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HEAR MUSIC

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Martyn Atkins
Cast:
James Taylor, Carole King
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
In November of 1970 James Taylor and Carole King first performed together at the Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, California. Taylor had just released his debut album for the Beatles' newly formed Apple Records and King was finding her way as a first time solo performer even though by then she was a famous songwriter with a string of hits for other artists. When they returned to the club for a two-week co-headlining run in 1971 their lives were somewhat different. That summer Taylor's "Fire and Rain" was topping the charts and King's landmark Tapestry was on its way to making her a music superstar. Thirty-six years later, in November 2007, James Taylor, Carole King and members of their renowned original band "The Section" (featuring guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russell Kunkel) returned to the Troubadour for a three-night, six-show run to celebrate the venue's 50th anniversary. Those historic shows are documented in Live at the Troubadour, a special 2-disc CD/DVD. This remarkable recording, culled from these unforgettable shows, features 15 songs and 75 minutes of pristine video and audio including stunning performances of the pair's most beloved hits such as Carole King's "So Far Away," "It's Too Late," and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" as well as James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind," "Sweet Baby James," and "Fire and Rain," to name just a few.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
Audio:
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Subtitles:
None
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/4/2010

Bonus:
• Bonus CD
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Carole King & James Taylor: Live At The Troubador (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 17, 2010)

If a conglomeration of indie acts hadn’t chosen the ironic touring name of the “Monsters of Folk”, the 2010 pairing of James Taylor and Carole King could’ve gone out as the “Monsters of Light Rock”. The tour takes two legendary 1970s singer/songwriters and plops them on a double bill.

Before King and Taylor hit the road, they did six shows over three nights at LA’s Troubadour in November 2007. Imaginatively entitled Live at the Troubadour, this DVD offers a document of those initial shows.

The DVD’s 15-song setlist provides a mix of King and Taylor tunes. In the Carole camp, we find “So Far Away”, “It’s Too Late”, “Smackwater Jack”, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, and “I Feel the Earth Move”. On the Taylor side of things, we discover “Blossom”, “Machine Gun Kelly”, “Carolina on My Mind”, “Something in the Way She Moves”, “Country Road”, “Fire and Rain”, “Sweet Baby James”. The King-penned “You’ve Got a Friend”, “Up on the Roof” and “You Can Close Your Eyes” boast shared vocals from both singers.

As I noted when I reviewed the DVD for Taylor’s Live at the Beacon Theatre, I don’t think it’s fair for me to criticize music that I knew I didn’t like well before I plopped the DVD in my player. I’ll avoid much comment on the tunes played here, though I will say I feel the King material works better than the Taylor stuff. That’s largely because her tracks show more life. Taylor is so mellow that the tunes often threaten to blend into one long piece of musical Ambien, but King displays the poppy side from her Brill Building days. That helps give her numbers a boost in energy and make them more enjoyable, at least to someone who doesn’t much care for either act.

The musicians certainly reproduce the songs well. I may not care for the tunes themselves, but I can’t fault the quality of the performances. Taylor’s singing remains smooth and clean, and King sounds fine. Her voice hasn’t aged quite as well as Taylor’s, but then again, she never was a great singer. Overall, I think she does well here, and I’m sure fans will be pleased with the renditions on display.

As a concert video, Troubadour generally satisfies. On the positive side, it’s almost as restrained as the music itself. You won’t find any annoying hyperactive editing or visual gimmicks, and crowd shots stay at a minimum, so the program boasts a good focus on the stage where it belongs.

However, that doesn’t make this a totally terrific visual presentation. My biggest complaint comes from the semi-documentary style chosen by director Martyn Atkins. A lot of the show goes with loose handheld camerawork, and we often see the operators attempt to focus on the fly.

This becomes more of a distraction than anything else, though I do suspect the nature of the venue may’ve prompted some of the visual choices. A pretty small club, the Troubadour doesn’t leave a lot of room for cameramen to set up – at least not unless they want to completely block the audience. The visual results on display here may’ve simply been the best compromise possible to shoot in a cramped space.

In any case, the camerawork doesn’t become tremendously off-putting; even with the quirks, Troubadour is superior to many of its hyperactively cut peers. The music on this DVD isn’t my cup of tea, but the disc reproduces the concert well and will be satisfying to fans of Carole King and James Taylor.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Carole King and James Taylor: Live at the Troubadour appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I felt very pleased with this excellent presentation.

Sharpness was exceedingly good for DVD, as very few soft spots emerged. The only ill-defined shots occurred due to poor focus; perhaps to give the show a more “on the fly” feel, it featured a semi-documentary feel, so more than a few examples occur in which we watched the camera search for focus.

If I drop those examples from the equation, clarity was very good. Granted, it helped that a lot of the concert went with close-ups, but wider shots looked great too. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and edge haloes failed to appear. Source flaws looked absent, and I saw no issues related to artifacting, noise, or other distractions.

Most of the color variation came from lighting, and even that usually stayed locked onto the earth tones found in the performers’ outfits. Taylor sports a light blue shirt, but otherwise we saw dark tones; this wasn’t exactly a Technicolor extravaganza. The hues looked well developed and accurate within the subdued palette. Blacks were deep and dense, while low-light shots came across as clear and appropriately visible. I had virtually no complaints about this excellent transfer.

In terms of audio, Troubadour provided a very good DTS 5.1 mix. As one expects from a concert presentation, the soundfield remained focused on the front, where they showed strong stereo imaging. Vocals appeared firmly set in the middle. The instruments were accurately located and they demonstrated nice breadth and delineation. I could distinguish the various instruments with ease, as they were placed in a natural and clear manner. They also blended together smoothly to create a forward soundstage that consistently created a real and involving setting.

As for the surrounds, they mostly featured crowd noise. They added a little reinforcement of the music, but not to a substantial degree. The track didn’t go from any “free-form” use of the surrounds such as the presentation of specific instrumentation there. The soundfield went with a pretty standard concert approach.

Audio quality was solid. The vocals worked fine, as they replicated the desired impressions well. The rest of the track also showed good clarity and a dynamic tone. The instruments remained crisp and vivid during the concert. Bass response was quite good, as the concert boasted consistently deep, rich low-end. Taken as a whole, the audio succeeded.

In terms of bonus materials, two items appear, neither of which shows up on the DVD itself. A second disc provides a CD version of the concert. It includes exactly the same 15-song setlist as the DVD, so we don’t lose anything here. The CD is a nice extra – and maybe even more appealing than the DVD, since I expect more people like to simply listen to concerts than to watch them, especially when the performers in question aren’t particularly visual.

The package also tosses in an 18-page booklet. It presents an essay from writer Bill Flanagan about the Taylor/King relationship over the years, and it also features photos old and new. It gives us some nice retrospective information.

By the way, I attempted to find out if the CD and DVD replicate an entire 2007 King/Taylor concert. Alas, I was unable to locate a setlist, so it’s unclear if any songs go missing here. From information I found online, though, it appears they kept these shows short, so the DVD/CD may well replicate an entire concert.

Since their current co-headlining tour is doing very good business, apparently Carole King and James Taylor still boast a nice fanbase. If the concert tickets are too rich for your blood, Love at the Troubadour offers a nice compromise, as it gives us a quality presentation of earlier King/Taylor performances. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio along with a bonus CD of the concert. Across the board, this is a solid release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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