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TAPNotes by Matt Rowe


9/22/04 - TAPNotes by Matt Rowe

As the world turns, so too do PCs, hard-drives and all that digital stuff we use to produce The Digital Bits and MusicTAP on. As it happened, viruses, errant worms and assorted apocalyptic destructions brought my PC and TAP to a near grinding halt. Many dollars later, a new PC, a pair of hard-drives and achingly recovered software emerged. Fortunately, much of this stuff is recoverable thanks to backups and lots of luck, but it sure did cost me time. But here I am at last, finally, back for another issue of TAPNotes. Just so you know, I've provided a new inclusion to the column due to requests from the readers. And since many of you wanted to know the aspect ratios of the DVDs I review here, I'll include that as well.

Just FYI, all titles reviewed in TAPNotes can be ordered from Amazon.com by clicking on the cover art (as always, doing so supports The Digital Bits).


Neil Young: Greendale Neil Young: Greendale

Last year, Neil Young issued a CD that told a story with his popular Greendale, a concept album dealing with issues that are near to Neil's heart. But the album, along with the complementary website, could only go so far in disseminating the thoughts that Neil needed to voice. Early this year, the filmed part of Greendale went to theatres, largely in the art houses in metropolitan areas, perhaps missing much of Neil Young's audience. The story is that of a small town, Greendale, and a few interesting characters, including the Devil who makes a metaphorical appearance. Wanting to draw attention to the environmental plight of the world, Greendale merges politics with drama. Shunning talk, the movie moves along via characters lip-syncing the dialogue parts of the songs contained on the album; a long MTV video, if you will. It's not compelling nor is it graphically pure with grainy film depicting the story but it is pure Neil. If you're a fan, this chapter of Neil is a viable addition to an already large volume of work. This set contains lots of extras with a making of featurette, a family tree (characters of Greendale) with selectable fictional biographies, an extra with a stage performance of Be the Rain.

From the audio side, Greendale can be enjoyed in DTS 24/96 5.1 (Rockin'!!), Dolby Digital 5.1 and/or Dolby 2.0 stereo, all of which sounds pretty damn good. This DVD is presented in full-frame video. Check out closing remarks for free copies of Greendale.

As Neil sings, "...a little love and affection, in everything you do, will make the world a better place..."


Boz Scaggs: Greatest Hits Live Boz Scaggs: Greatest Hits Live

Filmed in San Francisco's Great American Music Hall, this DVD presents one of our favorite solo artists, Boz Scaggs and his collection of great songs. There are 16 main menu songs with a bonus inclusion of Harbor Lights, the second of 2 versions here, tucked away inside the extras section. The songs come from many points in Boz Scaggs' career. From pre-Silk Degrees, Atlantic issued, Boz Scaggs (1969), with Loan Me a Dime, and Runnin' Blue from 1971 Columbia debut, Boz Scaggs and Band, up to Dig from 2001 with I Just Go. Of course, there are lots from his peak period of Silk Degrees here like Lowdown, Harbor Lights, Look What You've Done to Me, Georgia, Lido Shuffle, and We're All Alone. This concert was filmed by the busy Daniel Catullo in high definition video and audio. Audio choices include DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo, with video at full-frame.

Fans of Boz need no coercion for this set as it is pure Boz, satisfying in every way.


Tomita: The Planets Tomita: The Planets

In the 70s, synth wizard Isao Tomita, pumped out a massive collection of popular albums immersed in reinterpreted classical works. He reworked Williams (Star Wars), Grofe (Grand Canyon Suite), Debussy (Clair de Lune), and Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition) and others. But his most enduring and popular work was his revisiting of Holst's The Planet Suite. His version brought the scorn of the Holst family upon him but made fans quite happy. To this day, we wish for a pure SACD or DVD-Audio version of this iconic work. This DVD provides the entirety of Tomita's Planets album. It is presented in Dolby Stereo and accompanied visually by planet facts and space footage that looks suspiciously like a science class video. But, oh, that soundtrack. The video, presented in full-screen only, is watchable only once, after which you'll pop the DVD in to enjoy the audio presentation of The Tomita Planets. At least until we get what Tomita fans deserve, true hi-res.


Journey: Greatest Hits DVD (1978-1997) Journey: Greatest Hits DVD (1978-1997)

Journey has gone through several Mark lineups with the most enduring being that of the Steve Perry years (props to the current lineup). Of course, there are many albums that carry that legacy well including SACD issues of a Greatest Hits as well as a studio album. But what about all those great visual concert songs and videos? Any Journey collection absolutely cannot be complete without this DVD in it. Okay, it's dated with those funky 70s/80s hairstyles and clothes but who cares! It's Journey. And it has Perry's captivating voice in tow along with the excellent instrumental work of the rest of the band from that era. All the songs are here, 18 of them. You know them all. The standout here is the very late (1996) When You Love a Woman as a music video. The video itself is tastefully rendered without the stark excess of the earlier times and the music is extremely mature. This set is very reasonably priced and is bursting with Journey goodies. It was compiled by Steve Perry and is possessed with off-kilter sequencing but it works. It's all full-screen with all Stereo sound. The video, depending on what you're looking at, can be quite washed but again. Journey, reasonably priced, and collectible. Extras include a discography.


