Uriah Heep-Gypsy (Live from London) (1985) (NTSC)

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Released 11-Sep-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Review
Audio Commentary-Track by track intro
DVD Credits
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 60:29
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Martin Baker
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Mick Box
Lee Kerslake
Trevor Bolder
Peter Goalby
John Sinclair
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Uriah Heep


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I am not a fan of Uriah Heep and actually knew very little about them before, but was interested to review this disc, as I recalled my older brother having a few "Heep" albums lying around the house in the 70s and was aware of this band's reputation as being a reportedly heavy and influential rock group. I also knew that Heep maintain a sizeable fan base in Australia and have done so since the early 70s, when they first toured here. After doing some research on the informative site www.uriah-heep.com, I discovered the some fairly impressive stats and some very interesting cross-overs of the band member bios with other influential rock names. Have a look at the following stats for starters and you start to sit up and take notice of Uriah Heep:

    So with a career spanning over three decades and clearly being successful at selling records over the years, what is it that has stopped Heep from joining a more elite class of rock's "super groups"? Quite simply, line-up changes. Unfortunately (and this story should be very familiar to Deep Purple or Black Sabbath fans), this was a group that was tremendously successful in the early stages of their career but then succumbed to the usual ego problems as individual band members decided they would be better off jumping ship and joining some other group. Indeed, several band members have at one stage or another left this group for a while, only to find the experience or success not to their liking, and then re-joined Heep again a couple of years later. The net result has been a group that has changed line-ups some 14 times (!) over the past two decades (and to think I thought Deep Purple had a lot of line-up changes!)  This has in turn lead to numerous changes to songwriters and musical styles and the overall group dynamics over the years, which translates into inconsistency in the group's material. What a pity, as, judging by the performances on this DVD, there are indeed some talented musicians here.

    This DVD concert was recorded live at the Camden Palace in London in 1985, said to be a period showcasing the band in their 'middle period', just before the release of the album "Equator". After researching on www.uriah-heep.com, it turns out that this is in fact line-up number 12 and one which was not to last long at all, so it is hardly a great representation of the group as it (naturally enough) tends to focus on the more recent material at that point in time, not representative of the more successful and well-known earlier line-up material. The lead vocalist and keyboardist in this concert were to leave the group later the same year, making way (after one more very brief aborted singer) for the line-up that would then stick to the present day. The line-up for this 1985 concert is as follows:

    To help put this 1985 period in context, Heep were at this time also supporting and touring with other rock names, the likes of Rush, Judas Priest (with whom they apparently did not enjoy the experience!) and Def Leppard (with whom they did). This London concert, though, appears to be just Heep by themselves. The concert is recorded in what looks to be a very small venue indeed. Judging by the confines of the stage and the very limited camera angles, the concert comes across on screen as the equivalent of going to see a group at the local pub on a Friday night. If you like intimate, raw, rock performances, then this is certainly the feel of this gig.

    Stand out tracks for me are the earlier material, including the well-known "The Wizard". "Bad Blood" is also quite a rocker. Unfortunately, though, too much of the newer material comes across as fairly bland wannabe-heavy rock; sort of a cross between Deep Purple, Spinal Tap and some of the earlier/meatier Foreigner style!  It's way too "keyboardy" to be appreciably heavy for starters. Still, there are some great riffs on offer and some excellent drumming among these songs too. Whilst the aforementioned comparisons might not be overly flattering, in fairness, this is definitely not the group at their best. I would certainly be very interested in seeing a DVD release of Uriah Heep from an earlier period, which I'm sure would be heavier, evidence some better songs with more variety and be a worthy showcase of the group.

    Oh, and in case you're wondering - as I was - the name "Uriah Heep" is taken from a character in the Charles Dickens novel "David Copperfield".

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Track Listing

1. Sell Your Soul
2. Stealin'
3. The Other Side Of Midnight
4. Too Scared To Run
5. Rockarama
6. Angel
7. The Wizard
8. Bad Blood
9. Gypsy
10. Easy Livin'
11. That's The Way That It Is
12. Look At Yourself

Transfer Quality

Video

    Great news for fans - this is an excellent video transfer. Faultless, in fact.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (apparently full frame).

    Sharpness and shadow detail are great. The source material has been very well preserved and, together with the consistently high data transmission rate on this DVD (hardly ever wavering below the maximum rate of 10 Mb/sec), this makes for an extremely crisp and defined video image. Bear in mind this is a live concert environment, so of course there is plenty of smoke and harsh lighting effects to hinder some of the background resolution, however the transfer itself cannot be faulted and contains no low level noise at all.

