At this point, it is likely that most surround sound and high resolution enthusiasts have a copy of the 2004 multi-channel SACD release of “Madman Across the Water.” There is plenty of respect for the Greg Penny surround mixes, which do an excellent job at broadening the original 1971 stereo mixes by Tony Cousins. Now a 50th Anniversary, 3xCD and 1xBlu-ray Super Deluxe Box Set has been issued in May of 2022. This set includes a 104-page hard-cover book with introductions by both Elton and Bernie, photos and an essay featuring interviews with many people who helped make this album such a success. Additionally, there is a reproduction 1971-poster, as well as memorabilia and artwork taken from the Rocket Archive.
But of course, it is the music contained across the four discs that are the jewels of this box set. The first CD contains the original album remastered, plus five additional tracks, while the second disc features piano demo versions of Madman Across The Water, plus previously unheard full version of ‘Rock Me When He’s Gone,’ among other bonuses. The third CD contains a BBC Sounds For Saturday concert which was broadcast in 1972. At the core of these discs for high resolution and surround sound listeners is the Blu-ray which contains a 96kHz / 24-bit DTS HD MA 5.1 mix and 96kHz / 24-bit LPCM stereo mix of the entire album, derived from the 2004 DSD multi-channel masters. Additionally, there are visuals of two TV broadcast concerts, Sounds for Saturday (taped November 11, 1971, aired April 29, 1972) and The Old Grey Whistle Test (broadcast December 7, 1971). Fans on forums have noted that the video quality is pretty incredible, especially given the vintage, and more specifically considering the kind of recording equipment available at that time.
I can surely say that the SACD is a demo quality surround mix and stacks up there with some of the best immersive listening I have done. This new set have been remastered by Bob Ludwig, and while I won’t get into a discussion about the virtues of DSD over PCM, I will simply say that they are unique digital codecs, and each has their merits. To that end, listeners are likely to find that one or the other sounds better to your ears, and of course, how a disc is mastered plays into the overall sound quality too. No matter the version, I don’t think one can go wrong here, and given that the Anniversary Edition contains a lot more material, it would clearly be my first choice at this time.
Yet, for those possessing the 2004 SACD, a subtle yet critical difference between the two surround versions will likely have you holding on to that SACD copy. The 2004 SACD contains a longer version of “Razor Face” in 5.1 surround, while the 2.0 hi-res stereo version was the shorter one released on vinyl back in the day. This new Blu-ray edition reverts to the shorter edition in both 5.1 and hi-res stereo, although the longer edition is available in stereo as a bonus on the first CD in the box set. Want to know a lot more about this deluxe edition? Mark Smotroff has written an in depth review in three parts on Audiophile Review, which starts here.
For shoppers, Amazon recently sold this set in the low $50 range, so keep an eye out for a future possible price reduction.
Released June 10, 2022.
3xCD / 1xBlu-ray Super Deluxe Box Set with 96kHz / 24-bit DTS HD MA 5.1 surround and 96kHz / 24-bit LPCM 2.0 stereo mixes. Also available on vinyl and CD., or through streaming services.
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