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Sony Music presents
Neil Finn: Sessions at West 54th (2000)

"Don't ask the questions/If you don't like the answers."
- Neil Finn (in Souvenir)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 26, 2001

Stars: Neil Finn
Other Stars: Mark Hart, Liam Finn, David Byrne
Director: Mike Chloe

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:13m:53s
Release Date: December 19, 2000
UPC: 074645023991
Genre: alternative

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I must confess that until I watched this disc I hadn't the faintest idea who Neil Finn was. As a member of the bands Split Enz and Crowded House, Finn hadn't really registered on my radar at all. Several of his songs were, however, familiar to me even though I didn't know it: the hits Don't Dream It's Over and I Got You.

Now on his own, Finn has continued to write songs, though in a darker and more broodingly intense manner. This disc includes 16 songs, mostly slow and downbeat, with topics ranging from self-obsession to addiction. Finn begins on piano, then moves to acoustic guitar, bass and electric guitar, all of which he plays quite well. His vocals are another matter; he seems to be afflicted with Aging Rocker Syndrome, wherein the high notes are no longer reachable, and in order to compensate the vocalist just sings a lower note louder. This is most noticeable on I Got You. Presumably Finn has adjusted his writing style to his now more limited vocal range.

His band (including his teenage son Liam on guitar) is tight and works well. Quite a few tape loops and effects are used, making the live experience seem rather odd. The slow tempi make this a rather draggy affair; the lack of variation becomes monotonous after a while. With the above caveats, however, this is a good performance, given immediacy by the constantly moving camera.

Songs performed:
1. Try Whistling This
2. Addicted
3. Fall at Your Feet
4. Don't Dream It's Over
5. Twisty Bass
6. King Tide
7. I Got You
8. Astro
9. Faster than Light
10. Loose Tongue
11. Souvenir
12. She Will Have Her Way
13. Truth
14. Last One Standing
15. Sinner

This disc didn't make me a Neil Finn fan, but those who like his work should be well pleased.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Considering this is shot for television, the image is quite outstanding. There are excellent black levels, and colors are bright and vivid. The image is clear and quite detailed throughout. Minor dot crawl is visible in a few spots, but there is no visible edge enhancement. The program is not well-lit; at times Finn disappears into darkness, but this is not a fault of the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both the PCM and DD 5.1 tracks have excellent sound, and are hardly distinguishable. There is a shade more solidity to the PCM track, but both are quite satisfactory. Bass is rich and full and the vocals come through clearly on both tracks. In the 5.1 track, the surrounds are primarily used for the audience sounds, plus some of the keyboard effects and drums. This is a somewhat odd arrangement but not unpleasant. There are some annoying miking noises during the softer songs. There is a brief audio dropout on both tracks between the songs King Tide and I Got You; since it does not affect the music I'm not lowering the grade for this defect.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Discography
Extras Review: There are two extras in the bonus section. The first is a discography for Split Enz and Crowded House, and the second is a brief biography of Finn, which manages not to say very much at all. Perhaps the nicest extra is the subtitling; all of the lyrics to the songs are subtitled in addition to the between-song banter. I should say almost all of the lyrics; on Twisty Bass the subtitles seem to get stuck on one line and don't catch up to the vocals until quite a few lines later. This is, however, a very nice presentation.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

A pleasant, if somewhat monotonous performance, given a beautiful video and audio transfer. Highly recommended to fans of Finn; worth a look for the rest of us.


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