The Red Planet (CD/DVD Edition) – Rick Wakeman
This is going to be a short review because I have already reviewed the album last year and this is merely an update of this year’s reissue of The Red Planet by Rick Wakeman reissued by Madfish Records. I actually brought the CD Edition that Madfish Records put out on 28th of August last year and my reason for not opting to go for the CD/DVD Edition that was released on the R&D Media label on the 19th of June last year was down to it’s ridiculous price. I did also stress how disappointed I was in the way that it was put out on Rick’s Extortionate Emporium and you can find my review of the album here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/lee-speaks-about-music-161/
Granted that R&D Media release was a Limited Edition but as much as a surround FREAK! I am, I do draw the line when it comes to being ripped off and no way was I paying £35 plus postage & packing for a CD/DVD package like that. Sometimes it pays to hold on and this new reissue of the CD/DVD package by Madfish Records was released on the 21st of May this year and cost less than a third of the price. I pre-ordered it from Amazon UK a month earlier and it arrived on the day of its release and was at a much more respectable price of £11.99. To be honest that’s quite a bargain and I genuinely think that the R&D Limited Edition should have cost no more than £18.99.
The beauty about this package is that you also never had to wait several months for the DVD to arrive as you did with the R&D Limited Edition. However, all is not how it appears to be and it takes me back to how the original Limited Edition was first advertised on Rick’s Emporium. In this review I am going to focus on the DVD that comes with it but before I go any further let’s take a look at how it’s been packaged.
Well as you can see unlike the CD Edition that Madfish released last year this new release comes in a 3-panel cardboard Digipak instead of a standard plastic Jewel Case. The booklet however has only 16-pages instead of the 20-page booklet that came with the CD Edition but still manages to cram in most of the same informative information and pictures and contains all the usual linear production and credits notes.
The only thing this package does not come with is the popup sleeve (as seen above) that you got with the R&D Limited Edition. Though I would be damned if I would pay the extra £25 it cost for that edition and as far as I can make out that is the only difference between the edition we have here and that one. Overall, it’s a very neat and tidy package and a much better presentation in relation to the CD Edition.
Like I mentioned earlier this is only going to be a quick review as I have already reviewed the album and the only incentive for me to buy the album again was for the 5.1 mix on the DVD. So let’s now take a look at the DVD.
The DVD’s main menu looks sharp and as pristine as blu ray when upscaled to which most blu ray players can do an excellent job of. The navigation is straightforward and simple enough and it comes with four options to choose from “Play”. “Track Selection”. “Audio Options” and “Extras”.
The “Track Selection” menu functions like most typical DVD’s where you have to load to another screen and this one is a bit on the slow side in making its transition and takes about 5 seconds. The other notable thing about this menu is that it does appear to look blurred in relation to all the other menus and this could have been down to an error by using a lesser resolution picture or it was the intention to make it look on the heated side of things.
The “Audio Options” menu gives you the choice of 3 soundtracks and by default, it’s set to 96K/24Bit PCM Stereo at 1.5Mbps. The DTS 5.1 mix also comes with the same high resolution but runs at a higher rate at 4.6Mbps. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is more of a standard resolution at 48K and runs at a much lower rate at 448Kbps.
The “Extras” menu contains the bonus material and here we have Rick talking about the recording of the Red Planet and some of the promotional films of which I will go into more detail in a bit. The bonus material comes with an overall playing time of 70 minutes, 46 seconds and the audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 48K at 192Kbps.
The good thing about the DVD is that it displays a different picture along with the title for all 8 tracks (as seen above). However in comparison to how things were done back in the early 2000’s it could be seen as a bit mediocre. But it’s nice to have something to look at whilst listening to the music and with how technology has moved on and we have HD and even 4K images to look at so I cannot complain and overall quite a good job has been done here.
All Is Not How It Appears To Be…
If you read my original review of the album you will gather at how I had a go at the original release and how everything was not how it appeared to be at first. For example within the first week that the Limited CD/DVD Edition showed up for preorder on Rick’s Emporium around March or earlier last year it was advertised that it came with a 5.1 mix of the album. A week or so later the 5.1 side of things had been removed and Rick announced on his own website that the DVD does not contain a 5.1 mix.
I know for a fact that the R&D Limited Edition CD/DVD did not come with a 5.1 mix because a mate of mine brought it and that’s how I also knew it cost £37 with the postage & packing. He also had to wait for the DVD to arrive and when it did arrive in October last year he phoned me up to tell me how disappointed he was that it never came with one. There are several things I pointed out about that release and all pointed to GREED! This is why I called it “Rick Wakeman’s Extortionate Emporium”.
I also pointed out in my earlier review how the vinyl editions of the Madfish release in August last year were pressed onto 140gram vinyl instead of 180gram and how it looked like Rick was cutting corners with the release to save on the money. However, this could also be down to the shortage of vinyl and this does happen from time to time and was the reason I gave up on vinyl years ago.
It does however make Rick look like a bit of a cheapskate and it also seems to look like he’s at it again with this new CD/DVD Edition that was released on Madfish records in May this year and like a sucker, I fell for it. Though thankfully it only cost me £11.99.
