Taj Mahal-Live at Ronnie Scott's (1988) (NTSC)

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Released 8-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Review
Audio Commentary
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 53:49 (Case: 55)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stephen Cleary
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Taj Mahal
Wayne Henderson
Ward Allen
Kester Smith
Ozzie Williams
Carey Williams
Margo Patrick
James Breeze
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Various


Video (NTSC) 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 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Taj Mahal Live at Ronnie Scott's 1988 is another great blues gig, tempered only (I believe) by a slight overuse of electronic keyboard. Of course, the set was performed during the 1980s, and they did things differently back then. One cannot fault Taj on his virtuoso guitar skills, his wonderful (and rare) keyboard solo in "The Statesboro' Blues", and impressive vocals. Indeed, Taj is perhaps the happiest blues artist I know, a performer who seems to understand that the blues are about keeping your head up when the rest of the world is trying to put you down.

    During this gig, Taj is supported by his International Rhythm Band, with Wayne Henderson, Ward Allen, Kester Smith, Ozzie Williams, Carey Williams, Margo Patrick and James Breeze.

    The playlist is broken up by a series of monologues by Taj, talking about his past and how that influenced his music. While slightly jarring, it is less so on this disc than on the Curtis Mayfield Live at Ronnie Scott's DVD, where the interviews are more frequent. Again, the music more than compensates for this distraction.

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Track Listing

1. The Big Blues
2. Mailbox Blues
3. Staggerlee
4. Come On In My Kitchen
5. Local Local Girl
6. Soothin'
7. Fishin' Blues
8. Statesboro' Blues
9. Every Body Is Somebody

Transfer Quality

Video

    Produced in 1988, the video suffers from all the same problems as the Curtis Mayfield Live at Ronnie Scott's DVD, although the grain is (if possible) worse. I think this is because this feature was produced on film, not on video, and the print has seriously degraded since. The DVD also displays some distracting MPEG artefacts.

    The picture is NTSC encoded and is presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame, non-16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is marred by distracting low level noise, which is not helped by the volume of smoke and the various shadows throughout the club.

    Colours are generally rich, and certainly less muted than on the Curtis Mayfield DVD.

    There are, however, many bad MPEG artefacts. Pixelization/posterization are a particular problem, as is MPEG macroblocking. Pretty much the entire transfer has examples of these artefacts, and it is kind of hard to point out any particular instance when it is particularly rife, but just take a look at the intro to "Fishin Blues'", starting at 37:38.

    There were some minor film-to-video artefacts, mostly flecks of grain which were hardly noticeable.

    This is a single layered disc.

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

Audio

    The audio component of this disc is also very reminiscent of the Curtis Mayfield DVD.

    The default soundtrack is encoded in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. There is an optional audio commentary by Charles Shaar Murray which cuts through the 5.1 Dolby Digital Soundtrack when on.

    All channels were utilised in the 5.1 mix, but, again, the sound was generally driven through the centre speaker. After listening to the DVD all the way through in surround, I switched the amplifier over into stereo and listened back through again. Once more, the balance was restored to its original state, and just sounded that much better.

    I must confess that these so-called 5.1 Dolby Digital 'Remasterings' of older concerts into a kind of pseudo-surround are somewhat irritating, and it would be better to preserve the original stereo mix, fleshing out the bass and clarifying the sound with a pristine 2.0 Dolby Digital transfer. Save the 5.1 Dolby Digital/DTS transfers for music releases such as the Ministry of Sound Annuals, which are more likely to use the subwoofer to devastating effect, and are designed for play in a vast surround field. Older music, like blues, is more personal and plays better in the cosy confines of 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo.

    The subwoofer was, again, used inconsistently to highlight the activity of the bass drum, and was generally inactive.

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

Extras

Main Menu

    The menu is animated with a cut from the live performance looped over in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. It is 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette - Review

    The review is a separate feature, running 6:17, in which Shaar Murray discusses the history and performance style of Taj.

Audio Commentary

    This is an audio commentary by music historian Charles Shaar Murray, which plays in conjunction with the Juke Box function (below). It is informative if you know little about Taj Mahal.

Juke Box

    The Juke Box function allows you to select a track from the disc for immediate playback. It comes complete with an animated juke box which has a menu you scroll down to select the track you want.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R4 release appears to be identical to the R1 release.

Summary

    Taj Mahal Live at Ronnie Scott's 1988 is a great gig presented on an average disc.

    The picture quality is poor, predominantly due to the source material.

    The audio quality feels stretched across the surround channels, and plays much better in ordinary Dolby Digital 2.0.

    The extras are interesting, especially the information provided by Shaar Murray which adds that much more understanding to the performance style of Taj.

    My suggestion -- switch the amp over to stereo, turn off the monitor, turn off the lights, and sit back in the recliner with a beer and a scotch chaser with your eyes closed. Well worth it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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