James Last-Gentleman of Music (2000)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
DVD-ROM Extras-PC Friendly
|Year Of Production||2000|
|Running Time||92:49 (Case: 95)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Stanley Dorftmann|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, closing titles with scenes from pub|
James Last is a familiar name in my parent's home and I still remember a stack of James Last records that I would listen to every now and then when I was feeling bored. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review a video of James Last and his orchestra performing live at Bayreuth, I said to myself "Great! It will be fun to hear him again after all these years!"
Although I suspect James Last is probably most well known in Germany, his music has been heard in over 150 countries. Nicknamed "Hansi" by his friends and fans, he has released literally hundreds of albums since his first one called "Non Stop Dancing" in 1965. Born in Bremen, Germany, James was classically trained but also played the bass in jazz bands. His real flair was arranging traditional, classical and popular songs and he became a bandleader with his own "orchestra" (in reality a motley collection of brass and string players augmented by other musicians) playing arrangements of a variety of musical material.
True James Last fans can usually recognise a James Last arrangement when they hear one - he has a simple formula which can be summed in three words: strings, brass and beat. He has a talent for distilling the core essence of a song into a brilliantly simple arrangement that showcases the melody and yet offers something new that the composer perhaps did not quite envisage when he/she wrote the song. It would be easy to sneer and to dismiss his music as "dumbed down for the great unwashed" but his arrangements are often quite original and very much listenable without descending into the realms normally occupied by the likes of "101 Strings Play Beatle's Greatest Hits."
This concert (Gentleman of Music), recorded specially for broadcast on the PBS television network in the United States, is no different and contains arrangements of light classical, pop and folk songs/medleys. It is recorded at Bayreuth (at the Oberfrankenhalle) - adopted home of Wagner in his later years and the venue for his operatic musical dramas (I wonder what he would have thought of Hansi?) and James in his stage banter panders to both the live audience as well as to American viewers of the TV broadcast.
We get to hear arrangements of not only Beatles songs, the love theme from "Titanic" and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" but also James Last originals such as "Games That Lovers Play". In between are light classics and folk songs. We also get "mini interviews" with members of his orchestra in between songs and even snippets from James Last and his musicians enjoying a night out at the local pub.
The musicians in the concert are obviously having the time of their lives and enjoying the experience almost as much as the audience and even Hansi himself. The string section in particular have a tendency to break into dancing whenever they have a spare moment and the audience starts off by being fairly sedate and polite, but soon starts dancing, holding placards and gigantic red hearts. By the half-hearted way in which James seems to be marking time, I get the feeling that the orchestra is well rehearsed and could probably play the songs blindfolded.
|1. Granada/Lady Of Spain|
2. Titanic Love Theme
3. Beatles Medley
4. Rosen Aus Dem Suden
5. String Of Pearls/In The Mood
6. Morgens Um Sieben
8. Hit Medley:
9. When The Snow Is On The Roses
11. Happy Heart
|12. Don't Cry For Me Argentin|
13. Hip Hop Polka
14. Jigs And Reels
16. German Folk Medley
17. Games That Lovers Play
18. My Way
19. Orange Blossom Special
20. Love For Sale
21. Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman
22. Carmina Burana
This is a full frame transfer from a video source originally intended for broadcast television (i.e. 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced).
The transfer itself superficially looks pleasant but has a "video tape" feel about it, with exaggerated contrast and colours. Black levels are quite good, and there is enough low level detail to fill in the shadows. Detail levels are probably about average for a video source.
However, the video transfer suffers from a number of artefacts both inherent in the video source as well as caused by MPEG compression.
The aliasing at times can be quite persistent and annoying, and reflects the inherently interlaced nature of the video source. I also suspect the video may have been mastered to NTSC given that it is intended for broadcast by PBS and converted to PAL for this DVD.
MPEG compression artefacts are mainly manifested as Gibb's effect ringing in the background of many of the frames.
In between songs, James Last occasionally talks to the audience, mostly in German (with the English translation burned into the video frame) but he occasionally breaks into English for the benefit of the American TV audience. Interviews with the musicians seem to be conducted either in English or dubbed into English. There is a hidden "English" subtitle track, but enabling or disabling it seems to have no effect.
This is a single sided single layered disc.
There are two audio tracks on this disc, both labelled "English" although it would probably have been just as accurate to label them "German": Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) and Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). I listened to mainly the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is very much like the video transfer - superficially pleasing but problematic if you pay any attention. The strings sound quite harsh and brittle. Although the track does appear to be a native 5.1 mix, occasionally some instruments, particularly the strings, bleed into the rear speakers.
The main issue I have with the audio track is persistent audio synchronisation problems. Although most of the time this is not an issue as the songs are instrumentals, it is still disconcerting to see the video lag slightly behind the audio. Dialogue during interviews is quite annoying - at first I thought the interviewees must have been speaking in a foreign language and subsequently badly overdubbed into English - then I realised (for some of them at least) they were speaking in English!
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is mastered at a lower volume level but sounds quite similar to the 5.1 audio track, including the audio mis-synchronization, although the mis-synchronization does not appear as severe as on the 5.1 audio track.
The subwoofer is used mainly to provide some enhancement to the low frequencies. The rear speakers are used mostly for audience noises as well as ambience.
Incidentally the audio synchronization problems are evident not only on my DVD player (a Pioneer DV-626D) but also on a PC with a DVD-ROM drive so I suspect the problem is inherent in the disc.
|Surround Channel Use|
This disc does not have a lot of extras, but then most of the space on the single layer has been used by the main feature.
The menu is animated and includes background audio.
This installs a copy of PC-Friendly.
This is a video containing a montage of various photos of James Last taken at various stages of his life and career, including publicity shots of him and his orchestra as well as family photos. The background music is an excerpt from When A Man Loves A Woman.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This title has yet to be released in Region 1.
James Last: Gentleman Of Music is a good introduction to the music of the prolific German arranger and bandleader. Fans of the man will of course not need any incentives to buy this disc. The video is okay, although prone to aliasing. The audio is likewise okay, but suffers from audio mis-synchronization. Extras are limited to a photo gallery.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Front and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500|