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We Could Be Together
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Limited 13 disc (10 CDs + three NTSC/Region 0 DVDs) box set. The definitive collection from the pop princess presented in a beautiful 12" x 12" coffee table book. This is Debbie's first-ever full career retrospective celebrating 30 years (1987-2017), and includes over 200 tracks. All the classic hits including 'Shake Your Love', 'Foolish Beat', 'Only In My Dreams', 'Electric Youth', 'You're The One That I Want', 'Lost In Your Eyes' and many more. Includes eight classic albums - Out Of The Blue, Electric Youth, Anything Is Possible, Body Mind Soul, Think With Your Heart, Deborah, M.Y.O.B. and Ms. Vocalist. Also includes a remix CD - featuring classic 12-inch mixes from Shep Pettibone, Steve 'Silk' Hurley, Masters At Work, Harding/Curnow, Junior Vasquez and more - plus the Stage, Screen & Beyond CD - featuring sought-after rarities from throughout Debbie's career plus exclusive, previously unheard new recordings. The DVDs contain classic videos and live concerts (from Nashville and Tokyo) plus exclusive bonus footage. The lavish 12" x 12" book packaging includes a 32-page 'scrapbook' containing rare and unseen pictures personally chosen by Debbie plus Debbie's own in-depth commentary and a brand new interview with producer Fred Zarr.
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Unfortunately, the video quality on most of the music videos is very poor. Nevermind the fact that it's 2017 and the videos were put on DVD instead of bluray (that's another discussion entirely, and I can understand the financial decision). But most of the videos simply look like they were converted from someone's 20 to 30-year old VCR recordings using one of those 99-cent VHS-to-digital converters that were sold during the early digital revolution.
Here's a breakdown of the videos that are important to me:
Out of the Blue: my second favorite music video from Debbie. Unfortunately, one of the worst conversions on this disc. The video is extremely grainy, and the camera pans are disturbingly choppy. It's like frames are missing from the source video whenever the camera moves. The conversions I've seen on YouTube are cleaner and smooth.
Foolish Beat: horrendously muddy images, to the point of looking cartoonish. Atlantic Records released this video on YouTube and it looks much better there.
Lost in Your Eyes: better video quality than Foolish Beat, but artifacts are still very noticeable from whatever low-res source was used. I prefer the YouTube release from Atlantic.
Electric Youth: same comments as Lost in Your Eyes.
No More Rhyme: surprisingly, one of the best conversions on the disc. It's not like there was a jump in technology between the release of this video and the others. There are points in this video when, if you're a bit sleepy, you'd think you were watching a modern recording (or maybe I was jaded from the other videos and this is a diamond in comparison). I would have given this collection five stars if all the videos were of this quality, and that's not a high bar to set.
We Could Be Together: we go back to the low-res conversion issue.
The rest of the videos I don't really care for, but they're of similar quality to what I described above. It just surprises me that no effort was put into the video conversions. Moonwalker came out in 1988 as well and it was masterfully converted to 1920x1080 resolution on bluray several years ago. Even old movies like Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz look better than this DVD. I have many other music video DVDs from 80s and 90s artists, and they all blow this DVD away in video quality. It's like the producer of this DVD didn't have the original videos so had to resort to an old VHS tape from a garage sale.
I'm still glad to finally have the music video collection, and that's the only reason it gets three stars.
A few side notes:
1. The audio on the music videos is superb. Much better than anything from YouTube. It comes out at 1.5Mbps 16-bit 48kHz LPCM. So it's crappy videos mixed with excellent audio.
2. I tested the DVD in multiple ways to make sure it wasn't a decoding issue. I have an Oppo player with Faroudja upscaling, a PS3 which I tested with Sony upscaling on and off, my Denon receiver with Faroudja upscaling on and off, and even on my PC using VLC and WMP.
Pretty stunning package really. Just ordered the limited set (of 750) with the 12 x 12 signed photo, and I had to jump on that immediately as soon as I saw it listed because they were bound to be snatched up quickly, like within a day, and it was. This 10CD/3DVD scrapbookbox is set up in similar design as the Dead Or Alive set "Sophisticated Boom Box 2016"...discs in pocketslots and the scrapbooklet in a backpocket...I placed the signed picture (in pink sharpie, there is a cool pic of Deb signing the photos sitting at her piano on the back of the bookbox...nice touch!! The pic is the same as the front cover. The content is pretty complete...focusing on her "pop" career, this set has 8 of her 9 studio albums (1987's "Out Of The Blue", 1989's "Electric Youth", 1990's "Anything Is Possible", 1993's "Body Mind Soul" (last one on Atlantic), 1995's "Think With Your Heart" (only one on SBK/EMI), 1997's "Deborah" (1st on own label Espiritu), 2001's "M.Y.O.B. aka Mind Your Own Business" and 2010's "Ms. Vocalist" (her debut on Sony Japan)...the only one missing was of showtune covers, 2003's "Coloured Lights: The Broadway Album", understandably...1 disc of classic remixes, & 1 of rarities and a few new songs. The 3 DVDs (NTSC so they will play everywhere) are great...1 of her vidclips, and the other 2 have documents of 2 tours each. It's both exhaustively complete and not really at all...it's a nice balance and wonderfully curated, done with a lot of love, care and respect. There is a lovely note from Deb in the beginning of the scrapbooklet, a full interview/essay covering Deb's whole career in each stage, as well as an interview with original producer Fred Zarr.
To be honest, I was a pretty serious Debhead her 1st 2 albums, like many people...mainly because she was a young pop savant/songwriter with a great sense of tunefulness and youthful joie de vivre, plus she was local to me, also from Long Island, from Merrick, so I felt a sense of pride. I do admit that I had moved on with "Anything Is Possible", because I wasn't too keen at the time with that album's first single, the R&B-influenced title track...and interest was never recaptured, but had been aware of her later records being out, but never heard them...until now. Hearing the AIP tracks now, 27 years later, I am into them now, as it was more innovative than I was able to wrap my head around, and "So-Called Miracle" is a nice slice of 60s-influenced girlpop that I can dig. I am excited to dig my teeth into this set and rediscover the 1st 2 albums again and catch up on what I missed, and the Japanese "Ms Vocalist" album excites me bigtime, as I love J-pop...so yep, a Debhead all over again...
Very glad to have invested the cash in this set...well worth it...and Deb is a national pop treasure. She even says there will be more music to come in the future...keep it coming...