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Etta James: Live at Montreux 1993 Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: None
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: August 28, 2012
  • List Price: $19.98

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:4/5]

Etta James was a true R&B legend and when her light was extinguished this past January, the music world became a darker place. Forget about Beyoncé’s lame portrayal of Etta in the screen tribute to blues label Chess Records (released as Cadillac Records). For a quarter of a century, the real EJ, accompanied by a changing cast of sidemen (and they are mostly quite good), made annual pilgrimages to the jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.  Etta James: Live at Montreux 1993 offers a good cross section of the James persona, issuing selections from concerts in 1975-78, 1989, 1990, and the full 1993 show. As expected, visual presentation and sonics vary considerably over time. What does not vary is Ms. James herself who puts on a clinic for singers who might presume to pick up the baton that she no longer carries. If you only know Etta from the much-covered “At Last,” then you really do not know her at all. This so-called James anthem is covered in a three-song medley, but as the singer readily admits, soft cooing was not what drew fans to her concerts.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Understand that the above rating is for the 1993 concert only. The video has decent detail for being 20 years old. The color palette has occasionally a bit too much of the light lavender cast for my taste. Camera work gives us a good stage perspective with plenty of Ms. James close-ups (you really get to see Etta sweat).  The earlier performances are unvarnished standard definition and no remastering can conceal the blur of detail or washing out of color. However, they are pretty exciting watches in their own right in spite of the primitive imaging.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The news for the sound is much better than it was for the video portion. Even the earliest selections sound pretty darn good in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format. Since this is a concert BD, you will be pleased with the capture of one of the most authentic R&B voices of this or any other time. Ambience is modest with most of the action up front. The 2-channel soundtrack is adequate, but lacks depth and breadth. Please note that on a number of the performances, Etta does move occasionally away from the mike so do not jump up to adjust your volume.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Given, the additional tracks from Montreux, I cannot be too upset that we did not get more extras about Etta.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

I had the good fortune to see Etta James perform more years ago than I care to remember. To say that she was a riveting stage performer is a gross understatement. That is why we should give profuse thank you’s to Eagle Rock for producing this BD. Perhaps the best way to appreciate how good EJ was over the two decades covered in this release is to listen to one of her signature numbers “I’d Rather Go Blind,” the only carry over from 1975 to 1993. Variable video and audio aside in the earlier sessions, this is blues singing at its best.  With the passing of Ruth Brown and Koko Taylor, and, now, Etta James, the female R&B stage suddenly seems quite bare.  Even if you do not normally listen to this musical genre, I can think of no better way for you to get started, or in James’ own words, “get down, ” than with Etta James Live at Montreux.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Etta James: Live at Montreux 1993 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

[amazon-product]B008I3SDNC[/amazon-product]

Purchase Etta James: Live at Montreux 1993 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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