Reviews

Pink Floyd / The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box Set / Review

The new Immersion Box delivers the ultimate Dark Side of the Moon listening experience across 6 discs

So, after almost six months of anticipation, expectation and speculation, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box Set has finally arrived.

This most celebrated of albums was reissued for it’s 20th anniversary in 1993, but in those days putting a newly remastered CD in a bespoke box with a few nicely designed ‘art cards’ was considered a deluxe treatment.

Ten years later, for it’s 30th birthday, a new audio format – SACD or Super Audio CD – allowed Pink Floyd/EMI to present to us a superb high-res surround sound version of the album. This was a truly incredible mix, although, it has to be said if you didn’t have an SACD player and a surround sound set-up (the majority), then you had to be content with another stereo remaster (hidden on a different ‘layer’ of the hybrid SACD) and another rejigged prism on the front cover (stained glass window effect). For that reason, and the fact that it was just one (SA)CD packaged in a standard jewel case, the fabulous-ness of this 2003 reissue was missed by most.

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Having reissued the album numerous times, it’s highly unlikely that another anniversary issue was going to pass muster, unless it was going to be a just a little bit special. So here we are, on The Dark Side of the Moon‘s 38th birthday(!), with a massive box full of goodies including three CDs, two DVDs and a blu-ray disc. It’s time for Immersion.

The box itself, is beautiful, and very sturdy. It’s around 11.5 inches square, so should fit reasonably well on the shelf with any vinyl you have in your collection. The newly designed (and multiplied) prism graphic is spot varnished, giving a high quality finish and appearance. A layer of thick foam protects some of the contents inside, and stops things moving around too much when in transit.

There are plenty of trinkets and fluff in this box, including marbles, coasters, and a scarf. I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I’d much rather see the time, money (no pun intended…) and effort that has gone into creating these items, channeled into another disc of music or video. Alternatively, we could have lived without the gimmicks and had a cheaper box to purchase.

On to the music. CD 1 is The Dark Side of the Moon, the album by Pink Floyd. The reason we are here, in case you’d forgotten. Or is it?

Few people will have bought this box to hear The Dark Side of the Moon, played in 2-channel stereo from a CD. If that is the height of your ambition, then there are more economical solutions, specifically, the newly remastered one disc Discovery Edition.

No, we are here, immersing ourselves, for everything BUT the standard studio version of The Dark Side of the Moon. So let’s skip the album, put those marbles to one side and get straight on to the heart of the matter – demos, live tracks, an “early version” of the album, a “quad” mix, session tracks, tour films and live footage – all previously unreleased.

Disc 2

CD 2 contains a live rendition of the whole album. The performance dates from November 1974 when the band were undertaking a short British tour and debuting new material. They would play The Dark Side of the Moon in full, in the second set of the evening. NME journalist Nick Kent famously wrote a scathing review of one of the concerts describing the performance as “facile and soulless”. Understandably, this rather harsh assessment did not go too well with the band, although decades later Nick Mason did admit that “some of the criticisms were valid”.

Don’t let that put you off this live disc though. A composite of a couple of different nights, most will never have heard this and it’s very exciting and quite refreshing to hear this sonic masterpiece with the inevitable rough edges that a live gig brings. Like most, I’m so familiar with the studio album it’s a treat to hear Gilmour’s vocal melodies occasionally taking a different path from the norm and the more pumped-up tones of Waters’ bass.

At the time, the band were doing their best to replicate the studio album, so we get all the relevant sound effects, such as the ker-ching that kicks off Money and the clocks at the beginning of Time. That doesn’t stop them extending Any Colour You Like into 8 minute jam and Money turns into a bluesy bass-fest for an elongated middle section.

This live disc is a big success – both as a historical document of how-they-sounded-then and as a alternate look at the familiar. Imagine The Beatles trying to recreate Sgt Pepper live? Who wouldn’t want to hear that? Well we CAN hear Pink Floyd play The Dark Side of the Moon live and I’m pleased the archive has freed itself of the burden of holding on to this small piece of history.

Disc 6

The third and final CD in this box is disc 6. Don’t let it’s lowly numerical status worry you. It has some of the most interesting content in the box, including some demos and live tracks.

But the main attraction here, is an early 1972 mix of the entire album. Pink Floyd had completed most of the recording, and this mix was created in December of that year by engineer Alan Parsons, for the band members to listen to over the Christmas period. Everyone would regroup in the new year, with their views on what was, or wasn’t, working.

