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Reviews » Audio Reviews » Workingman's Dead: The Grateful Dead
Workingman's Dead: The Grateful Dead
Warner Bros. // DVD Audio // November 2, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Dvdempire]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 14, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Music:

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 DVD

SOUND: "Workingman's Dead" is presented by Warner Brothers Music in 24-bit/48khz DVD-Audio 5.1 (and stereo) and Dolby Digital 5.1. The DD 5.1 presentation is available for DVD-Video players, while the DVD-Audio high-res track is only accessible on DVD-Audio capable players. "Workingman's Dead" is the first DVD-Audio title that I've reviewed in a month or so and the return to multi-channel audio is a bittersweet one. "Workingman's Dead" (along with the DVD-A of the band's "American Beauty", released about the same time) reminds one of the kind of sublime experience that carefully crafted multi-channel music can provide. However, DVD-Audio support that once seemed like it was going to turn into a roaring stream has really slowed to a trickle, while SACD only seems to be growing in strength. Both formats have a great deal to offer the public, but DVD-Audio will not continue to last much longer if more support can't be drummed up for the software side of the equation. Promotion needs to be done, education of salespeople needs to be started. A lot of music fans would likely fall for a lot of the releases out there right now, but for the moment, DVD-Audio does not seem to be in good shape.

That said (and personally, I feel that needed saying), it's a pleasure to listen to one of the finest DVD-A offerings that I've had the luck to sample in the past several months. Once again, former "Dead" member Mickey Hart was at the helm for the remix of the album and his familiarity with the material leads to a mix that's appropriate and highly enjoyable. Surrounds are used in a way that don't direct the listener's attention to what they're provideing, but to immerse them in the experience of the music. The rear speakers kick in consistently throughout all of the tracks, providing guitar, some percussion and reinforcement of the vocals. The surround mix remains fairly similar throughout the album, as well.

As with "American Beauty", "Workingman's Dead" sounds a great deal younger than its 33 years would suggest. While a superb recording in the first place, the instrumentals come through here with an improved level of clarity that's impressive. Vocals also are presented with a natural, clean sound that almost sounds "in room". The audio thankfully doesn't pack a much in the way of unnecessary low-end, rather going for a warm, laid-back sound that works perfectly for the material.

The DVD includes a photo gallery and a brief interview with the Dead's Bob Weir. There's nothing much in the way of supplements here, but in terms of the audio presentation, this is an example of multi-channel music done right. The sound mix is enveloping without being too aggressive, using the surrounds very well to surround the listener rather than directing their attention around the room. It's also great to see the involvement of Weir in mixing the album - hopefully more artists will be involved with surround-sound mixing of their work in the future.

Final Thoughts: "Workingman's Dead" is one of the Dead's many terrific works, mixing multiple genres for a greatly enteraining classic rock experience. The DVD is another example of DVD-Audio not only done right, but wonderfully - the surround mix is appropriate and enjoyable and the quality is excellent.
Order "Workingman's Dead: The Grateful Dead" now!
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