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Reviews » HD DVD Reviews » Muriel Anderson: A Guitarscape Planet (HD DVD)
Muriel Anderson: A Guitarscape Planet (HD DVD)
Concert Hot Spot // Unrated // June 27, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 16, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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A Guitarscape Planet features an eighty minute live performance by Muriel Anderson, an accomplished guitarist with a style that straddles the line separating folk, classical, and bluegrass. Joined at times by drummer Paul Wertico, bassist Nicki Parrott, and cellist Julie Adams, Anderson alternates between a traditional six-string acoustic guitar and a thirteen-string harp guitar for these twenty-five instrumentals, the majority of which have not appeared on any of her previous albums.

1.  Two Shores 14.  Sundown
2.  Arioso 15.  Nola
3.  Moonscape 16.  Endeavour
4.  Prelude to a New Morning 17.  Flying Rays
5.  Sunsets 18.  Waterfalls
6.  Stroll in the Sand 19.  Crystal Horizon
7.  Suite African Day 20.  The Peak
8.  Quiet Pond 21.  Great Blue
9.  Lion Kings 22.  Living Out a Dream
10.  Vegans 23.  Shark Fin Soup
11.  Born Enemies 24.  Calm Before the Storm
12.  Wild Dog Days 25.  Owl's Psalm
13.  Pachyderms  


Many of these compositions were heavily inspired by nature, and intermingled throughout the concert footage are high-definition clips of the imagery suggested by the songs' titles. It does seem somewhat strange to see a guitarist surrounded by microphones, her fingers deftly moving up and down the fretboard, and then fade to a hippopotamus yawning. I'm not entirely sold on the concept, but these transitions aren't particularly jarring or distracting, although the nature footage is of greatly varying quality. Presumably culled from various public domain resources, the footage of lions and hyenas look as if they could've come from a nicely budgeted documentary, but the shots used for "Shark Fin Soup", for example, look like someone stood over a shallow tank of nurse sharks at Marineland with an HDV camcorder.

That's a minor concern, though, as A Guitarscape Planet's emphasis is placed squarely on the music. Anderson, the first woman to have won the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship, plays with such melodic precision that her guitar is more than just a lead instrument. Her fretwork has such a lyrical quality that it renders vocal accompaniment almost moot. I wasn't sure how I'd react to an eighty minute instrumental set, especially considering that this is fairly far removed from what I'd consider to be my usual type of music, but Anderson's songs are so beautiful and entrancing that they unrelentingly held my attention throughout. Since low-bitrate mp3 files speak louder than words, rather than continue to suffer through my awkward descriptions of Anderson's music, listen to some of the minute-long excerpts on her website, several of which are featured on this HD DVD.

Video: As was the case with Concert Hot Spot's previous HD DVD, A Guitarscape Planet was shot on high-definition video and is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this MPEG-2 encoded disc. It's a considerably stronger presentation than A View from Space with Heavenly Music, although a fair amount of video noises buzzes around the background throughout much of the performance, and the majority of wider shots have a tinge of softness to them. When the camera closes in, though, the image is remarkably sharp and detailed -- I was especially impressed by how clearly I could see the wood grain in Anderson's guitars -- ranking with some of the best concerts I've watched in high-definition on cable and perhaps even a notch or two above that. The nature footage interspersed throughout is much more variable but generally looks decent enough.

With so few shot-on-video HD DVDs to date, I'm still working out a rating scale and am probably being overly stingy with the number of stars listed in the sidebar of this review. Although A Guitarscape Planet is somewhat inconsistent, the video quality in its weakest moments still isn't particularly different than many of the concerts I've seen on channels like HDNet, and I'd say I was pleased overall.

Audio: A Guitarscape Planet features audio in stereo and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, although there isn't much of a sense of separation across the different channels in the 5.1 mix. Even when the performance shifts away from the solo acoustic material and towards a four-piece band, all of the instrumentation is mirrored across the three front speakers, and the surrounds largely sound like more of the same with some reverb generously applied. I wasn't especially impressed by the mix, but the clarity of the recording is above-average, with the guitar and cello being the most dominant instruments. (The upright bass and sparse percussion aren't nearly as prominent, which I'd imagine is intentional.)

Supplements: None.

Conclusion: Although I've read some opinions to the contrary, I found Muriel Anderson's A Guitarscape Planet to be a predominately nice looking high-definition concert with a set of soothing, lovely acoustic instrumentals. I would suggest seeking out some of Anderson's music beforehand, not buying this blindly simply because it's the only concert available on HD DVD at the moment, but especially if you enjoy the skilled guitarist's genre-fusing style, A Guitarscape Planet is Recommended.

The images in this review were lifted from Muriel Anderson's official website and aren't necessarily representative of the way this HD DVD looks.
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