Tony Bennett-Unplugged (1994) (NTSC)

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Released 6-Jul-1998

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Discography
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 71:38
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Beth McCarthy
Studio
Distributor

Sony Music
Starring Tony Bennett
Ralph Sharon Trio
K. D. Lang
Elvis Costello
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $34.95 Music Various


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English 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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This particular incarnation of MTV Unplugged has just about reached legendary status, in that it provided a serious boost to the career of Tony Bennett by exposing him to a generation of music lovers that would probably have otherwise ignored him. However, one of the great things about music is that talent will always be in demand, and there is no doubt that Tony Bennett is one of the great singing talents: when coupled with the popular songs from people of the calibre of The Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin and a whole raft of others, magic can happen. So, when the opportunity arose to select this for review, I certainly stuck my hand up rather quickly. This is the 1990s update of the old 1940s and 1950s intimate jazz club type of venue, where a small but accomplished band of musicians got on stage and played away as the backing for a talented singer, to the delight of all concerned.

    Recorded live, this is basically a collection of some of the more memorable popular tunes of the 20th Century sung in a style that borders on being unique today. If there aren't a couple of songs that you recognize here, then where have you been hiding for the past thirty or forty years?

    After watching the show, you know why it has been such a lauded effort. This is superb singing of a style that we seldom see nowadays, and for that music in general is much the poorer. This is a genuine revelation in as much as I never realized that Elvis Costello actually has a decent voice, although I do think Tony Bennett's assessment of K.D. Lang is just a tad over the top. Overall though, this is a very enjoyable concert experience in the best Unplugged tradition, and anyone with even a remote interest in music of the era when there actually was music (that is anything prior to the mid-1980s) should find a way to add this to their collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Disclaimer time: "This is a concert video, so we have to make the usual allowances for the lapses in focus and the problems inherent in trying to cope with the stage lighting" and "this is an NTSC format disc and you will need a display device capable of accepting and displaying the data in order to see anything meaningful when watching this DVD". Well, actually, in hindsight, scrub the first one.

    The concert is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and of course it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    This is about as perfect an NTSC transfer as I would think we are ever going to see, and this certainly is of reference quality for NTSC transfers. This is a consistently sharp and well-detailed transfer that handles everything thrown at it with aplomb. There is a vibrancy and a clarity to the transfer that I have rarely seen in an NTSC transfer. Shadow detail is quite wonderful, with the audience background in particular being handled very nicely so that information is there, but it in no way detracts from the main focus of the transfer. There did not appear to be any low level noise in the transfer and this really is quite wonderful stuff indeed.

    Ah, the colours! This is a very nice, vibrant transfer with a lovely rich tone to it that is utterly believable. Even when the stage lighting goes up a little, and the background colour fades a little, everything still seems to have a very natural feel to it. Oversaturation was never an issue here and the way the colours have been handled is just about spot on. About the only quibble that I have is that perhaps the background could have been just a tad more vibrant on a couple of occasions.

    MPEG artefacts? Film-to-video artefacts? Film artefacts? Forget it - nothing here at all to remotely distract or detract from the transfer at all. This is visually as clean a transfer and as perfect a transfer that I have seen from an NTSC source disc, and it is not that far removed from being perfect for a PAL sourced transfer.

Audio

    It is a pity that the audio transfer is not quite in the same stellar league. After one very bad transfer on Neil Diamond - Greatest Hits Live, this one exhibited some minor problems that really have me wondering whether the Sony sound engineers have a particular style that they are aiming for, and not quite achieving.

    There are two English audio tracks on the DVD, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 track. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack whilst briefly sampling the Linear PCM track, which is actually the default track on the DVD.

    The music and vocals generally come up pretty well in both soundtracks, but the Dolby Digital soundtrack has a slight peculiarity to it. It by no means makes the soundtrack unlistenable, and indeed perhaps I am being too overly critical, but the vocal track seems just a tad too recessed in the front surround channels and a tad too forward in the rear surround channels. There also seems to be a bit of an imbalance in the rear surround channels, with the left channel being mixed at a higher level than the right channel. The result is a sound picture that is just a little too rearward-balanced for my taste, although you do tend to adjust to the balance quite readily.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with either of the soundtracks.

    Apart from the slightly odd imbalance in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, there is not too much to complain about and indeed some praise to be handed out. The bass channel here, which is in constant use thanks to the obligatory bass in the trio format, really gets a nice solid work out and really impels the whole soundtrack along quite nicely. The overall sound picture would have been even better had the front vocal tracks been just a little more prevalent in the mix, as it would have resulted in a much more balanced sound overall to complement the bass channel. The Linear PCM soundtrack is nice but does not really capture the musical accompaniment quite as well as I would have expected. Still, there is a lot of pleasure to be derived from listening to Tony Bennett's very nice vocals in this manner.

Extras

    Well at least there is an effort, even if it not an awful lot and could have been so much more.

Menu

    A decent if understated effort.

Biography - Cast

    Obviously quite a limited one in scope, but nonetheless a nice inclusion for those of the MTV generation who would know little about the gentleman himself.

Discography

    Not too extensive really, and sort of encapsulates the highlights of his later career mainly.

Interview Segments

    This is a real disappointment - whilst the segments are interesting enough in their own right, this would have been an invaluable effort if we got a far more extended, integral interview sequence. It is a nice inclusion, but there is plenty of scope for improvement.

R4 vs R1

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

    Since the disc is coded Region 0, you would think that it would be safe to assume that what we have on the Region 4 release is identical to the Region 1 release. However, that may not necessarily be the case. According to some of the major online sites (Internet Movie Database, Amazon.com, and DVD Empire), the Region 1 release has only a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.  If this is indeed correct, then Region 4 would have to be the region of choice.  A further complication however is that Amazon.com is indicating that this disc is no longer available in Region 1, whilst DVD Empire is listing it in stock. Express.com is not listing the disc at all. Confused yet?  If so, stick with Region 4 as it seems to be the best option!

Summary

    This is quite an enjoyable Unplugged event made even more so by a technically very good DVD.

    A superb video transfer.

    A very good audio transfer.

    A barely adequate extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, April 21, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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