As I have already mentioned my incentive to buy music these days is for the Surround mix and that is why I will even go out of my way to buy an album like this again. However once again all is not how it appears to be especially by looking at the way this new release was advertised which follows:
“May 2021, sees Madfish releasing a new 2 disc version of the album as a CD + DVD format which will feature the original album on CD and the DVD will showcase the album in glorious 5.1 surround Sound and Hi-res stereo audio (PCM Stereo @ 24-bit 96kHz / Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround @ 24-bit 48kHz / DTS 5.1 Digital Surround @ 24-bit 96kHz) plus 3 mini promo films and a 70 minute documentary of “The Making Of The Red Planet”, presented in a digipak with a 16 page colour booklet”.
To be honest with an advertisement like that it’s easy to see how one can easily get roped in and for surround FREAKS! such as myself they might even get excited about it. Even the specs regarding the 5.1 mix that I posted with the screenshots I took of the DVD very much match up to this advertisement. Yet when I played the DVD I was just as disappointed that my mate was last year.
To be perfectly honest when I played the 5.1 mix I was wondering how to give it a rating because it certainly was not leaping at me with excitement or giving me an immersive experience. I then played the high-res stereo mix and was quite blown away by that and thought it was a much better mix. It was then I started to have a read in the booklet to find out who had done the 5.1 mix and it never even mentioned it in there. But then I noticed this on the back cover.
As you can plainly see the advertisement was a complete farce and no multitrack tapes were even used to do a 5.1 mix and all you are getting is a simulated 5.1 Upmix or Psudio mix to which you could achieve the same results without software simply by playing the CD on your AV Reciever using any of the Upmix facilities such as Dolby Prologic XX, Neo 6, 7-Channel Stereo and so on.
This is not the first time that some of Rick’s albums have been advertised with surround mixes making it look like they were mixed from the original master tapes over the past decade. For example, back in 2015, I purchased the Deluxe Edition of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII because it supposedly came with a Quadrophonic mix mixed from the original multitrack tapes. To be honest I was more disappointed with that release than what we have here and no way was it a Quadrophonic mix. As one reviewer on the tube pointed out who completely analyzed the recording stated:
“This is not Quadrophonic and furthermore I don’t know what the hell it is but a complete mess” 😊😊😊.
Now in some respects, you might expect it from an older release but with a new release, this should never be the case. It’s easy to say that it was down to the record company and throw the blame on them. But surely Rick Wakeman would have had the sense to oversee the release and all that was being done with it. He always posts on his Youtube channel regularly these days keeping you up to date with what he is doing and never once have I seen him stick his hands up and say sorry guys the record or advertising company made a mistake.
Stereo & Surround Mixes.
Having looked at the main feature on the DVD and being somewhat disappointed with the whole shenanigans of how things have been done in the way of false advertising and having no 5.1 mix which is why I brought the thing in the first place. I found the bonus material just as disappointing. This is so unprofessional and not what I expected at all, even the footage they used they could not even be arsed to edit it to make it look any better.
Before the album was released last year I happened to watch Rick’s Tube channel and got to see him talk about the new album and how everything was progressing along. You also got to see some of the animations that was put to the music and band members such as guitarist Dave Colquhoun and bassist Lee Pomeroy show you some of the techniques they used with their instruments and how they went about recording them in their own little studio setups at home.
There was a total of around 15 – 18 video clips that were uploaded to his channel over the few months the album was being put together too which some were less than a minute. Others could stretch out between 2 – 9 minutes and these are the same video clips that make up the extra bonus material you get here. Each clip has a short intro and they have just left it in instead of editing it out to make it look more like an interview or discussion was going on with the footage. Something better than this should have been done with it and to leave the footage as it was is just pure laziness on their part.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my review of this latest reissue of the CD/DVD Edition of The Red Planet released by Madfish Records earlier this year. I think it’s plain to see that not everything went to plan with how Rick Wakeman intended the album to be put out in the first place. When I look at the animation that was put to the music in the bonus section I am pretty sure that Rick may have had every intention to do the same thing he did with the 5.1 DVD release of Out There back in 2003 by accompanying the music with animated footage to run along in sequence.
Granted due to the outspread of Covid things got delayed but in reality that should have given him more time to work things out properly but instead it appears that he’s cut corners with the release of this album to get it out there. Nevertheless there is no reason why this latest reissue could not have been given a 5.1 mix but at the end of the day I suppose once again its down to cost and its a shame because it is a very good album and deserved much better treatment.
It could be that Rick left it in the hands of Madfish Records to put out this release but to go out and blatantly falsely advertise it in the way in which they did, I simply cannot ignore and it appears that Wakeman’s latest releases are like doing dodgy deals with Del Trotter of Only Fools and Horses 😊😊😊. Furthermore when you put bonus material on a DVD one would expect to see something you have not already seen and the way that section of the DVD has been compiled and unedited is so unprofessional.
However, that’s not to say everything about this new reissue is a shambles and in comparison to the so-called expanded edition that Esoteric Recordings released of Jon Anderson’s debut album Olias Of Sunhillow I reviewed last month. This is a much better recording and even though the 5.1 Upmix is not worth bothering with the high-resolution stereo mix does bring out a lot more than the CD and the so-called 5.1 mix.
At the end of the day, there is still a certain amount of quality you get with this release but it’s not for surround FREAKS! like myself. However, if you are also into high-resolution stereo mixes that is the only way I would recommend this release and with how it’s all neatly packaged and its low price point of £11.99 I still think you are getting a good deal but perhaps not a bargain after all without the 5.1 mix.