With: Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, The Brand New Heavies, Michael Bolton, Randy Travis, James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Tevin Campbell, Gladys Knight
Studio: Willenborg Productions/Image Entertainment ID2320WLDVD
Video: 4:3 full screen
Audio: DD stereo
Length: 90 minutes
Odd how so many in the media today seem to forget one of the important basics of who/what/when/where etc. Don’t they get that in school anymore? This DVD mentions nothing about when or where it was telecast or even that it was for Ray’s 60th birthday – I had to look that up. In Pasadena before a celebrity audience, in 1999, OK?
Most any music production with Ray is going to be great, but there are a few problems with this show. The audio mix is a bit dull, with very little presence on the singers and players. Trying Pro Logic II on the stereo track and turning up the center channel just made it worse. Though there is plenty of .1 signal for the subwoofer. The image quality is very soft focus, especially noticeable on the long shots of the stage. It looked much like some DVDs of TV series which suffer from low resolution. The wings and paraphernalia on Ray’s piano/synthesizer are too much; it appears to be a “piano by Picasso.”
Ray is of course terrific, especially in his solo numbers at the keyboards – What’d I Say, Just for a Thrill, and Can’t Keep a Good Man Down. His duets with Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder are fun too, and he accompanies Gladys Knight, but it goes downhill from there. Michael Bolton is as pretentious as the flying piano with his high-pitched delivery. Who knows how The Brand New Heavies got on the program – completely inappropriate. That goes too for the young Quincy Jones protege trying to imitate Michael Jackson. And in the middle of the musical proceedings is a totally unexpected (and unwanted) standup comic. Various celebrities speak about how great Ray is (as if we needed convincing), including Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Willie Nelson. But they’re not on for long. It’s a nice tribute, but I’d prefer a Whole-Ray DVD. This would be a DVD for which the programming abilities of most players (skipping over tracks automatically) would be most welcome.
Tunes: What’d I Say, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Livin’ for the City, Busted, Never Stop, Georgia on my Mind, Your Cheatin’ Heart, I Can’t Stop Loving You, I Got a Woman, Just Ask Me To, Just for a Thrill, I Wish I’d Never Loved You at All, Can’t Keep a Good Man Down, America the Beautiful
– John Henry