B.B. King & Eric Clapton-Riding with the King (DVD-Audio) (2000) (NTSC)

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Released 22-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet-Information on track arrangements
Biographies-Cast
Notes-Credits
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 61:25
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Eric Clapton
Simon Climie
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring None Given
Case DVD-Audio Jewel
RPI $32.95 Music None Given


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English MLP 88.2/24 5.1
English MLP 88.2/24 2.0
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

    Riding with the King brings together two of the most influential and successful blues artists in history, B. B. King and Eric Clapton, with an album that is certain to become one of the genre’s classics. If ever there were two people who should come together to sing the blues, it must be Eric and the King. From their humble beginnings on the opposite sides of the globe, fate first brought these two together at the café AuGoGo in New York in 1967. Here, after a late night jamming together, they forged a friendship that would endure through the decades. It was to take almost 35 years however, before Eric finally felt that he was ready to record an album side-by-side with B. B. King, without being overshadowed by King’s presence. What makes this album really special though, is that this collaboration was not demanded by fans, nor was it dictated by the labels, rather this is the fulfilment of a life long dream of the artists to simply get together and pay tribute to the genre they love so much.

    It is no surprise, given the backgrounds of these two, that they came to embrace the Blues as a genre and can so masterfully portray such emotion and power in their performances. B. B. King was born on September 16, 1925 as Riley B. King to a poor crop picking family in Mississippi. Leaving home at the age of 17, he moved to Memphis, seeking success as a blues guitarist. Having no money in his pocket, he was helped by his cousin, Bukka White, who took the opportunity to refine young King’s guitar playing skills. Within a year King received his first break with a live radio performance which eventually led to him securing a position as DJ for a local all-black radio broadcaster. It was here that King secured his nickname B. B. King being short for Blues Boy King and began his recording career. His success was slow at first, due to the lower popularity of Blues at the time; this is despite many successful singles such as Three O’Clock Blues which remained at No.1 for 15 weeks in 1952. After a spate of personal disasters and general poor marketing, King’s career began to markedly improve during the 1960s and after recording his signature song The Thrill is Gone in 1966, he never looked back. Over the past six decades, B. B. King has managed to collect numerous awards and medals, being honoured in several Halls of Fame and has recorded almost 80 albums and he is still going strong.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, a young Eric Clapton is born March 30, 1945 in Surrey, England and for personal reasons of the mother is left in the care of his grandparents. At the age of nine, Eric would suddenly become withdrawn and distant after learning that his older sister was in fact his mother and his parents were in fact his grandparents. It would be many years before he would recover from the many repercussions of this event, including failing prep-school and eventually dropping out altogether. Fortunately, as a direct result of this Eric began to take a strong interest in the blues and was eventually inspired by the likes of B. B. King and others to learn to play the guitar. Eric joined numerous bands and recorded numerous albums ranging from blues to pop, but he never seemed to be able to maintain staying power and always ended up solo again. As time went on and more bands came and went, Eric would continue to improve as a talented guitarist, but this would not prove to be enough and by 1970 he found himself grappling with drug addiction. After three long years he finally managed to kick the habit and returned to the music scene with a vengeance. It was during this period that he recorded one of his best albums 461 Ocean Boulevard. Eric would once again be faced with serious health problems, this time due to alcohol abuse, which would take almost seven years to recover from. However, recover he did and it now looks as though Eric is unlikely to ever look back, even after the tragic loss of his son in 1991. Since 1990 Eric has steadily released successfully album after album, each one a unique creation. In early 2000 Eric decided that it was time to fulfil a lifelong dream and to record this album with one of the founding fathers of the blues, B. B. King. “How blue can you get?

     Riding with the King is a magnificent album that covers some tremendous territory in the landscape of Blues, reviving many old classics with a modern day, extremely high quality recording. Make no mistake about it; this recording is audiophile quality, only missing the mark on some of the surround mixes due to a loss of focus. If you enjoyed the music of The Blues Brothers or the more recent, Blues Brothers 2000 then you will certainly enjoy this. So, if you're still with me, then pull up a chair, dim the lights, relax and enjoy as Eric and the King show you what playing and singing the blues is all about.