How does this mix differ from what we know and love? The first difference hits you straight away – Speak to Me simply does not exist at this stage, and the album begins with Breathe. With many songs the difference is reasonably slight, the final mixes being evolution rather than revolution. The Great Gig in the Sky is one of the exceptions, lacking as it does, Clare Torry’s memorable vocal performance. In place of this, is a transmission from what ended up being NASA’s final mission to the moon – Apollo 17.

The fade on Money is slightly different with the vocals hanging around a bit longer than we’re used to, but it’s Us and Them that proves one of the real highlights of this early mix. It starts completely differently, with the focus very much on Richard Wright’s piano and Dick Parry’s saxophone. The drums don’t kick in until around the minute mark, and for me, what has always been a beautiful song, suddenly sounds even more beautiful. This disc also provides us with Wright’s instrumental piano demo of this same track.

The Travel Sequence (early version of On The Run) and The Mortality Sequence (early The Great Gig in the Sky) are both included, as performed live in Brighton in 1972. So too is Any Colour You Like which is probably the highlight from these three live tracks.

The studio recording of The Travel Sequence included here, sounds like much more structured ‘band’ performance than the sound effects and atmosphere-laden On The Run. Interestingly, close inspection of the credits tells us that this track was recorded in October 1973, after The Dark Side of the Moon came out. One assumes that the plan was to evolve it into something appropriate for future release. It was recorded around the same time as The Hard Way from the fabled ‘Household Objects’ project, which is also on this disc. This abandoned project saw the band attempting to get back to their more experimental leanings, after the mainstream success of The Dark Side of the Moon. The idea was to eschew traditional instruments – everything would be ‘played’ on a household object such as rubber bands, wine glasses etc. After only a few tracks, this was abandoned.

Disc 6 finishes with Roger Waters’ original demo of Money. Recorded in his shed at home, this has plenty of charm and it’s impressive how fully formed it is (complete with samples), even if the vocal melody is rather sing-song at this early stage. David Gilmour did a good job of improving this considerably, on the final studio version of the track.

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The remaining discs in this set are all audio/video discs. That is, two DVDs (discs 3 & 4) and a Blu-ray disc (disc 5).

For those in any doubt, the Blu-ray disc contains everything on both DVDs, making them completely redundant if you own a Blu-ray player. If you don’t, then only the Blu-ray disc is redundant, until such time as you upgrade your system! We have a multitude of surround mixes and formats, so a quick explanation follows.

5.1 Surround Mix

The 5.1 Surround Mix of the album created by James Guthrie for the 2003 SACD is available on DVD (disc 3) in Dolby Digital quality which is 448 kbps (kilo bits per sec). A slightly higher quality version at 640kbps is also available, however not all players will support this bitrate, hence the inclusion of 448kbps, which is a universally supported standard. DVD-Video does not support what audiophiles would call ‘high-res’ audio, but Blu-ray does. Which is why on the Blu-ray disc (disc 5) the same 5.1 surround mix is available at 96khz/24 bit which for comparison is 13824kbps. The Blu-ray disc also contains a stereo version of the album in high-res audio, so even if you do not have a surround set-up the quality is superior to CD (CD is 44.1khz/16 bit).

4.0 Quad Mix

Quad was an early incarnation of surround sound and The Dark Side of the Moon was released in this format on LP and 8-track Cartridge. It is a four speaker set-up with two at the front and two at the rear. There is no subwoofer or centre speaker, hence 4.0 rather than 5.1. Alan Parsons supervised the Quad Mix which has remained in the archive since it’s original release in 1973. The Quad Mix is available in the same formats as the 5.1 mix – ie two bit rates on DVD and hi-res on the Blu-ray.

The two mixes make for interesting comparison, but the 5.1 mix has the benefit of being mixed from the original first generation tapes (pre-bounce), which were laboriously tracked down and re-synched to ensure the absolute optimum sound quality. This was not the case for the 1973 Quad Mix. The 5.1 mix from 2003 probably the ultimate way to listen to this album and the quality of sound on the Blu-ray is stunning – at least as impressive as the SACD from 2003.

Video Footage

There are a couple of live tracks from Brighton 1972 (in stereo only) – Careful With That Axe Eugene and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. This is old-school Psychedelic Pink Floyd, and while the clips are nice to have, it’s hard to understand what they are doing as part of this set. There is no video footage of the band performing any The Dark Side of the Moon tracks which seems like a major omission.

