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Rhino presents
Peter Gabriel: Play (2004)

"Many music videos are now made to a tried and tested formula. I was lucky to start early and have been able to continue working with people more interested in innovation than churning out more of the same."
- Peter Gabriel, from the accompanying liner notes

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: November 19, 2004

Stars: Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Sinead O' Connor
Director: various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (potentially unsettling images)
Run Time: 02h:41m:00s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 603497039623
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

It's always a challenge to bypass clichés and superlatives, but it's unavoidable in the case of this masterful 23-track music-and-pictures overview from a master of the form, Peter Gabriel. Taking a cue from the theatrical aspects of concept albums he previously recorded and performed as the lead singer of progressive rock's Genesis, Gabriel brought an imaginative bent and cinematic flair to promotional films as early as the late 1970s, a full half-decade before MTV came into being. As the music video reached its first major peak in terms of viewership in 1986, so did the English singer-songwriter, with his commercial breakthrough album So, home to a quartet of major hits that inspired four amazing videos: the multi-honored Sledghammer, Big Time, the rarely seen Red Rain, and a strikingly intimate, single angle collaboration with Kate Bush, Don't Give Up. Though excellent follow-up albums in recent years haven't attained the same success, Gabriel's videos continue to be inventive, hypnotic, and a joy to watch, with their cutting-edge effects, offbeat visuals (from abstract lighting to state-of-the-art claymation), and, of course, excellent music.

Mere seconds into the primarily acoustic-based Father, Son, which opens the presentation, a sense of musical wonderment and awe turned my head. Gabriel's intimate vocal, the warmth of the piano, and Tony Levin's simple but effective bass work come off as if both musicians are in the room with you. Advances in technology spoil us, and, over the years, many tracks on CD sound comparatively flat when compared to the spaciousness that multi-speaker sound presents. In other words, Sledgehammer is one amazing aural resurrection of this #1 single, this Hall of Fame alumnus: spacious horns that had sounded so bunched up on the original disc; an almost-buried Steve Cropper-ish guitar lick emerges like never before; and background singers have presence and immediacy.

For every clip you're familiar with (Steam, Digging in the Dirt), I guarantee there's two to three light rotation gems that offer visuals that impress with great hooks to match: the island-influenced Shaking the Tree, which offers Gabriel at his most laid back; I Don't Remember, whose nightmarish visuals and in-your-face cinematography provided a warm-up of sorts for Shock The Monkey; and the brilliant Biko, which takes two MTV blueprints (song from a movie disguised as a clip-filled, extended trailer and the in-concert performance extract) and expertly combines them into one.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: One of the most disappointing aspects of music clip anthologies is often highly inconsistent transfer quality that sometimes look like two generations down from a master copy.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Play has the distinct honor of being the very first musical DVD release with DTS multi-channel sound encoded 24 bit/96 khs and the results are breathtaking. It's imaginatively mixed with way tight separations in the fronts that allows every player and lead vocal to be heard distinctively. A superb use of the rears handles anything from harmony vocals to supplemental instrumentation without fail, and the full effect is, without question, the best-sounding music DVD on the market today. I've no doubt that this will be the demo disc of choice for home theater sales folks and DVD music lovers for a long time.

A word of caution: if you do decide to take the DTS for a test drive, crank down your subwoofer before igniting because it is very powerful. However, once you get the lower frequency fine-tuned, you won't want to listen to this disc in any other format. As for the Dolby Digital option, it offers a bit less impact, but is a fine track nonetheless; many who don't want to piddle with the settings may be just fine keeping it here. Although the 2.0 choice doesn't have the power of the 5.1 mixes, these original audio conceptions are also noteworthy in that they better their audio-only cousins by a wide margin.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian (music video introductions only) with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Growing Up On Tour: A Family Portrait, Growing Up Live and Secret World Live
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Programmable Jukebox Option
  2. Live Clip Of Games Without Frontiers
  3. Bonus Videos: The Nest That Shattered The Sky, Modern Love
  4. Video Introductions
  5. 24 Page Book
Extras Review: Introductions are provided to each video by Peter Gabriel with occasional behind-the-scenes footage, including a humorous location bit from a junkyard that finds the singer smashing materials for sound effects to put in his synthesizers. There's a programmable jukebox in which you can compile the visual equivalent of a mix tape and intructions on how to do it; bonus videos from the dawn of the singer's solo career; and trailers to three additional DVDs in his discography. Also of note is a nicely designed companion booklet with a Gabriel-penned introduction, extensive musician/directing credits and some photos.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Rarely does a musician come around that is so talented on so many levels. Peter Gabriel: Play is a career-spanning anthology that proves the English superstar's unrivaled gifts as a singer, songwriter, visual collaborator, and peformer. Without question, the best music DVD of 2004.


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