Crosby-Nash: Another Stoney Evening (DTS) Review
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Another Stoney Evening is a recording of a live performance given by the duo of David Crosby and Graham Nash on October 10 th , 1971 . Unfortunately, I couldn't make the performance that day because I was… oh… all of five DAYS old at the time. The clear intention of this album is to provide the listener with the experience of being a part of the crowd while maintaining the highest sound quality. If this sounds like it would be a difficult task, I would have to agree. Of the concerts I have attended, few would rank high on the audio quality scale. Not because of the performance as much as having to endure the endless shuffling, sniffing, coughing (take a cough drop why don't you), talking, and more, of the thousands of people in attendance. The resolution between what makes an album sound "live" and what makes an album sound "good" is going to be quite a challenge.
Discs are listened to a minimum of twice with at least a 24 hour separation between the listening sessions. During session one, notes are taken on the subjective experience of the implementation of the DTS surround sound mix (in this case, except track 1 - mixed in DTS-ES) along with notes on other features. During session two, the original notes are compared and expanded upon during the listening experience. Additional listening sessions are added as needed. Before each session, speaker calibration is checked using an SPL meter and the test-tones on the receiver, in this case the Denon AVR-3805 .
(see Audio Quality and Surround Implementation )
1) Anticipatory Crowd
2) Deja Vu
3) Wooden Ships
4) M an in the M irror
6) I Used to be a King
7) Traction in the Rain
8) Lee Shore
9) Southbound Train
12) Where Will I Be?
13) Strangers Room
14) Immigration M an
16) Teach Your Children
17) Exit Sounds
For the most part, Crosby and Nash were alone on stage with their guitars (except for tracks 12 and 13, which was solely Graham Nash and a piano) during the entire folk performance. According to the production notes, the original masters were in such good condition that they were used directly for the digital recording. Overall, I found the audio quality to be excellent with extremely clear vocals, life-like guitars, and well-set audio levels. The album begins and ends with sounds of the audience (tracks 1 and 17). At the end of a track (generally the start of a track is the beginning of the song) you could hear Crosby and Nash interact with the audience, each other, and stagehands. One thing I really appreciated about these moments was the difference in sound quality and volume when compared to the performances. When attending a concert, the in-between talking is always a little louder or softer (mostly the latter in my experience) than the songs. During this album it was always a little softer and it really brought these moments to life for me. You could really make out the audience and pick out individuals (there is always that one dude in the balcony that absolutely knew which song should be played next and felt compelled to let them know at the top of his lungs) amongst the rest of the cacophony.
My only qualm, and I do mean only, was that sometimes you forgot you were listening to a live performance until you heard the applause between tracks. The song portions were so quiet, so pristine, that the "liveness" of the recording was somehow lost. Now, I knew that it was recorded live. You could hear the little imperfection that goes along with a live performance (slightly mis-hit strings, a little flat here, a little sharp there, a bit of feedback at the beginning, etc.) but aside from these imperfections, there was almost nothing that reminded you that you were listening to a live performance.
Case in point, during the beginning of the final song Teach Your Children , Crosby and Nash ask the audience to join in by clapping and singing. Well, you never heard them sing but you did hear them clap… at the beginning. Then Crosby chided them for clapping out of rhythm and started the song again. At this point the audience completely disappeared from the mix even though he had asked them to sing as well. It was odd.
Surround implementation can make or break an album like this. Audience sounds need to be well integrated throughout the speakers in a thoughtful and encompassing way. Truthfully, I was extremely impressed with how the surround format really made me feel a part of the audience. I was expecting to hear the performers in front and the audience in the rear. Instead, what I got was having the performers in front with me placed somewhere within the audience. When the audience portions would kick in, I would hear most of the sounds emanating from behind me with the some of the sound from in front (apparently, I had very good seats). I imagined that this would be the performance that the sound engineer at the concert (usually seated somewhere in the center of the crowd toward the front) would experience.
Throughout the album, David Crosby's guitar was firmly anchored in the Front Left channel while Graham Nash's was in the right. Overall, it was an effective way to present the two lone instruments. I found it interesting how the timbres of the two guitars were slightly different but still wove together well, meshing into a cohesive whole while still maintaining their individuality. At times you really felt like you were sitting right in front of (almost in-between) the two during their performance. The surrounds were used to stretch the front channels to the back in a way that expanded the sound without detracting from the localization.
When the vocalist was performing alone, the vocals would be anchored firmly in the center of the soundstage. If there were light background vocals by the other singer, these would radiate from the Front Left and Right channels without detracting from the lead vocals. If the two vocalists were singing together, then Crosby 's vocals would come from the Center and Front Left channels and Nash's from the Center and Front Right channels. This gave the voices a bit of separation (within the soundstage) but still allowed them to blend. At first I found the differences in how the vocals were presented a little strange, but by about half way through the first listen, I stopped noticing it and found it to flow quite naturally from one to the other.
The thing is, and this goes back to the "live" feel of the album, when the audience was present in the recording, I felt like I was immersed in the audience. When the performance was going on and the audience faded away, I felt like I was part of the recording. So, during the songs I was "onstage", but in-between I was "in the audience". A minor issue for sure, but I think that it deserves to be mentioned.
Extras included 5 pictures, notes "Welcome to the party" (included on the jacket) and production notes (which, incidentally, listed an Outlaw ICB M , Denon 3802p, and Yamaha NS-10 speakers as the monitoring system), lyrics and intros (transcripts of most every word spoken), links, credits, and an Easter Egg. First, let's deal with the Easter Egg. It can be found on the third page of the Welcome to the Party notes. Press Up and you'll be taken to a bootleg version of track #2, Deja Vu. For some reason I could hear it on my computer but not on my system.
One thing that some may have a problem with is that this has got to be one of the only DVD-Audio discs in existence not to scroll the lyrics along with the music. Personally, I thought it was OK. It would have been nice to have it as an option (you can't see the lyrics along with the music) but the screen was presented like a song list from a concert. Seriously, it's not like it is all that hard to hear what they are saying so I thought it was fine. Overall, there was nothing special in the extras but at least the bootleg may get more than one play.
This is a great album that will make any fan very, very happy. As a non-fan, I can say that I found it very enjoyable and will add it to my regular listening line-up. The only thing that really keeps this from a 5 for me is the almost indecision about whether to be faithful to the live performance or to create as pure an audio experience as possible. Both were executed well in this album, they just didn't blend together as well as I would have liked. Regardless, this album will make a fine addition to anyone's music library.