9. 12 for the music, 6 for the mix. First, Dylan is one of my main passions. I own hundreds of Dylan CD's/LP's. This album is one of his best. It was a different sound for him, especially with the violin. The lyrics are among his most passionate and evocative, perhaps because his marriage was breaking up at the time. The recording is very good, the performances and lyrics are spectacular. The mix is far from bad, but unimaginative. And you'll hear a few sounds that are different from the 2ch mix. If you care about Dylan and Quad at all, you need to own this. Performance wise, and perhaps even mix wise, it IS his best Quad.
A '7': basic mix, but I find much of the material so inferior to its predecessor--and at times, downright labored--that it just doesn't work for me. As for "Hurricane" it reminded me of "George Jackson" (though it had more spirit). This was Dylan the protest singer in '70s mode, and it doesn't hold up to songs far more personal and intimate. That Dylan could warm you and made you sad at the same time--his best recordings are cathartic yet powerful. I didn't find that here.
It's often been said on the forum (and repeated by myself) that CBS's quad mixes became more "evolved" or "sophisticated" as their quad program continued into the mid/late '70s. Comparing Dylan's two Columbia quad releases yields a perfect example of this.
Nashville Skyline, despite coming out in '74, was mixed years earlier and intended to be part of CBSs initial quad rollout in '72 (the gold-bordered titles). It's an extreme "four-corner" mix with the entire drum kit in the right rear channel. Nothing occupies the center front position except vocals.
At some point after that initial product hit the shelves, CBS' engineers discovered that you could create a stereo image across the front channels of a quad mix within the limitations of the SQ matrix. The rears still needed to have elements hard-panned left and right, as anything in center rear would cancel on mono playback, but they no longer had to pin mono elements in each corner.
By the time Desire came out ('76), a common CBS quad layout you'd see is drums in stereo across the front, bass and vocals center front, and rhythm instruments or backing vocals split between the rears. Don't get me wrong, there were still a lot of wacky mixes with mono drums in one rear speaker (such as the last CBS popular release, RTF's Musicmagic), but it seems this more "modern" surround layout was starting to become standard.
Desire in quad follows that layout. The drums are across the fronts, Bob is in the center with his guitar or harmonica, while Scarlet Rivera's violin is generally in one rear speaker and some piano or percussion is in the other. The backing vocals are entirely through the rears as well.
"Isis" (Piano is completely isolated in right rear):
"Sara" (Not much in the rears on this one, makes for a good front-to-rear cancellation test):
I've listened to it quite a few times now and it's quickly becoming my favorite of all the Dylan surround titles, Quad or 5.1. It's still very discrete, but much more logical/refined quad (stereo drums!).
It also helps that the SQ is an excellent decode! Play the rears only and you pretty much get Emmylou Harris alone, just barely a trace of Bob.
The SQ LP doesn't sound harsh or loud to my ears, I just wish my copy was a bit less noisy. I was all excited when I found it a local record shop, but despite it looking very clean there is a considerable amount of surface noise that varies between tracks. Several cleanings and light NR brought out decent sound.
I'm going with a "9" on this one. Would love to see its discrete debut sooner rather than later...