Rick Wakeman – Journey To The Centre Of The Earth: A Review of The Boxset

24 Apr

With the release of this much antisipated release just under two weeks away, i thought it might be a good time to do a review of this boxset. One thing i’d like to mention is that Amazon.UK have made a right mess of the release of this, but there is one very welcome change, and that is the price reduction to £12.99, which is the price i said it was actually worth. Was someone actually listening?  LOL

I’d like to thank Steve Hammonds for making this available. It arrived on April 1st, and as it was sealed i’m reviewing it as if it was bought “off the shelf”.

The set comes in a box that’s a fraction larger than the recent Jethro Tull book style releases, the front being the normal cover picture we all know and love, and wraps around the sides. There is no indication of what this box set actually is, not even a mention of it being a “Deluxe Edition” like the two previous releases. The side panels are also devoid of anything bar a small version of the “logo” from the front cover. On a shop shelf this boxset could easily go un-noticed.

Looking at the back of the box there is a basic listing of the four disc’s, being three CDs and one DVD-A. One noticeable omission is the total lack of any technical information. Nada – Nothing! I’m hoping this is dealt with, even if it’s stickered.

Opening the box, i found it best to shake it open as there are no cut-outs on the sides to enable the bottom to be gripped, there are two box sized booklets along with the four gatefold sleeved disc’s nicely wrapped together to stop disc’s slipping out during transit.

Looking at the glossy booklet first, the first twelve pages basically reproduce the pages from the original LP release, nicely done. Pages eight and nine contain track listings for the disc’s, containing a touch more information about them, but again nothing technical.

The other half of the booklet contains a three page overview of Rick’s career, plenty of scans of magazine articles, posters, etc and an article written by Jerry Ewing from 2015. The back of the booklet does contain some information, although it’s basically from the original release and of those involved with the creation of the booklet.

Moving onto the non-glossy booklet, the front gives a clue to what it is, the album title is in Japanese. This is a nice reprint from the 1975 tour of Japan. It contains some nice pictures and adverts, with all of the text, obviously, in Japanese. So, time to do some brushing up…….

Moving onto the four disc’s, as previously mentioned there are four gatefold sleeves, the first being, basically, the normal LP cover with the other three having different pictures, taken from the inner pages of the original album, and an enlarged version of the ‘logo’, but no other title. The backs of the covers give basic track information, but nothing else. Nada – again!

So, to the disc’s themselves:

D1: This is a remastered version of the stereo album with an additional track, “The Pearl and Dean Unfinished Symphony”. I suspect this nice addition was recorded at the same time and is typical of the fun side of Rick, how many of the adverts do you recognise? Technically the album is very slightly compressed and if not a flat transfer, it’s had just a tweak of a tweak of eq, but neither proves to a problem. It was always a bass light album and there’s no change there! Phew!

D2: Oh! Well the information on the back of the cover states ‘Live in Boston 1974’, but what it doesn’t say is that it’s a bootleg/audience recording. Quality’s not bad but there’s a lot you don’t hear.

D3: ‘Live in Buenos Aires 1993’ fairs a little better, sounds as if it’s possibly from the mixing desk. It’s a more modern, almost solo version, and another bootleg. Oh yes, and there’s no chapter points, it’s one long track. Odd as the previous disc does have them.

D4: Finally to the disc we are all here for. This contains the original quadraphonic mic of the album along with the Mobile Fidelity version of the stereo mix. Now as i may have mentioned just one or twice, there is a total lack of any technical information anywhere on this set which really is a negative point when it comes to this disc.

So putting the disc in the player brings up a menu with four options: ‘Play Stereo’, ‘Play Quad’, ‘Track List’ and ‘Audio Set-Up’. Hmm. OK, pressing ‘Play Stereo’ brings us to another menu listing the four tracks. So, pressing ‘The Journey’ takes us to another menu whilst the track starts to play. So what’s missing… ANY information as to what is playing. There’s no mention that it’s the Mobile Fidelity master, no picture of that release cover, information about it, or at what sample rate it is, etc. Again Nada!

