John Gorka - The Gypsy Life (Blu-ray) Official AVSFforum Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 08-20-2010, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Performance: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109941&d=1210373637

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

84






Studio and Year: AIX Records - 2010
Feature running time: 68 minutes
Genre: Acoustic vocal music

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/30


Audio Format(s): Dolby TrueHD 5.1, PCM Stereo 96/24

Performers/Band: John Gorka, Susan Werner, Russ Rentler, Amilia K. Spicer, Michael Manring
Produced by: Mark Waldrep

Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 10, 2010






Synopsis:

John Gorka – The Gypsy Life is the fourth Blu-ray music title released from AIX Records. John is one of the leading members of the “new folk” movement and a staple at folk festivals and intimate concert halls all over the country. Originally from New Jersey, his songs bring a real world, human aspect to the listening experience. Recorded in December 2007 it was shot/recorded using HD Audio/Video and is comprised of 19 of his best songs. John is joined by his long time friend Russ Rentler on mandolin, Amelia K. Spicer singing background vocals, Susan Werner on piano and background vocals and virtuoso Michael Manring electric bass. The ensemble plays and sings a personal private performance for the listener in 5.1 surround and high definition video.



My Take:

Founded in 2000, AIX Records needs no introduction among music enthusiasts. With one of the largest catalogs of high definition, surround music recordings in the world they are an award-winning label whose name has become synonymous with high quality. Prior to receiving this disc for review I hadn’t heard of John Gorka. Seeing as I am not particularly a fan of folk style music I guess that makes sense. As someone who is certainly open to most musical genres I went into my initial listening session with an open mind. The performance is conducted in a studio and features John and his ensemble with no audience in a private setting. It isn’t high energy stuff but then again neither is the style of music so it works just fine. The first piece to catch my attention was “Let them in”. It features John on the piano singing lead accompanied by Russ Rentler on mandolin and Michael Manring on the fretless. It’s a beautiful, slow arrangement that pays emotive homage to our young soldiers that have lost their lives. It is followed by a toe tapping ditty called “Mean streak”. It features acoustic guitar, bass, layered vocals and an upbeat tempo that has a roadhouse appeal.

As I watched and listened I couldn’t help but notice the personal aspect in his writing and how it comes across during the performance. I reached for the lyrics and found myself looking to glean as much as possible from his music. Luckily this is a compilation of some of his best material which provides novices like me with an excellent way to experience him for the first time. I wouldn’t say that I am now a folk music convert however I thoroughly enjoyed this selection of music by John and the talented ensemble of musicians that accompanies him. The high quality of the presentation further enhances it by allowing us to experience the performance in a way that replicates the originally recorded elements as closely as possible. It should be noted that there is no sound at the main menu (even though there is moving video). This disc has found a home in my Blu-ray library and I look forward to checking out future high definition Blu-ray releases from AIX Records.





AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 88



  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692



Video: 80


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

John Gorka – The Gypsy Life comes to Blu-ray Disc from AIX Records featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Channel Audio that has an average bitrate of 8.2 Mbps.

This presentation was shot on high definition video in a live recording studio environment. As such it doesn’t offer a variety of backgrounds, lighting and other visually engaging elements however the 1.78:1 framed video features pleasing colors, stable contrast and above average shadow detail that stand out well against the indoor static imagery. Fleshtones appear lifelike and quite natural in depiction. Resolution is good but doesn’t rise to a level that would be perceived as transparent. Images are well resolved though and the rendering of detail is appreciable. Blacks are stable but not noticeably strong but based upon the source this isn’t problematic. There is some intermittent aliasing that is primarily visible in the metallic mesh of John’s microphone. Unless you’re looking for it most may not even notice. Overall high definition video quality is naturally satisfying and perfectly suited for the source material.

AIX offers three listening options, two Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless options and 96khz/24-bit stereo (which I didn’t try) and for convenience a 5.1 channel identification test. The TrueHD surround mixes can be listened to in either a “stage” or “audience” presentation which is designed to change the aural perspective. I listened to both and can’t say that I preferred one over the other as each sounds equally good. The “audience” mix is a more traditional style surround mix with the vocals retaining a frontal orientation with low level ambient bleed through the rear channels. The same applies to the backing vocals. The instrumentation is mixed discretely within the soundstage with primary focus on the piano or acoustic guitar. The Mandolin and fretless bass provide articulated harmonic support with rotating prominence at discerning levels based upon the arrangement.

