Over the recent years Alan Parsons has toured the globe, performing hits and complete albums from his deep catalogue of music. However, while many progressive rock fans have seen his live shows in person, there are a much smaller number who were able to see the live performance with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Thankfully this was recorded in high resolution video and audio and the "One Note Symphony: Live In Tel Aviv" show has been released by Frontier Music in a variety of formats including: 2CD + DVD, Blu-ray, 3xLP, and Digital formats.
For the technically minded and critical analyzers, the product and the main menu audio selection listed both DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo programs, which apparently are available on the Japanese Blu-ray edition, but unfortunately not actually contained on the US version. Instead, even though the menus states these lossless codec, the Blu-ray actually only contains 48kHz / 24-bit Dolby Digital AC3, which for most audiophiles is considered an inferior codec.
So, with the bad news out of the way, let’s talk about the video and surround audio, both which are compelling. While I am not a video expert, I basically like what I see. The cuts are sensible, offering a range of close-ups, medium shots, and full stage shots. There are some fun camera movements, and even interweaving of additional visual material. Yet, the colors are a bit over saturated, and details generally seems good, but focus is lost from time to time. What I really appreciate is having a fantastic seat at this show that I would never have made it to, nor even heard about given it is halfway around the globe for me.
Of course, it is all about the music, and overall, I like the energy, emotion, and depth of the performances, which cover a range of Parson’s material from the 70’s, 80’s and onward to his most recent album “The Secret.” Naturally, what elevates the dynamics is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which can be heard soaring from the back channels on most of the songs. The core band with guitars, synths, bass, drums, and vocals are all spread across the front channels with ambient reverberation hitting off the back channels. The surround mix is truly enveloping, with discrete percussive elements from the orchestra placed behind the sweet spot, adding to the overall immersive nature of the mix.
Knowing how rich some of the bass parts can be, and how clear cymbals and vocals come across on my system, it is hard to ignore the weaknesses of the Dolby Digital codec. There is an overall thinness, some of which can be attributed to the compressive nature of the codec, along with a brittle edge to the vocals and splashiness heard on the cymbals. Still, the midrange comes across nicely, and I really do enjoy the great performances of the 19 songs across the Blu-ray. I do wonder though, given Parsons’ detail to excellence, if any of these issues appear on his mixes, or simply the corruption of the audio when down converted to Dolby Digital.
A highlight of the evening is watching the conductor lead the orchestra, especially on the piece “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” which puts the members of the Philharmonic through a real workout. Typically, the various songs stay pretty true to their original arrangement and overall sound, yet the subtle and more obvious changes, such as the alternate intro and horn solo on “I Wouldn’t Want to be Like You” absolutely add to this delightful concert.
The stereo mix is a perfectly fine version for listeners who prefer that format. It mirrors the audio quality as described above for the 5.1 surround mix, excepting the obvious flattening of the auralscape down to the two dimensions of the stereo field. As a surround aficionado, I find myself preferring the multi-channel surround version.
Live in Tel Aviv is best for fans and progressive rock enthusiasts wanting to experience a Parsons concert with an orchestra. One can find other live concert films from the veteran performer, but it is the unique nature of the inclusion of a Philharmonic Orchestra that is the main draw here.
Released Feburary 11, 2022.
2CD + DVD or Blu-ray featuring a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mix. Dolby Digital or DTS HD MA depending on region. Also available as a 3xLP, or as a Digital formats.