Back to the main menu and i thought i’d have a peek at ‘Audio Set-Up’. which takes us to another menu listing four options, ‘MLP Quad’, ‘MLP Stereo’, ‘DTS Quad’ and ‘LPCM Stereo’. Ummm…..

Going back one step and pressing ‘Track List’ takes us to the same track list as previously seen. But which version has been chosen to play? the last selected? or?

Ok, going back and pressing ‘Play Quad’ and, hey it’s the same menu/picture as before and when we chose a track it starts playing, but is it MLP or DTS?

I haven’t seen such a poorly created menu since the very early days of DVD. Appalling! Oh, and anyone notice something missing? There’s no AC3/Dolby Digital stream. Now for many reading this that omission isn’t an issue but the majority of the buying public use, and are very happy with, it. With the complete lack of technical information on the box itself, let alone anywhere else, this omission could possibly see many of this set being returned as faulty.

Anyway, i’d best mention the sound quality. All there is to say this is a major improvement over what was originally sent to me for testing, which was compressed to and eq’d to hell. I couldn’t actually listen to it all the way through in one sitting.

Again, someone obviously listened as we are given the quad mix in what sounds like a copy of the master, with no, or very very little eq-ing and no, yes that’s right no compression. hallelujah!!!!

I sent a report of my findings, which didn’t seem to go down too well. I’m hoping that, at the very least, some form of technical information is added to this set, along with a visible warning there is no AC3/Dolby Digital stream.

A little note regarding sampling frequency. Whilst playing the DTS stream of the quad mix, my amp showed it to be 24/96, so it’s fair to assume that the MLP stream is the same.



36 Responses to “Rick Wakeman – Journey To The Centre Of The Earth: A Review of The Boxset”

  1. birdycat19 May 20, 2016 at 01:49 #

    REALLY enjoying the 2-disc set!! But yeah, that DVD navigation…yikes.

  2. Army Of Quad May 18, 2016 at 18:53 #

    I see the discussions over on QQ have worked there way over here, so I figured I’d drop by and update you guys. The source of the quad mix on this release is in fact a Q8, and it was kind of by chance that this happened. After the confusion about the source of the King Arthur release, someone involved in the project that I’ve exchanged emails with in the past reached out to me because he had been told it was my conversion. I pointed him in the right direction of UnderMyWheels, since that conversion was actually his, but I took advantage of the opportunity to ask if anything was being planned for Journey to the Center of the Earth. He mentioned to me that they were working on a box set, and were working on some CD4 and Q8 conversions since the quad master was missing for that one as well. So, I offered to contribute my best work, and pulled out my Q8 copy and 2 CD4 copies, and did the best I could with each source, and sent my files over. I was thanked for the files, and that was the last I heard about it. I was quite delighted when I received my purchased copy, and found my conversion on there. Just to be sure I was hearing things correctly, I extracted the audio from the disc, and lined it up with my original files in audition, and sure enough, they sync up absolutely perfectly. I took the front left of each source, and lined them up, panning them to opposite sides, and other than the level being lowered a little bit on the dvd-a, they line up perfectly and sound identical, so it sounds like other than some fades to clean up the start and end of the programs, and lowering the level to give it a little more headroom, they didn’t further process what I sent over.

    My Q8 conversion was done on a modified fostex reel to reel machine. The machine was custom modified by Tab Patterson to play at 3 3/4 ips. Using this machine has 2 advantages to using a typical 8-track deck, one is that playing the tapes reel to reel offer a much more consistent speed and reduces wow and flutter. Also, using this machine, I manually adjust the head to fine tune it to the tape. I find that I have to do this on each tape, it seems head adjustments weren’t always accurate in the duplication process. So, by doing this, I really am able to get a much better performance, especially in the higher frequencies, and really get every last bit of sound possible off the tape.

