One of the best ideas for a musical program that I've seen, "Music In High Places" is part concert documentary and part National Geographic. The series unleashes various American bands (also available are editions with Collective Soul and Boyz II Men) in beautiful, exotic scenery to not only play their tunes, but experience the sights and sounds of the local culture and wildlife. This edition of the series has Sugar Ray heading off for fun, silliness and sun in Australia, where they play a mixture of accoustic (especially when they play a song in the water) and electric versions of their songs in various locations throughout the continent.
The tour that the band goes on through the different locations could have been presented in a dry and straight-forward manner, but the combination of the band's good humor and respect for the area with some interesting locations (a crocodile farm, a literal "bat cave", a mine in the outback, a ride through the forest in a Humvee and more) makes for entertaining and occasionally very funny viewing. The filmmakers have done a terrific job keeping the energy level up and the awe-inspiring scenery and informative moments coming. If anything, the only element that I found slightly distracting was a slight website ad at the bottom of the screen during one moment in the middle of the program and another one towards the end of the show. Other than that, the band offers great performances during the course of the show and they seem to be having a fantastic time during their tour of Australia.
The band plays several songs from their different releases: Someday, Just a Little, Ours, When It's Over, Fly, Falls Apart, Stay On, Waiting, Every Morning.
Other "Music In High Places" editions that are currently on or coming soon to DVD include: Collective Soul: Live from Morocco, Brian McKnight: Live in Brazil, Boyz II Men: Live In Seoul and BBMak: Live In Vietnam
VIDEO: Image Entertainment presents "Sugar Ray: MIHP" in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Although the presentation is not anamorphic, the picture quality is quite pleasing, as the program looked consistently sharp and detailed. Although a few moments here and there appeared slightly softer, the picture could also look exceptionally crisp and clear.
Aside from the occasional slight softness, I noticed very few flaws. There seemed to be some very slight edge enhancement once or twice, but I didn't spot any pixelation or other flaws. Colors looked wonderful, as the deep, rich greens of the scenery came through splendidly and other colors also remained natural and accurate.
SOUND: Although everything seems to indicate this is a 5.1 presentation, it seems as if it's more of a 4.1 presentation, as the center speaker remained silent throughout the program. Still, I quite liked the audio quality of the program, which remained warm and especially clear. Surrounds were used in a basic re-inforcement fashion, but their use was not intrusive and only added to the experience, as the front speakers remained the focus. During the scenes where the band is touring the countryside, the surrounds kicked in with a generous amount of ambient sounds, which made for a more engaging viewing experience during these scenes. While not a complex surround presentation, this is a clear and enjoyable recording of the band's fine performances in all the different locations.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.
EXTRAS: The first feature is "Just Play The Music", which allows the viewer to play the songs one after another rather than have the band's travel documentary play in-between. Interestingly, this feature seemed to offer a different sound mix, as the center speaker is put into use during the songs here, but the music seems more front-heavy, with what seemed to be slightly less re-inforcement from the surrounds.
Documentaries: One Last Shoot is an amusing behind-the-scenes look at the production at work on this edition of "Music in High Places", which is apparently the last of the several editions that they've done in places across the world this year. Some interesting interviews and entertaining footage is included. Location Footage is about 20 minutes of additional footage of the band at various locations. The other documentary is Interviews, which is essentially full versions of some of the interview footage located in the program itself.
Promo Spots: Several promotional spots from Sugar Ray in Australia for everything from Direct TV to Radio Shack.
Also: Band discography and biography.
Final Thoughts: "Music In High Places" is one of the most creative ideas I've seen in quite some time - the combination of music and having the band explore the incredible scenery makes for a wonderfully engaging and entertaining hour. Image Entertainment not only offers the program with great audio/video quality and some enjoyable extras, but the price ($19.99 retail, probably less at most stores) is certainly right. A definite recommendation, especially for fans of the band.