R.E.M.-Automatic for the People (DVD-Audio) (1992) (NTSC)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Promotional Documentary (16:19)
|Year Of Production||1992|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English MLP 48/24 5.1
English MLP 48/24 2.0
English dts 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Okay, so I finally have gotten off my lazy butt to head into a review session. The short hiatus was induced by the need for a fix of Deep Space Nine on DVD. So, my penance for taking some time off to pursue some non-review DVD viewing is to review the latest incarnation of R.E.M. on DVD-Audio. Such penance!
If you have no idea who R.E.M. are, or need a brief recap of their career, I can only suggest that you head here.
Suffice it to say that in my humble opinion, R.E.M. is one of the most important bands of the past twenty five years. The quality of their music has already been demonstrated by the excellent release of Reveal, their most recent studio album. This new release takes us back a little further, to 1992 in fact, and the equally excellent Automatic For The People. The source of the album name is actually covered in the documentary included in the extras (as well as in the credits in the booklet) for those interested in trivia.
As mentioned in the previous review, nearly every R.E.M. album is highlighted by a couple of stand-out tracks. In this instance, they are quite obviously the heavily radio-played tracks Everybody Hurts and Man On The Moon, but it would be very foolish to think that the entire album revolves around just those two tracks. Whilst I have never been disappointed with any album from the band, it is fair to say that their earlier stuff is perhaps their most essential recording legacy. Probably the pinnacle of this work was Fables Of The Reconstruction and Document (eagerly awaited as it is currently on its way from the United States). However, of their more recent stuff, straight out Automatic For The People is the equal of any of the earlier albums and possibly represents the high point of their career at Warner thus far. The reason is simple enough - take the core of those two songs and add ten others of generally very good quality, and the result is an album that just begs to be played. I have not listened to the album for quite a while - I really get little chance nowadays to listen to music - yet returning to the album in surround sound has been a near-revelation. Not only was the excellence of the music reinforced, but the surround sound formatting is quite excellent too.
However, that was to be expected. The DVD-Audio release does have one more important factor that places the expectations at a high level - it is produced by Elliot Scheiner, one of the great producers, and one whose work on DVD-Audio is almost synonymous with excellence.
After the release of Reveal, the expectations for this DVD-Audio release were heightened. Suffice it to say that in every way this release has met those expectations and I have no hesitation in recommending this as another essential addition to your DVD-Audio collection. An already excellent album has been matched to a wonderful surround sound mix and the result is one that I will return to as often as review duties permit. For R.E.M. fans, it should be noted that five other albums are due for release on DVD-Audio by Warners in the United States in September: Green, Monster, New Adventures In Hi-Fi, Out Of Time and Up. Hopefully, they will make the Trans-Pacific hop really quickly, as not only does the format desperately need more releases here but we need more quality music full stop! Trouble is, after the current two local releases, the expectations on those five releases will be even higher.
2. Try Not To Breathe
3. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
4. Everybody Hurts
5. New Orleans Instrumental No.1
6. Sweetness Follows
|7. Monty Got A Raw Deal|
9. Star Me Kitten
10. Man On The Moon
12. Find The River
The only video on the disc is the documentary in the extras, otherwise everything comprises NTSC menus and stills. These are clear and quite sharp. The lyric stills displayed whilst the songs are being played in DVD-Audio mode are quite good. The plain screen displayed whilst the songs are played in DVD-Video mode are not so good - being quite noticeably afflicted with shimmer.
The informative cover slick discloses that the disc can be played five ways: Advanced Resolution Multi-Channel Surround, Advanced Resolution Stereo, DVD-Video Compatible Dolby Digital 5.1, DVD-Video Compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 and DVD-Video Compatible dts 5.1. This does not mean that there are actually five soundtracks on the disc surely? Well, actually, yes - there are five soundtracks on the DVD. So of course I have listened to all five of them (so you can understand why this was not a short review session).
First up was the DVD-Audio MLP 5.1 soundtrack. This was quite an ear-opener, and features some lovely surround encoding. The rear surround channel use is quite excellent, although I suppose that some will quibble over the fact that there is some vocal presence in the rears. Personally I had no problem with this at all, and if you want to hear just how good it is then check out Everybody Hurts. In reality this always sounded a little bit sparse on CD, but in surround sound it is anything but. There is some superb rendering of the simple "stick" beat in the rears, and when the counter pointing vocals come as well, the sound is almost sublime. It is really gorgeous stuff. Whilst this is a stand-out on the disc, there is plenty else to be very pleased about. There is a lack of obvious bass in the music, but this is a good thing. The result is something less in-your-face than perhaps it could have been, with the result that the music has more subtlety to it. Everything really comes up very clearly in the mix and the spacious ambience the music is given simply has you clamouring for more (well, at least it does to me). Whilst the Advanced Resolution multi-channel mixes that have been presented on Warners DVD-Audio discs have not always been enticing, this is a clear example of one of those rare ones that is. Simply wonderful stuff, which makes the choice of only a 48 kHz 24 bit soundtrack even more amazing, as opposed to the more usually expected 96 kHz 24 bit recordings we have had.