    After I finished recording in the tape, I finished it off with my typical Noise Reduction and EQing process, and sent the files off. I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

    • oxforddickie May 18, 2016 at 19:01 #

      A good job well done. Congrats.

    • Owen Smith May 19, 2016 at 00:02 #

      OK AoQ you’re one of the people I believe, I’ll take your word for it. And in which case, you’ve done a great job on the Q8 transfer and I will revise upwards my opinion of the limits of what is possible from a Q8. The point about aligning the head manually for each tape is interesting, though given my experiences of having to align cassette heads for computer data retrieval in the 1980s (BBC Micro) I’m not surprised.

      Another aspect comes out of this. For the previous Wakeman releases it’s been stated the quad was processed to “time align” it with the stereo to ensure they’re exactly the same length and if you switch from one to the other (though that’s not actually possible on all the discs) you will be at exactly the same place. That can’t have been done here if it aligns perfectly with your original files, the chances of your transfer being 100% time accurate with some stereo master somewhere are very low.

      But the record company have done you a disservice I believe. I know you say you’re delighted they used your transfer. However, I believe they should have paid you for your fine work (it must have taken non zero time) and acknowledged you in the credits somewhere. I’d also prefer it if the sources of transfers were stated in the booklet, but given the confusion about the earlier Wakeman transfers even among the staff involved that may be as likely to print mis-information as truth.

  3. Steven Sullivan May 17, 2016 at 19:44 #

    I don’t see any bashing of the sound quality on this thread, nor any hint of jealousy, so I’m not sure what those references are about. Anyway, reports on QQ re: the 4.0 is that it’s sourced from carefully transferred, minimally processed Q8.

    • oxforddickie May 17, 2016 at 19:46 #


    • Owen Smith May 17, 2016 at 20:17 #

      There is no earthly way a Q8 can be made to sound this pristine. It’s from the quad master tape, or a reel duplicate of it (companies sometimes take copies for safety, wish they’d done it more often).

      Previously most of QQ said Six Wives was from a Q8, despite the clearly audible vinyl nature of the source (though there were a couple that said “oh come off it chaps, it’s obviously from vinyl”). I no longer believe a word that’s said on QQ except for from one or two posters.

      As for this disc’s problems, the quad audio is fantastic but the menus are diabolical. It’s a bit of a fight to get the disc to play at all! There is no data at all about where the quad came from, or even how it was mixed originally, or anything relevant really. And I still hate digipacks, they wear much more quickly than proper CD cases.

      • atq May 18, 2016 at 09:58 #

        Owen, re digipaks. These sleeves are not perfect, but very good. They are a bit long, so you need to cut off 1-2cm (try the box in t he sleeve first), and will not fit really fat boxes, but a normal 3 disc digibox (ELP, Black Sabbath, King Crimson, etc.) fits snugly. Well worth 7 pence each.

      • Army Of Quad May 18, 2016 at 13:38 #

        Thank you.

      • Steven Sullivan May 19, 2016 at 20:09 #

        Reviewing the thread (to which you were a frequent contributor) I don’t see Q8 ever being the view of ‘most of’ the users — pretty much every sourcing theory was bandied about at some point, and ‘SQ vinyl’ was always a strong contender (and not just from you). The final ‘official’ line was that it was from master tapes, not Q8. ArmyofQuad, who did by far the most thorough analysis of Six Wives, definitely came out *against* it being from Q8 or master tapes– indeed, he showed pretty conclusively that the it is an SQ decode from LP. He’s also reported that digital evidence indicates that Journey is sourced from a careful Q8 transfer that he provided.

        • oxforddickie May 19, 2016 at 20:22 #

          Um, but as the source for ‘Henry’, wouldn’t my word have been enough?

          I’m dissapointed that it takes somebody else to say what i’ve said for people to actually accept it.

        • Owen Smith May 19, 2016 at 20:30 #

          I regret ever getting involved in that thread, and I’ve barely been on QQ since. I think it best not to re-open that discussion, it got rather painful and personal at times.