The “stage” mix has similar attributes and places the listener in more of a centrally located position (seemingly on stage) by bringing the lead vocals toward the listening position while increasing the instrumental/backing vocal presence within the rear channels. This is only my interpretation as I am positive that the technicality involved isn’t nearly so simple. Switching between them can be done on the fly which is nice. The outcome in either case is an involving musical experience that features excellent surround sound integration and aural depiction. The instruments and vocals are clearly articulated within the room’s acoustic space and don’t feel confined by the boundaries of the speakers, but ebb and flow with placement that naturally coincides with the performance. As enthusiasts we have grown accustomed to the improved quality that lossless sound has imparted to digital movie soundtracks. Fortunately those same attributes can apply to music which is certainly the case with the superb reproduction on this John Gorka set from AIX.

I don’t consider myself much of a fan of folk style music but couldn’t help but be drawn in by the enveloping, silky smooth and strident free sound in this recording. John Gorka doesn’t have an extensive vocal range but he is always in key and inflectionally adept. I had no trouble discerning the subtle melodic shifts or textural character in his voice. The piano sounds amazing with velvety mid range frequencies that are airy, free of harshness and non-fatiguing. High level detail is in abundance. Listening to the intricately plucked and fervently strummed strings of the mandolin as well as the audible essence in the tonal pitch of the fretless bass is enamoring. Putting it all together in upbeat tunes such as “Mean Streak” proves very rewarding as the room comes to life with toe tapping dynamism, precise imaging and crystal clarity. Slowing things down with “Let them in” provides engaging focus that allows the harmonics in the lead vocal and richness of the melody to shine through. The presentation is designed so it can be enjoyed with or without the video which is a matter of preference that I found worked well either way. As audio/video enthusiasts we strive for improved quality and appreciate attention to detail and I believe that AIX Records shares that philosophy. This is an impressive and well executed Blu-ray offering that is proof of that.



Bonus Features:


  • (HD) John Gorka interview – 3 minutes

  • (HD) Behind the scenes – 4 minutes

  • (HD) Live performance, Fall 2006 at McCabes – 8 minutes


Track Listing:


  1. Branching out
  2. Stranger with your hair
  3. Let them in
  4. Mean streak
  5. Flying red horse
  6. Snow don’t fall
  7. When she kisses me
  8. Mercy of the wheels
  9. I’m from New Jersey
  10. Italian girls
  11. Writing in the margins
  12. Love is our cross to bear
  13. Houses in the field
  14. Land of the bottom line
  15. Always
  16. Road of good intentions
  17. Blue chalk
  18. Lightning blues
  19. The Gypsy life


Final Thoughts:

John Gorka – The Gypsy Life is the fourth Blu-ray music title released from AIX Records. John is one of the leading members of the “new folk” movement and a staple at folk festivals and intimate concert halls all over the country. Recorded in December 2007 it was shot/recorded using HD Audio/Video and is comprised of 19 of his best songs. I am not much of a folk music fan however as I watched and listened I couldn’t help but notice the personal aspect in John’s writing and how it comes across during his performance. This is a compilation of some of his best material which provided a novice like me with an excellent way to experience him for the first time. I wouldn’t say that I am now a folk music convert however I thoroughly enjoyed this selection of music. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from AIX Records in a high quality presentation that features superb lossless surround sound (in both “audience” and “stage” mix options) and clear high definition picture quality. The combination enhances the music performance by allowing listeners to experience the originally recorded elements in a way that replicates them as closely as possible. The supplied bonus content doesn’t add much and consists of two brief interview segments and a recording of John playing before a live audience in 2006. John Gorka – The Gypsy Life has found a home in my Blu-ray collection and comes recommended. Enjoy!









attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews





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post #2 of 14 Old 08-20-2010, 11:57 AM
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Thanks for the great review Ralph. There's a lot of good stuff on the AIX label.
Though it's not a BD the "Laurence Juber - Guitar Noir" dvd is a keeper.
The 5.1 mix is beyond beyond. It's one of the best I've ever heard.

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post #3 of 14 Old 08-20-2010, 03:24 PM
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But $41 shipped, available only from the publisher? For a re-release of a 3-year old DVD? Ouch!

I like John Gorka, but that's a little hard to take.

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post #4 of 14 Old 08-20-2010, 04:25 PM
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I understand the sensitivity to the premium prices that AIX Records charges. But please consider that these projects are specialty programs and do not sell large quantities. In fact, after 10 years of being in business AIX Records is still subsidized heavily by my other activities. I believe in releasing the very best that I can deliver...music with HD Video is not inexpensive to produce and the BD licensing fees add another layer to the costs.

We are literally a "mom and pop" operation trying to show the way for the big labels to get better sound and HD Video of their sessions. I spend all of my spare time mixing, designing, editing and authoring these titles. They are expensive by comparison...but then again, audiophiles are spending $200 for transfers of old analog tapes to new analog tapes or $50 for a DVD-ROM with HD audio files on them that aren't any better then CDs. There's even a Japanese label that sold out of its limited run of 1000 glass CDs for $800 each!

