XTC continues their expanded reissue series with their album Oranges and Lemons, which includes both new Stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes by Steven Wilson, along with a bunch of extra audio and visual material.
Available as a CD / Blu-ray (Region 0, NTSC) edition in special packaging that includes an expanded booklet with sleeve-notes by Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory. The Blu-ray contains high resolution audio in 24bit / 96kHz LPCM audio. Along with a few promo films, exclusive to the Blu-ray fans will get two sets of demo and work tape sessions; one set of pre-recording rehearsals, promos and ID links for radio stations and record companies; along with a collection of single mixes that includes an XTC version of Ella Guru by Captain Beefheart.
Let’s Jump right into the surround sound mix which is provided in either 24-bit, 96 kHz high resolution LPCM or DTS HD Master Audio. There is an extremely subtle difference between these codecs on this Blu-ray, which sounds like a decibel decrease from the LPCM down to the DTS HD version. Beyond that I didn’t notice any coloration differences, thus have no preference between them. The overall balance is fantastic, although weighted to the top end, reminding me of the early days of overly bright digital recordings. But who doesn’t like some snap, jangle and punch? There Is a night and day difference when compared to the original mix on CD from earlier releases. Gone is the super thin excessively bright stereo master, what is presented on the LPCM Stereo version here contains a much fuller bass and significantly greater dynamics. Hands down, this is the version to have, making previous releases unlistenable.
Steven Wilson has created an awesome multi-channel mix that fills the room with jangly guitars, a tight bass, and widely spread drums. Lead vocals are heard from the center channel across all of the tracks, with sprinkles of instrumentation placed there too. Given the varied nature between songs, each mix artistically envelops the listener with guitars pouring from the rears, or backing vocals from the same place on another track. There very lively energetic music is heard as one of the most open and spacious 5.1 mixes to date. I especially like the chorused guitar up front and arpeggio guitars from the rear on King for a Day.
From a musicians’ perspective, the demos and work tapes are of great interest with a plethora of material to sift through. Of course these are raw with plenty of imbalance to the tracks, but it Is the creative journey that counts here. If you enjoy being silly click on the ID and Promos, otherwise just get on with the music. Then head back to the days when M-TV actually played music videos, kick back and enjoy three versions of The Mayor of Simpleton along with King for a Day. Yes TV’s were effectively square back then!
Definitely recommended for surround sound enthusiasts and XTC fans. Considered one of their stronger albums, Oranges and Lemons is certainly a worthy addition to any collection.