Grateful Dead-Workingman's Dead (DVD-Audio) (1970) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1970|
|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 MLP 96/24 5.1
English MLP 96/24 2.0
|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|
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.
|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
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.
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.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Both versions are identical.
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!
|DVD||Toshiba SD-900E, using RGB output|
|Display||Pioneer SD-T43W1 16:9 RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DB-930|
|Speakers||Front & Rears: B&W DM603 S2, Centre: B&W LCR6, Sub: B&W ASW500|