AIX Records is a premium priced label making unusual productions just like Ferrari produces a premium product for those that are compelled to acquire the very best, hand made automobile that money can buy. Personally, I'd rather listen to John Gorka, he's my absolute favorite singer/songwriter.

I hope you can appreciate the care that has to go into making something as complex as a HD Audio/Video BD disc.
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post #5 of 14 Old 08-20-2010, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. AIX View Post

I hope you can appreciate the care that has to go into making something as complex as a HD Audio/Video BD disc.

I do appreciate it. Not $41 worth, however, given how much other great music is available for so much less money. Nobody can listen to everything; I guess I won't be listening to this.

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post #6 of 14 Old 08-20-2010, 05:43 PM
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Of course, the choice is always the customer's to make and you're right there's a lot of music out there for a lot less money...good luck with your search.
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post #7 of 14 Old 08-21-2010, 04:06 AM
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I certainly understand the business model and don't believe complaints about the price are necessary. Thanks to Ralph for another helpful review and to Dr. Waldrep for another high quality Blu-ray release.
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post #8 of 14 Old 08-21-2010, 06:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdclark View Post

I do appreciate it. Not $41 worth, however, given how much other great music is available for so much less money. Nobody can listen to everything; I guess I won't be listening to this.

Where did you find it for $41 shipped?

I have been up to the AIX Record site and I am thoroughly confused. I found an item (AIX Records 83053- a two disk, four side release) which appears to be the reviewed item BUT I didn't find any mention that it is actually a Blu-ray disk.

On their "News" page on the site, it indicates that AIX will not begin Blu-ray production until the fall of 2010.

I recognize that AIX is a small label and the distribution channel is probably quite limited so any help that anyone can provide would be appreciated!
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post #9 of 14 Old 08-21-2010, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frank1940 View Post

Where did you find it for $41 shipped?

http://www.aixrecords.com/catalog/gorka_bd.html

Googling :: john gorka "the gypsy life" blu-ray :: did the trick.

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post #10 of 14 Old 08-21-2010, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by rdclark View Post

http://www.aixrecords.com/catalog/gorka_bd.html

Googling :: john gorka "the gypsy life" blu-ray :: did the trick.

Thank you!!!
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post #11 of 14 Old 08-23-2010, 03:34 PM
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$41 is a little steep, but I can appreciate the cost of limited edition releases. I originally heard John Gorka on an AIX sampler disc included with my Oppo BDP-83, along with some other great artists. 'Mercy of the Wheels' was the Gorka cut, and it grabbed me with the intimacy of the lyrics in a studio environment. Since then I have bought three of his CDs, and can see myself buying this DVD.

Another great cut was the Banda Brothers 'Primavera', they'll be my next band to delve further into.

If you haven't seen/heard the AIX sampler, I highly recommend it. Not all the music may be your cup of tea, but the quality is exceptional. Thanks to AIX for providing a high quality outlet for artists such as John....

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post #12 of 14 Old 09-11-2010, 07:16 AM
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I have never purchased an AIX product before but after reading ralph's review of the John Gorka disc I decided that I would give it a try. I paid about 13.00 postage to get the package to Australia and when I opened it I had also received a DVD audio sampler. Pretty happy with that value as the sampler is fantastic.
I am blown away by the clarity of this recording. I am using the following equipment
Emotiva UPA-2 amp
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Certainly not a super high end audio system but this disc certainly makes it sound like one. Surely the richest, most enjoyable audio experience since the first time I watched Hell Freezes Over by the Eagles in DTS. I will certainly be looking at adding more of these titles to my library. The stereo mix alone is superb. Looking forward to getting my other speakers set up for the 5.1 mix! Recommended! Oh, and John Gorka and accompanying artists are bloody fantastic as well!

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post #13 of 14 Old 09-11-2010, 09:21 AM
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Thanks for the very positive comments. Whenever someone takes time to write to me or call and relate how much they enjoyed the fruits of my labor (and the efforts of my small but dedicated team), it makes my day. This is especially true with regards to John Gorka. I have listened to John's recordings more than any other over the past 10 years. His heart and soul are in each verse and chorus and his voice is so warm, deep and comforting...you know he's singing about things that he's felt and explored. And he's as nice a person as you will ever meet...and very funny too.

Thanks again...this was a special one, especially if you are a fan of "new folk" as I am. I thank my sister for introducing me to John all those years ago.
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post #14 of 14 Old 09-13-2010, 12:04 AM
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Hi there, nice to hear from you. Always happy to recommend a great product. Certainly I am one to give credit where it's due and likewise, claim the right to criticize. Nothing not to love here! Actually, just one thing..... Any chance of getting a 2.4:1 transfer for us lovers of scope. Now that would be perfect! Also, forgot to mention that the discs arrived within a week of order from the USA to Australia. Can't complain about that service!
Cheers.
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