The MLP 2.0 soundtrack is everything I would expect after listening to such a superb six channel soundtrack. Ignoring the obvious differences arising from the inherent difference in the number of channels, there is nothing that much to worry about here. The superb ambience created in the six channel soundtrack is obviously gone, but the sound is still clean and sharp and obviously way better than CD. It just lacks that distinctive edge that six channels give sound - at least on this disc. I suppose that ultimately it sounds flat when listened to straight after the previous soundtrack and to be fair, perhaps it needs to be listened to after the memories of the six channel soundtrack have receded.
The DVD-Video compatible dts 5.1 soundtrack is not too shabby an effort either, although obviously weaker than the MLP six channel companion. There is perhaps more body to the dts soundtrack, but this comes at the cost of a large degree of ambience. The surround encoding is still good, but it simply lacks the distinctiveness of the earlier soundtrack. I would almost be tempted to categorise the sound as murky, but that would definitely give the wrong impression of the nature of the sound. I guess a better description is to say it needs more space in the sound, to allow all elements the room to bloom and shine. The end result is that the sound lacks a little in the way of dynamics, which compounds the lack of bass in general. It is however quite a specific sound - Try Not To Breathe for instance has clear delineation of background vocals in the rears, counterpoint vocals in the centre and the lead vocals in the front surrounds. I thought it quite effective, if not exactly the most natural sound I have ever heard.
The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is another animal altogether. Whereas the other two six channel soundtracks are noticeably lacking (and rightly so I believe) in bass, the Dolby Digital effort is well blessed with the stuff. This gives the soundtrack a very different feel and sound, and frankly one that is not necessarily good for the music on the evidence here. Indeed, the more I listened to it, the more I found it a chore to listen to after both the other two six channel efforts. Whilst the bass certainly gives the sound a load more in the way of dynamic, it comes at the cost of ambience and almost turns the album from a soft rock effort to a soft metal effort. The surround channel encoding seems to suffer a little from the mix and the clarity is somewhat diminished in my view.
The DVD-Video compatible Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack bears the same sort of relationship to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as the two MLP soundtracks bear to one another. Nothing wrong with it, but hardly in the league of the six channel efforts.
|Surround Channel Use|
A reasonable sixteen page effort, mainly photographs and credits, but with a four page article to improve the worth somewhat.
Not as long as the documentary on Reveal, but still longer than most we have seen on DVD-Audio discs. This was made in 1992 to promote the album and features interview snippets with the band (except Michael Stipe) as well as some music video extracts. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is a bit grainy at times, and noticeably suffers from aliasing, but is otherwise of quite acceptable quality. For a promotional effort, it does provide a bit more meat than would perhaps normally be expected.
Accessible during playback in DVD-Audio mode, but only from the menu in DVD-Video mode, these are interesting. Whilst I am loathe to suggest the often typed sheets are the original versions of the lyrics, there are certainly enough changes, amendments and revisions to suggest that they could well be. Interesting to see how some of the songs changed from original words to what was finally recorded.
Nineteen reasonable photos, albeit lacking annotation and partially duplicating those in the booklet.
This time a complete discography, offering both the album cover and a track listing.
Basically repeating those included in the booklet.
Another one of those wastes of time and space - like the earlier R.E.M. DVD-Audio release, toss the disc into your DVD-ROM player, navigate to the disc folder and there you will find an html document to navigate to R.E.M.H.Q. (www.remhq.com).
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This DVD-Audio disc is identical in content and format around the world.
After the delights of Reveal, the expectation for Automatic For The People was way up there. That the release has delivered enough to exceed those expectations is an indication of how good this release is. Whilst there will be those who disagree with me, the MLP six channel soundtrack offered here is probably the best I have heard on DVD-Audio. The quality of the MLP sound is superb and it does the superb album all the justice it deserves. The other soundtracks might not be quite up to the same standard, but since you might be less affected by bass than I... Highly recommended.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|