The included documentary is basically an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) to promote the 2003 SACD of The Dark Side of the Moon. The band are interviewed separately, and to be fair it’s quite an interesting little film, but it’s very short and at times does come across more like a sales tool to promote SACD. Could be confusing to some, given there is no SACD included within this box set. Some good comments from the band though, including David Gilmour generously acknowledging that Roger Waters’ “coming of age, lyrically”, and Money being a successful US single, were massive contributing factors to the success of the album. The 2006 documentary Which One’s Pink? would have been preferred though, especially since it was post Live 8. It wasn’t The Dark Side of the Moon specific, but it’s a great overview of the band.

The final inclusion, again on both DVD and Blu-ray, are the Concert Screen Films from the British and French Tours of 1974 and the North American Tour of 1975. These are a fascinating mix of animation and live action film footage and vary in length and quality. For example the French Speak To Me is 3.10 while the British version is 4.20. Both rely heavily on graphics and animation, while the US version is completely different with footage filmed inside a stark and shiny hospital. Be prepared to allocate a whole evening to flicking around between tours and films! In general, by 1975 the budgets were bigger so the US films tend to be the better watch. Audio is available as LPCM Stereo or 5.1 Surround (48 khz/24 bit).

Summary

The box comes with two glossy large format booklets (36 pages and 24 pages) featuring the photos of Jill Furmanovsky and design of Hipgnosis. CDs 1 & 2  with the two DVDs sit recessed at the very bottom of the box. To access the discs you have to take everything out. For all the high quality design served up by Storm Thorgerson, it seems that practical access to the music and video – the reason we are buying the box – was not top of the list of priorities. The Blu-ray disc and CD 6 are left to float around amongst the contents in the kind of card slip case which CDs are given away free, by national newspapers.

Packaging quibbles aside, this box ultimately comes highly recommended. The main reason is that the bonus content is of such high quality, that it is likely to be played regularly, rather than being a once-only  curiosity satisfying exercise. In particular you will find yourself regularly going back to the live concert and early version of the album. The attention to detail, in areas such as audio quality, remastering, surround sound and high-res audio is stunning.

So put down your iPod, forget about MP3s, get hold of this box, send the kids out of the room, put on the DVD (or preferably Blu-ray) and Immerse.

Verdict

For: High-Res audio, Surround Sound and truly excellent previously unreleased audio content.

Against: Two redundant DVD discs for Blu-ray owners, and useless marbles.

Rating: 9/10

Order The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box by clicking here. 

 

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25 responses to Pink Floyd / The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box Set / Review

  1. Kiwwy says:

    Had my first listen tonight. The live disc is excellent so far. “I certainly was in the right” indeed.

    I’m curious about these “Collectors’ cards” – Anybody know where to find the rest? :)

  2. Richard van Oosterhout says:

    I have been playing “The Hard Way” and the early “Us And Them” the most, directly followed by the live tracks.

  3. Gary Thompson says:

    I have read on another site (Steve Hoffman’s if memory serves) that the date in the box for The Travel Sequence studio version is a misprint – it should be 1972 not 1973. This would make sense with regard to the original album recording schedule – can anyone confirm if this is a typo?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Apparently this is the case. I will correct this in the review shortly to ensure accuracy. thanks for your comments.

  4. Werner says:

    And Paul did you found the “Easter Egg” yet?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Well I don’t want to spoil the fun too much… but let’s just say in one of the tour films there is an ‘extra’ menu item called something like ‘assorted lunatics’…. that is something to enjoy!

  5. Richard van Oosterhout says:

    Thank you Werner for saying (and Paul for confirmation) that there is/are some easter eggs. I will have something to do then this upcomming weekend.

  6. Richard van Oosterhout says:

    A small question about the Easter Egg. “Is it Dutch courage?”
    How should I interpret this, just after hearing very know sounds… could anyone explain this to me as a Dutchman.

    And if the early mix from Us And Them is such a diamond, how then would the upcomming WYWH with violin going to gem… (or should I say jam).

  7. Paul Sinclair says:

    Hi Richard… Dutch courage is when you have a few beers to enable you to be ‘brave’ enough to ask a someone out!

    I’ve heard the Wish You Were Here with the violin and it’s interesting, but I didn’t really like it that much. I don’t think it suits the mood of the song to be honest which is quite mournful.