    Chrominance is also superb. All colours, ranging from the blue backgrounds, to the red and green spotlights, to the black backdrops, are all deep and nicely saturated, with no irregularities.

    And it keeps getting better: there are no MPEG artefacts, no film-to-video artefacts (not even aliasing on the guitar strings, a common enough sight with concert footage) nor any material film artefacts to speak of.

    I was disappointed to find no subtitle stream on this disc. No subtitles on a music DVD is a crying shame and a missed opportunity to make the most of the medium. For fans of the artists, a subtitle stream provides a complete lyric sheet, and for newcomers to the artists, like myself, they provide an insight into the songs and enhance the ability to enjoy the feature. As it was, I found the lead singer did not articulate very well and consequently I had no idea what he was singing about.

    The disc is single layered, so there is no layer change to note.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is a pretty decent one, but not an outstanding surround mix.

    The disc contains two English tracks; Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 with commentary. I reviewed both tracks. Note that the second track is not a director's commentary, nor any type of continuous commentary as such. Rather, it is identical to the default 5.1 mix, just with the addition of a series of very brief over-dubbed intros to each song by rock journalist and broadcaster Dave Ling. This is quite worthwhile, as the intros help to place each song into context, explaining from which album and time-period the song originated and thereby providing some chronological context. Ling is quite authoritative on the group's history and is clearly a fan himself. (You can actually see the back of his head during the concert footage, head-banging away right in front of the stage in front of Mick Box!)  As the intros are very brief and quite informative, I would definitely  recommend using this second audio track in preference to the default track. Of course, if you don't want the concert to be interrupted at all, then the default track is available too.

    Vocals are fine in the mix, meaning that they are at an appropriate level and quite audible among the instruments. As stated above, however, I found the lead singer did not articulate very well and so had trouble discerning most of the lyrics - although this is not a criticism of the audio transfer. Audio sync is also fine.

     The rest of the concert mix is quite satisfactory, with plenty of crisp bass notes, nice midrange in the vocals and some tight percussion. My only complaint is that the dynamic range in this concert is fairly flat. But again, I hasten to add this is not really a criticism of the DVD transfer itself. It is more a note about the style of music being played here - it is full-on and non-stop throughout each track, which makes for quite an aural assault and, it must be said given the very uniform song structure and no real variety, leads to some tedium if you don't know the songs.

    The soundstage is weighted predominantly towards the front, but with effective use of the surrounds to provide ambience and give some balance. There are some nice directional effects across the front stage, with guitars weighted from stage left and the keyboards notably from the right. However there is no real use of directional effects for the surrounds and they only consciously call attention to themselves for the applause between tracks (this applause being quite enthusiastic and mixed in after the event, judging by the lack of enthusiasm displayed by the crowd onscreen!). All-in-all, this transfer is more of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround affair than a fully immersive 5.1 mix, but it is consistent and appropriate for the visual.

    The subwoofer gets a handy workout too, called upon effectively to accentuate the kick-drums and fill out the bass notes and bottom end generally.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is only one very brief extra to speak of on this disc, and it probably should have just been tacked onto the front of the feature anyway, rather than having it as an extra. It is a very brief (1:08) intro to the concert by Ling, presented at 1.33:1 (with similar transfer quality to the feature) and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

    The only other options selectable from the main menu are a set list (a static track selection screen), the audio selection screen and a credits screen.

    The main menu itself is presented in 1.33:1 and is audio underscored; other menus have no audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is available in identical format in Region 2 (PAL) and Region 1 (NTSC). Note that the Region 4 release is in NTSC, not PAL. However, given the excellent quality video transfer, in this case I would opt for Region 4.

Summary

    It's a pity for fans of a veteran rock group like Uriah Heep that this first Region 4 DVD release of the group does not showcase one of the better line-ups. I note from Region 1 that there are several other Heep DVDs out there, so it would be great to see some more releases here. An earlier line-up concert would be the best way to judge this band live. Still, this DVD release shows some talented musicians, some of whom also had the benefit of working with such influential rock luminaries as Bowie and Ozzy Osbourne. With an excellent video transfer and decent audio on offer, this disc will be appreciated by the die hard fans and should be of interest to other rock fans too.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Monday, January 13, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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