Etta James really should need no introduction. She is one of the foremost jazz voices, easily amongst the greats and a constant source of influence for past and current female vocalists. This performance is a bit of a mix with her trademark title (“At Last”, which is the brilliant) to some Joe Cocker and Steppenwolf tracks.
There are no details on the cover or disc as to the venue or year in which this was recorded. This is a large scale performance with numerous backing instruments, so those of you looking for a more ‘intimate’ jazz setting will be disappointed.
- Come to Mama
- I Just Want to Make Love to You
- Born to Be Wild
- I’d Rather Go Blind
- All the Way Down
- Breaking Up Somebody’s Home
- At Last
- You Can Leave Your Hat On
- Something’s Got a Hold On Me
- Your Good Thing is About to End
- Rock Me Baby
- Love & Happiness
- Take Me to the River
- My Funny Valentine
- Sugar on the Floor
Strangely the box says this is full frame, when actually it is very fine 16x9 widescreen, perhaps 1.78 or 1.85 (neither here nor there). The nightclub setting means it is very dark, with a nice sense of shadow and solid blacks. Colours are very bright though, with Etta’s red sequined top a high. All instruments are well rendered. Skin tones are excellent and it’s actually quite a flawless, if undistinguished, visual presentation. There are some artistic licenses used by the director, but all are done intelligently and camera angles are well chosen. Stage lighting could perhaps be a bit better with less use of the blue and red tints that tend to wash out the ensemble. Etta, though, is and always will be the focus here.
There are three tracks, Dolby Digital stereo at 256k/s, Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448k/s and DTS 5.1 at 1,536k/s. All the tracks are quite impressive really, even the stereo track could be described as ‘CD like’. All of them have that sheen of an impressive digital recording. The DTS track makes itself known with perhaps a better representation of the numerous instruments on the stage and a less synthetic tone compared to the Dolby 5.1 presentation. There is also a much more realistic ‘jazz’ environment with less 'pasted on' audience and hall reverbrations. Surround use is spare. Bass has a bit more body, trebles (such as cymbals) sound sweeter. Vocal timbre on both tracks is impressive, however. Like the video, the audio sets a pleasingly high standard. There are no extras, which is par for the course really on such releases.
The disc is rather flawless technically and the lack of extras I can live with. I would suggest you have a spin of this disc before you buy, as I feel that perhaps casual jazz fans will need to see if they like the artistic performance before parting with the money. This is not something I feel comfortable writing about, but the performance here did not floor me like other discs I’ve seen - however this is more personal preference than anything else. Some songs hit the mark, others are less well realised. Like many compact discs, I can only salvage half a listening per session. This is one of them which is perhaps par for many discs, just not the very high calibre many of us are used to on DVD.