          • oxforddickie May 19, 2016 at 20:46 #

            Thankfully this isn’t QQ and personal it will never get here.

  4. Owen Smith May 7, 2016 at 16:19 #

    My dual disc Deluxe Edition turned up yesterday. The second disc actually says DVD-A on it! I’ve only listened to the quad in MLP, and as OD says the sound quality is fantastic. It definitely sounds like the master tape relatively unmolested by post processing. My player says it’s MLP 5.1 96/24 but there’s nothing coming from the centre speaker, so someone doesn’t know how to select encoder options again. And there’s a one second long track 5 on the end of the four tracks of music, a mistake these Deluxe Editions have made before. Don’t they check anything before releasing it? They’re minor issues, but they look unprofessional and they’re easy to fix.

  5. Bob Romano April 25, 2016 at 22:56 #

    Hi there…

    I have had this disc for quite some time as I was a tester. There is, indeed, Dolby on the disc but it is only for the folks that have DVD-V playback only. Their choices would be Dolby, DTS 96/24 and LPCM. The DVD-A side of the version does not. It only has MLP 96/24 Quad and MLP 96/24 Stereo. You can also access the DTS 9624 version as well as the LPCM from the DVD-A side as well. Not sure why all the bashing of the disc. It sounds fabuilous and, IMO, is no where nearly as horrible as you make it out to be.

    Just my .02.


    • oxforddickie April 25, 2016 at 23:12 #

      The last test disc i had was a Blu-Ray. What i received on April 1st was the release box-set, which is what i reviewed.

      I do have a feeling that after my negative remarks back to Universal the two disc set may well be replacing the supplied four disc box-set, but i’ve heard nothing officially.

    • oxforddickie April 25, 2016 at 23:28 #

      For your information the release DVD-A/V is a single sided DVD5, so what you have is an early test disc.

      Please ensure you get your facts right before posting here, or elsewhere!

      • romanotrax April 26, 2016 at 01:15 #

        That’s exactly what I have. A single sided DVDA-V. DVD 5

      • romanotrax April 26, 2016 at 01:19 #

        Sorry. By sides I meant AUDIO_TS vs VIDEO_TS. I have an ISO of the final disc included in the box.

        • oxforddickie April 26, 2016 at 04:14 #

          On the disc supplied to me, which as i mentioned appeared to be the final/ready for release sealed boxset, the only options for the quad mix are MLP & DTS.

          And while i’m at it, i’ve read what you’ve written elsewhere and your card is marked.

          • romanotrax April 26, 2016 at 04:54 #

            I believe if you set your player to focus only on the DVD V you will see Dolby as a choice. That’s the way it is on my Oppo.

            • oxforddickie April 26, 2016 at 12:29 #

              Well, i stand corrected, there is indeed an AC3 stream on the disc. But due to the shape of the rocks and the dreadful authoring it wasn’t apparent, nor is there any indication anywhere on the set.

              I have received a reply concerning the two and four disc sets:

              The box set is still on sale and 12.99 is the average price for a 2-CD deluxe – Not sure why the other is not listed but I’ll investigate.

              So the review is for the box set, i’d imagine there would be no booklets with the two disc set. Value for money wise i’d imaging the two disc set will sell in bucket loads.

            • Owen Smith April 26, 2016 at 13:14 #

              The two disc set appears (from the Amazon listing) to be missing only the bootleg live concert CDs and the booklet. It is considerably better value for money in my opinion.

    • oxforddickie April 26, 2016 at 12:44 #

      As i’m unable to reply ‘elsewhere’ i’m going to take the advantage of being the owner of this ‘ere blog, and do it here….

      This review is exactly that, a review. It’s not a “we’re not worthy, we are so thankfull, lick lick” type of ‘review’ you find elsewhere. A review is meant to give people a realistic picture of whatever is being reviewed, warts and all. And in the early stages of, let’s say, a DVD release, then the item sent should be thoroughly investigated and any issues reported back so that they can be corrected before the item goes on release.

