Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1993 // 160 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 1st, 2012
At last...she's in high definition!
Etta James voice was certainly bigger than life. When the famed singer passed away in January 2012, her funeral brought out R&B music's and the African American community's biggest and brightest stars; the Reverend Al Sharpton presided over the memorial service, while Stevie Wonder and Christina Aguilera offered up musical tributes to a woman whose voice spanned decades and entertained generations. Etta James was not only loved by fans, but by her contemporaries, offering their condolences by way of covering some of her best known works.
James helped to bridge the chasm between R&B and rock 'n' roll. During her lengthy career, she won six Grammies and the adoration millions of fans around the world. Most likely, younger listeners will probably recognize James as the singer of the wedding favorite "At Last" (seriously, that song is at EVERY wedding I've ever been to), and the woman who leveled negative criticism at Beyonce for covering that very song at President Obama's inaugural ball. While an enormously influential performer and artist, James' life was not untouched by adversity or personal tragedy. Her addiction to heroin landed her in jail and rehab on multiple occasions, but by the late 1980s James was able to make a comeback that would continue until her death.
Etta James: Live at Montreaux 1993 showcases this recording legend strutting across the stage, belting out some of her best known songs. As a vocalist, James had no equal; her voice, slightly seasoned by the passing years, was still undeniably raw and filled with passion. With a stage presence that could only be called imposing, James gained weight in her later years (and then lost it even later), but that never stopped her from shaking and gyrating. No one was going to ever mistake Etta James for a meek, American Idol wannabe.
The set list here will both electrify and frustrate fans. A lot of James' standards are featured, including "Hold On, I'm Coming" (originally recorded by the duo Sam & Dave), the strutting "Hard to Handle," and the popular "Respect Yourself" (also made famous by The Staple Singers). James absolutely knocks each of these songs out of the park; the caliber of her voice is on par with other great singers like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Her version of The Eagles "Take it to the Limit" turns the rocker's mellow '70s ballad into a soul-infused gospel show stopper. Amazingly, the one song missing from this performance is James' signature turn, "At Last." I'm not sure if it was a copyright issue that led to its exclusion or just that it was never performed during the concert. Either way, it's absence is disappointing.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080i high definition widescreen, the image quality for this live performance is excellent; with stage lighting that is bright, colorful, and full of flare. James wears a bright gold and black dress that nearly pops off the screen. The transfer is so clear it can sometimes get a bit gross watching the sweat flow down the singer and her musician's faces.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is wonderfully realized and will give your home theater a full rocking workout. The blues-infused concert rumbles through every speaker available with energy to spare, perfectly showcasing James' bombastic pipes. Also included is an LCPM 2.0 Stereo mix.
Bonus features include additional concert performance tracks spanning two decades, including "Respect Yourself," "Drown in my Own Tears," "W.O.M.A.N.," and "I'd Rather Go Blind" from 1975, "Medley: At Last /Trust in Me / A Sunday Kind of Love" from 1977, "Take it to the Limit" from 1978, "Tell Mama," "Something's Got a Hold on Me," "Breaking Up Somebody's Home," "I Got the Will," "Sugar on the Floor" from 1989, and "Your Good Thing is About to End" from 1990.
For fans of jazz and classic pop music, Etta James: Live at Montreaux 1993 (Blu-ray) is an indispensable recording that proves she was one of the twentieth century's most talented musicians.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 160 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Performances
* Wikipedia: Etta James