The Fabulous Thunderbirds-Invitation Only (2001)

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Released 8-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-5 - Backstage, VIP, Rehearsal, Recording & Video Taping
Featurette-Interactive guitar lessons with Kid Ramos
Web Links
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 62:34
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Swope

Warner Vision
Starring Kim Wilson
Kid Ramos
Willie Campell
Gene Taylor
Steve Hodges
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 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 must admit that I came to this review completely cold; I had not heard of The Fabulous Thunderbirds before. As it turns out they are a pretty good blues-rock band. According to their biography on the DVD, they hail from Austin, Texas and have gone through numerous line-up changes since their debut in 1974. Lead singer Kim Wilson is the heart of the band. He also writes most of their material and is the only surviving founding member. They have moved from being a purely blues band to a more 'driving' mix of music.

    On listening to the disc I found that there were a couple of tracks that sounded familiar. The band are pretty big in the USA, but less well-known elsewhere. This DVD might help on that front; they have excellent vocals and standout piano playing (Gene Taylor) and guitar (Kid Ramos). If you do get your hands on this disc, try I Believe I'm In Love or My Babe to get a feel for their sound. There is also nice harmonica work from Wilson in Early Every Morning. Apparently Muddy Waters holds Wilson in high regard, which is quite a recommendation coming from the legendary blues performer.

    The DVD was recorded live at The Complex studio in Los Angeles in 2001. It was also webcast live in High Definition and recorded onto CD as well. While it is a studio performance, the invited audience also get into the mood - there is a lot of dancing going on, and the band feed off the vibe pretty well (Wilson dives into the audience to join in the dancing near the end of the show). While the concert itself is a little short at just over 62 minutes, the excellent sound and nice Extras package make for a well-rounded disc that was something of a revelation for me.

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Track Listing

1. Wait On Time
2. My Babe
3. The Things I Used To Do
4. The Hustle Is On
5. I Can Tell
6. Look Watcha Done
7. Wrap It Up
8. Early Every Morning
9. She's Tough
10. I Believe I'm In Love
11. People Will Be People
12. Tuff Enuff
13. Where Were You

Transfer Quality


    For a concert album the video transfer on this disc is very good. The lighting of the show is based around white light, with only occasional spots of other colours. The video transfer in the extras varies more - some of it is behind the scenes work in dim lighting, some as good as the main event.

    The aspect ratio of the main show is 1.78:1, but unfortunately it is not 16x9 enhanced. As the concert was shot specifically for the DVD it is likely that this is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture is nice and sharp, but not up to the standard of the best movie transfers available on DVD. It IS sharp enough to distinguish every bead of sweat on Wilson's bald pate as the stage lights take their toll. Occasional moments where the focus is not perfect (see 17:06 and 38:43) are due to the camera work. Shadow detail is fine (as most of the concert is shot in bright light, this is not much of a factor anyway). There is no low-level noise.

    The colour is good, though muted; most of the band are dressed in black or brown so there is not too much bright colour on view. What there is on offer is vibrant, with excellent skin tones.

    The picture is in pristine condition with no artefacts of any kind to be seen. This is a modern picture produced on good equipment, and it shows on the screen.

    There are no subtitles (so no on-screen lyrics), which is a shame, given how well-rounded the package is otherwise. A nice touch is the inclusion of a brief song title before each track. This is not intrusive, and given the limited fan base the group are likely to have in Australia is a good way of getting to know the songs.

     I did not notice any layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    While the video transfer is very good, the optional dts 5.1 audio transfer is stunning. The star ratings in this section refer to the dts track, although I will also refer to the quality of the other tracks in my description.

    There are three audio tracks available on the disc. The default is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track available. The star of the show is the dts 5.1 track, encoded at a high bitrate of 1536 Kb/s compared to the 448 Kb/s bitrate of the other two tracks. I listened to all of the dts and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and most of the 2.0 track as well.

    The dialogue (well, the singing) is nice and clear, with excellent audio sync. Wilson is a dynamic singer and his voice comes across most crisply on the dts track, with a little less clarity on the other tracks, but still perfectly fine in all three.

    The music is of course the heart of the disc. As mentioned earlier, this is a nice blues-rock collection (with faint echoes of ZZ Top boogie). The audio level in the dts version is perfect, pretty good on the Dolby Digital 5.1, but at times some of the instruments are lost in the 2.0 track.

