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Warner Home Video presents
A Starry Night with Simply Red (2005)

"A new flame has come
And nothing she can do can do me wrong."

- lyric from A New Flame

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 11, 2005

Stars: Mick Hucknall, Fritz McIntyre, Shaun Ward, Gita Yashiki, Ian Kirkham, Tim Kellet, Hector Texiera Pereira, Dee Johnson, Myllenda Lay
Director: Steven Lock

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:42m:36s
Release Date: July 26, 2005
UPC: 603497043224
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A+A+ B-

DVD Review

I'm guessing there are still probably some Simply Red fans lurking around out there in the great unknown, and I have to think that those with fond memories of the band at their commercial peak in the early 1990s should be wondering what the hell took so long to get this 1992 concert—recorded in Hamburg, Germany in support of their fourth album—released on DVD. And to make DVD release a bit sweeter, Warner has included nine songs not found on the earlier VHS version.

It might not be the ballsiest music ever recorded, unless you happen to like their distinctive brand of light soul/jazz/radio pop with a hint of big band, R&B and reggae thrown in for good measure, but the presentation here is beautifully done, and the audio and video transfers are impressive. So much so that this one almost deserves a spin just on technical merits alone.

It's not like I completely discount the Simply Red school of semi-light musical stylings, because I recall regularly spinning their single Money's Too Tight (Too Mention) way back in my club D.J. days (circa 1985). That was just before the velvet-voiced Mick Hucknall softened the band's approach, moving away from focusing on the dance floor and honing in more directly on quieter pop confections that served the master that was that uniquely identifiable voice of his. And make no mistake, Hucknall IS Simply Red, for all intents and purposes, and no matter how many musicians are up on the stage with him—it is that voice that the fans have come to hear.

So according to this 1992 concert, it was indeed a very good year for Hucknall and the band, a multi-national outfit he jokingly refers to as "the United Nations" during the introduction portion of the show. For purists, it's not all original members (drummer Gita Yashiki and bassist Shaun Ward were new hires at the time), but that seems to matter little when Hucknall begins crooning, and the extra large crowd, who spend most of the show waving sparklers and lighters, appear to be eating out of his hand from the opening big band strains of Sad Old Red, before he literally lets his hair down with Model, on through the set closer, Something Got Me Started.

Production values are appropriately slick, and dress things up for a band that is hardly one of the more visually active outfits to ever tour, and it is generally Hucknall in the spotlight. Director Steven Lock keeps the cameras moving, and while the edits stay this side of dizzying, there is plenty of movement and different angles, with one of the nicer ones shot from behind Hucknall looking out over a sea of sparklers that almost looks like he's floating in space.

It is tough to completely discredit Hucknall's voice as being, well, ordinary, because it isn't. He does the white man soul thing as if he's really sincere about it, and watching it there was a part of me that hoped the band had continued on the dance vein of Money's Too Tight, rather than branch into light and easy.

Set List:

Sad Old Red
More
Jericho
A New Flame
It's Only Love
Your Mirror
Holding Back the Years
Enough
Model
I Wish
Let Me Have It All
Freedom
Thrill Me
Come to My Aid
Money's Too Tight (Too Mention)
If You Don't Know Me By Now
Stars
The Right Thing
For Your Babies
Something Got Me Started


Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is one gorgeous, remastered, high-definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Warner, and it is really something to see, sporting an impressive razor sharp image with bright, well rendered colors. None of the typical concert DVD problems (bloom, grain, etc.) are to be found here, even under red spotlights, and the transfer truly delivers. No trace of compression artifacts or noise of any kind.

Absolutely nothing to complain about here. A real beauty.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes
PCMEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: It's hard to believe this concert was recorded in 1992, because the newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks sound as full and deep as something more contemporary. Crowd sounds rise and fall out of the rear channels to nice effect, and the instrumentation separation across the front channels is very pronounced, adding a larger feel to the mix. The bottom end is not an overdone wall-rattler, but instead a particularly well-balanced blend of appropriately thick bass that manages to never overshadow the music.

A comparatively timid PCM track is also included, but only use in case of emergency.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There's only one extra, and it's an interview (12m:58s) with main Redster Mick Hucknall (as well as some of the rest of the band) recalling playing Hamburg, writing, touring, and Mick's role as the leader.

The disc is cut into 24 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

As far as music DVDs go, a set of stellar audio/video transfers make this 1992 concert a solid package all the way around, even if the music is a little light. The band's music falls just to the left of that almost-too-bland frothy jazzy/pop mixture for me, but there's no denying Mick Hucknall has always possessed a very unique voice perfectly suited for the material, and it is in great form here, with the rest of the band at one of their highest career points.

Who am I to argue with an arena full of screaming Germans?

 


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