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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/5/99

B.B. King: Live in Africa
1974 (1998) - Pioneer

review by Frank Ortiz, special to The Digital Bits

B.B. King: Live in Africa Program Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B-/D-

Specs and Features

48 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film themed menu screens, song access, scene access (19 single chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none

You want some blues? I mean, do you want some real, down-home blues? How about some blues from the King recorded live in Africa? What a sly move to have this put out on DVD. Every blues collector would be proud to add this to their collection. This is, simply put, one fun disc to view and enjoy. The concert presented on this DVD has a load of stellar performances that B.B. just plain rips up. He plays 8 songs: To Know You is to Love You, I Believe in My Soul, Why I Sing the Blues, Ain't Nobody Home, Sweet Sixteen, The Thrill is Gone, Guess Who and I Like to Live the Love.

The fantastic thing about the blues, is the depth of emotion that can be put into a song, whether it's sadness or love or lust or whatever. It's not that other music doesn't do the same, but so much of our pop, rock, and hip-hop owes something to the blues influence. Even country music owes the blues. This disc captures that depth so well. It's great to see B.B. King so young, and cooking on that hot axe of a guitar like he was born with it in his hands.

The video quality is really much better than I thought it might be, especially since it's taken from a live recording from 1974. The color is a little bit off, but it's certainly not horrid. There are various camera angles through out the recording, that hit the lights in a way that causes grainy shadows and posterizing in some dark areas. Again, it's not too big a mess, considering it was shot way back in 1974. I would consider the video as reasonably fair in quality.

The audio kicks in on this DVD, with a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 that really surprised me. The majority of the audience can be heard through the rear channels. B.B. King's guitar and vocals come through nicely, with an excellent mix of the band throughout. The only bone to pick here, is that some of the sound is a little bit synthetic-sounding. The audio is very clear, but some of the rear audience channel levels were more than I wanted (remastering with our current digital technology may lend to this problem), but more ambiance and space may have helped. Of course, I am a naturalist when it comes to non-digital performance music, so this may be my personal issue.

There are not really any extras, just menus that direct you to two different options -- song menus or solo and highlights menus. The solo and highlights menu is a nice touch on this blues DVD. For example, you can jump to one of the two solos in The Thrill is Gone, or the band introductions. It would have been nice to have a commentary by B.B., or even other band members, on the experience of going to Africa to play, or how they ended up setting up the African concert. But there isn't one, and that's okay -- the music is good enough to make it a nice DVD to rent sometime, when you have a hankering for some Blues.

I'd say this a good disc to add to your Blues selection, but for the real blues enthusiasts out there I'd highly suggest you pick up some DVD-Audio (audio only) from Chesky or Classic Records. With 24/96 technology, you can currently play all the good stuff right on your DVD player. B.B. King: Live In Africa is not too shabby a disc for the King of Blues, but there's a lot of other great discs out there to worth catching.

Frank Ortiz
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