    The dts track is a thrilling and immersive experience. The instruments are nicely placed across the front of the soundstage, with a rich timbre which spreads across the sides and rear of the room. Instrumental flourishes and the vibrant horn section flow across the entire space, and the backing vocals and audience sounds fill in the rear nicely. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not as immersive, though still very satisfying. I would not bother with the 2.0 track - it sounds flat in comparison with the other two, though it is still quite acceptable if you don't have a 5.1 setup.

    The subwoofer adds nicely to the two 5.1 tracks, while adding only basic booms to the 2.0 track. On a couple of tracks the band use an older style double-bass, which features nicely through the sub on both 5.1 mixes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is a nice selection of extras on this disc, which is unusual for a music DVD, and puts many feature film presentations to shame. While the quality varies, the overall package complements the main concert nicely, and gives added insight into the band, their performance, and the process of capturing it onto DVD and CD. The Extras are described in the order they appear on the DVD.


    The menu is animated with audio from some of the songs in the concert. The Scene Selection menu allows selection of 14 tracks, the concert introduction and all 13 songs on the disc. It is 16x9 enhanced, which is a little annoying as none of the features on the disc are, which means a lot of switching of viewing modes.

    The Main Menu has 5 key headings (there are also options along the bottom for audio settings, DVD Credits and web links). From the first key heading you can play the entire show. The second is the Scene Selection menu. The third Main Menu option is titled 'The Band' and leads to 'Biography', 'Discography' and 'Backstage' options. Confusingly, the fourth option off the Main Menu is also titled 'Backstage', but this one leads to the rest of the features listed below, excepting the 'Photos' which are the final item off the Main Menu.


    This contains 8 pages of text outlining the history of the band. As I knew nothing about the T-Birds (as they are also known) before viewing this disc, I found the information quite informative.


    Here we have 11 pages of track listings accompanied by some quite interesting album covers.


    A short clip (1:40) showing the band preparing for the concert (including having their hair done). It uses aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 and is of limited interest.


    Separate short interviews with all 5 band members, varying in duration from 1:18 to 2:51 for Wilson, shown at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There are a few interesting insights on offer, and it is a nice way to get a bit of a feel for the personalities of each of the members of the group.


    A short (0:27) and pointless interview with a member of REO Speedwagon who happened to be backstage at the concert, shown at 1.78:1.


    Mostly dim 1.33:1 shots of Kid Ramos rehearsing with the horn section. Limited value here. This extra runs for 1:25.


    Shots of the sound mixing and backstage activity during I Can Tell. This runs for 4:33 and gives a bit of insight into the activity behind the scenes at most concerts.

Video Taping

    A short (0:53) and dim 1.78:1 clip of a frantic director at work. Cute (he seems to be losing his voice with all the frantic shouts of "cue two" and the like).

The Music

    This is an interesting extra which shows that some thought was given to the presentation on this DVD, rather than just slapping whatever came to hand onto the disc. In this 1.33:1 extra we have Kid Ramos introducing his guitar playing technique for two of the tracks off the disc (Tuff Enuff and Wait On Time). Each can be viewed separately. For each track he then plays along with the song. This is presented with a variety of audio tracks and camera angles. On the audio tracks you can listen to the final track, a track which highlights the guitar, and one which has the vocal removed. On the fourth audio track Ramos gives a commentary on what he is playing, and how.

    The multiple camera angles on the two songs complement the audio tracks by allowing selection of 5 different camera angles to view the guitar playing technique being used. One is a long shot, the second concentrates on the hand holding the plectrum, the third zooms in on the frets of the guitar and the hand playing the chords, and so on. This is a nicely imaginative introduction to guitar technique from a talented player. Well done to whoever thought to include this, and to Kid Ramos for recording it.


    A reasonable selection of portrait photos and in-concert pictures (22 in all).

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this disc appears identical to the local release, which is preferred due to the PAL picture.


    Overall this is an excellent example of how a music DVD should be presented, and includes an excellent performance from The Fabulous Thunderbirds. If you haven't come across them before, and like rock with a touch of the blues, then I strongly recommend you give this one a go.

    The video quality is very good, particularly for a concert presentation.

    The dts sound is awesome, and will demonstrate to your friends just why you spent the extra to get an amp with dts decoding in it (and why more DVDs should have dts soundtracks as an option). The Dolby Digital tracks are also perfectly acceptable.

    There is a fine selection of Extras, which provide added insight into the performers and the performance.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Friday, November 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.

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