Joel Goldenberg: Dolby Atmos albums and Canadian Mint

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Since I've mentioned the first album I ever heard, K-Tel's Canadian Mint, many times, I felt it was about time to do an updated evaluation of the 1974 album's 22 tracks.

But first, a little gushing about a potential technical revolution...

For years in this space, I have been pleading for music and technology companies to find a way to enable us to hear music in surround sound in an affordable way without disturbing condo neighbours.

I have a home theatre, but I haven't used it for a long time because I have a complaining neighbour in my condo complex. And, it seems, my 5.1 Dolby Surround system is now out of date because the multi-directional Dolby Atmos is now all the rage.

Dolby Atmos is mostly used for action and science fiction movies, and a full home theatre of that sort is expensive and very involved to set up.

But companies are starting to make things a little easier, one example is the creation of Dolby Atmos soundbars. The other is the Dolby Atmos mode on Smartphones.

I've been concentrating on the latter lately. I haven't watched many movies lately using Dolby Atmos Movie mode on my phone, but I've been listening to plenty of music in Dolby Atmos Music mode, and the effect is frequently stunning. Sometimes the sound moves in different directions, or can be heard from different spaces, or you get the perception of greater height in the soundstage.

And that's from stereo mixes.

There have also been a few Dolby Atmos albums, most notably R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People and the recent 50th anniversary box set of the Beatles' Abbey Road.

But things are about to move rather quickly.

This past Thursday (Nov. 7, 2019), Amazon released the latest of its Alexa Echo voice recognition devices, and this one has a notable feature — Dolby Atmos.

And just recently, Amazon unveiled its Amazon HD music service, offering streaming of albums in high and ultra-high resolution sound.

In conjunction with the new Echo device, Amazon announced that its HD music service will include "thousands" of songs remixed in Dolby Atmos, mostly from Universal Music artists. Upcoming releases include albums by Elton John, Lady Gaga and others.

This news has made me very tempted to purchase the new Echo, but there are three flies in the ointment: a) There's still the issue of my neighbour. b) Amazon HD is not yet available for streaming in Canada and c) as they did with quadraphonic sound and later 5.1 surround sound music that doomed both formats, Sony (Columbia before it) is going its own way with its own new surround method, Sony 360. This will apparently work with the Echo.

Ultimately, I may not even need to get the Echo. As mentioned above, my Samsung S9 has Dolby Atmos Music mode. I'm hoping, if and/or when Amazon HD finds its way to Canada, my phone will produce spectacular sound on songs mixed for Atmos.

And then I won't have to disturb my neighbour. Surround sound via earphones would be a boon to society. I hope it works.

And now to Canadian Mint:

Bachman Turner-Overdrive- Let It Ride: The best song this classic rock group ever produced.

Shawne Jackson- Just As Bad As You: Very decent '70s soul.

The DeFranco Family -Save The Last Dance For Me: This is my least favourite of this Jackson 5-type group's hits, as the Drifters original is far better. But it is also even more Latin-sounding than the original.

Andy Kim- Be My Baby: Nice, thick production of the Ronettes classic, but it sounds a lot like his other Phil Spector cover — Baby I Love You.

Lois Fletcher- I Am What I Am: An okay, if a little grating, version of a reggae song by a group called Greyhound.

Terry Jacks — Seasons In The Sun: At this juncture, I must point out that Jacks has a presence four times on Canadian Mint. On this soppy death song that was sarcastic in its original French version, as part of the Poppy Family on the eerie Where Evil Grows, behind the scenes for Susan Jacks' sweet I Thought of You Again, and Terry himself as The Hood on a cover of the Montreal group The Beau-Marks Cause We're In Love in a very slinky rendition.

Motherlode- When I Die: Love that laid back, distant horn sound.

Dr. Music- Sun Goes By: Another nice, mellow 1970s pop song, but the piano sound used to make me think somebody was ringing our home's doorbell. Drove me crazy.

Lighthouse-Sunny Days. Good, but this group's exuberant Pretty Lady is a lot better. And this "almost died" business is depressing.

Five Man Electrical Band- Werewolf: A weird story, complete with Ozark imitations. Kind of hilarious.

Southcote-She: Never boring, but much too short

Stampeders-Wild Eyes: My choice for best Canadian song of all time, in its best mix-mono edit with echo effect.

Fludd-Cousin Mary: Folky and mellow.

A Foot In Coldwater- (Make Me Do)Anything You Want: An edited version of the best take of this great power ballad. A later re-recording is far inferior.

Wednesday-Teen Angel and Johnny T. Angel-Tell Laura I Love Her — Skip. Please.

Dave Nichol-Good-Bye Mama: In my recreation of Canadian Mint on my phone via YouTube Music, this was the only on that sounds inferior. Too bad. It's one of those songs that sound good while driving on a country road.

Chilliwack-There's Something I Like About That: Great song, but I wonder if the animal sounds were inspired by the Beatles Good Morning, Good Morning.

Crowbar-Oh What A Feeling: Propulsive classic rock with a middle part lifted from a James Brown 1967 live track.

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