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Reviews » HD DVD Reviews » James Taylor: MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute (HD DVD)
James Taylor: MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute (HD DVD)
Rhino // Unrated // November 14, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Dvdempire]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 4, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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For the past seventeen years, MusiCares has honored artists for their extraordinary musical achievements and their dedication to humanitarian causes. Singer/songwriter James Taylor received the organization's nod as their 'Person of the Year' in 2006, and the tribute taped during the week of that year's Grammy Awards is now being released on HD DVD.

The tribute consists almost entirely of musical performances, featuring covers of Taylor's music by artists he's inspired in his nearly four decades as a recording artist. The selection of songs concentrates most heavily on his earliest work -- nearly half of the songs are from Taylor's first three albums -- with only Bruce Springsteen's intense solo acoustic performance of 1979's "Millworker" and Taylor lending his own distinctive baritone to his 1991 Martin Luther King tribute "Shed a Little Light" turning their eyes past the mid-'70s.

There's a warm sincerity to the artists who take the stage to honor the singer/songwriter, both in their heartfelt introductions and their musical performances. Backed by an exceptional group of musicians, these renditions of Taylor's songs are often injected with the artists' own sensibilities rather than by-the-numbers covers. Cheech Marin and Jimmy Buffett also chime in with some gentle quips about Taylor and his extensive career, and the evening is closed out by a set of performances by Taylor himself, including a solo acoustic performance of "Fire and Rain".

The songs and performers featured in this hour and a half long HD DVD are:
  • The Dixie Chicks: Shower the People
  • Bonnie Raitt: Rainy Day Man
  • India.Arie: The Secret o' Life
  • Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and Sheryl Crow: Mexico
  • Sting: You Can Close Your Eyes
  • Dr. John and Taj Mahal: Everybody Has the Blues
  • Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas: Carolina in My Mind
  • Keith Urban: Country Road
  • Bruce Springsteen: Millworker
  • Carole King: You've Got a Friend
  • James Taylor: Shed a Little Light
  • James Taylor: How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
  • James Taylor: Fire and Rain
Proceeds from this release go to benefit the MusiCares Foundation, which provides assistance for musical artists in times of need.

Video: Following a partially upconverted introduction, the 1.78:1 high-definition presentation looks terrific. The tribute is shot and lit like a TV special rather than a concert film, and although that's not a style I'm especially fond of, the colorful image is as crisp and detailed as any video-sourced HD I've seen on cable or over-the-air, if not a notch or two above. A couple of scattered shots aren't quite in focus, although that's obviously not a fault specific to this HD DVD. Some of the backgrounds also have a slightly noisy, unstable appearance, something that could likely be attributed to the original photography rather than the VC-1 compression on this disc. A very strong first showing from Rhino.

Audio: The James Taylor tribute features an uncompressed LPCM soundtrack to go with the expected 5.1 mix, although strangely enough, the lossless audio is in stereo only. I found myself leaning towards the stereo track despite the lack of any activity in the surround channels. It's an exceptional mix, nicely balanced with the instrumentation from the small army of musicians on stage rendered cleanly and distinctly. The expansive dynamic range is particularly impressive in the lower registers, delivering smooth, substantial bass.

I did stumble upon several audio dropouts throughout the early stretches of the special, although I couldn't reproduce them by giving those moments a second spin. Admittedly, the hubs on the case had snapped off during shipping and left the disc floating around en route, but I don't see any scuffs or scratches, and I've read reports of similar problems on some of the message boards I read.

Along with the stereo and 5.1 soundtracks, this HD DVD also includes an extensive selection of subtitles.

Supplements: None. An insert describing MusiCares' mission is tucked into the HD DVD case, and the disc itself includes a set of widescreen animated menus.

Other Reviews: Louis Howard penned a much more detailed write-up when this tribute was released on DVD.
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