Zoe - Zoe Review (DTS) Review
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I've seen this disc on the DTS website for some time. I ordered it a while ago out of curiosity but ended up not receiving it as it was backordered. A good sign I thought. On a whim, as I was making another order, I called up the online store and asked them if they had it in stock now… and they did. Great, so I ordered it. Looking at the cover and the name, I kind of expected something with a Mediterranean flare which is what piqued my interest in the first place (if I had noticed the Beauty and the Beast cover in the song list I might have thought differently). Anyhow, at some point you need to step out of your comfort zone and review someone you've never heard before. And based on the number of reviews of this album I could find online, I'm reviewing someone no one else has heard either. One point of interest: The 5.1 version of Zoë's debut album actually preceded her 2 channel version. Well… I found it interesting.
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 5.1 (in this case) 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 .
1) As Long As There's Love - Pop ballad with slightly recessed vocals at times, good use of surrounds for chimes, and nice immersion into the backup vocals.
2) If You Didn't Love Me - Ditto
3) Not Yet - Ditto
4) Why Don't You Kiss Him - Ditto
5) Hand On Your Heart - Ditto
6) Kinder - Ditto
7) Beauty And The Beast - Ditto, but a dude is singing too.
8) Our Song - Ditto
9) Waiting For A Miracle - Ditto, with nice acoustical guitar
10) What Time Won't Heal (I Will) - Ditto
Definitely NOT Mediterranean influenced. Zoë's debut album speaks directly to the middle school girl's soul. Every song is a ballad (even the faster ones I would categorize as such) filled with themes of love, longing, joy, and pain. The music is of the well recorded studio variety, mostly standard instruments (guitar, bass, drums) but occasionally with supporting orchestral instruments (violins, cellos, harps, etc.). Sugar coated pop is the best descriptor I can come up with.
I'm going to say this a lot so get used to it now: There is nothing really wrong with this album. From a production standpoint, all the instruments are clear, the vocals are distinct, compression is not a problem, and no particular element is overdone. Zoë's airy vocal performance is good, though there are times the vocals seemed a bit recessed. This tended to happen when she would go for the higher notes and seemed to strain a bit. I'm sure they could have bumped up the levels to even her out but it really wasn't that bad. It actually gave her vocals an authenticity that was absent from the highly produced score on the album.
While the musical score was well recorded, it was a bit sterile. Each instrument has its own voice and is clearly identifiable, but there was very little that made me say (to quote the great thespian), "Whoa." It all seemed very scripted and very clean . So clean that if it didn't say in the credits that musicians played actual instruments I'd have thought it was all electronic. This is not a slam in any way, it is merely a description.
The other "authentic" item on the album was an acoustical guitar used in track 9. It was the only instrument that really rang true to me. Most of the instruments had a flat quality that sounded overproduced and surreal. Compared to the rest of the instruments, the guitar really stood out, so much so that I actually sat up in my seat when I first heard it. It was that distinct.
Some of the above may sound like I didn't think the Audio Quality was up to par - not so. As I stated at the beginning, there is nothing wrong with this album. The audio is really crisp, the vocals are clearly audible (even during the recessed portions), and the noise floor is non-existent. After reviewing a few DD albums recently, this album reminds me of why I like DTS so much better. The music tends to be so much more alive and vibrant.
Here's the formula: Lead vocals anchored up front along with the majority of the instruments carrying the melody, backup singers all around but primarily located in the back of the room, when the chimes hit, mix them from the back left up to the front. Rinse. Repeat. What's wrong with this formula? Not a thing. Is it the most dynamic example of multi-channel mixing worthy of accolades and awards from the public and the industry alike? Nope. But there is nothing wrong with it. It sounds really good. It's just not very exciting.
Could more risks have been taken? Absolutely. I really, REALLY wanted bump the ratings of the Surround Implementation down a point or two for being unimaginative. But I can't. It sounds great, what more can you expect from a surround mix?
Not applicable (lyrics on the jacket).
If you heard the first song, you've heard 90% of what this album is about. From a production standpoint, there is nothing really wrong with the album. The vocals could stand out a little more, but this may be more a function of her vocal quality than a production issue. The surround elements are implemented nicely if unimaginatively. I would definitely recommend this album to anyone with young girls that wants to see them get more interested in music mixed in surround sound. Plus, nothing in the lyrics would offend even the most puritanical of parents. The only thing that would increase its appeal to that audience would be the full blown DVD treatment complete with videos, making of, some sort of diary, etc.
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