      If a number of issues are then found on testing the final product, these too need to be reported back, and it’s then down to the issuer whether to ammend/correct any issues or to let it go through as is.

      If it goes through ‘as is’ then a review meant for the general public has a right to point out such issues, as well as the possitives, so the buyer has a good picture of what he/she is purchasing.

      Questioning why such an in depth review is done shows the lack of understand by the questioner of what is required and alsdo shows his questionable use as a reviewer/tester.

      So they sent it me free. Here we go again. You don’t think it could possibly be in appreciation of the work done? Huh?

      It also shows the green eyed devil is back, jealousy is not a nice coloured coat to wear………..

      • Owen Smith April 26, 2016 at 13:21 #

        Given your financial situation I doubt you’d be buying the expensive box set if you didn’t get a complimentary copy. I have friends that get complimentary copies of books they’ve contributed as little as a paragraph to, or that they’ve done a proof read of. And I’m talking about big expensive hardback coffee table books as well as cheaper paperbacks.

        • oxforddickie April 26, 2016 at 13:23 #

          I certainly could not afford the box set, especially after mums passing.

        • Owen Smith April 26, 2016 at 13:54 #

          I think you mean “could not”.

      • Owen Smith April 26, 2016 at 13:27 #

        The last thing I saw get re-issued was the Roger Taylor (Queen drummer) complete solo stuff (anything that wasn’t Queen) boxset called “The Lot”. This is a A4 sized hardback book over an inch thick with about 10 CDs/DVDs tucked in the front and back covers and cost about £100. There were a considerable number of errors in it, both the book (missing tracks from listings mainly) and transfer errors with the CDs. It was re-issued as a result of the feedback, and everyone got the new version sent free of charge. That’s what I call a good response to valid criticism.

  6. birdycat19 April 24, 2016 at 18:49 #

    The MFSL master is on the DVD, but it’s a new remaster on the CD. Well, that’s a first. But I’ll take it! Thanks for the detailed report–I’m in for the 2-disc set.

  7. Owen Smith April 24, 2016 at 17:48 #

    I’m used to commercial DVD-A/V discs having no Dolby Digital. I have nearly all of the Queen releases that include DVDs and I think there’s only one that has DD. Really, just how many people out there don’t have DTS playback capability? And also I suspect those that don’t and would have been happy listening to DD will probably also be happy listening to stereo, which is always on the disc.

    Queen DVDs usually have LPCM 24/96 abd DTS 24/96, Blu Rays have LPCM 24/96 and DTS HR or DTS HD MA. I’d say those are better choices than having to lose anything to fit Dulby Digital on there.

  8. Owen Smith April 24, 2016 at 17:43 #

    I’ve ordered the CD+DVD that OD linked to at £12.99, getting an uncompressed and non eq’d quad from the original master is worth that price alone and the stereo CD is a bonus.

  9. Highlander April 24, 2016 at 16:03 #

    Great review OD! I appreciate the detailed analysis and I’m very happy to hear the Quad mix has been treated well in its transfer. Good news! 🙂

  10. zaphod2359 April 24, 2016 at 15:23 #

    Thanks for the review. Hopefully they will get the issues you noted sorted. Regardless,I just preordered it. The UK store is a great deal BTW, I checked The US and Canada stores and UK is cheapest by about 9 USD,even with shipping. Basically removing the VAT paid my shipping charges. Cheers!

  11. atq April 24, 2016 at 10:32 #

    It is slightly difficult to work out what they are selling, but it looks like:

    1CD + DVD Deluxe Edition is £12.99.
    3CD + DVD + Box + goodies SUPER Deluxe Edition is £39.99.

    Good of Rick to include the DVD-A in the £12.99 version – as we all know, some bands only include the 5.1 in the expensive box.

    • oxforddickie April 24, 2016 at 10:42 #

      True, it is a mess, basically it sums up the whole release really. Don’t forget they are reissuing the LP too, of which i have a test pressing of. It’s not bad.

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