Playing For Change Live – Playing For Change Records/ Concord Music Group (DVD + CD)
Published on November 17, 2010
Playing For Change Live – Playing For Change Records/ Concord Music Group DVD + CD – PFC 31974ADV – CD: 50:02, DVD (16:9 with DD 5.1 and PCM Stereo), 167:15 *****:
(Featuring Keb Mo, Ziggy Marley, Toots Hibbert, Grandpa Elliott; Tinariwen, Clarence Bekker, and many others)
Playing For Change is a multimedia charity art project. Created in 2004 by producers/engineers Mark Johnson and Enzo Buono, the pair traveled around the world recording street musicians. The purpose of this venture was to employ music as a conduit to global unity. Additionally, the organization provides resources to musicians and communities around the world. The first release of Playing For Change was a cover of the Ben E. King classic, “Stand By Me”, performed by Santa Monica Street musician Roger Ridely. Videos were recorded and edited together from different parts of the world, gaining recognition on the internet With a combination of grass roots technology, lesser known local and renowned global musicians (Bono, Keb’ Mo’, Toots Hibbert, etc.), a new cultural art idiom was launched.
Inevitably a touring concert would evolve. Playing For Change Live, recorded live in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Madrid and Glastonbury, is a CD/DVD set. The album kicks off with an uproarious version of “Fannie Mae” by Keb’ Mo’. New Orleans legend Grandpa Elliott, brings a raucous energy to this rocking blues number, along with some sharp harmonica wails. The band, comprised of players from places around the globe, is tight with soulful background vocals. Clarence Bekker makes his presence felt throughout the concert. With a voice reminiscent of great soul artists like Otis Redding, he electrifies the crowd on “Don’t Worry”. Ensemble vocals are transcendental, exemplified by the reggae arrangement of the African- themed, “Back To Your Roots”, with a memorable performance by Toots Hibbert. There is a particular respect for the influence of reggae on World Music. Ziggy Marley delivers a blissful rendition of “Love Is My Religion”, invoking the spiritual renaissance that transformed the musical culture over thirty years ago.
The diverse culture of the entourage is featured on tracks like “Mado” and “Fela Ngaye”. The CD sound quality is excellent; however the DVD with DD 5.1 multichannel audio is much superior. Moreover, the visual quality of the performances is dazzling. The vitality of the different personalities comes alive in the visual context. Dekker and Grandpa Elliott are charismatic. Certainly, the band’s performance of the Wailers’ “People Get Ready/One Love” medley is compelling. The product of the total band is greater than the sum of its parts. Two bonus videos, Imidiwan Afrik Temdam”( a huge multi-cultural “orchestra”) and “Amazing Grace” (dedicated to Daniel Thompson, a terminal patient who contacted the Make A Wish Foundation to meet the band), illustrate the power of music to affect everyday life.
The third part of the project is the ninety-minute video documentary, “On the Road With The PFC Band.” Johnson has decided to concentrate primarily on live concert footage. There are some engaging looks at “life on the road” with the band members. Rather than reiterate the PFC message, the air of camaraderie and plain fun are presented with earnest simplicity. The closing credits have a collage of slow-motion action, set against the emotional “Stand By Me”.
It is refreshing to experience a “charity”-oriented project whose significance is communicated effectively. There is no overexposure of message – simply a joyous celebration of the unifying spirit of music.
CD: Fannie Mae; Don’t Worry; Back To Your Roots; I’ve Got Dreams To Remember; Fela Ngaye; Children Of The World; Love Is My Religion; Mado; One Love; Stand By Me.
DVD: Fannie Mae; Don’t Worry; Back To Your Roots; I’ve Got Dreams To Remember; Fela Ngaye; Sugar Sweet; Children Of The World; Love Is My Religion; Mado; What’s Up/Don’t Worry Be Happy; One Love; End Credits/Stand By Me; Bonus Videos: Amazing Grace; Imidiwan Afrik Temdam.
— Robbie Gerson