  8. IvanQ says:

    Ok. I got the box last week from Amazon.de… it’s a really nice one, really. However there are some packaging issues: discs tend to dislodge during transport, as I’ve read on some internet forums. Some people has had to return their boxes due to discs being badly scratched. In mine, discs came dislodged but luckily enough there was no scratch.

    Marbles, coasters and the scarf… well, I could live without that… specially if without those items the box price would have dropped a bit. The live album is really nice. I’ve heard bootlegs of the Wembley 1974 concerts, but this one surpasses them all. The remastering in the CD is nice, not as brickwalled as the 2003 stereo layer, OK with that.

    But the real meat here is the Blu-ray. Those 96/24 releases are amazing!!! The album sounds great, clean, wow!! I’m eagerly waiting for the WYWH box set in November.

    Sadly, no Blu-ray on the upcoming Wall box. To me, a nice Blu-ray with the album and the ITAOT live album in 96/24 would be a great addition!! I could even live without a 5.1 Wall mix if I had a 96/24 stereo release… however, it doesn’t seem to be happening.

    Anyway, as a sidenote on this “Wall” thing, let’s not forget that, when it comes to The Wall, the last word belongs to Roger!! He got the rights to the album back in the 1987’s legal battle against PF.

    Also, I don’t know if the rights to the soundtrack of the movie belong to him or to MGM-Sony-Warner or whoever distributes it nowadays. Maybe that’s why we won’t be seeing a Wall movie or soundtrack on the Immersion box.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Ivan – thanks for your comments. I agree the blu-ray is the Jewel in the Crown! I’ve had another chat with engineer Andy Jackson recently and he’s got some really interesting details on mixing/fixing the live 1974 gig. I will be posting this up soon, so do check back. cheers, Paul

  9. Andrea says:

    Cd1: the original album newly remastered for the n-teenth time. No audible differences with previous remasters (i.e. 2003).

    Cd2: the most interesting thing in the set: DSOTM live 1974.
    This is a gem. It’s very well recorded, for starters. Then it’s interesting to hear how the band rearranged songs and sonic FX for the live setting, and it’s lovely to hear the audience respond to the topic moments of what was already a well-known classic.
    Musically speaking, the main difference with the record is, obviously, the absence of Gilmour’s multilayered overdubbed guitars, which he makes up for with more intricate, elaborated lead guitar parts. Mason’s drums are unleashed, Waters’ bass is funkier. Listen to Money, it’s a real powerhouse, Waters/Gilmour sound like like Jack Bruce/Clapton in Cream!! I have no problem saying that this version of the song is better than the one on the official album. Same with the Any Colour You Like jam. And so on.
    With the original LP, of course you had to reverse the Lp sides, but here the cash/coins sounds already begin during the last bars of TGGITS.
    Brief, the live disc sports great sound, great performances and a lot of little touches & nice moments which make it a valuable addition; not just a novelty, but definitely worth repeated listenings.

    DVD audio: various versions of the 5.1.
    Beside the 5.1 surround feature, in which I can understand some may be interested, but which has little to do with the music itself, there’s nothing new here sonically speaking.

    BlueRay: same as above.

    DVD audio-visual:
    this is hilarious.
    There’s a short promotional documentary of the 2003 SACD (which is NOT included); two 1972 live extracts of “Careful” and “Set the controls” which have nothing to do with this set; and the humdrum, repetitious and all in all simply uninteresting tour-screen films (again: nothing to do with the music).

    Disc6: this is not all bad, but I bet few will give it a second listen: an early mix not so different from the final one; a few tracks utterly forgettable (the Household project; a thin and hesitant Us and Them instrumental demo; a Mortality Sequence later to become the gorgeous Gig in the Sky, but by now still a patchy, uneven botch of organ and voices), while The Travel Sequence and Any Colour You Like are groovy, and with Waters’ Money demo make an interesting listen.

    Books: ok, well done, nice pictures.

    Various toys: no comment. Actually, one comment: my intelligence as music listener feels slightly insulted by the addition of marbles, coasters, scarf etc…. ;-)

    Conclusion: the live set (2nd disc) is the only valuable addition which might be worth repeated listenings, in my opinion.

    “Immersion” rating: 5/10: all considered, very little value for money.

    I’d give 8/10 to “Experience” edition, for the live set.
    This is all you really need: the 1974 live record.

    Actually, it would be nice if the live disc was released as a stand alone and you didn’t have to re-re-rebuy a new album version too.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hi Andrea – thanks for going to the trouble of letting us know your views.

