October 29, 2017
HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #29: Chiller by the Cincinnati Pops
Title: Chiller by the Cincinnati Pops conducted by Erich Kunzel
Total Runtime: 59 Min
Repeats on both sides: No
Music: Mostly music with a few sound effects vignettes
Distinct Audio: The "dangerous" sound effects. See below
Review: Back in high school, discussions about audio fidelity came up often because most of my friends were finally making the leap to compact discs, one Christmas and birthday at a time. My friend's audiophile dad taught us about the SPARS code, a three letter sequence printed on the discs that told you "how digital" an album was. So "AAD," the least desirable in our eyes, meant that an album was recorded in Analog, mixed in Analog, and Digitized for CD. Of course the ultimate was pure "DDD" because nothing sounds better than digital, right? ...Right?
I raced home and examined my collection of about ten CDs. (Thank you Columbia House music club.) Not a single triple D in the bunch. What was the point of even buying CDs?! (Aside from sound quality, durability, instant access to individual tracks, and so on.) This feature suddenly rose to the top of my list of things to look for in a compact disc, ranking slightly above the recording artist and album. What a classic case of ruining something I vastly enjoyed just because the grass seemed greener elsewhere. It's more ridiculous when you consider that my "sound system" came from JCPenny and had three inch speakers.
At the time I didn't understand how rare DDD recordings were. The only one I'd ever heard was my friend's copy of Nothing Like the Sun by Sting. Occasionally I'd find one in the record store, but nothing I wanted to spend two weeks of allowance on. That changed one evening in the Soundtrack CD section of Sound Warehouse. (I'm ashamed to admit how self-satisfied I became when I finally had "the right" to shop in the CD department.) I grabbed a CD with a beautifully illustrated haunted house on the cover. I perked up when I saw things like "Night on Bald Mountain," "Twilight Zone," and "Poltergeist" on the track listing. Then my eyes zeroed in on the SPARS code (bottom left)...
Triple D PURE DIGITAL! The cherry on top was a mysterious "Digital Sound Effects" warning for certain tracks. In the parking lot I tore open the booklet and read that these three tracks should not be played at high volume at the risk of damaging you speakers because the sweet digital fidelity is so powerful! I couldn't get home quick enough.
The first time I played Chiller I cautiously kept the volume dial around the "one" mark. I could hear a burst of lightning. I re-listened a few more times inching up the volume with each play. It's true, the warning tracks are incredibly loud, though I don't think my portable boom box was in any danger. But on a large system that thunderclap could give everyone in the room a heart attack.
On the other hand, I wasn't used to music that could get so quiet. There's such a dynamic range that the soft parts are nearly inaudible on low volume. But this has a great affect on songs like "Funeral March of a Marionette" when the first burst of percussion can give you a true jump scare.
I realize all of this has nothing to do with the cassette. I got the tape in a lot of unopened Halloween audio, and I don't plan on breaking the seal because I still have that delicious digi-clean DDD compact disc.
I didn't recognize a lot of the music titles when I bought it, but upon listening they were instantly familiar thanks to TV shows and movies. I discovered that "Danse Macabre" is the basis for the Halloween song I learned in school. I love about three fourths of this album. Chillers only loses me when some of the selections veer out of spooky territory. (Now I'm eager to check out the sequel they made in 2002 that isn't afraid to wallow in less Classical pop culture.)
Chiller is more than just a well recorded album. It's a collection of seminal Horror music in the hands of experts. Also, the letters on the cover glow-in-the-dark!
I can't find a streaming link, but it's on Pandora and itunes.
(Here's a detailed track by track review that I enjoyed.)