Written by 8:25 pm Blu-ray Disc, Audiophile, Audiophile Music, Blu-ray, Digital, Quadrophonic

Rhino Records’ New Mingus Moves Quadio Blu-ray Disc Delivers Exciting Quadrophonic Listening Experience

Mark Smotroff gets a big wow from a great quad mix….

By Mark Smotroff

I can only imagine the disappointment that many artists had in the first wave of quadrophonic sound back in the 1970s. The promise for multi-channel music was strong and I would imagine that the playback in the studio was thrilling for the artists. Unfortunately, the reality of reproducing that excitement in the average consumer home proved to be a hurdle too steep for the technology of the times and in fairly short order the format sadly faded away. 

If you’re reading this, I suspect you know about the re-invention and revival of multi-speaker sound reproduction which emerged in 21st Century initially as 5.1 surround. Today we’re enjoying the latest renaissance of the concept with the new Dolby Atmos technology which delivers height and three dimensional depth immersion.

Hoping to reclaim some of the original glory of those original Quadrophonic mixes which have been dormant in the archives for decades, Rhino Records has been working on its “Quadio” series releases for a while now. It began with a limited edition release — available by mail order only — of the first album by Chicago (then called Chicago Transit Authority). I bought this back in the day and it was a very good release. Rhino no doubt was encouraged and took the project a big step further by issuing a wonderful boxed set of the entire run of almost all the original 1970s Chicago albums in original Quad mixes under the Quadio banner. You can read my review of that set by clicking here.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that Rhino was putting out a new series of these Quadio releases on Blu-ray Disc including the 1974 Charles Mingus album called Mingus Moves.

I am a big Mingus fan and I’ve never actually heard his music in surround sound of any format. I do however own an original Quad vinyl copy of this very album (which I have only been able to play in Stereo).

In short, I’m fairly blown away by this recording of Mingus Moves which is presented in 192 kHz, 24 bit fidelity, using DTS-HD Master Audio – – they playfully have rebranded it on-screen as DTS Master Quadio!

From Rhino Records’ official press materials we learn:

“Steve Woolard, Director of A&R for the Quadio series, stated, “Following in the footsteps of the Chicago and Doobie Brother’s Quadio sets, these are transferred from the original half-inch four-channel masters at 192/24 resolution and sound amazing. Considering they’ve been in the vault for 50 years, the tapes were in pristine condition and needed no tweaks or fixes. They sound as fresh, rich, and powerful as the day they were created. And, of course, there’s also a 192/24 stereo program from the two-track master as well. Just because.” 

Mingus Moves indeed sounds amazing in its original Quadrophonic presentation. The general mix features the rhythm section in the front channels which would include Don Pullen on piano and longtime Mingus drummer Dannie Richmond.  In the rear channels comes George Adams on tenor saxophone and flute while Ronald Hampton contributes trumpet. So, yes, you the listener are more or less situated in the middle of the band.

I know it is a cliche but I can’t help but remark that it feels like I’m hearing this recording for the first time.  Mingus Moves sounds much more exciting and engaging as a listening experience than I’ve ever heard it on LP.  

Following are initial perceptions (warning: spoilers ahead!)

Some of my favorites so far include the track “Wee” which is just such a beautiful harmonic piece written by Mingus’ arranger Sy Johnson.

“Newcomer” is a really interesting track (written by pianist Don Pullen) as Mingus’ bass solo appears unexpectedly from the rear. I could feel the excitement of the band coming together as a unit on this recording, which is something I never felt just listening to the two-channel Stereo LP. George Adams is blowing madly in those back channels!

“Opus 3” is a swinging curio which launches off some changes from Mingus’ classic tribute to Lester Young, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” before taking a turn skyward into the stratosphere. This track lifts off beautifully in the Quad mix.

Even though this Quad mix is very discrete — with lots of pinpointed instrumentation appearing in the four channel sound-stage — there is also an remarkable sense of blend.  At points it almost feels like music is coming out of the center channel at times. It’s a quite fantastic mix!

This disc contains some of the best recorded Mingus bass I’ve ever heard, by the way.

The Stereo mix included on Mingus Moves  — in 192 kHz, 24-bit fidelity — is beautiful too with many significant charms as a two-channel listening experience. Those finger cymbals at the beginning of “Canon” are amazingly distinct, and Ronald Hampton’s trumpet is rich and warm. You can almost feel the air pushing through George Adams’ saxophone reed/mouthpiece. 

OK I’ll stop gushing now. I think you get the idea that I kinda fell in love with this version of Mingus Moves. Bravo to Rhino Records for digging into the archive vaults to bringing this rich mix out into the sunshine again. Lets hope if they dig deeper and release other albums recorded in the format but which never really saw the proper light of day in the past.

If I have one little nit to pick, it’s simply a design aesthetic: on the label of the Blu-ray Disc, they didn’t reproduce the design of the original Atlantic Records Quadrophonic LP label which sported different colors than the traditional red and green: blue and tan.

Also, it would have been nice if there had been some more expansive liner notes included with this disc to give listeners some idea of how to listen and what to expect from the Quadio presentation. But, I guess, that is why I am here writing about this for you, Dear Readers of Audiophile Review!

Mingus Moves in Quadio is a keeper. 

[Mark Smotroff has been reviewing music at AudiophileReview for many years but can also be found at AnalogPlanet.com. In the past he has written for Sound & Vision, DISCoveries, EQ, Mix and many more.  An avid vinyl and surround music enthusiast who has also worked in marketing communications for decades, you can learn more about his background at LinkedIn.]

Watch for future reviews of other Quadio series releases here on AudiophileReview
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