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Update (12/03/11): Black Friday and Soundstage Music Releases

posted Dec 3, 2011, 8:45 AM by Vu Nguyen
From Vu

Are you still recovering from Black Friday?  I know my bank account isn't too happy... I did go a little nuts buying a lot of Blu-Rays on sale. I picked up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Best Buy 3D exclusive) for $18, Pulp Fiction ($3.99 at Target), Jackie Brown (Bluray), Unknown (Bluray for $7), Goonies (Bluray boxset with gameboard for $20), Goodfellas 25th Anniversary (Bluray/DVD for $12) ... too many to actually remember to name off the top of my head.  What I didn't buy were video games, despite having going in thinking I would pick up a few cheap ones for the winter.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm already 60+ hours into playing Skyrim and I don't foresee a future that I'm NOT playing it.  I personally feel that it's the best game I've ever played, even though there are a lot of bugs and slowness and annoyances...

I thought buying the Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown on Bluray were going to be regretful, because I bought a Hellraiser Collection on Bluray (Part 4-8) and those movies were basically DVD upscaled. One of the movie was even in 1080i format!  Anyway, I thought Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown were going to be "DVD quality", but I was wrong.  The new transfer looked great, and for their price ($4 each!), they were worth it.

Anyway, below are some music DVDs that I got for review.  Unfortunately, they're DVD only for review purposes.  If you had to put money on it, spending an extra $3-5 to upgrade to Blu-Ray disc is well-worth it, in my opinion. I honest don't even know why they make the DVD product anymore (are normal people still holding back on upgrading to Bluray?)

Soundstage DVD/Blu-Ray releases: November 2011
Title: Michael McDonald: Live/A Tribute to Motown Live
Appearances: Michael McDonald, Toni Braxton, India.Arie, Take 6, Billy Preston
Director: Joe Thomas
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Studio: Image Entertainment
Blu-ray Release Date: November 1, 2011
Run Time: 122 minutes
Michael McDonald: Live: It Keeps You Runnin', Sweet Freedom, I Keep Forgettin', I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Black Water, Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While), Minute by Minute, What a Fool Believes, Takin' It to the Streets.
Michael McDonald: A Tribute to Motown: I Second That Emotion, I Was Made to Love Her, What’s Going On, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, All in Love Is Fair, Stop Look Listen (To Your Heart), Baby I’m for Real, Tracks of My Tears, Since I Lost My Baby, Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever, You’re All I Need to Get By, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Nowhere to Run
Monday, 28 November 2011

Just released for the holidays are three Soundstage DVDs/Blu-Rays from Image Entertainment. The re-releases/re-issues seems like a good mix of the "early" years: 2003 (Chicago: Live in Concert), 2004 (Steve Winwood: Live in Concert) and 2005 (Michael McDonald: Live/A Tribute to Motown Live).

To give you a little background, Soundstage is a music series dating back to 1974, but went away until founder Joe Thomas brought back the series in 2003. The new shows were all shot in HD, and if you've ever seen one of these Soundstage shows - the production is nothing less than spectacular. Very entertaining to watch the performances, the playful lights, and tight close-ups.

Fans of the band, or completists, should want to get these DVD/Bluray release because there are often extra live performances not used on the PBS program (due to time constraints). Unfortunately, the unused songs are not incorporated into the main program, instead they can only be accessed through the "Special Features" on the main menu.

What is nice about all three release is that they priced for those on a budget, retail at $14.95 (DVD)/$19.95 (Bluray). If you can only afford one of these three releases, I recommend Michael McDonald's video because you're getting two full length concerts for the price of one.

With that, Michael McDonald's A Tribute to Motown Live and Michael McDonald Live comes on one DVD or Bluray disc. Running time is about two hours, both concerts directed by Joe Thomas. Setlist songs are similar, but with emphasis on Motown songs on the first set.

Watching A Tribute to Motown Live is like watching a who's who of special guests, from Billy Preston, Toni Braxton, Take 6, to India.Arie. It is almost as much fun to watch as it is to hear these classic Motown songs played live.

My favorite spot was the duet with Toni Braxton. The woman is dressed to the nines, gorgeous to look at, and she's singing her poor heart out, "Michael can you hear me?". But McDonald has his eyes closed, playing piano and just singing obliviously. It's heartbreaking, does he know that Toni Braxton is trying to reach out to him?

Maybe it's played for laughs, McDonald joked that he was going to wear Braxton's dress.

Just to quickly touch on the other two releases.

Chicago: Live in Concert can be rented ($2.99) or digitally owned ($9.99) on Amazon. I suggest just buying the Blu-Ray for maximum high definition (I believe streaming will be in standard defination).

The Chicago show is pretty special, considering that this is Soundstage's second of the new shows. I didn't realize how big the actual Chicago band, and they brought on a variety of horns and brass. Most of the more bigger hit songs ("Hard Habit to Break") were sung by Jason Scheff - who looked really young (compared to the other band members), but he's really 41 back when this was filmed!

Setlist: Make Me Smile, Color My World, Now More Than Ever, If You Leave Me Now, Dialogue, Hard Habit to Break, Saturday in the Park, Beginnings, Just You ‘N’ Me, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Feelin’ Stronger Every Day, I’m a Man, Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away, Free, 25 or 6 to 4

As for Steve Winwood: Live in Concert, this was the shortest of the three releases, but to make up for it, there are three bonus songs not aired: "Rainmaker", "Different Light", and "Walking On".

I actually didn't know who he was, but I did know his big hit number, "Back in the High Life Again". I honestly didn't know who sang that song, it was just the song of the Summer of 1986.

Winwood's actually been around for ages, he's practically a living legend. He started off playing a variety of instruments for some Blues masters: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, etc!

He found his footing working with Eric Clapton on Blind Faith and eventually went solo in the late 70s.

For the filming of his 2004 Soundstage performance, Winwood looked quite energetic and alive for his age. I don't think you will find a more happier looking performer on stage than Winwood.

Setlist: Can’t Find My Way Back Home, Empty Pages, Bully, Glad, Freedom Rider, Back in the High Life Again, Dear Mr. Fantasy, Why Can’t We Live Together.