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Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead on DVD Audio

Okay, we’ll try to minimize the puns about death and gratitude.

And we’ll admit up front that we were never big fans of the Dead, not so much that we didn’t care for their music (in fact, the singles we knew of superficially were quite good, though these guys are no Who) but because they flew below our "rock horizon" much as they did with others.

That said, from what we understand, if you only have one Grateful Dead album, Workingman’s Dead is apparently the one. So say other reviewers, which of course must make it right, right?

This makes the DVD-Audio release even more pleasant, if not important, and as is so often the case the DVD Audio release sounds as if the Dead were still alive and well, with all members intact.

This is not hard rock, but is rather an interesting blend of blues, jazz, rock, pop and folkiness – with the whole being a unique weaving of the genres that gives the Dead its own sound and its own niche in music history.

Non Deadheads like us will immediately recognize "Casey Jones," which ends Workingman’s Dead, but to get there you get to sit though a highly interesting and entertaining batch of tunes.

And once you’ve gotten around these Dead melodies you’ll find them cropping up in your consciousness as their hooks sneak into your head and keep wriggling around there.

And now, of course, we have a DVD-Audio version whose sound makes us, well, grateful for the format.

As with many DVD-A releases, we get 192 Khz/24 bit stereo and 96kHz/24 bit surround mixes, and here’s one case where we preferred the stereo mix. There’s an intimate sound to the Dead on this album, and spreading the instruments around the room seems to make the sound thinner, more like a group of musicians surrounding you than a band you're sitting in front of, listening to. This isn’t always true. On Queen’s “A Night at the Opera,” for instance, we preferred the 5.1 mix because that album’s lush abundance of overdubs lent itself to the surround treatment.

Not so with the Dead, at least with Workingman’s Dead. Not that there’s really anything wrong with the surround mix; we just liked the stereo better in this case. And it isn’t as if this were a live album that benefited from the “immersive” surround treatment: but it’s a classic album that benefits just fine from the enhanced audio capabilities of the DVD-Audio medium without the extra channels.

So in all, the DVD-A remastering provides beautifully clean sound, and the high resolution audio allows the band's musical force to come through as well. There’s a sense of immediacy and intimacy we really liked.

There’s also a pretty good liner booklet that includes an essay about the album, as well as the normal technical info.

You also get a video interview as well as the lyrics from the songs and a photo gallery.

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


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