      You obviously don’t have a surround sound set-up since you dismiss that element of the box. Having a high-res audio version of both the 2003 5.1 mix and the quad mix from 1973 is quite a big deal to many people. in the documentary about the surround mix (on the SACD) they do mention how surround sound was important from early on and how they would ‘fly’ sounds around the concert halls where they played, with a quad-type sound set-up.

      In other words the surround mixes are far from a gimmick and are very much part of the music – at least for me.

      I also like disc 6 better than you!

      Thanks though – it’s great to hear other opinions!

  10. Andrew says:

    Regarding the live CD, is it the same thing as the BBC recording from 11/14/74? You mention that it is a “composite of a couple of different nights.”

    Thanks; great review.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hi Andrew. No it is not the same as the BBC recording. I have a post coming soon where Andy Jackson goes into some detail about which nights were used, challenges with working with the source material etc. Do check back. cheers, Paul

  11. Mark says:

    Is the Quad mix of “WYWH” going to be on the Blu-Ray that is in the Immersion Box Set ? The only information I am finding is that it is only on the DVD in standard definition 448k and higher resolution in 640k. I’m wanting it to be in 24bit/96k like it is on the Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion Box Set.

    Thank You for all of your information on these new releases.

  12. Andrea says:

    Well, I obviously do have a surround set, actually. It’s just that I’m mostly interested in the music itself rather than the medium by which it’s presented.

    So, I have no problem saying that the live disc IS a great addition, and it is interesting and valid in its own terms as it shows the band in great form and with arrangements and solutions which are quite different from the LP… And I honestly don’t know how many have really got this.

    On the same level, I have no problem saying that disc 6 is weak in the tentative&demo versions of songs that were immensely to evolve in the next months, and that the DVD/BlueRay are great if you’re into ‘sound’, but I was talking about ‘music’ and that’s a whole different beast…

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hi Andrea – not sure I really buy into your ‘sound’ / ‘music’ division. The box is all about supplementary material to make listening to DSOTM a broader, richer experience. So we hear what it was like before release (early version disc 6), what it sounds like after release (live version disc 2), what it ‘looked’ like when performed live (DVDs and Blu-ray tour films) and what the surround versions sound like from ’73 and ’03. I see all this content as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle giving a complete picture, rather than being in competition with each other (disc 6 is weaker than disc 2 etc). Let’s face it early demos are unlikely to sound ‘better’ than the finished version, but being offered a chance to hear them brought together on disc 6 does not make that disc ‘weak’ for me. Just a fascinating look at work in progress. I think the box is excellent and well worth the money if people can afford it. I do agree however if you were going to include just one disc of conents onto an experience edition they have done the right thing by picking the live concert. Paul

  13. Andrea says:

    I’m glad that you think this set is “excellent” (no less! ;-))…
    Good for you!!
    I possibly have too many years of listening experience behind me – and too many DSOTM reissues on my shelf… – to get that excited.
    Anyway if you check out there you’ll see this box is getting very mixed opinions, so maybe our different points of view represent rather well both the worshipers and the agnostics… Cheers! :-)

  14. Mark says:

    Thank you for your speedy responce, Paul ! That is awesome. I look forward to all of your coverage on the box set.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  15. Richard van Oosterhout says:

    Another extensive review has appeared on Brain Damage. It focussens it’s main part on the early 1972 mix. I think this is an interesting read.

    http://www.brain-damage.co.uk/albums/pink-floyd-the-dark-side-of-the-moon-2011-immersion-edition.html

  16. Pingback:Interview: Pink Floyd engineer Andy Jackson on Immersion box sets « superdeluxeedition

  17. bryan chow says:

    I don’t know if Super Deluxe Edition can help me to find out how to solve the problem of the bluray disc of DSOTM Immersion Boxset. It is a problem of loading the bluray disc, I try to play it recently with several machines, it couldn’t play anymore, and my friend has the same problem, I did found out there are a lot of cases from a discussing forum, unfortunately no one mention about solve the problem except for one in Oct 2015, he did get a replacement from Warner Music. I understand the distributor was change to BMG instead of Warner Music, but who am I asking for the replacement disc? BMG or Warner Music? It happen to Simple Minds-Sparkle In The Rain and Mike Oldfield-Incantations, they also recall it. I’m hoping you can help me to find out how, looking forward to hear from you soon.

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