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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Strat Pack: Live in Concert (Blu-ray)
The Strat Pack: Live in Concert (Blu-ray)
Eagle Rock Entertainment // Unrated // December 9, 2008 // Region Free
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 25, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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To ring in the fiftieth anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster -- still perhaps the most iconic and instantly recognizable electric guitar after half a century -- a sprawling celebratory concert was held in London's Wembley Arena near the close of 2004. This versatile instrument has spanned so many decades and so many genres, and it's appropriate that the selection of performers featured throughout The Strat Pack is every bit as diverse.

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  • The Crickets, Albert Lee, and Brian May
    Peggy Sue · Maybe Baby · I Fought the Law · Oh Boy · That'll Be the Day

  • Hank Marvin and Ben Marvin
    The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt · Sleepwalk · Apache

  • Theresa Andersson
    I'm On My Way

  • Albert Lee and Theresa Andersson
    Country Boy

  • Mike Rutherford and Paul Carrack
    How Long · All Along the Watchtower · While My Guitar Gently Weeps · I Can't Dance

  • Gary Moore
    Red House

  • Jamie Cullum

  • Amy Winehouse
    Stronger than Me

  • Paul Rodgers
    Muddy Water Blues
  • Paul Rodgers featuring Jasmine and Steve Rodgers

  • Paul Rodgers and Brian May
    Alright Now

  • Paul Rodgers and Joe Walsh
    Can't Get Enough

  • Joe Walsh
    Funk 49 · Life's Been Good · Life in the Fast Lane · Rocky Mountain Way

  • Phil Manzanera

  • David Gilmour
    Marooned · Coming Back to Life · Sorrow

  • Ronnie Wood
    Ooh La La

  • All Star Line-Up
    Stay with Me
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The names of a few of these individual guitarists may not be instantly recognizable to some, but the bands they've played alongside over the years -- Pink Floyd, Queen, The Crickets, The Shadows, The Rolling Stones, The Everly Brothers, Genesis, The Eagles, Thin Lizzy, Bad Company, and Roxy Music -- certainly ought to ring a bell. It's a diverse selection of performers and an even more eclectic setlist, encompassing everything from classic '50s pop to dreamlike instrumentals to country barnstormers to soul to blues to psychedelia to arena rock. The performances are remarkable across the board. I can't help but be entranced by Albert Lee's frenetic fretwork as he tears through "Country Boy", and the searing covers of "All Along the Watchtower" and "Red House" are a worthy homage to Jimi Hendrix, whose torching of a Strat on-stage remains one of the most enduring images of rock music more than four decades later. Even something as disposable as "I Can't Dance" is infused with such fire and urgency that it almost seems like an altogether different song. Other standout moments include Brian May lending his vocals to "That'll Be the Day", Ronnie Wood picking up an acoustic guitar to belt out the Dylan-esque "Ooh La La" from the Faces' final album, and every last one of the featured musicians piling on stage for the stomping boogie of "Stay with Me". With very little stage banter and no cutaways to disrupt the rhythm of the concert, The Strat Pack is focused squarely on the music. The Fender Stratocaster has touched an enormously diverse selection of performers across all genres and every walk of life, and the equally eclectic concert featured on The Strat Pack is a wonderful celebration of this iconic, enduring guitar.
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I'll admit to being somewhat disappointed with the visual presentation of The Strat Pack, which comes closer to a concert I'd catch on a channel like HDNet than a newly-minted Blu-ray disc. Its texture can be kind of coarse, and while it's a considerable step up over anything I'd expect to see on DVD, the level of fine detail is fairly middling. A number of shots look somewhat soft, especially one infrequently used camera aimed at the audience which doesn't appear to be in high definition at all. Video noise is frequently visible, and certain areas with fine textures -- the vertical stripes in Hank Marvin's shirt as well as the grills on the amplifiers in the background -- can look awfully distorted. A fair number of shots are impressive, but this isn't one of the better looking concerts I've caught on Blu-ray.

Shot natively on high definition video, The Strat Pack is presented in 1080i at its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been encoded with the AVC codec.

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The Strat Pack features a 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio track, and this 5.1 mix is remarkably clean, bolstered by a tight, punchy low-end and crisp vocals. The instrumentation is primarily spread across the front mains as the lead vocals root themselves in the center channel. Backup vox and certain instruments -- keyboards in particular -- slink into the surround channels along with the expected reverb and crowd noise. As you'd probably expect from a concert ringing in the fiftieth anniversary of the Stratocaster, the guitars sound tremendous, but from the thundering toms in "Apache" to the foundation-rattling kick that opens "Life's Been Good", the drums are showcased pretty astonishingly well too.

Alongside the six channel lossless soundtrack is an uncompressed LPCM stereo track and traditional Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kbps) audio. There's an impressively diverse selection of subtitles as well, offered here in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese.

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There are fourteen minutes of additional performances, all presented in high definition and featuring the same assortment of soundtracks as the concert proper. These include Hank Marvin tearing through "Wonderful Land" and "The Savage" followed by Amy Winehouse with "Take the Box" and "In My Bed".

The disc's
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remaining extras are in standard definition only and feature LPCM stereo audio. There's a brief glimpse of David Gilmour rehearsing for just over a minute. Hank Marvin and his band are lavished with more attention, rehearsing for nine minutes with the legendary guitarist clowning around a bit during the start of "Sleepwalk".

Just under an hour of interviews make up the rest of the extras on The Strat Pack. Half of that is devoted to more of a promotional reel with the Crickets, Gary Moore, Bruce Welch, Mike Rutherford, Joe Walsh, Paul Rodgers, Brian May, Andy Fairweather-Low, and Albert Lee. In between quite a bit of footage culled from the show, the chatter primarily swirls around the enduring appeal of the Stratocaster. Both Lee and May illustrate the Strat's five-way pickup selector switch, and the Crickets tell a quick story about being given a stack of Strats by Leo Fender himself. There's also a bit of rehearsal footage offered in here, including looks at Gary Moore and Joe Walsh prepping for the anniversary concert.

A few other scattered conversations round out the extras. David Gilmour shows off his '54 Strat -- with a serial number of 0001! -- and discusses why he prefers this model of guitar and what makes it so iconic. Amy Winehouse spends a good bit of time talking about the Strats in her life growing up and how strapping one on is "akin to having a dick". Finally, Hank Marvin chats with his son Ben about everyone on this "night of nepotism" wanting to catch him in rehearsals as well as the dual guitar interplay added to the close of "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt".

The performances throughout The Strat Pack can be selected individually or played as a two and a half hour concert. Tucked inside the traditional blue case is a booklet with a set of quotes from the guitarists and a slew of photos.

The Final Word
Although The Strat Pack isn't all that visually striking on Blu-ray, the dazzling musicianship and sprawling, eclectic setlist are a worthy celebration of an instrument as enduring and iconic as the Fender Stratocaster. Recommended.
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