Tracking Surround

PINK. Yes, Pink's gone 5.1 - who knew? I didn't until I bumped into her fresh DualDisc in the store. Hell, still doesn't know, crediting it with "enhanced stereo" only. But I'm Not Dead (LaFace/Zomba; Music •••½, DualDisc Mix •••, Extras ••••) does indeed have a solid multichannel mix by Thom Cadley, with robust surrounds and, for "Dear Mr. President," Pink's intimate vocals alone in the center. One problem: bass is a bit lacking, though this may be the fault of the generally shrill production by (mostly) Billy Mann and Butch Walker. Their cowriting is lacking, too; despite all the revisionism you may have heard, 2003's Try This is the superior album. But do try the extras, including the "Stupid Girls" video and enough behind-the-scenes material to qualify as a true making-of doc. Lather up! - Ken Richardson

PORCUPINE TREE. Having released DVD-Audio editions of its most recent albums, 2002's In Absentia and '05's Deadwing, with superb multichannel mixes by Elliot Scheiner, PT is hungry for more and heading into the back catalog with a CD+DVD of 1999's Stupid Dream (Transmission; Music ••••, DVD-Audio Mix •••••, Extras ••••). And from the first moments of "Even Less" - synths in the left and right front, slide guitar in the rear, cymbal taps from all four corners, and those nervous laughs in the center - it's clear that the mixer here, bandleader Steven Wilson himself, has learned well from the master. By the time the astonishingly lush chorus of "Stranger by the Minute" engulfed me in harmonies, all I could do was stop taking notes, drop my pen, and happily surrender to the sonics. (Don't miss the joke in "Tinto Brass," however, as Wilson pans the flute.) Extras include a new stereo mix, the clever "Piano Lessons" video, and even more of "Even Less." But the real draw here is Wilson's multichannel mastery, the very definition of what it feels like to be surrounded by sound. - Ken Richardson

THE MOODY BLUES. First, to clarify: In the band's big wave of SACDs, On the Threshold of a Dream and A Question of Balance are so far the only ones "available" here - though they're all still officially imports. And In Search of the Lost Chord is still in search of a surround mix, being stereo-only. That said, the two titles to get are 1967's Days of Future Passed (Deram/Decca U.K.; Music ••••½, SACD Mix ••••, Extras ••••) and, yes, that 1970 Question (Threshold/Decca U.K.; Music •••½, SACD Mix •••½, Extras •••½). Good news: the orchestra of nearly 40 years past is remarkably sumptuous, and the rocking acoustics that pose the opening "Question" are tactile to the max. Not-so-good news: the mixes are the 1972 quad versions by Tony Clarke and Derek Varnals, now "manipulated" and "enhanced" by Paschal Byrne and Mark Powell. The fixes are so slight that the center channel remains basically empty, and the narration still comes from behind. But Days sounds richer than DTS's old reissue, and both SACDs have bonus tracks (with Days providing an entire stereo CD of goodies). - Ken Richardson

ALAN PARSONS. The artist/producer/engineer successfully tackled electronica on 2004's A Valid Path. In this new edition (Immergent; Music •••½, DualDisc Mix ••••, Extras ••••½), the 5.1 mix by Parsons and P.J. Olsson essentially bypasses the center but makes maximum use of the other channels. Burbling samples and keyboards percolate from all around on "Mammagamma 04." The Crystal Method's cutting-edge digital programming, sequencing, and rear-leaning percussion are deftly juggled on "We Play the Game." And on "Return to Tunguska," you're planted smack in the middle of David Gilmour's signature searing guitar. Valid extras abound, including Alan's track-by-track commentary, live footage, multiple guest-artist interviews, and two Easter-egg videos, one in surround. - Mike Mettler

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