There aren't many concerts that have been released in the Blu-Ray format.
In fact, the only one that I'm aware of is A Guitarscape Planet,
that presents classically trained guitarist Muriel Anderson playing 25
of her songs. Though not the type of music I'd first turn to when
looking for something to listen to, I quite enjoyed this soothing music
paired with appropriate visuals.
For those of you not familiar with her, Muriel Anderson is an acclaimed
guitarist who has been described as "one hell of a great player" by no
less than Les Paul. The first female National Fingerpicking Guitar
Champion, Muriel is technically capable but is also able to fill her music
with emotion and fun. A Guitarscape Planet presents the acclaimed
player in a small setting concert where she performs over two dozen of
her original compositions. The shots of her playing are intercut
with nature scenes from around the globe that help inspire the music.
For some of the songs, Muriel is joined by up to three other musicians.
These are drummer Paul Wertico from the Pat Metheny Group, Les Paul Trio
bassist Nicki Parrott and cellist, Julie Adams. I enjoyed these songs
a bit more. The solo efforts were good, but they were mainly done
in the same style and tended to blend together after a while. There
was a greater range of songs when she was joined by other musicians, and
I found myself liking these pieces the best.
The nature shots fit the music well, but some of these are better than
others. I really enjoyed the spacescapes and the images of the space
shuttle taking off, and many of the aquatic scenes were nice too.
The scenes filmed in the African savanna however were a bit jerky for my
tastes. The cameramen zoomed in a bit too much so that any little
movement of the camera was clearly noticeable and this jarring movement
ruined many of these scenes for me. Still, there are some wildlife
images that avoid this problem and they were nice to watch.
A nice disc to watch or just have on as background music, this is a
niche item but one that fans of acoustic guitar music will want to pick
up. The songs included on this disc are:
Prelude to a New Morning
Stroll in the Sand
Suite African Day
Wild Dog Days
Living Out a Dream
Shark Fin Soup
Calm Before the Storm
Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this
review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design,
and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which
creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, or even an official
announcement from Samsung.
This concert was recorded in 1080i and encoded in MPEG-2. The
1.78:1 widescreen image looks good overall, but is a bit of a mixed bag.
Some of the concert shots are excellent, especially the close-ups of Ms.
Anderson. You can clearly see the vibrations of the guitar strings
and the strands of her hair. The wide angles were less impressive,
being just a tad soft. The nature shots were a mixed bag. Some of
them were beautifully detailed and sharp, while others were rather soft
and not as three-dimensional as they could have been. The footage
of the space shuttle taking off and in flight were the best looking parts
of this disc. These scenes were exceptionally clear and really impressive.
The colors were nicely reproduced with the blacks being solid and firm
and the blue African sky looking really beautiful. There was a bit
of digital noise in some scenes but this was significantly less than appears
in most Blu-Ray DVDs. Overall not a perfect image, but a very good
This disc offers views the choice of a DD+ 5.1 audio track or a stereo
mix. I screened the concert with the 5.1 audio and spot checked the
stereo track. I usually cringe when I see a concert was mixed in
5.1, since many times the sound engineer wants to show off and includes
a lot of pans and throws odd instruments to the rear channels or something
that ends up distracting from the music itself. I'm happy to report
that the urge do this was resisted on this disc. The music came from
all five speakers with the accent placed on the front channels and the
rears sounding almost identical to what was coming out of the front.
This created a nice enveloping sound field that made it seem like the viewer
had a front row seat. When other musicians joined Muriel the mix
didn't really change that much. The other instruments weren't mixed
to one side, it was all pretty even. I was less impressed with these
songs, as it gave a flat feeling to the music. The applause at the
end of each song is thrown to the rears.
The sound quality was very good. The highs were clear and distinct,
the mids and lows were warm and clear. You could hear the sustain
from the notes fall off gradually as a song ended and the notes were nice
and distinct. The only real complaint I have is that Muriel, who
doesn't sing, wasn't mic'ed herself so the few times she does say anything
the volume is rather low.
There are no extras on this disc.
This was a nice sedate concert filled with some very good acoustical
music. Muriel Anderson looks like she's having a good time through
the concert and her enthusiasm for the music shines through. The
audio quality is very good, and the high definition image is generally
pleasing. Some of the nature scenes were a bit jerky and others were
soft, but many of the scenes, especially the ones of Endeavour taking off,
were excellent. This is recommended for fans of acoustic guitar music.