Movie: Musical tastes vary more than almost any other aspect of entertainment today and no reviewer is going to convince a fan that his favorite performer is any less talented, nor is said reviewer going to change the mind of a person that has made up their mind about the relative merits of a group; no matter how skilled his writing style may be. That said, some of you will like listening to the sultry heat of Kylie Minogue or Pat Benatar while others will enjoy the Latin sounds of Selena, the Middle-Eastern themes of Sarah Brightman or the techno-pop droning of Berlin. Each has their own merits, contrary to what professional critics might try to suggest and the same holds true for the soulful sound of a niche band's latest release, Everything But The Girl: Like The Deserts Miss The Rain.
The group has had some assistance over the years but the focal point has always been singer Tracey Thorn and instrumental vocalist Ben Watts. Together, these two Brits managed to at once captivate their audiences with a deeper sound than was popular throughout most of the 1980's and 90's and drive home a message or two that could be ignored or embraced as desired. In the USA, they had few hits that topped the charts but measuring success in terms of pure numbers has always been an exercise in futility since anyone can be glossed over by corporate marketing machines in order to sell more product. No, Everything But The Girl was far from the corporate pop pushed down the throats of the consumer, like many of their contemporaries. While they did capture a thriving market in the dance scene, they were often ignored by radio and video channels alike, having to settle for a niche audience that still manages to grow with the band on something of a hiatus. Ben still does mixes of other artists and Tracey raises her kids but each find the time to play to their muse as time is available, much to the delight of those fans they've managed to captivate over the decades.
The release for this review is a collection of a number of videos, demonstration tracks, some live songs, and a chance to make your own version of an EBTG video. I only had a screener copy so I can't say if there was a paper insert, fancy artwork or anything included in the DVD case but fans will likely want to pick up a copy of this one since it had quite a variety of material to enjoy. Here's a listing of the tracks included on the DVD:
3) The Only Living Boy In New York
5) Love Is Here Where I Live
6) Five Fathoms
7) Each And Every One
9) Walking Wounded
Live: These three tracks were recorded live at The Forum, London November 1999 with Tracey Thorn doing vocals, Ben Watt on keyboards/guitar/vocals, Martin Ditcham on drums, and John Mackenzie on bass guitar.
1) Before Today
Mix: This was like a game where you could mix your own video for Temperamental using footage shot on the Temperamental Tour in 1999. It used the pull's timewarp mix for the audio track and was kind of interesting how the DVD used the camera angles feature to achieve this feat.
Demos: These were three demonstration audio tracks accompanied by a number of photographs of the band from their careers.
1) Frozen River: Recorded at home, 1991.
2) Mirrorball: Recorded in New York, 1995.
3) Flipside: Recorded at home, 1995.
I've always enjoyed the group's music as much for the beat as the lyrical quality of Tracey's voice but upon checking out the EBTG Website, I found much more to appreciate as well. In short, the group may not be churning out albums like the latest pop sensation but the back catalog of songs is certainly more extensive than most people in the USA would have guessed since so many of their works haven't been released here or are out of print. I think Everything But The Girl: Like The Deserts Miss The Rain is a step to correct some of the disparity in what is available on the market and as such, deserves a rating of Recommended to fans and music lovers alike. It didn't have enough material to cover all aspects of the bands history for my liking but it was a good start.
Picture: The picture was presented in a variety of aspect ratios, from full frame to widescreen, depending on the source material. Some of the older videos were grainy and had minor video noise but a number of them also had what amounts to cutting edge style, something lost on most video directors these days. I've seen about half of these videos over the years, either on cable or at clubs, and they never looked as good as they did here (of course, I'm relying on memory for the older ones).
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital English, as most of the material was recorded. I've seen this one listed as having a 5.1 audio track but my copy was limited to the 2.0 track (and I doubt the DVD had multiple releases with different tracks). It was sonically pretty solid too, with perhaps the CDs sounding somewhat better in most cases.
Extras: There really wasn't any extras that weren't included as part of the feature. There might have been a paper insert or a limited edition CD in some versions of the release but not with mine.
Final Thoughts: I like this band and their music for a number of reasons and think the DVD was an important step forward in completing many collections. EBTG was never my favorite band but I've never thought of them as anything but talented over the years I've been listening. The DVD wasn't perfect but it was worth checking out for anyone that likes contemporary music in a host of forms. I'm glad it was more than a collection of videos and I can only hope that the group will remaster their music in the future.