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Track Listing

1. Riding with the King
2. Ten Long Years
3. Key to the Highway
4. Marry You
5. Three O'Clock Blues
6. Help the Poor
7. I Wanna Be
8. Worried Life Blues
9. Days of Old
10. When my Heart Beats like a Hammer
11. Hold on I'm Coming
12. Come Rain or Shine

Transfer Quality

Video

    Being a DVD-Audio presentation there is not an awful lot to say about the video apart from – it’s in NTSC and it looked pretty good. Each track is accompanied by a still frame image and some historical information regarding the track being played.

Audio

    There are numerous tracks recorded on this disc. I primarily listened to the MLP 2.0 track (88.2/24) as it was the original recorded mix. I also listened to the default MLP 5.1 track (88.2/24) in full, back-to-back, with the 2.0 track. I sampled a few sections of the Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps) and the DTS 5.1 (1536kbps) and can report that they are very good (much better than CD), with the DTS track sounding almost as good as the MLP 5.1 track (however I suspect that this was partially due to a combination of better DACs in my amplifier and poorer PCM DACs in my DVD player). Oh, and one last thing – when I first started up this album I reduced the volume 6db from my usual reference level; don’t be tempted to do this, if your system can handle it (you will soon find out), leave it at, or near, reference and be prepared to be blown away by the sheer power and force that is present in both Eric and King’s voices. The midrange purity here is simply magic stuff.

    All-in-all there were numerous aspects of the mastering of this recording that impressed me in general, even though I would normally shun some of these techniques. The inclusion of almost every single codec format on a single disc is a tremendous start: it ensures that everyone is capable of listening to the material at the highest possible quality that their equipment can provide, both now and in the future. Also clever is the use of the surrounds – which in several mixes (more detail later) succeeded in extending the front soundstage around the sides, successfully imaging various instruments on both the left and right side walls (this is exceptionally hard to get right and I am very impressed with this effort). Finally, also clever is the imaging employed in several tracks that anchors various instruments and singers directly in a speaker – normally I do not like this, however in this case I will make an exception as it is very well done and ensures that even a poor setup, with poor speakers in a difficult room will still image the front soundstage well. In short this is an album that has been designed to work with a variety of systems and setups; but, I am glad to say, not at the expense of high resolution systems that are capable of precision reproduction.

    In general the 2.0 tracks were far superior to their multi-channel surround counterparts, except for a few which warrant special attention. There are also at least two distinct mixing styles present on the album affecting the 5.1 surround mixes. Tracks 1, 4, 6, 7 & 12 were mixed by Alan Douglas and are, for the most part, absolutely superb, being generally better than Tracks 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10 & 11 which were mixed by Tom Sweeney. Alan preferred to use the surrounds to provide more than ambience, but also to extend the front sound stage around to the left and right walls, succeeding in imaging the instruments across a very wide soundstage without adversely affecting the focus of Eric & King. In each case this surround mixing was handled very well, however in the specific cases of Tracks 6 & 7 this was done exceptionally well, to the point that I actually preferred the envelopment of the 5.1 mix over the 2.0 mix. Tom’s surround mixing was much more variable, working in some cases and failing in others. Tracks 2 & 11 are some good examples that failed, in both cases the soundstage ended up being compressed, merging everything into the centre speaker and the ambience at times was overly present, causing smearing and distortion of the imaging. Tracks 3, 5, 8 & 9 were actually handled reasonably, but again the soundstage was compressed, resulting in a very narrow soundstage concentrated mostly in the centre speaker (you will need a really good centre speaker to appreciate these) – in each of these cases the 2.0 mix was noticeably better. Track 10 was a complete success however and was almost identical in style to Alan’s mixes.

