Top positive review
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How a concert on Blu-ray should sound
on September 14, 2011
While I would not consider America one of my all time favorite groups during the decade of the 70's and early 80's, I am familiar with the majority of their hits such as: "Ventura Highway, Tin Man, Sister Golden Hair, A Horse with No Name" which are all performed on this Blu-ray.
Live concerts on Blu-ray have to be one of the most beneficial recipients for this newest of high definition home entertainment formats. Visually stunning 1080i/p resolution with a broad color space utilizing uncompressed lossless audio codec's (in this case: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio) comes closest to the ultimate goal of replicating live performances within the comfort of one's own home theater. Potential though, is always one thing with the end result at times far different than expected as many of us have experienced on the multitude of concert or film titles in our collections.
Visually, America: Live in Chicago is typical of the staged performances found on the majority of Soundstage's productions. Bright primary colors wash typically sparse stage backgrounds with well lit accurate flesh tones and the expected sharpness on all close-ups. Cuts and dissolves are mostly appropriate for the rhythm of the songs being performed as one would expect from veteran Soundstage Director Joe Thomas.
Sonically though, it took just moments into the first track (Riverside) when Gary Beckley began his individual guitar riff that I realized this latest addition to my ever growing collection of Blu-ray concert titles would be in that small group that actually delivers on the promise of sonic clarity and one I now consider as a reference on how a proper audio mix should be produced. Unlike so many recordings where one hears nothing more than a "wall of sound," on America: Live in Chicago, each instrument from drums to piano to harmonica to guitars to vocals are heard distinct from each other in proper proportions. Solid bass, clean mid range vocals, crisp plunks across guitar strings. It's all here to be heard and enjoyed as nothing is more disconnecting than watching a drummer, bass guitar player, a horn section, etc. all very hard at work yet the fruits of their efforts are nowhere to be heard in the resulting mix.
They really got this one right which when combined with America's smooth harmonies results in a performance I can leave on and enjoy repeatedly whether I'm watching or using as background during other activities. Song after song, the consistency was exceptional in bringing out the very best from each participant in the group. For little more than what iTunes may charge to download a single album using compression (AAC; MP3), concert titles on Blu-rays are truly exceptional values with America: Live in Chicago one I highly recommend to demonstrate the clarity and capability of your own home theater's audio system.
Note: Rear cover indicates the Blu-ray disc contains "Bonus Interview with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell" but none are listed in the title program's menu. Most likely a manufacturing error during disc authoring or in the design for the rear cover. Certainly nice to have but doesn't detract from the overall content.