The DVD format has seemingly opened the doors for quite a few documentaries on musicians that are unauthorized or simply not very well-produced. There's one Britney Spears documentary, in particular, that spends a few minutes talking to Britney's dentist because they couldn't talk to the singer herself or even use her music. It's rare that a very enjoyable and informative authorized documentary about a star's rise to fame comes along, which is why it was a pleasure to watch "Jewel: A Life Uncommon". It's not one of the best of its genre, but I did like the intimate look at Jewel's growing up and how she went from playing in coffee houses to her "conquest of America" (that's how the DVD's back cover puts it, actually.)
This 60 minute documentary does a very nice job covering the singer's early years, as the singer tried to figure out what she wanted to do - whether or not she wanted to sing or be visual artist of some sort. Things started to pick up after her first few shows, as Jewel herself had to work to promote her early shows. Audiences followed and record labels gained notice soon after. The documentary's positive aspects are not only the insightful interviews with both the singer's family and those involved, but a nice helping of early video clips, such as from her early shows and a promotional video.
While some of "A Life Uncommon" did feel like a bit of "happy talk", discussing how wonderful Jewel is, the documentary did give me a very nice view of how Jewel didn't just become JEWEL. She had to go out there and promote herself and even when the record labels came calling, she still had to tour constantly and face audiences in not only small clubs, but eventually on her first TV appearances and into other countries who hadn't yet heard her music.
The video contains performances of: "Barcelona," "Deep Water," "Down," "Love Me Just Leave Me Alone," "What's Simple is True," "Down So Long" and "Who Will Save Your Soul."
Jewel's new CD, This Way, also comes out November 13, 2001.
VIDEO: The program varies somewhat in quality throughout. Much of the interviews are obviously shot on a video format, but although they look somewhat on the soft side, they don't have any further problems than that. The concert footage looks noticably smoother and crisper, with stronger colors and a more well-defined appearance.
SOUND: Although I was somewhat dissapointed that the presentation was only in 2.0, the audio quality of the concert clips and the fact that a good part of the program was made up of interviews made this fact somewhat more acceptable. The main concert footage (the ones where Jewel is wearing leather pants) sounded quite good, with the music coming through cleanly and Jewel's dynamic voice coming through clearly, if maybe not captured in its full richness and range. The rough concert footage from the early shows sounds noticably more basic, but all the elements are still easily heard.
MENUS:: Menus contain some very basic animation and music playing in the background.
EXTRAS: Performances of: What's Simple Is True, Down So Long, Who Will Save Your Soul (recorded live in Los Angeles, 4-25-99).
Final Thoughts: Although the $24.99 retail price does somewhat restrict to more hard-core fans of the singer than those who are casual listeners, I think Jewel's fans will enjoy this behind-the-scenes viewpoint from coffee house singer towards her "conquest of America".