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Paramount Studios presents
Celia Cruz & Friends: A Night of Salsa (1999)

"Now I'm going to sing this song which is my musical history."
- Celia Cruz intro on La Dicha Mia

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 06, 2005

Stars: Celia Cruz
Other Stars: Tito Puente, La India, Johnny Pacheco, Isidro Infante
Director: Jay Whitsett

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:15m:58s
Release Date: August 31, 2004
UPC: 097368857247
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB D-

DVD Review

The late Celia Cruz was a genuine musical giant in the Latin music world, more specifically in the salsa genre, and this 1999 concert finds the colorful singer, here well into her seventies, performing with her trademark bubbly effervescence. Recorded in Hartford, Connecticut, there is an occasional Vegas nightclub feel to the show, kind of schmaltzy and broad, but Cruz, decked out in an array of garish outfits, strange headgear and wigs, dances and works the stage with ease.

I can't know what she's singing about because there are no subtitles (save a few for between song chatter), but all of the tunes carry that same percussion-heavy/horn-laced rhythm that makes sitting still an impossibility. Fans of recent David Byrne Latin-flavored solo material will find themselves in familiar territory with this concert, though this is the real deal, not an homage.

At about 30 minutes in, however, the overall sameness of the material (at least to these casual ears) becomes a bit more apparent. But Cruz breaks things up by switching costumes frequently, so one can always marvel at the odd wig choice, if nothing else. No disrespect to Celia Cruz—she most certainly earned her stature long before I watched this disc—but music like this plays well when your not really listening to it, partly because I have no clue what she's singing about. Combine that with the Vegas lounge act vibe of the presentation, and I have to step back a few steps more. In an attempt to liven it up visually, Jay Whitsett's direction keeps the camera in motion quite often, so the shots don't remain static for very long.

Cruz trots out old reliable legend Latin percussion king Tito Puente for a couple of songs, as well as singing a duet with La India, who is billed as a "young salsa singing sensation." The set list might be largely unfamiliar, but the lengthy and stretched out finale of the standard Guantanamera, featuring flautist Johnny Pacheco (as well as Puente and La India, who should remember not to sing SO LOUD), provides the most mass-appeal sing-along moment of the whole set.

Set List:

Mi vida ss cantar
La Dicha mia
Celia & Tito
Babalu Medley
Azucar negra
Usted abusu
La Voz de la experiencia
El Guaba
Bemba colora

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The concert is presented in 1.33:1, as it was originally broadcast on PBS. Not an eye-popping transfer, but it is a clean one, with pleasing, bright colors and strong black levels.


Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a moderately lively 2.0 surround, with decent separation. Rears get used sporadically, primarily for applause and the like.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 14 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras other than a Cruz discography. The disc is cut into 14 chapters.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A bit garish and showy, this 1999 PBS concert from the late Celia Cruz has, if nothing else, a whole lot of rhythm.


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