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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 1/30/99



Eagles: Hell Freezes Over (DTS)
1994 (1999) - Geffen Home Video (Image Entertainment)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Encoded with DTS 5.1 sound

Concert Rating: B
I'll confess, I'm not a huge Eagles fan. I've never appreciated the whole Hotel California thing, and if I hear Don Henley's Boys of Summer again, I'll puke. But this is a decent concert, plain and simple.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/A-/D
The full frame video starts out looking, well... bad, during some behind-the-scenes footage that starts the program. Thankfully, the picture quality gets a WHOLE lot better during the actual concert. The DTS 5.1 audio is spectacular (if a little gimmicky), and the PCM 2.0 is also excellent. The only real extra, is one Eagles fans might appreciate - a DTS / audio-only bonus track.

Overall Rating: B-
I really found myself enjoying this disc a lot, even though I don't really dig the band, as I said. If you do like the Eagles, and you happen to have DTS capability, you'll definitely want this DVD, I'm sure.

Specs and Features

99 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ???), Snapper packaging, 17 songs (plus 1 DTS / audio-only song), program-themed menu screens with animation, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DTS 5.1), English (PCM 2.0 discrete)

Review

Right off the start, it's important to mention that this DVD will be the ONLY 5.1 version of Eagles: Hell Freezes Over, so there will be no opportunity to compare it with Dolby Digital 5.1. There will also be no seperate DVD with an alternate soundtrack - the alternate soundtrack (PCM 2.0) is already included on the disc. There ARE however, two seperate packaging versions for the disc (and two order numbers - go figure) - one which emphasizes DTS and one which does not (the latter can be seen above). The SRP will be the same for both - $24.99.

On to the review. The program starts off with about 11 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, shot on film. We see the band talking about how the reunion tour came about, we see them rehearsing, and so forth. Unless you're a fan, it's rather dull. But the disc picks up substantially, when the concert begins.

Recorded on April 25th and 26th in 1994, the concert includes the following songs:

Hotel California
Tequila Sunrise
Help Me Through the Night
The Heart of the Matter
Love Will Keep Us Alive
Learn to be Still
Pretty Maids All in a Row
The Girl from Yesterday
Wasted Time
I Can't Tell You Why
New York Minute
The Last Resort
Take It Easy
Line in the Fast Lane
In the City
Get Over It
Desperado


Overall, it's a good mix of new and old material. There's also a bonus track, Seven Bridges Road, that I'll talk more about in a minute.

As I've already admitted, I'm not much of an Eagles fan. That's just how it is. It's not a knock against the band, it's just that I've never gotten into sync with the whole Eagles vibe, so to speak. I'm more a Doors, Stones, REM, Peter Gabriel, and The Police kinda guy. That said, I have to admit, somewhat reluctantly perhaps, that I really enjoyed this disc. The concert itself is pretty good, as such things go. The band performs many of their songs acoustically - something I've always appreciated, as it lends an intimacy to the experience. The group is also backed on occasion by a small orchestra, which adds a nice feel to the overall sound of this performance. And I have always liked the song I Can't Tell You Why, so sue me. But you probably don't care too much for my opinion of the concert. Enjoyment of music is a very personal, subjective thing. So lets talk video and sound.

I was a little worried about the video quality, at the start of this disc. As I mentioned, the program starts with some 11 minutes of shot-on-film footage, and it's of rather poor quality. The image is lacking in detail, with an overly soft look. It also has a grainy, even blotchy appearance (look in chapter 1, about 5 minutes into the program, at the wooden stage the orchestra is sitting on, and you'll see what I mean). This is serious digital artifacting. But hey - this is small-format, grainy film footage.

Fortunately, the picture quality improves substantially once the actual concert begins. The concert itself is shot-on-video, providing a much clearer image. It still isn't what DVD fans are used to, but you have to remember again, this is 5 year old video, sourced from analog tape. You'll see the occasional tape hit, some ringing near the spotlights, and the picture is still lacking somewhat in detail. There are also a few instances of artifacting, particularly in scenes with a lot of strobe light effects happening on stage. Sometimes, it's just too much for MPEG-2 to handle, even for the high video bit-rate of this DVD (which stays pegged right up in the 9 Mbps range). But the contrast range is excellent, with deep blacks. And the color saturation is generally good as well. Again, I think one has to excuse the source material somewhat. The more important thing, is that the audio sounds absolutely fantastic (both in DTS and PCM).

When you start the disc, you immediately have your choice of DTS 5.1 digital surround, or Linear PCM 2.0. The default is PCM, which provides an excellent stereo reproduction of the music. The clarity is excellent, with good bass, and a nice dynamic range. It doesn't reproduce any kind of surround effect - this is 2.0 discrete stereo, not meant for playback through Dolby ProLogic processing, so be sure your ProLogic is switched off. But the performance of the PCM soundtrack is generally excellent.

Restarting the DVD and selecting DTS, however, is an entirely different experience (note that you only see the DTS trailer when you select the DTS audio option). The DTS mix makes virtually no difference during the behind-the-scenes footage. But when the concert begins, the difference is truly breathtaking. The mix completely immerses you in the sound environment, placing you right on stage, just in front of the band. You'll hear the audience reacting behind you, with most of the performers arranged front left, center and right. Oddly, in a bit of a 5.1 gimmick, ccasional riffs of percussion will come from the left or right rear channels. It would be nice if audio engineers, when mixing 5.1 sound for concert preformances, would stick to ACCURATE mixes, rather than cheating the mix to create more (and artificial) surround effects. Oh well. That said, the sound field is completely enveloping, with few (if any) gaps discernible. And there's great dynamic range here, nicely rendering both rich, deep bass, and the full, clear sound of acoustic guitar. I was impressed - the mix is nicely transparent, and really serves to draw you into the experience of the music. And some family members, who were present when I previewed this disc, were blown away.

It's often been said that DTS soundtracks tend to be mixed slightly louder than comparable Dolby Digital versions. I have experienced this to be the case, at least in some instances. And naturally, when you make any sound louder, your ears are going to perceive the sound as clearer. It remains to be seen if that's the case here. Still, the DTS 5.1 sound on this DVD is... well, let's put it this way - it's good enough that, as a non-Eagles fan, I really enjoyed the concert.

The main menu on this disc is nice looking, with full-motion video in the background. There's only one thing that can really be called an extra on this DVD. As I mentioned, it's a single bonus song (Seven Bridges Road), that's only available in DTS sound. It's in full 5.1 surround, but is audio only. Selecting it will bring up a white-washed B&W photo of the band, with a title graphic that floats slowly by on the screen as the music plays. If you try to select the song while listening in PCM, you'll get a message saying that you need DTS to access it. It certainly doesn't justify the purchase, but if you have DTS, and are an Eagles fan, I'm sure you'll buy the disc anyway, so it's one more thing to enjoy. But I would really have appreciated song lyrics, or a complete discography - maybe a photo gallery of pictures taken during the tour. In short, ANY of the things that we know could be done with concert DVDs. Oh well - like I said, I'm not a big fan anyway.

Bottom line

I've said this a couple of times now, but I think it really sums things up. If you have DTS capability, and you are an Eagles fan, you'll definitely want this DVD. There's not much here that would appeal to a non-Eagles fan, but with audio this good, it's tough not to enjoy the music. If you don't have DTS, you might be happy with the PCM version. If you're after 5.1 sound however, and you don't have DTS, you're out of luck.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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