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  Directed by
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  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
James Last - A World of Music
Warner Music/Warner Music . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . E . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Have you ever had one of those horrendous recurring nightmares where you’re trapped in a lift with a muzak version of The Girl From Ipanema looping endlessly, over and over and over again and sending you steadily stark raving bonkers? Well, that’s kind of the effect James Last – A World of Music had on this reviewer.

Yes, I know we should always try to be somewhat agnostic as far as music reviews are concerned, keep an open mind and all that, however my hate/hate relationship with James Last started when I was quite young. With a stepfather-to-be whose collection of bachelor platters featured an approximate ratio of ten James Last LPs to one by any other artists, and thus having my ears abused regularly by such, it became quite clear to my six year old sensibilities that this James Last guy must have emanated from somewhere closely approximating musical hell. Kind of a Bacharach for dorky losers who found Burt’n’Hal’s genius-like canon of works far too challenging – or in other words they were the Sex Pistols to Last's The Eagles.

Now that I have the man’s fans baying for my blood in a big, shiny goblet... This concert was recorded in 2002 for television, at the Stadthalle Zwickau in Germany. Despite being an accomplished musician and songwriter in his youth (quite a while back), James Last now does a sort of bandleader thing – pretty much just ambling about the stage, punching the air on occasion for effect and introducing songs, whilst his massive assemblage of musicians – they could almost take on the audience one on one – set about murdering all manner of songs ranging from pop to jazz to folk to rock to classical to polka. Few are blessed with vocals, so we end up with such pop song royalty as ABBA’s Mamma Mia, SOS, Fernando, Gimme Gimme Gimme and Dancing Queen given the old Otis treatment (that’s as in “elevator”, not “Redding”) with, for the most part, a dreadful squawking saxomophone echoing the vocal line. If Benny and Bjorn were dead (which, thank goodness they are not) they’d be spinning in their graves faster than the fastest of spinny things and popping Mr Last firmly atop their “to be haunted” lists - and all this despite their apparent friendship...

I really shouldn’t go on because to be honest I can’t think of much good to say about this – and remember, it’s personal opinion – however it must be mentioned that the audience have a wild time – lighters ahoy, conga lines and all – the band themselves also appear to be in mighty high spirits and Mr Last himself does come across as quite the jolly old fellow. So, if you too cower at the thought of music from the dark, evil, pointy-teethed side such as that of Bacharach and David - or have a nagging need to relive your ultra-daggy late ‘60s/early ‘70s bachelorhood days – then this may just be your cup of tea (as it will be if you're a fan of course, in which case, well, good luck to you!)

And maestro, the full horror, erm sorry, “track listing” is...

Fanfare
Besame Mucho/A Gay Ranchero/Volare
Sunset at Flamingo Park
Mamma Mia
Rock Around the Clock/See You Later, Alligator/Hound Dog
Hero
Always on My Mind
Geschichten Aus Dem Wiener Wald
Der Mai Ist Gekommen
Fernando
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Czardas Von Monti
Anneliese/Schutzenliesel/Lustig Ist Das Zigeunerleben
Dancing Queen
Nature Boy
Happy Music/Mexican Hat Dance
S.O.S.
Reel Express
Orange Blossom Special
Lean On Me
Fett Polka/Herz Schmerz Polka/Sportpalast Polka
Doo Wah Diddy/Hey Baby
You’ll Be in My Heart

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

Shot on video and presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced), generally alles klar, save for a little wanting in the old detail in the dark department. This is a minor niggle, however, and shouldn’t put anybody off. Otherwise colour is suitably colourful and accurate for something staged under all manner of coloured lights, and the layer change, which is between songs, is noticeable but unavoidable.

Three audio mixes are here to give three alternative ways of hearing the concert (restraint...) The Dolby Digital stereo does a pedestrian enough job, but is the closest you’ll get to the sound of those crappy old albums, whilst two 5.1 mixes – Dolby Digital and DTS – offer up more of a surrounding experience, with the rears used as they should be for crowd noise and ambience, with the band’s emanations quite firmly stuck up front. The subwoofwoof gets nary a look in, and yet again it’s a case of there being very little to discern between the two beefier audio tracks.

Other than animated menus, the only extra is a decent length Making of documentary which runs for 22:49. In Dolby Digital stereo with 1.78:1 (enhanced) vision to accompany it, this features interviews with all manner of the many, many, many band members and others in James’ orbit, along with the man himself, mixed in with a bit of behind the scenes stuff and interviews with some of the punters. To sum it up, it seems that everybody loves James and he come across as a very generous man.

Meanwhile I’ve experienced the bitter taste of hell impaled on a muzakal staff – and it came in the form of a polka...


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  •   And I quote...
    "I’ve experienced the bitter taste of hell impaled on a muzakal staff – and it came in the form of a polka..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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