Grateful Dead-Workingman's Dead (DVD-Audio) (1970) (NTSC)

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Released 18-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Interviews-Cast-Bob Weir
Gallery-Photo
Lyrics
DVD Credits
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 36:02
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Jerry Garcia
Bob Weir
Ron McKernan
Phil Lesh
Bill Kreutzmann
Mickey Hart
Case DVD-Audio Jewel
RPI $32.95 Music None Given


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English MLP 96/24 5.1
English MLP 96/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Back in the heady days of 1999, when DVDs where rare and reviewers rarer still, I had the good fortune to sample Anthem To Beauty, a disc I still enjoy watching. Now, two and a half years later Rhino have released Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty in God’s own DVD-Audio format, and only now I am beginning to understand why their music is as revered as it is.

    Never could their music be mistaken for polished, refined or over-produced, and indeed being recorded in February of 1970 this album harkens back to a time when the music mattered more than image and sales potential. Jerry Garcia’s sorrowful and poignant voice warbles, wavers and only sometimes hits the mark – and it is fair to say that this album simply would never be released in modern times – but the heart behind Robert Hunter’s lyrics is palpable, as is the passion and youth of Bob Weir.

    Mixing folk, bluegrass, rhythm and blues with rock and roll, this is a classic recording that feels every day of its 32 years of age, yet sounds almost as if it were recorded yesterday.

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Track Listing

1. Uncle John's Band
2. High Time
3. Dire Wolf
4. New Speedway Boogie
5. Cumberland Blues
6. Black Peter
7. Easy Wind
8. Casey Jones

Transfer Quality

Video

    The NTSC menu graphics are very clean, and the stills are pin sharp. The video interview, such that it is, is relatively soft and washed out, though that hardly matters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     This is yet another example of an old recording being given a spit and polish for DVD-Audio. It is remarkable to me that such old tapes can come to life as they do with modern (and not so modern) restoration techniques. The default format when this DVD is played is MLP 96 kHz/24 bit PPCM in 5.1, though a separate MLP 96 kHz/24 bit PPCM 2.0 mix has been provided, as well as a high bitrate Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for compatibility with standard DVD-Video players.

    Perhaps the only giveaway that this recording is not modern are the vocals, which don’t quite have the fidelity of contemporary productions, being slightly thin by comparison. Still, the vocals are never harsh or shrill, and are presented in a way which overcomes any minor shortcomings.

    My comments refer to the MLP 5.1 mix, though I did listen to the MLP 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes briefly.

    The Grateful Dead’s sound is unsophisticated, yet very, very musical – and therein lies the charm. Audio quality in MLP 5.1 is very satisfying on the whole, with a wonderful sense of analogue warmth and fidelity to proceedings. You do feel very close to the music, as if you were privy to the master tapes. There are standouts such as the harmonica during “Black Peter”, which literally sounds like it is in the room, and again in “Easy Wind.” Apart from the relatively congested and compressed “Cumberland Blues”, there is an overall ease and smoothness to the recording which makes listening to it a pleasure.

    Micky Hart, who is responsible for the re-mixing and re-engineering of this album for both surround and stereo is on record as saying that he feels surround is the way of the future. Well, he has certainly embraced the concept with a wonderful sense of unrestricted enthusiasm that translates into a surround mix which is not for those folded-armed, cloth-eared stereo purists by any means. All speakers are engaged constantly, and there is a lot of activity in the surrounds. Vocals are often in the middle of the room, and by that I mean reproduced by all five main speakers and floating just in front of you – and this means it is critical that your system be calibrated. During “Black Peter”, the organ wafts through the room ethereally – just the perfect effect at the perfect time. The harmonica, mentioned earlier, is at arm's reach and can almost be touched. The many drums (well, they did have two drummers) are spread throughout the soundstage, sometimes to the rear and sometimes to the front. It comes together far better than you might imagine, and even though instruments might be on opposite sides of the room there is always a tangible cohesiveness which binds the music and keeps it all flowing nicely.

    The dedicated stereo MLP mix was sampled briefly, and I found it to be of very high quality (and just right for those who want no truck with surround music). The Dolby Digital mix is surprisingly good, possibly due to the relatively undemanding nature of the music, but it did lack that extra and all-important sparkle which is endemic to the uncompressed MLP tracks.

    The subwoofer, although catered for in the MLP and Dolby Digital streams, was not used, and since this is not the 1812 Overture, neither should it be.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Booklet

    The 16-page booklet is given over mostly to an overview of the Dead and this album, with credits at the end.

Interviews-Cast

    A rather dull 4:16 ramble by Bob Weir which really adds nothing and wouldn’t be missed if it weren’t present.

Gallery-Photo

    Available whilst the music is playing on DVD-A players, or separately for DVD-V players.

Lyrics

    As above.

DVD Credits

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Both versions are identical.

Summary

    I have spent some time with this album since receiving it for review, and it just gets better with each listen. The audio is very satisfying, both in terms of fidelity and musicality, and entirely in keeping with the expectations one has of a DVD-Audio disc – though at slightly over 36 minutes you are left wanting more, which is probably why American Beauty was released at the same time. Any Deadhead will want both without question!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
Sunday, July 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 16:9 RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DB-930
SpeakersFront & Rears: B&W DM603 S2, Centre: B&W LCR6, Sub: B&W ASW500

Other Reviews NONE
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Workingman's Dead - John