    Although I could talk all night on each of the tracks, some of them deserve a special mention for various reasons. Unless otherwise noted, these comments all refer to the 2.0 mix.

    The first of these is Track 2, Ten Long Years is one of King’s classics from the 1950’s and this rendition is absolutely audiophile in every respect. The sound stage is wide, natural and very focused and the interplay between the acoustic guitars on the left and right is great fun. You can tell that King had lots of fun with this one when at the end when he comments, “You guys are hot today” to the band. This is truly classic blues. Track 3, Key to the Highway is also a good example of just how high resolution this recording is as you can hear absolutely every single guitar string pluck in incredible detail and the gentle drumming is superb. Track 4, Marry You is an interesting example of some of the differences in the mixes. If you listen carefully there is a twinkle effect every so often that pans from right to left – this twinkle is only present in the 2.0 track and I was quite surprised to notice its absence in all the 5.1 mixes.

    Track 5, Three O’Clock Blues is another classic King from the 1950s and the recording on this album would have to be the best ever – period. This is the specific track that so carefully anchors almost every major instrument directly in a speaker – normally I shun this as it tends to sound unnatural, however in this case the result is simply sublime. And most importantly this track is guaranteed to sound absolutely magical in almost any environment! The transparency, imaging, vocals, and resolution in this track is second to none. You can hear the percussive effects as the hammers of the piano strike the strings (yes it’s that detailed), and when the acoustic guitar starts at 4:50 you’ll find out just how good your tweeters are. As far as bass is concerned, there is plenty of it and there is plenty of soul as King sings. Be warned, this track is guaranteed to push most systems to their extremes, but if your system can keep up then you will be well rewarded. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve died and gone to heaven.

    Track 6, Help the Poor was one of the few tracks which I actually preferred as a 5.1 surround mix than the 2.0 stereo mix. This is a truly enveloping mix. If all 5.1 surround mixes sounded this good relative to the original stereo recordings I’d be very happy. Likewise Track 7, I Wanna Be, Track 9, Days of Old and Track 10, When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer are also excellent examples of not only an audiophile 2.0 mix, but, are even better as 5.1 mixes. I want to see more like this, please. Track 8, Worried Life Blues is another example of an audiophile recording of an old classic and if Track 9, Days of Old doesn’t get your heart going and the blood pumping then I’m afraid nothing will. Track 11, Hold On – I’m Coming shows just how well Eric Clapton and B. B. King work together and just what chemistry we have all been missing out on throughout the decades.

    Finally we finish of with Track 12, a beautiful rendition of Come Rain or Shine which is done so well that it is difficult to find the words to express my admiration of this effort. The soundstage is tight and intimate (up close and personal) which is entirely appropriate for this song with its almost waltz-like tempo. This is a sumptuous recording that is sure to delight and the 5.1 mix isn’t that bad either. You really have to experience this to understand – I cannot find the words that do it justice.

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

Extras

Main Menu

    The main menu is clear and simple to navigate.

Booklet

    This is more a slip than a booklet. It contains information about the particular instrumental arrangements for each track and provides detailed production credits.

Production Credits

    A few pages listing various production credits for arrangements, recording and mixing.

Biography

    A series of pages covering the early history of how B. B. King and Eric Clapton met and the lead up over three decades to the production of this album. There are lots of little tidbits of information here for the fans that I won’t spoil.

R4 vs R1

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

    This release appears to be identical worldwide.

Summary

    Riding with the King is destined to become one of the greatest blues albums of modern times and this DVD-Audio recording is simply stunning. If you’re at all a fan of classic blues then you simply must own this album, no questions, no debate, no excuses.

    The video quality is fine for what its there for.

    The audio quality is not only reference, but for the most part it is audiophile, only missing the mark in a few of the surround mixes.

    The extras are simple but consistent with other DVD Audio releases. I think they can do a lot better though.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael S Cox (to bio, or not to bio?)
Friday, September 20, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplayJVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3802
SpeakersFront LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole

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