Tracking Surround

PETE TOWNSHEND & RONNIE LANE. Bob Pridden's surround treatment of Rough Mix (Hip-O; Music ••••, DualDisc Mix ••••, Extras •••) brings out the craftsmanship beneath the 1977 project's seeming casualness. He allocates discernible parts to the rear - banjo and harmonica on "Nowhere to Run," horns and piano on "Catmelody" - making for a fresh, in-the-round revisitation of this modestly charming classic. The shifting dynamics of "Heart to Hang Onto," one of Townshend's greatest songs, are brought into sharp relief, from delicate fingerpicking to full-bore electric guitar. Outtakes plus video interviews with Pete and others don't add much, but the buffed mix - in high-resolution DVD-Audio sound - is alone worth the price of (re)admission. - Parke Puterbaugh

BONNIE "PRINCE" BILLY. "Oh, nice, is that the wind?" muses singer Dawn McCarthy between songs. "Yeah," whispers Will Oldham, a.k.a. B"P"B. And that about sums up The Letting Go (Drag City; Music ••••, DVD-Audio Mix ••••, Extras •••), a simple but eloquent dialogue that Oldham carries on with his band, nature, and love. Kudos to Drag City for investing in a DVD-A: Valgeir Sigurds­son's high-rez mix enhances the intimacy of Oldham's voice in the center channel and deepens the evocative sound of this quiet folk music in the surrounds. McCarthy's vocals often hover in the genuine air, culminating in the traded verses of the truly haunting title song. The only extra is the bonus track "Signifying Wolf," but it's down and dirgey with a heavier mix and a taunting Dawn from the rear. - Ken Richardson

JAY GREENBERG. There have been 14-year-old classical composers before (think Mozart), but never one with a major-label deal. Greenberg's Symphony No. 5 (Sony; Music •••½, SACD Mix •••½) gets the royal treatment from the London Symphony Orchestra led by José Serebrier. Is the music worth the hoopla? Yes and no. The symphony skillfully encompasses the lyrical traditions of Brahms and the rhythmic inventions of Bartok. But it seems like it could have been written 50 years ago, and time will tell whether Greenberg develops his own modern voice. Richard King's ambient surround mix is suitable, if not essential, to the traditional symphonic sound world that Greenberg inhabits. Close-up miking delineates solo instruments - even, alas, the intakes of breath by the flutist. - Robert Ripps

MOE. Live from the Fillmore (Fat Boy; Show •••••, DVD-Video Mix •••½, Extras ••••) is a superb showcase for both the jam band's improvs (like the long segue from "Timmy Tucker" into "Tailspin") and its knack for hooks ("Crab Eyes," "Rebubula"). The multichannel mix by Bil Emmons is sharp, but not at the expense of the especially sumptuous bass. Sole disappointment: the center channel, whose soft fill has neither the strong ambience of the surrounds nor any isolated solos or vocals. Extras include a commentary that's part Mystery Science Theater 3000, part Pop-Up Video. Fueled by beer and pizza, the band is shown deconstructing the gig with self-mockery. A bold concept, but the chatter is often only semi-intelligible. - Andrew Nash

BT. This Binary Universe (DTS; Music •••, DVD-Video Mix •••, Extras •••) has an 8-minute Big Bang: "All That Makes Us Human Continues." It builds from a delicate theme to a massive swell and back again, as all five main channels become dramatic equals in BT's own mix. There's a nice jazzy section in the following track and some attractive Debussy chordings in the next one, but Universe never again reaches that opening height (and too often, the accompanying videos are underwhelming). Meanwhile, the surround sound gets a bit basic. We can only wonder, for example, why rainfall is heard just from the front - and why BT chose to release his mix only in DTS 5.1 as part of a CD+DVD. - Ken Richardson

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