It’s often stated that past efforts to promote immersive music have failed due to a lack of content, despite there being 5.1 releases from best-selling artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and Bob Marley. From a fan’s perspective, it seems like many artists dip their toes in the water with just one or two releases - only never to continue. There are very few artists who’ve spearheaded remixes or reissues of their entire musical catalog in 5.1 surround or Dolby Atmos.
In addition to listing these six acts, I’ve spotlighted three individual tracks that truly show off what 5.1 surround music has to offer.
Talking Heads released their career-spanning Brick compilation in 2005, featuring all eight albums newly remixed to 5.1 by band member Jerry Harrison and engineer E.T. Thorgren. All eight discs are presented in the short-lived DualDisc format, with one side featuring a standard redbook CD while the other utilized the audiophile 5.1 DVD-Audio format.
These 5.1 mixes often show up on many fans' personal “best of” lists for good reason - they’re absolutely fantastic. Harrison goes into detail on the liner notes about how he approached moving this music into a three-dimensional space: the front channels generally feature most of the core rhythmic elements and lead parts, while accessory percussion and backing vocals are placed in the rear speakers. This approach is especially effective on the densely-layered songs like “Crosseyed and Painless” from Remain In Light (1980) or “Burning Down The House” from Speaking In Tongues (1985).
Perhaps following the example set by Talking Heads just one year prior, The Doors released their career-spanning Perception compilation in 2006. Perception features all six Doors albums newly remixed to 5.1 by the band’s original engineer, Bruce Botnick. Each album is presented on both CD and 5.1 DVD-Audio, with both discs housed in an individual digipak case.
Immersive fans should also be aware of the 1973 Best Of The Doors compilation album, which was issued on quadraphonic LP & tape at time of release. The quadraphonic mix has since been reissued in digital form twice, first on Super Audio CD by Audio Fidelity in 2015 and again by Rhino on Blu-Ray as part of The Singles CD/Blu-Ray release (2017). These old quad mixes are quite a bit more aggressive than the newer 5.1 remixes, with the drums frequently isolated in the rear speakers.
Despite having also spearheaded a 30th anniversary remaster campaign, King Crimson’s Robert Fripp opted to once again reissue the entire catalog for it’s 40th anniversary - this time on CD/DVD-Audio sets featuring new stereo & 5.1 surround remixes.
Steven Wilson has since created 5.1 remixes of the classic ten-album run from 1969’s In The Court Of The Crimson King to 1981’s Three Of A Perfect Pair, with the remixing duties for the remaining albums handled by Jakko M. Jakszyk (1994’s Thrak) and King Crimson manager David Singleton (1999’s The Construkction Of Light and 2001’s The Power To Believe).
As a sort of capstone to his involvement with this reissue series, Wilson created entirely new 5.1 & Dolby Atmos remixes of In The Court Of The Crimson King for its 50th anniversary in 2019.
Several Crimson-related side-projects have also been remixed to 5.1, such as Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins’ A Scarcity Of Miracles (2011) and Robert Frippt & The Grid’s Leviathan (2021).
As most fans already know, Steven Wilson’s name has become synonymous with immersive audio. In addition to the fifty-plus album remixes he’s created for other artists, all the music he’s released under a variety of names (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Blackfield, Storm Corrosion, etc) since 2003 has been issued in 5.1 surround.
Wilson’s introduction to immersive audio came in 2003, when Porcupine Tree’s then-label Lava Records hired star engineer/producer Elliot Scheiner to create a 5.1 remix of the In Absentia album. As revealed in the liner notes to the 2020 4-disc deluxe reissue, Wilson rejected Scheiner’s initial 5.1 take on In Absentia and worked side-by-side with him to create the version we know today. Scheiner would go on to helm the 5.1 mix of the follow-up album, Deadwing (2005), but all future Porcupine Tree and solo projects would be handled by Wilson himself.
As part of Warner Music Group’s early-2000s push for 5.1 music on the high-resolution DVD-Audio format, R.E.M.’s nine-album run from Document (1987) through Around The Sun (2005) was newly remixed to 5.1 surround by renown engineer/producer Elliot Scheiner.
Scheiner worked side-by-side with R.E.M. producer Jaimie Candilorio to ensure the instrumental balances and effects on the new 5.1 remixes matched the original stereo albums as closely as possible. That being said, there are some interesting deviations from the original production on the 5.1’s - the most obvious example being the previously-unheard rhythm guitar in “The One I Love”.
Like all of Scheiner’s 5.1 remixes, the rear channels are used quite heavily for backing vocals, percussion, guitars, keyboard, and other secondary elements. The famous mandolin part in mega-hit “Losing My Religion” comes almost entirely from the left rear speaker.
As part of Columbia records’ mid-70s push for quadraphonic vinyl and tapes, Chicago’s first ten albums (excluding the Carnegie Hall live set) were remixed to quadraphonic by producer James William Guercio and engineer Wayne Tarnowski. These 4-channel mixes fell into relative obscurity until 2016, when Rhino issued the nine-disc Chicago Quadio Blu-Ray boxed set.
Fans may also recall that Chicago’s classic second and fifth albums received DVD-Audio release in the early-2000s, featuring brand-new 5.1 releases by Paul Klingberg & John Kellogg. These new 5.1 mixes are quite different in approach from the old quads, with less extreme front-to-back separation and excellent use of the center speaker for isolated Terry Kath guitar solos.