Gil Scott-Heron and his Amnesia Express-Tales of Gil (1990)

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Released 22-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Review
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 59:58 (Case: 62)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Nick Bigsby
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Gil Scott Heron
Ed Brady
Vernon James
Kim Jordan
Larry McDonald
Rodney Youngs
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Gil Scott Heron


Video 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 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, some crowd members.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, the credits roll over the final song and applause.

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

Plot Synopsis

    Gil Scott Heron is supposedly the founder of rap music. You wouldn't know it from watching this concert. This concert is an enjoyable performance of a "stripped-down fusion of funk, blues, and jazz" with some very politically minded lyrics, as all the songs have a point to make. Three Miles Down poses the question "what if you had to do a job that you look down on?" (in this case coal mining). We Almost Lost Detroit deals with nuclear power, Angel Dust with drugs, and Johannesburg with racism across the globe. Most interesting of all is The Bottle, an up-tempo and major key song about the destructive influences of drinking to excess - and the reasons for it. Apparently considered to be the link between the sixties protest singers (Janis Joplin et al), and modern rappers (does that make him responsible for Eminem?), this concert is closer to a blues performance than anything else. There are elements of Jazz, and a number of ethnic influences thrown in for good measure, but the predominant style of this concert is blues. Does that mean the blues is not only the link between country and rock, but between hippies and rappers? Probably not, but it's fun to speculate.

    Having not heard of Gil Scott Heron prior to receiving this review disc, I found the concert enjoyable - a good concert from a group of very talented musicians - even if it is a little short. After doing some reading on Scott Heron however, it seems that this concert is not really what his fans are looking for. Not only does it not include any of his spoken-word work, or poetry, but it lacks his most well-known song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. An indication of how important this song is in Scott Heron's body of work is that the short video conversation with music journalist Kevin Le Gendre about the concert spends almost half its running time discussing how important the song is, and its various influences - before acknowledging its absence from the concert.

    Whether or not the song was originally part of the concert is now known only to those who attended the gig in 1990, as this presentation has obviously been culled from a longer concert. What was left is quite short, containing only six songs, and really isn't going to be attractive to any but die-hard fans, although even they should be aware that this is very much a blues performance that doesn't contain The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

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Track Listing

1. Three Miles Down
2. We Almost Lost Detroit
3. Angel Dust
4. Winter In America
5. Johannesburg
6. The Bottle

Transfer Quality

Video

    Made in 1990, and on what looks to be video tape, the video quality of this transfer is quite poor.

    Presented at 1.33:1, almost certainly the correct aspect ratio, this transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is not sharp, although it is not bad enough to be blurry. The detail is generally sufficient, although it is never good enough to make out fine aspects (for example, hairs). There is no grain as such, owing to the video source, although there is quite a bit of video noise (such as at 29:19) that is present in almost every shot. Shadow detail is acceptable, and the high lighting levels reduce its importance anyway. There is plenty of low-level noise (such as at 3:47), again pointing to a video source.

    Colours are a little faded, lending the entire concert a slightly "bland" look, as even the stage lights lack any real depth of colour.

    There is little in the way of pixelization in this transfer, although at times when the noise becomes very obvious there is some small amount in the background. There is quite a bit of chroma noise in the image (as at 23:19), not helped by the tendency to use blue hues in the lighting. There is also some colour bleeding (the mike stand at 6:05), and at times the overall brightness level of the transfer will pulsate quite noticeably (such as between 26:55 and 27:15). Aliasing is still quite common for a transfer that is not at all sharp, although most instances are quite minor. The worst occur on the guitar strings at 14:31, and the mike at 40:28, but there are a number of minor instances. There are no film artefacts present, as would be expected for video-sourced material.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

    This is a single layered disc, and as such does not contain a layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is good enough to allow the concert to be enjoyed, but it is not one of the better concert transfers available.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, being the concert audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), and the concert audio with track-by-track commentary also in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps).

    Vocals and dialogue are always clear and easy to understand. The instruments are well represented, and while not crystal clear are generally well separated. There is some hiss that enters the recording from time-to-time, but it is only noticeable during track introductions when there is no music, such as from 35:38 until the song starts. The only real problem is the sound of the crowd. They don't so much sound like a canned audience as an audience in a can, with some terrible distortion on the crowd noise that makes them sound almost metallic. Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer and is never a problem.

    While the front soundstage is nice and wide, and used to full extent, the rear speakers stay close to silent for the entirety of the concert. They do not even come to life during applause and the like.

    The subwoofer is used effectively to back up the bass and kick-drum, although this is not a very bass-heavy mix.

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

Extras

    The two extras presented here are not exactly extensive, and although they are very interesting, at a total time of around 10 minutes, they are not going to satisfy anyone.

Menu

    The menu is animated, themed around the concert, not 16x9 enhanced, and features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Review (6:23)

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, this is a video "essay" from music journalist Kevin Le Gendre on the subject of Gil Scott Heron. It is very interesting - especially for those with little knowledge of the man - and it is a pity that it only runs for six minutes.

Audio Commentary - Kevin Le Gendre (Music Journalist)

    This commentary actually only comes in for a short time (usually less than a minute) at the start of each song, as Le Gendre explains the significance of each song, and how they fit into Scott Heron's body of work. Very interesting, and again a shame that it is so short.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD does not appear to be available in Region 1, however there is a UK Region 2 version that seems to be identical to ours.

Summary

    Gil Scott Heron: Tales Of Gil is a good concert of Jazz influenced blues music, and is well worth grabbing for die-hard fans (although be aware that it does not contain The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). Others may wish to be wary approaching this disc, given its bluesy nature (there is little resembling rap here), and the very short running time.

    The video quality is quite poor, looking very much like it comes from a ten year old video tape.

    The audio quality is better, although the total lack of surround use is a little disappointing.

    The extras, while they last, are very interesting - it's a pity that they are so short (quality over quantity doesn't apply when the quantity is close to zero).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, January 19, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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