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Image Entertainment presents
Music in High Places: Ryan Adams—Live in Jamaica (2002)

"Everybody wants to go forever/I just wanna burn up hard and bright/I just wanna be your firecracker/And maybe be your baby tonight"
- Ryan Adams (singing Firecracker)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: August 10, 2003

Stars: Ryan Adams
Other Stars: Toots Hibbert, Brad Rice, Billy Mercer, Brad Pemberton
Director: Alan Carter

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for all audiences)
Run Time: 0h:57m:55s
Release Date: April 15, 2003
UPC: 014381329827
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+A- B-

DVD Review

Ryan Adams is a superb songwriter and effective singer, but the shining moment of Music In High Places: Ryan Adams—Live in Jamaica actually revolves around the legendary Toots Hibbert. Literally shaking in nervous anticipation, the young Adams obviously has much to learn from the reggae master. After exchanging brief pleasantries, they spend considerable time at Kingston's Anchor Studios developing the proper combination of guitars for a performance of the song Hard Time Situation. Adams lacks a mastery of reggae, but he seems eager to delve into, what is for him, a new muscial style. He eventually joins Toots at Nature's Paradise for a soulful performance, which showcases an intriguing blend of musical styles. The two artists really seem to enjoy playing together, and the result is a remarkable collaboration.

Originally hailed as one of the founding members of the alternative country act Whiskeytown, Adams enjoyed a small measure of success during the mid-1990s. Critical acclaim was high for the group, but they never were able to gain a large mainstream audience. Following their breakup in 1999, Adams shifted gears and began moving his sound away from its country elements. This change is very evident on 2001's Gold—his second release—and it helped him to attain greater mainstream success. Many of the songs presented on this DVD stem from that album, including plenty of memorable pop numbers.

Consistent with the usual Music in High Places theme, the show takes Adams to Jamaica for interaction with the culture and live acoustic performances. This episode begins with the harmonica-driven Firecracker at a chicken and fish establishment near Winfred Beach. Playing with three bandmates, Adams generally seems at home, even far away from his New York residence. Strolling through a Port Antonio market and picking out various hats and accessories, Adams definitely stands out as a quirky American guy. However, his music seems to combine nicely with the environments presented. The Rescue Blues is a slow, contemplative track, and it works perfectly among the deserted buildings of Port Royal's Old Naval Hospital. He returns there later to play the Van Morrison-like Answering Bell in equally successful fashion.

Unlike some of the series' other episodes, this entry probably does not work if you dislike Adams' demeanor and music. While he crafts enjoyable pop tunes, he also displays the ego of a 28-year-old who knows his career is soaring. His demeanor is generally calm and personable, but he almost always remains the center of attention. Luckily, I believe his music does make everything else worthwhile. The performance of the single New York, New York with a group of local drummers showcases his tremendous talents. Playing on a pristine beach, Adams presents the catchy lyricism and craftsmanship that have inspired numerous music fans.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Ryan Adams—Live in Jamacia works in similar fashion to the Music in High Places series' other DVD releases. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer provides an impressive avenue for viewing the natural scenery of Jamaica. The beaches, palm trees, and colorful waters shine nicely, and everything appears clearly. There are limitations to the source material, which does not match the best film transfers, but it still succeeds overall.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This disc provides a 5.1-channel DTS transfer that definitely showcases the wealth of sounds in Jamaica. The acoustic tunes spring from all sides and enhance the listening experience. The clarity level is extremely high, corresponding with my expectations for a DTS track. Only slightly less effective is the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital version, which nearly matches the power, but falls a bit short in complexity. The release also contains a solid 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 8 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Two short featurettes appear on this release and slightly enhance moments already seen in the main presentation. Jamaica: The Real Story lasts about seven minutes and provides a few worthwhile vignettes. We learn that the original behind-the-scenes guy had to leave at the last minute to have kidney stones removed. The feature also provides goofy moments of the camera guy filming large spiders, Adams being silly, and the crew eating some interesting fish. The second featurette offers about eight minutes of Adams and Toots preparing for the Hard Time Situation performance. This additional footage gives us a nice look at the two artists' collaboration process.

Viewers not as familiar with Adams should also enjoy an informative text biography, which provides considerable biographical material, even while praising the star. Finally, an option exists to watch only the music, which reveals an additional song—To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high). This upbeat track appears on Adams' first solo album, Heartbreaker, and is a enjoyable bonus.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Music in High Places: Ryan Adams—Live in Jamaica is doesn't quite live up to my high expectations. The acoustic tunes do shine in this new environment, and Adams conveys a magnetic presence. However, I would have liked this release to spend more time inspecting the unique elements of Jamaica. With the exception of the Toots sequence and a few interactions with local residents, the feature does not seem as focused on the culture as other volumes in the series. It remains worthwhile for Adams' fans, but could have better presented the country's interesting atmosphere.


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