Toots & The Maytals Live
Music Video Distributors // Unrated // $19.95 // September 25, 2001
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted October 12, 2001
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
One of the unsung innovating bands of reggae, Toots and the Maytals have been touring and recording for the past forty years, creating some of the finest music of the genre without ever really reaching the lofty international acclaim of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. In fact, two of their songs from the soundtrack to Cliff's great 1973 film The Harder They Come are among the most memorable on that classic disc. "Pressure Drop", in particular, is one of the most urgent, moving, gripping songs in reggae history.

Which is all a way to lead into how disappointing the DVD Toots and the Maytals - Live! is. Shot on video at an outdoor festival at the Santa Monica Pier in 1997 (with the parking lot visible behind the stage), this seems to be an unremarkable night in a career full of live performances. The band is professional and sounds fine but there is no reason that this gig should have been singled out for immortality. Most egregiously the set doesn't include "Pressure Drop" which may seem like a stupid qualm but, dammit, I wanted to hear them do it!

The songs they do do are performed with a somewhat unenthusiastic style, sort of generic reggae. Toots' vocals are a little strained at times but he's a pretty decent showman overall. The set list doesn't have much dramatic drive to it and the finale, "Gospel Revival", feels totally out of place. The gospel rhythm is totally dissimilar to the reggae beat and the sudden change betrays the Maytals musical roots.

VIDEO:
The video is low quality full-frame video. It is too high contrast, with some musicians' faces lost in the muddy shadows.

AUDIO:
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is pretty weak. The vocals are mostly garbled and there isn't much separation between the different instruments.

EXTRAS:
There are no extras.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
While it is stupid to criticize a concert disc because it excludes your favorite song, there are serious issues with the quality of this disc. The show it documents is not notable and the audio and video are below par. Serious fans of the band might want to watch it, but it might only serve to remind them of what happens when musicians tour too long.

E-mail Gil at buskerdog@yahoo.com


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