Eagle Rock Entertainment // 2007 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // April 17th, 2008
How can 100 million albums sold go wrong? No really, I'm asking.
Yep, this guy who I've not really heard of has sold a pantload of albums, has also released a lot of albums, more than 190 to this point, but James Last has managed to incorporate slightly infectious dance beats with a wide variety of musical styles, including horn and string sections, while incorporating slight touches of electronica here and there. But James Last's career might be overlooked by the modern music fan, as he resorts to playing cover versions of standards using those same beats. He has managed to score a couple of songs that people might recognize, as his song "The Lonely Shepherd" appeared in Volume One of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. But by and large, my characterization of him, however unfair, is that he appears to be a bandleader of sorts, navigating a large group of musicians while geriatrics stand up and clap and sing. Some of them even do it on time and in tune, which is nice to see.
To be fair though, he's got a following for a reason, even if I don't know what that reason is. Besides, let's face it, the guy is almost eighty years old and playing the Royal Albert Hall. That's got to account for something, whether he looks like the late Arthur Fiedler or not. With that said, his setlist for this 2007 performance in London is as follows:
* "The Way We Were" (yeah, that's about right)
* Medley, featuring "Love is in the Air," "Perhaps" and "Ave Maria No Morro"
* "Tequila" (well, the audience was in need of a good call and response number)
* "Vertigo" (wait. What?)
* "Greensleeves" (2006)
* "Aber Dich Gibt's Nur Einmal Fur Mich"
* "Wake Me Up When September Ends" (I'll get back to this)
* "Over the Rainbow" (thank God we're back to the standards again)
* "Orange Blossom Special" (well so much for that)
* A hip hop polka medley, with "Fett Polka," "Herz Schmerz Polka" and "Sportpalast Polka"
* "Games That Lovers Play"
Well, to have a bandleader doing cover songs is to be expected a little bit, but there's a couple of swerves in there that, for eclectic's sake, I've got to admire. To see a German whose age probably totals U2's Bono and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong combined, performing their songs in this form of music, there's not enough conventional medication out there to describe what an experience this is. There are also touches of Iron Butterfly during the set, along with Johnny Cash's "Orange Blossom Special," so along with the contemporary rock, he does a country song? Again, if someone out there can get me out of this really bad drug trip, please let me know, no amount of money is too small.
But I mentioned this to a friend at work, I like diverse and unique covers as much as the next music fan. I've got DEVO covering Hendrix, Joey Ramone covering Iggy Pop and Nick Cave covering Bobby Darin, and there's just something surreal and kind of creepy about James Last covering concept music from an American pseudo-punk rock act. People wind up digging it, to be fair, and everyone does get up, clap and stomp, but I'm still trying to figure out why that is. While it might be music that one could put on and leave on, you're left wondering why you put it on in the first place. Wait, now I recognize it as "Orange Blossom Special" invades my brain. It's muzak for people who don't want to go to the dentist's office and ride in the elevator. And covering Green Day and U2 gives the elderly a chance to relate to the grandkids that never come to see and talk to them. In the process, the emotion and edge is taken out of the original material. But hey, people like it and keep buying the albums, so maybe I'm wrong.
Technically, things are pretty straightforward like other Eagle Rock releases, the video is widescreen and you've got a choice of DTS and two Dolby Digital Surround tracks that are capable. The only extra to speak of is an interview with Last where he talks about his origins and playing at the Royal Albert Hall. He seems like a nice enough guy.
Well, if you want a change of pace from the normal run of the mill ambient and innocuous interpretations of modern music, then by all means give James Last a try. He does manage to get the audience involved in his shows and the song selection is varied to be sure, but I wouldn't get too attached to it, or else you're going to trade your guitar in for a pan flute.
Review content copyright © 2008 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview Footage
* Official James Last Website