America-Live at Central Park (EMI) (1979)

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Released 1-Apr-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Peter Clifton (Director)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 54:05
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Peter Clifton
Star Films
EMI Music
Starring Gerry Beckley
Dewey Bunnell
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Dewey Bunnell
Gerry Beckley

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In 1977, fresh from the making of The Punk Rock Movie, starring the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and with the box office success of his production of Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same still bringing in the dollars, Australian director Peter Clifton was given almost free rein to make a rockumentary of almost any band he wanted. He chose one the of iconic groups of the 1970s, America. Clifton was given the exclusive rights to film the band's final concert of their 1979 United States tour in New York's Central Park. This film would also be the first time that America had been filmed in concert.

    There can not be too many people who are not familiar with at least one of America's many hits. A Horse With No Name was the band's initial breakthrough song in 1972, riding high in the charts around the world. It has received almost constant FM radio airplay ever since. From that major hit the threesome, consisting of Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek, released several albums during the 1970s that included a string of top ten hits such as Sister Golden Hair and Ventura Highway. The blend of easy-listening harmonies melded with their rock and folk style music captured the imagination of many in the early to mid 1970s. Peek left the band in 1977, with Bunnell and Beckley continuing on to this day. They recently played a concert at the Sydney Opera House which was also recorded for DVD. The review of that disc can be read here.

    In front of a massive, though slightly restrained, crowd in Central Park's open air amphitheatre, Bunnell and Beckley perform many of their greatest hits to that time. There are 14 songs performed in the 54 minute show. It's a little short, but at least the main tunes everyone is familiar with are here. These include the obvious tracks such as Ventura Highway, Sister Golden Hair, Horse With No Name, Sandman and Tinman. Incidentally the concert opens with the strains of Tinman playing over images of the band and the crowd preparing for the show. It's a great snapshot of life in New York City in 1979 and a real document of a long gone era. It is particularly amusing to see drug dealers plying their trade right under the nose of the city police. During some of the songs, the vision moves away from New York to other areas of the US. Surfers under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and a desert road in California are some of the locations used to provide a further snapshot of life in America in the late 1970s.

   I really enjoyed this show. It is a little short in duration, but it also doesn't drag on. Every song is there for a reason and it's performed well. In my review of America's performance at the Sydney Opera House, I lamented the fact that the show had a slight by-the-numbers feel to it. To be fair, Bunnell and Beckley certainly know their stuff, and while this produced a slick and incredibly well-rounded performance it almost came across as a show delivered by rote - one done thousands of times before. The beauty of this 1979 show is that the band were at the height of their popularity and powers.

    Overall, this is a pretty decent concert film, from a band who knew what they were doing. It is also a great snapshot of life in New York City circa 1979.

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Track Listing

1. Intro
2. Tin Man
3. Only Game In Town
4. I Need You
5. Foolin'
6. Ventura Highway
7. California Dreamin'
8. Another Try
9. Horse With No Name
10. All Night
11. Here
12. Hollywood
13. Sandman
14. Sister Golden Hair

Transfer Quality


    Originally shot on 16mm, the film was transferred to high definition digital tape for the production of this DVD. It does not appear to have undergone substantial restoration and is still extremely grainy, but overall it is a bright and colourful image.

    It is framed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Obviously being originally shot on 16mm film, the intended aspect ratio could well have been 1.33:1, but the image presented here shows no major signs of cropping and works quite well on modern display devices.

    Overall sharpness and detail is not bad considering the nature of the lower grade source material. Grain is present in almost all shots, but is more than acceptable. There are no issues with shadow detail and no low level noise.

    Colours are quite consistent and bright, with skin tones occasionally looking a little too red under the stage lighting.

    Compression artefacts are absent, as are any glaring film to video artefacts, other than some excessive graininess caused by the lower quality 16mm source material. Film artefacts are a bit hit and miss. Most of the concert footage is relatively clean, while some of the B roll material such as the shots of the waves in San Francisco Bay and the band driving through the desert in California have substantial numbers of white and black flecks and spots throughout.

    Sadly there are no subtitles.

    Though the disc is dual layered, the full concert occupies only one layer and is therefore bereft of a layer change.

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


    While the video has received a little spit and polish, the audio has received the full blown wash, wax and detail. Originally recorded on 24 track equipment, the remastered audio has been turned into three different soundtracks for the concert, all of excellent quality.

    There are four audio soundtracks in total, encompassing almost all possible combinations. Soundtracks provided are a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, a half bit-rate (768 Kb/s) dts 5.1 track, and a linear PCM 2.0 stereo track. Rounding out the selection is an all-too-rare for a concert commentary track.

    The Dolby Digital and dts tracks are extremely similar in terms of quality. Both offer plenty of clean instrument and vocal separation, rear channel use for the crowd noise, and a wide dynamic range. The dts track is perhaps just a little bit warmer in delivery than the Dolby Digital, but rest assured both are superb efforts. It really is just like being there. For a show originally recorded more than 25 years ago this is an amazing effort.

    The dialogue and vocals are excellent. There are no problems with audio sync.

    There is plenty of surround channel use from both 5.1 soundtracks. The usual sounds of audience clapping and cheering from the rears emanate throughout the performance to impart that 'front-row' feeling.

    The sub is nicely integrated and is pretty much in use during the whole show.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

Audio Commentary

    There are not too many concerts of this age that come complete with an audio commentary and it is pleasing to say this DVD is one of the rare exceptions. Aussie director Peter Clifton revisits his film and offers many insider anecdotes and thoughts on the band, how the film came into being and his fondness for the era. Worth a listen, especially for fans of the band and the time.

R4 vs R1

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

    From what information I can find, this DVD has yet to be released in Region 1. Indications are that it will happen some time soon, so as soon as I am aware of the specifications I'll update this section accordingly.


    America - Live In Central Park is one of those concerts that perfectly captures a moment in time while at the same time giving the viewer a good dose of quality songs performed by musicians at the top of their game. It is New York City in 1979 and one of the city's icon attractions, Central Park, plays host to one of the most successful 70s rock/pop bands of the decade.

    The remastered video and audio is excellent with the dts soundtrack in particular shining.

    The extras are limited to a decent and informative audio commentary from the director.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
America- way too fast.... - cztery
Way Too Fast - Michael Q (read my bio)