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Meeting of the Spirits - Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 55 mins . E . PAL


Paco De Lucia, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell - three names that probably do not mean much to the average music lover, but those into either jazz, jazz fusion or flamenco guitar will not only know these names, but also know that they are three of the most gifted virtuosos that ever plucked a six-string. In 1979 and 1980, the trio combined their talents and performed a series of concerts across Europe. The Meeting of the Spirits DVD is the recording of their 1979 show at the Royal Albert Hall, and finds all three not only in fine form, but thoroughly enjoying the experience.

The three perform in various combinations, mixing jazz with flamenco in this 55 minute, five-song performance that highlights their individual and combined talents. It is not an overly visual show, although the camerawork is pretty sound and anyone wanting to get a good look at lightning fingers in action will be pleased to know that they will get plenty of opportunities. Neither is there an over abundance of banter between the three, or with the audience, but the emphasis of the show is clearly on their playing.

The careers of all three players have been much admired before and since, but it is these performances that are the best remembered by those who have seen and heard them. It is not the kind of show that will knock your socks off visually, but one which musically will leave you wondering how the hell one man, or in this case three, could play a guitar with so much speed, skill and style.


The warning that flashes up on screen before the feature starts is ominous. You know the kind of thing, where you are alerted that this feature is archival footage and is not in the best shape and you just wonder how bad it can be. Well, rest a little easier right now, for the video and audio is nowhere near as bad as you may expect. It is in a full frame aspect ratio and looks quite soft by modern standards, and it is possible that the transfer was sourced from a pristine VHS copy. Colouring is a little sloppy in that there is some bleeding and evidence of noise and some grain, but all are generally within acceptable limits. There are no real artefacts to speak of, and the close-up shots actually look quite good which is handy for those studying the fingerboard work of the three amigos. There is some very minor flare and glare when the light catches shiny objects, and there is some mild aliasing. Black levels are generally good though there is some evidence of noise, and shadow detail is fine.

As with video, any fears of a shocking audio are mostly unfounded, although the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is one of those 'fake' audios that has been stretched out from a stereo source. Generally, the sound comes from the front speakers with the rears used for filling up the room with sound and you will need to get up quite close to really notice their influence. There is not a lot of noticeable separation of the guitars, and the subwoofer is not used. Whilst there is no hiss to speak of, or crackles or other audio glitches, the overall sound is a little muddy with no really clear highs and some muffled and deadened lows. This is not the worst audio transfer you will have heard, but will fall well short of being the best.

The extras are listed on the rear cover as Madman Propaganda and Selected Discography, but I’ll be damned if I can find any discography. This leaves us with four DVD trailers, for Charles Mingus, John Lee Hooker - That's My Story, Chet Baker - Live at Ronnie Scott's and a very loud promo for Santana - Down Under.

If it is a cool, jazz-inspired, flamenco-tinged hour that you looking for, the guitars of John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell and Paco De Lucia will fit the bill nicely.

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  •   And I quote...
    "The Three Amigos meet MTV Unplugged..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
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          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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