The self-titled second album by Blood, Sweat and Tears is packed full of hits that classic rock fans likely already have in their collection. Now, Audio Fidelity is continuing their reissue campaign which features both the stereo and original quad mixes on a single hybrid SACD.
This version has dug deep and gone back to both of the original surround and stereo mixes and has been mastered by Steve Hoffman. We find that the warmth and the giant dynamics that are on the original tape are intact, crushing other reissues. High resolution enthusiasts can finally enjoy the best sound quality of hits like, “And When I Die,” “Spinning Wheel,” “God Bless the Child,” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” among others.
Steve Hoffman writes on his blog, “The master tape of this album was in pretty good shape, a bit of oxide missing from side one/track one, but we used a few seconds of the analog safety at the start and the edit is undetectable.” It is awesome to have such masterful audio engineers bringing classics like this back to life.
The album opens with acoustic guitar from the back and wind instruments floating across all four of the quad channels. This intro leads very nicely into the second track “Smiling Phases” where we hear the entire band arrive in full force. Listeners will notice that the bass permeates from all four channels with keyboards and tambourines from the left and right back channels respectively. It is already evident that the Quad mix is excellent, well balanced and takes advantage of the full sound stage.
Over the years convention has evolved for multi-channel mixes, placing instruments in specific speakers, such as drums spread across the front and bass centered in the same. However, this quad mix precedes such conventions and becomes evident on “More And More” where the bass is placed in the left rear channel, while the drums spread a bit from their right rear corner location. Taken from the perspective of sitting in the middle of the band, this particular track is a great example of the art of multi-channel mixing where the engineer has painted the sky on a canvas a hue other than blue.
For most fans it is the hits that totally make this disc worth the price of admission. Listeners will find “And When I Die” holding true to what has become common in surround mixing. Bass and drums are up front with vocals and primary instrumentation balanced between the right and left channels. Secondary parts, particularly horns and some reflections of the drums are comfortably placed in the back channels. I found the bass to be exceptionally full, yes even without the sub-woofers. This classic tune is totally brought to life with excellent dynamics and plenty of sparkle. The same can be said for their rousing version of “God Bless The Child.”
For me, it is the mix of “Spinning Wheel” that takes the prize. While the mix is slightly unconventional by today’s standards, I find it really punches and drives the song with pure aural joy. Bass guitar eminates from the front left channel with drums centered, albeit with a sizzling hi-hat swinging from the front right. Horns swell in from the back channels with plate reverb falling around them. The guitar solo strikes from the back left and the horn solo follows from the back right. This hit is truly brought to life on this SACD version!
“You've Made Me So Very Happy” steps back into a more standard mix style with the organ swirling from the rear channels. The transfer of the quad tapes is remarkably clear and superbly balanced. Hats off to Steve Hoffman and his fine ears that bring listeners like myself this classic album on my preferred high resolution format.
As the album draws to a close, the second to last track “Blues, Part II” steps way out of the mixing norm with the entire drum kit spread across the back channels. Bass guitar is up front along with horns widely spread from left to right, and other parts spread around the room. As unusual as this palate may be, it works very well, allowing listeners to really here each element of the drum kit, while still experiencing the impact of the remainder of the band.
It is worth noting that the stereo DSD layer is equally as compelling, and while I don’t have every version out there, this is most likely the best for fans of high resolution stereo mixes.
You know you’ll want to add this to your collection, so I won’t even bother making a recommendation. I am delighted to have this album in surround, and look forward to more multi-channel re-issues from Audio Fidelity. They clearly care about the quality of the audio, and have gone to great lengths to go back to the original source.
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