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Introduction
Forever delayed and highly anticipated are two phrases I associate with this title. If it had been released as expected in December last year it would have been my DVD-Audio disc of the year where as to receive it now means there is a whole year’s wait to see what can challenge this album. The odd thing is that we actually got to hear to what was apparently the finished version of this album at the DVD-Audio seminar back in September 2002 (<a href=;s=8&c=14 target=moo>click here</a>) and it was released in the States at the beginning of December. Specification wise the disc is exactly the same (from what I can see) as the US version so it is a bit of a shame that we have had to wait an extra month to get our hands on this.

Automatic for the People

The Album
R.E.M were a fairly well known semi alternative rock band back in the day however their previous record company took it upon themselves to drop them. After this, Warner picked them up and R.E.M released Green, Out of Time and then Automatic for the People, each better than the next. Their old label must have kicked themselves very hard when this album was released as it was not just good but really good, and sold by the bucket load. This is the second DVD-Audio album R.E.M have released (the other being the 2002 album, Reveal which you can read the review of <a href=;s=40&c=5 target=moo2>here</a>) and this is defiantly the better of the two albums. There are so many songs that come to mind when I play this album however I have to say that as when I heard it first on CD, some stick out more than others. This is a personal preference really but some of the tracks just didn’t do it for me ( Monty Got a Raw Deal, Ignoreland) where as the rest of the album is just immense in its beauty.

One of the songs that most people will remember is Everybody Hurts; a melodic pulchritudinous sombre tune with Stipe on main vocals singing his heart out. The mix to 5.1 is remarkable. The rear speakers are used brilliantly for the backing vocals (also often sung by Stipe) which in parts take on a life of their own, becoming the main vocals for short periods of time. The enveloping sound is above reproach and is how I wished all my music sounded. Man on the Moon is another track people might be familiar with as it was featured as the theme tune to a Jim Carrey film of the same name a few years ago. The rhythmic acoustic guitar strums merrily away during the verses however when the chorus kicks in, the electric guitar bangs and veritably explodes in tothe tune. The shaker (yes I know that’s probably not what it is called) comes in from the rear right which starts to give you an idea of the positional sound used in this 5.1 mix. The line “ Andy are you goofing on Elvis saying Baby..” where Stipe attempts an Elvis impression is much clearer than on the CD version which is why I missed it a few times on the original recording.

Automatic for the People

The piano on Nightswimming sounds a little almost hollow however I think this actually the way they wanted the song to sound rather than any fault with the DVD-Audio. Intrinsically this makes the song appear rawer and acoustic with the orchestra joining in for the chorus building the song up to a fuller, much more powerful song that how it starts out. The quiet energy that creeps through the track is so much more easily detectable with the DVD-Audio than with the CD. Everything just sounds so much more real.

The engineers have done an outstanding job here. Instead of just adding echo to the rears which has been noticed on other DVD-Audio discs, each channel has been separately thought about for each track, in trying to help accomplish what the artist wanted originally. This means that it is not just backing vocals that appear behind, but extensions of the front instruments and often significant instruments entirely such as what I assume is an oboe during Find the River, or the shaker during Man on the Moon.


Extras
Warner really are picking up the DVD-Audio ball here and running with it. Again we have a DTS surround track on the disc as well as the obligatory Dolby Digital. This means that people who can’t experience the audio fidelity of DVD-Audio can at least appreciate the surround mix in something other than 448kbps Dolby Digital. Again, it is a nice surprise for the DTS to be 1536kbps which as expected, provides more nuances and clarity than the Dolby Digital equivalent. Obviously it is not as good as the DVD-Audio, but then I have to remember that not everyone has a DVD-Audio player, yet.  

Automatic for the People

Included on this DVD is a Promotional Documentary filmed in 1992 to promote the release of the album. It was part of the EPK or Electronic Press Kit given to reviewers which means that most of the public out there will not have seen this before. When I spoke to David Dorn (Vice President of Warner Strategic Marketing) he said this is typical of the sort of thing Warner want to explore and include on DVD-Audio discs – real extra features that won’t have been seen before. This is a great example of that since only people in the industry will have seen it before. It includes not just the band talking about the making of the album, but also the small shop (including a few words from the proprietor) of where the album got its name from. Running in at 16 minutes it even covers some of the more technical aspects of recording the tracks which is worthy of note.

Following this is the usual inclusion of a Photo Gallery (19 photos), the Stipe’s handwritten and typed Song Lyrics and the Discography. The album credits are set to music which is nice as they are often just still images. That I think says a lot about this DVD-Audio disc. A lot of thought and time has gone into the presentation of the disc as the animated menus look great and the way it all stays in the boundaries set by the band and the artwork for the album are conducive to the overall experience with this disc. I did think however that the artwork used for each track was a little boring. When the album is played, each track is presented with its name in white on an orange wood effect background for the Dolby Digital and DTS track lists. A bit of a shame really since the rest of the menus look so nice. The DVD-Audio section is presented with the same background but with the song lyrics on top so that in true karaoke style, you can sing along. The Photo Gallery mentioned before is also accessible while each track is playing without interrupting the music.

Automatic for the People

Overall
This is a great DVD-Audio disc and certainly my favourite so far this year. However since we are only in January I guess that’s not saying much so I will say that this is my favourite DVD-Audio album ever to date! The mixes are subtle to the point where it just sounds like the songs were meant to be in surround sound. The inclusion of the DTS track means that even those of you with no DVD-Audio ability can buy this and still get great sound from this little shiny disc. The extras are a little on the slim side but the documentary is a worthwhile inclusion to the album especially since most of you won’t have seen it before. Time to upgrade that CD.


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