Perhaps best known for her tenure as lead singer of the band October Project in the late-1990s, American singer/songwriter Mary Fahl quickly became a well-known figure in the immersive music community following the re-release of her From The Dark Side Of The Moon (2006) album on Blu-Ray in March 2020. The Blu-Ray disc featured a long-lost 5.1 surround sound mix of the album, mixed by Bob Clearmountain alongside the stereo version way back in 2006.
Over two years later, Fahl and Dark Side-collaborator Mark Doyle have re-emerged with an eclectic covers album once again available in 5.1 surround. Only this time, 5.1 mixing/mastering duties are handled by Ronald Prent and Darcy Proper, the Grammy-nominated husband and wife duo known for their work on immersive releases from acts such as Simple Minds, Mando Diao, Hooverphonic, Lori Lieberman, and others.
The album opens with The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”, from which the album takes its name. Fahl’s distinctive voice is almost-completely isolated in the center speaker, along with some acoustic guitar. As the track builds, the orchestration and ethereal background vocals gradually rise from behind.
Another highlight is The Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon,” which takes on an even-more psychedelic feel due to the inclusion of Fahl’s sanskrit chants in the bridge section.
Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” from The Wall (1979) is a pretty bold song to cover, but perhaps not as daunting as the entire Dark Side Of The Moon album! Fahl handles the vocals of both the “doctor” and “pink” characters with ease, and Mark Doyle does a very credible job filling David Gilmour’s shoes for the iconic outro guitar solo.
My favorite track on the album would have to be “Beware Of Darkness,” a deep cut from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (1970) album. This version maintains the ominous, mournful feel of the original, but with perhaps a bit more intimacy. The layered guitars of the original have been stripped away in favor of piano and strings.
Overall, the 5.1 surround mixes are excellent. Listeners should expect little in the way of swirling and other motion-related trickery, but they do provide a nice ‘enveloping’ feel with much of the orchestration and harmonies coming from behind. What really sets the 5.1 experience apart from the already-excellent stereo for me is the isolation of Fahl’s vocals to the center speaker, it really feels like she’s right there in the room with you during some of the sparser passages. Having created these mixes at Ronald Prent’s immersive-equipped Valhalla Studios NY, I’m surprised they didn’t opt for a Dolby Atmos or Auro-3D version of the album as well.
Though this a Mary Fahl album, Mark Doyle deserves a massive amount of credit for providing these fantastic new arrangements as well as performing every instrument on the album, aside strings and harmony vocals. If you enjoyed From The Dark Side Of The Moon on 5.1 Blu-Ray, I’d say this one’s a no-brainer.