Passport Video // 2005 // 45 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Neil Dorsett (Retired) // February 25th, 2005
She was a red hot hootchy kootcher.
From Passport Video comes yet another entry in their musical number compilation series "Singing at their Best." This time the formula is no different, although the title is, but with an artist of a decidedly earlier era on display, this disc winds up slightly ahead of the other exploitive packages available thus far by offering fully-realized musical numbers from Cab Calloway's film appearances. Unlike the entries featuring Johnny Cash or Peggy Lee, this compilation actually does feature Calloway "swinging at his best," or at least his best on film. Seeing as the film available of Cab and his Orchestra performing isn't exactly plentiful, it's not that much of a claim really, but hey, it's there. And it ain't bad at all, although as usual for the series, the serious collector will find this disc redundant.
ce the numbers are coming in from feature movies such as Hi De Ho and Jitterbug Party, they are in most cases not really live performances but lip syncs to prerecorded numbers, with full cinema technique at work including close-ups at significant points in the song and a fake audience. The level of phoniness varies, as the clips are taken from differing sources.
The "set list" includes:
* "Mama, I Want to Make Rhythm"
* "Blues in the Night"
* "Minne the Moocher"
* "Virginia, Georgia, and Caroline"
* "The Skunk Song"
* "Hi De Ho"
* "St. James Infirmary"
* "Righteous Riff"
* "Hey Now"
* "Little Old Lady from Baltimore"
* "Blow Top Blues"
* "I Can't Give You Anything But Love"
* "Cab's Delight," which is listed as a track but actually plays over the end credits, so it's really just an audio selection.
Cab shares the spotlight with trumpeter Jonah James on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and vocal groups The Cabaliers on "The Skunk Song" and The Peters Sisters on "Little Old Lady from Baltimore." On these numbers Cab does not sing, but only conducts, and in the case of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," engages in a spirited lip-synch to James's trumpet. The numbers featuring guest artists have more of a one-take performance flavor about them. I don't want to take anything away from the more polished numbers though, they have as much of a live music flavor as any other movie. The most effective and elaborate staging is of "Hi De Ho," presumably from one of the three films with that title featuring Calloway.
The original market for music videos was the bar and nightclub market, where they are used as filler material. I suspect that these Passport Video compilations are geared toward that original market, which still exists to some degree; that and video jukes, and other such secondary modes of presentation. Taken in that light, their weaknesses as home presentations become less relevant, even a sort of streamlined strength. However, the home buyer is likely to go dissatisfied by such a scanty video package. On the other hand (lot of hands here!), it does result in a pleasant CD-length compilation with some video as a bonus, so it all depends how you look at it I guess. At $16.98 it costs a little more than would an audio CD of similar length, and watching Calloway is more fun than just listening to him on a lot of levels, so it's too expensive but you could do worse.
Each of the songs is set off with the text block long associated with music videos, and a couple of them, rather annoyingly, bear traces of branding in the upper left and righthand corners. The transfers vary from half-decent to pretty awful, but the music always comes through okay. Not great, but okay. Ultimately this is just another mishmash from Passport; it's essentially the selection of performer that puts this one a cut above the rest in the series. Those who have a genuine interest in Calloway may wish to pick up this compilation as an alternative to seeking out copies of the films, and to tell the truth it's in no way unenjoyable as a whole, although I got a bit sick of Cab's mugging after a while (these performances weren't really meant to play back to back this way). Not guilty this time, Passport, but Cab Calloway couldn't really miss.
Review content copyright © 2005 Neil Dorsett; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Passport Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: Cab Calloway