I had to defer to a higher authority in reviewing this disc. The majority of the reviewers on DVD.net are young to middle-aged males. I wonder why this disc was not snapped up pronto by these guys familiar with Christina, Britney Spears and Mandy Moore and other teenaged pop femmes?
Anyway I had a problem reviewing this disc so I had to ask a young female friend to help me smooth this along. I could not find much information about the actual concert so I had to ask her; she says it was a Christmas special to promote the release of a new album. It runs a scant 64 minutes and this short length has a positive effect on the quality of the soundtrack.
She thought this disc was great; there's a VHS release that she wanted and this one looks and sounds clearer than she thought possible. The presentation on the big screen and 5.1 makes her feel like she's 'there'. She was entralled with the interviews and personal details and even the 'Sound of Music' track. Looks like multiple viewings coming up.
Ok enough of that - this is what I didn't like; the useless 'behind the scenes' self-congradulatory crap, her incredible ability to spin the worldly bon mottes to the audience, the use of young children singing in 'Climb Every Mountain' which is so sickeningly sweet I had to hit 'chapter skip' pronto. Her annoying laugh got to me too but someone's telling me to shut up right now because she loves the audience banter... uh, gag me with a spoon.
What I did like was the Spanish language tracks which have an energy that is sometimes missing from the mainstream radio fodder. 'Falsas Esperanzas' is probably the best track of the lot. Her rendition of Etta James' "At Last" is passable. Intelligent use of classical, brass, jazz and backing too.
Here's a track list:
- Genie In A Bottle
- Come On Over Baby
- Mom & Friends / Trust
- What A Girl Wants
- So Emotional with Lil' Bow Wow
- The Making of 'Come On Over Baby' video
- I Turn To You
- At Last
- Behind The Scenes on Tour
- Contigo En La Distancia
- Climb Every Mountain
- Choreography/Behind the Scenes
- Falsas Esperanzas
- Alright Now
- Merry Christmas, Baby with Dr John
- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas with Brian McKnight
- Christmas Time
- End Credits
The transfer is 4:3 PAL and of excellent standard. The concert is shot very professionally - I'm sure I've heard of Larry Jordan (director) and Ken Erlich (executive producer) but I'm blank on music production. The shooting style is not as flamboyant as the Prince spectacular and I would say that it's edited like your typical MTV special.
The picture is quite flawless with excellent colour, contrast and smoothness. Skin tones and blacks are excellent. Exceptional sharpness. Nothing much else to say.
Lemme illustrate with some examples. There is some use of a fog machine and the individual wisps of smoke are easily discernable and clearly translucent. There is a video wall and a number of traditional and classical instruments and they all look spot on. However I felt that 1.85 anamorphic would present the wide stage more suitably.
The sound deserves some words. There are three tracks, firstly a Dolby 2.0 @ 224k/s that is barely listenable. It's lifeless and inoffensive and sounds EXTREMELY compressed and mp3-like. Bye Bye.
There's a Dolby 5.1 @ 448k/s and it's the 'benchmark' track as it were - the disc has it as default track chosen. Reasonably good fidelity and it initially sounds the best due to its slightly elevated volume.
It is substantially better than the 2.0 track with immediately noticeable treble that the stereo track seems to remove. This elevation of frequency range comes at a cost; it is harsh, grating and ultimately fatiguing. If you turn it up, it gets worse. The vocals seem a bit forward too. It's also very dead vis a vis soundstage with the sound emanating very directly from your speakers and with an artificial timbre. It's ok if you stepped from the 2.0 track but...
...it pales in comparison to the dts 5.1 track at an enormous 1,536k/s - yes, full bitrate. This is so superior to the Dolby tracks you'll forget they exist. A much more rounded and relaxing soundtrack that passes on more of a 'live' feel and a higher impression that there is an orchestra playing. Bass seems much more rich and full bodied while maintaining the same levels as the Dolby track. Vocals are also improved dramatically sounding more natural and well integrated with the music. The localisation you get with the Dolby track is gone.
Soundstage is probably the biggest winner with all the instruments 'clicking' into place as you see them on the screen and not seemingly all perched on top of your speakers. It can also be played at extreme volume without a hint of harshness. It's really not fair is it with over three times the bitrate is it? It would be described as 'transparent' and fundamentally identical to the uncompressed masters at this bitrate.
Like the Prince disc, the audio button works so you can do comparos easily.
The subwoofer is pretty much silent throughout. The rears are used for audience, reverb, some pans and often to accentuate the use of classical instruments including a harp (!) and brass section. It's not too objectionable in its use unlike other 5.1 music discs.
Extras. Well happy day, it's Castor Troy, extras on a Warner Vision DVD! There are four music videos; three in a Spanish language and one of those sappy 'Christmas Song' numbers. You can choose three different soundtracks for these but you'll get Dolby 2.0 @ 224k/s every time.
There's also a free non-permanent tattoo that says to everyone you love Christina so I know where you can stick that.
Well that tattoo brings the 'extras' rating from a '4' to a '10' I do believe.. never thought I'd live to see a Warner Vision title go from zero to hero.
Maybe they should have given away a free Kleenex instead?
Here's her site if you wanna knock yourself out: