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Red Hot & Blue

Shout Factory // Unrated // April 25, 2006
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted April 12, 2006 | E-mail the Author
With the theme of Cole Porter standards tying this work together, this is the video companion to the first of what was a fifteen album project in the Red Hot AIDS Benefit series. The Red Hot Organization is the leading international organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture. Featuring artists the likes of U2, Annie Lennox, Sinead O'Connor, k.d. lang and Tom Waits this is basically a compilation of music videos that accompanied an audio CD of many popular 80's and 90's artists who participated in the benefit by giving their own interpretations of Porter's songs. One difference between the accompanying CD is several messages given not only by some of the musical artists involved but also by celebrities such as actor Richard Gere in an attempt to enlighten and inform its viewers on the nature of AIDS and sensible percautions that can be taken. Also on hand are directors Wim Wenders, Alex Cox and Jonathan Demme.

I personally was not familiar with this project at the time it was released, so my view of it is probably somewhat different from those who were introduced to the montage in the early 90's. While there are certainly some wonderful performances on hand, the overall impression I got upon giving this a look is that it is at best a mixed bag. Some of the material here is informative and will hopefully be of use to those at considerable risk of contracting AIDS. Many of the on-screen messages given by the diverse celebrities on hand come across as preachy and heavy-handed; more along the lines of a non-profit organization infomercial imploring its audience to, well, heed its advice by practicing safe sex and not being wreckless in drug use. As I understand it this was originally released in VHS format some 15 years ago, only now finding its way to DVD now along with the CD project that spent 24 weeks on the Billboard charts as well as bringing in around $3 million for AIDS charities worldwide.

The content of the videos themselves seem to have AIDS related themes; some of them are quite interesting to watch, coming across as both continental and avant garde' in flair, while others are odd and confusing in nature. As with the videos, I found the music itself to be something of a hodge podge. Some of the artists' interpretations of Porter's songs work well while others are downright disasters. Not unexpectedly the cuts that come across the best are ones that remain somewhat faithful to the spirit of the songwriter's original arrangements, with some truly fine performances rendered by k.d. lang, The Neville Brothers, Sinead O' Connor and Annie Lennox.

Listed here are the musical cuts on this release-

1. David Byrne-Don't Fence Me In
2. Neneh Cherry-I've Got U Under My Skin
3. Jimmy Somerville-From This Moment On
4. Jody Watley-After You, Who?
5. Salif Keita-Begin The Beguine
6. Erasure-Too Darn Hot
7. Sinead O'Connor-You Do Something To Me
8. The Jungle Brothers-I Get A Kick Out Of You
9. The Neville Brothers-In The Still Of The Night
10. k.d. lang-So In Love
11. Les Negresses Vertes-I Love Paris
12. Aztec Camera-Do I Love You?
13. Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop-Well, Did You Evah!
14. Lisa Stansfield-Down In The Depths
15. Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues-Miss Otis Regrets / Just One Of Those Things
16. Tom Waits-It's All Right With Me
17. U2-Night And Day
18. Annie Lennox-Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
19. Bill Irwin-Comedy Sketches
20. Annie Lennox-Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye (Live on VH1 Honors)


Video-

This disc is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen. While imaging seemed a bit soft, I found the picture quality to be quite good overall. Some of the videos here utilize some striking colors and the disc seems to faithfully render them well.

Audio-

Audio presented here is in Dolby stereo and is a decent enough track.

Extras-

The extras here are few but are quite notable for anyone with interest in this package; included on the DVD is a VH1 Honors performance of Annie Lennox singing "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye". The best bonus included in this set is a remastered audio CD with the same tracks in a different running order.

Final Thoughts-

For this reviewer this DVD is a mixed bag of great and not-so-great performances interspersed with at times informative messages relating to the prevention of AIDS. For those who are fans of the CD and VHS when this project was originally released I'm sure it will be a welcome addition to their collection. For those who are checking this out blind I would recommend to rent it.
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