s two main visionaries, were really anything but full of fun and hilarity. The year that brought this recording and eventual release also brought them both to the brink, and perhaps even a bit over, of depression. Ray Davies overdosed on the very prescriptions that were meant to keep him from the depression and Dave Davies was headed there were it not for the timely appearance of an old girlfriend.
No matter the ills behind the scenes, the album itself is a lot of fun, both for listening and singing along with, if you will admit to it. In doing the review I found myself tapping along with some of the songs while others just brought a smile or a chuckle. You might find yourself doing exactly the same thing.
Interestingly, as I mentioned this was RCA’s second Kinks album, it also happens to be the second one to be released by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Once again they took the time and effort to remix and remaster this album onto a hybrid stereo SACD. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular format, it contains two separate albums, one the traditional red-book or CD layer and the other the higher fidelity SACD layer. This allows you to not only play it on the SACD players but also the majority of older CD players that will only play CDs.
It is important to note that unlike some record labels, Mobile Fidelity doesn’t come up with two separate versions to sell. The master that is used to make the SACD version is recorded at the highest possible quality to make the CD layer, so many of the benefits of the SACD version can be heard in the CD playback as well. As you will see in the review, the release is definitely worth a listen regardless the format.
To be honest, before doing this review I really wasn't as intimate with this album as I was with other Kinks titles. But after hearing the album a few times I definitely developed my favorites. The first one that I grew to enjoy was “Maximum Consumption.” I will admit that the song really has no real intelligent meaning, but its fun and it is a great example of how good the CD version sounds.
The first thing you'll notice is just how clean and crisp the instruments and vocals sound. This is interesting considering that many of the albums of the time, this one included, were mixed to be played and heard loud on questionable quality stereo systems. Basically, while they might be ok in that environment, take them and put them on a good system at a reasonable volume and they sound dreadful.
Another startling thing is that the background isn't full of digital or analogue artifacting. This isn’t the oldest recording I have heard, but many times coming from the older masters this is a major problem. However, I found next to none. Certainly none that would take away from the enjoyment of the music itself.
Now, I said I didn’t know many of the songs on this album, but there is one that I knew, “Celluloid Hero”. In fact, it may be one of my favorite Kinks songs. I've heard it many times on the radio over the years. Let me tell you that hearing it on this Mobile Fidelity issue creates an awe inspiring mix; one that makes you realize the beauty of DSD mixing. "Celluloid Hero" begins as an instrumental. And while it's true that I have heard many great CD recordings over the years I'm amazed at the quality of this particular issue. The tracks have never sounded better, even in their vinyl days. You can not only hear the attack and decay of all the notes, but you can hear the subtle tonal changes in the process. By the time the vocals started, I found myself in awe and wasn’t disappointed.
"Celluloid Hero" is also a great example of an expansive and well defined sound stage. While you might not be as able to pinpoint each instrument as you can in other tracks, their combination makes it seem as though it is being performed live. The vocal and accompaniment is perfectly placed and extremely balanced to a 'you are there' perspective. Even the timing and harmonics accentuate how good the song sounds as you listen to it.
The SACD layer adds an even greater level of information. This translates to viewing a photograph of a location to actually being present. Its not as though you couldn't see all the details. It's that you don't gain the immersion of being there yourself. Same with the SACD layer of this disc.
Enjoying "Celluloid Hero" as much as I did on the CD layer and being a fan of the track, it was only natural that I make my comparisons there. After multiple comparative listens, I knew that the SACD layer revealed far more than it's CD counterpart did. Incredibly so.
As I mentioned in the CD layer review, the instrumentals in the beginning were impressive. However, while the CD layer allowed you to hear the attack and decay of the notes, it wasn’t able to convey the wavering tones that are produced. Not so with the SACD layer. In fact, the instruments and the music they produced take on a whole life of its own. Imagine being right in the studio where the recording was made and being able to hear the instruments as they are recorded. That's what this SACD layer sounds like.
When the vocals begin you not only hear the nuance of the voice but you can hear the different pitches and tones inherent in any voice. There is a lifelike quality that somehow gets lost in the CD version, though without comparisons, you'd never realize what you were missing. It is for this reason that I always do the lower fidelity format first.
Two other tracks that I've listened to extensively are “Top of the Pops,” and “Brainwashed.” These live tracks are somewhat of an anomaly to me. I am not a huge fan of live recordings. Because of the audience and overall ambience, I feel that the purity of the song is diminished. However, these tracks are exceptions. The live aspects actually makes the song sound better. Although I can’t say the same for the CD version, the crowd, the ambiance and the setting only make the performance better.
In general, this album is a great of example of a classic recording that has been remixed and remastered to make something that was already good exceptional. The overall tonal quality, frequency range and recording fidelity are simply stunning and surprisingly surreal in many respects. Though I can’t say that it is as good as many of the newer recordings, it certainly provides a good example of what is possible with SACD and to a lesser extent CD if things are done right.
If you are looking to buy classic 70s music that not only was well liked at the time then look no further then this album. While I personally like the SACD reissue of Low Budget better I can tell you that the live tracks and the great sounding instrumentation make this a hard deal to pass up. I know that if I could buy them both, I would without reservation. But with the combined CD/SACD hybrid disc..well, you really couldn't ask for more.
This album will be available on the street on June 24th. However, like other releases by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, if you place your order with Music Direct, there is a good chance you will get your disc early. If I were you, I would give this some consideration as once you get it, you might just be the envy of all your friends.
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Everybody's In Showbiz
Released: June 24, 2003
* US Single Extended Version