As iconic as it remains a full half-century later, when Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back was being shot by director D.A. Pennebaker during the Bard’s whirlwind acoustic tour of England in May 1965, there were literally no rules to follow. “It’s the idea of the home movie, the kind of movie that was always made by one person,” says Pennebaker, still as sharp as ever at age 90. “I had gotten the notion in my head not to make a pure music film. I decided to make it about him, right at the time he was trying to figure out who he was.”
Could there be a better-named band to push the boundaries of creating original music for surround playback than Dream Theater? The ever-adventurous post-prog-metal collective previously experimented with 5.1 via Paul Northfield’s valiant multichannel spin on 2007’s frenzied Systematic Chaos, but Richard Chycki’s all-in full-bore mix of the band’s new, sprawling self-titled epic is in another stratosphere of total envelopment.
Besides knocking the psychedelic movement off of its puffy cloud at the end of the ’60s with the seminal roots-based rustic albums Music From Big Pink (1968) and The Band (1969), The Band was also known for being a supernaturally gifted live act, having honed its stagecraft through many arduous but rewarding years on the road. Highlights from a magical four-night stand at New York’s Academy of Music were set in stone—or rather, on wax and disc—with 1972’s Rock of Ages. The album was a critically acclaimed best seller and a triumph in the eyes of everyone it touched. Well, almost everyone.
Pete Townshend was on a spiritual mission, determined to produce a rock opera that would reflect his own path to enlightenment. His band mates in The Who were initially wary, but once they understood the multifaceted story of a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who sure played a mean pinball, there was no turning back from climbing the mountain. The epic sprawl of 1969’s Tommy catapulted The Who forever into the rock ’n’ roll stratosphere. And now Tommy gets a fuller archival due on this four-disc 45th anniversary Super Deluxe box set, achieving yet another new-vibration milestone on Blu-ray. (More on that disc’s groundbreaking surround mix in a moment.)
“On the surround mix, it sounds just like you’re in the room with Steve Howe while he’s playing those guitar harmonics.” Steven Wilson is describing the clarity of the gorgeous acoustic intro to “And You and I,” the second track on Yes’ groundbreaking 1972 LP, Close to the Edge. (Said intro is keenly accented by Rick Wakeman’s understated organ fills that lightly season the rear channels.)