Jean Luc Ponty: In Concert Jean Luc Ponty: In Concert

This DVD places the violin jazz master in his environment, in this case, the Jazz Jamboree on October 23, 1999 in Warsaw, Poland. Using his signature electric violin, Ponty displays the ease and mastery of his instrument even as he picks it like a guitar to begin one song. The DVD begins with a spectacular Rhythms of Hope and proceeds through the DVD with a total of 9 works that will have you in awe. Ponty's use of a five string electric violin is indicative of the power that he wields as he shapes notes to a free and fluid jazz style, is a statement to the broad capacity of jazz to incorporate a traditionally classical instrument and expanding its use. The sound is presented in an extraordinary DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and PCM stereo, all sharp and crisp. The video is full screen. Extras include biographies (self-scrolling and musically accompanied), Touring Memories (featurette), details on recent productions (2 recent albums), and a discography (self-scrolling and complete.) The release of this DVD is simultaneous with the CD issue. It's all good.


Joni Mitchell: Refuge of the Roads Joni Mitchell: Refuge of the Roads

Joni is the essential female poet of the 60s and 70s. Try as you might, it's very difficult to deny her impact on music. Her writing is greatly introspective with lyrics that still speak to every soul. Fused with her jazz leanings, her music is tough to beat. Refuge of the Roads was released in 1984 and showed a maturity with its built-in edits of movies clips woven into the stage performances. Mitchell's love of the seemingly mundane but beautiful occurrences enhance the concert footage making it the work of art that it is. You get 13 stage performances including a warm rendition of Woodstock. Joni looks as if she is enjoying herself immensely during these performances which makes this quite encompassing. If you're a Joni Mitchell fan, this Shout! Factory release is an important addition to a library of her albums, most of which are highly recommended. This DVD is presented in full screen and the audio choices include a 5.1 mix with a 2.0 PCM stereo. The short of it? I love this DVD. I've already watched it 5 times... all the way through.


Tom Dowd & The Language of Music Tom Dowd & The Language of Music

Mark Moorman created this incredible walk through the life of great music producer, Tom Dowd. The A-list of Dowd's work include some of the world's best albums by music's most enduring acts including Eric Clapton, Cream, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wishbone Ash, Otis Redding, and many more. Dowd's effectiveness as a top-notch producer was his ability to tap into the artist's vision often before the band did themselves. The fact that his skills cut across many genres of music reveals the depth of his skill and his love for all music. Certainly, his life provided plenty of exposure, as this film divulges. He sat in a studio as early as age 7. His innovations, as engineer, did more to advance the art of recording than any single producer of his time.

This film lovingly treads through every moment of Dowd's life yet always coming back to his accomplishments. Anecdotal and historical, this DVD becomes an essential addition to the serious music collector's library, especially for those savvy enough to recognize the great producers and engineers of our musical legacy. The coolness of this film is Tom Dowd's own narration. He walks us through many aspects of his life as a child and as an adult.

This DVD provides some incredible extra features in addition to the core film. There are over 80 minutes of bonus footage that includes deleted scenes and interview clips. This movie by Chris Blackwell's (Island) Palm Pictures is an important document that honors not only the art of music production but also the man who single-handedly reshaped recording techniques, many of which are still conceptually used to this day.

This DVD provides audio at Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo with video presentation at 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Dowd.


The Jam: The Complete Jam The Jam: The Complete Jam

We've reviewed this title before here on The Digital Bits but it bears to be brought out again as a 'blast from the past'. Why? Well, good things shouldn't go too long without being revisited. Imagine never watching Citizen Kane (gasp!) or The Godfather (groan!) again. Or even digging out any of the Indiana Jones or Alien Quad for a re-watch. Yep, you got my point. So what makes this set so special? Simple! It's what we all want for any of our favorite bands, a complete collection of videos, TV appearances, live footage, and extras like a video scrapbook and several featurettes rounding out a near perfect chronicle of one of the late 70s, early 80s influentials. Merging punk with past styles and brewing a unique flavor of new avenue music, The Jam will be remembered for their quality song writing and cool presentation of said music. Not to mention, Paul Weller's ability to write great pop songs. It's all in full screen, but you get it in Dolby Digital 5.1 for audio. Labels should take note and give us sets like this for every band the masses clamor for. Let's see... Bill wants The Police, Matt wants Faces, Wishbone Ash, The Band, Grateful Dead, and so on while Adam and Todd want...


It's always great to stop in and give some small insight into something that I have that works well in the player, something that spins magically into our consciousness and leaves lasting impressions. That's exactly what I try to bring to your attention - DVDs that can be timeless or have great material on them even if it's buried. Of course, I'll tell you where it is.

I have 3 free copies of Greendale to give away. Want one? Here's how we'll do it. The first three people who can remind me what MY favorite Neil Young song is will get the a DVD of Greendale. Drop me a line at the e-mail address below. Until next time, keep the music spinning.

By the way, if you have a music DVD that you'd like me to know about... please, by all means, bring it to my attention. Life is too short to miss the best. And I can't be everywhere at once. Next issue, I have Roxy Music and John Entwistle DVDs to talk about. I'm also going to bring one out from the past... but I'll leave that a secret until then. Ciao!

Matt Rowe
mattrowe@thedigitalbits.com


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