Case Number 22886: Small Claims Court


Image Entertainment // 2003 // 122 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 7th, 2011

The Charge

The sweet sounds of a soulful crooner.

The Case

"The Doobie Brothers."

Just the name along conjures up all kinds of images of mellow, relaxing moments for your ears. Many of the Doobie Brothers' songs are instantly recognizable and for good reason -- a lot of them had singer Michael McDonald front and center on lead vocals. Instantly recognizable, McDonald's soft rock windpipes could put a baby to sleep in thirty seconds flat. To be clear, this isn't a complaint; the world needs soothing vocals and McDonald's voice is one of the best in the business. With Michael McDonald: A Tribute to Motown / Live, the white haired crooner gives fans exactly what they want: his big hits sung just the way they remember them.

McDonald's career in music has spanned decades, featured in groups like Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers until the early 1980s when he went solo. In his early career, McDonald's songs were everywhere, from movies (including the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines comedy Running Scared) to duets with some of the industries top female artists to Top 40 smash hits.

As the decades rolled by, the hits stalled but McDonald continued to tour and record (dabbling in films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and South Park). One of McDonald's recent forays was recording Motown standards, which brings us to Michael McDonald: A Tribute to Motown. Filmed as part of WTTW Chicago's Soundstage series, this 2003 concert featured McDonald's version of some of Motown's best loves songs including:

* "I Second That Emotion"
* "I Was Made to Love Her"
* "What's Going On"
* "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
* "All in Love Is Fair"
* "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)"
* "Baby I'm for Real"
* "Tracks of My Tears"
* "Since I Lost My Baby"
* "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever"
* "You're All I Need to Get By"
* "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
* "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"
* "Nowhere to Run"

McDonald's take of each of these classics is vastly different and yet often very familiar; although the songs have been rearranged slightly to bring them up to date, each musical number retains the essence of their original recordings. McDonald's smooth vocals make a lot of these songs soar. I loved hearing his take on Smokey Robinson's bittersweet "Tracks of My Tears" and the late Marvin Gaye's eco-friendly "What's Going On." It's as if McDonald's voice was uniquely created just for these kinds of songs. Although he tends to falter a bit one some of the numbers -- I wasn't a big fan of "Nowhere to Run" and "I Second that Emotion" -- overall this a very enjoyable concert experience and a nice way to revisit songs that always feel like old friends.

On Michael McDonald: Live viewers are treated to his back catalog as well as solo work. McDonald is backed by some talented session musicians including Bernie Chiaravalle on guitar, Yvette Preyer on drums, Pat Coil on keyboards, Lanice Morrison on the bass, Yvonne Gage, Francine Smith, and Vince Denham on saxaphone and flute, and Simbryt Whittington's background vocals. McDonald even gets help from a string section for a few numbers. The songs included on this concert are:

* "It Keeps You Runnin'
* "Sweet Freedom"
* "I Keep Forgettin"
* "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
* "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
* "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"
* "Black Water"
* "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)"
* "Minute by Minute"
* "What a Fool Believes"
* "Takin' It to the Streets"

I personally enjoyed this concert slightly more than A Tribute to Motown. While I liked McDonald's take on a lot of the old Motown tunes, I really enjoyed hearing some of McDonald's hits -- songs that I didn't even realize I knew, until I heard them on this Blu-ray. "I Keep Forgettin'" is a funky number I recall hearing years ago. Such Doobie Brothers classics as "What a Fool Believes," "Takin' it to the Street," and "Black Water" are a lot of fun. Even some of the songs I didn't recognize ("It Keeps Your Runnin'" and "Minute by Minute") were treats to hear. McDonald's stage persona is never flashy and doesn't divert your attention from the music on hand, something I respect in a musical artist. Fans of McDonald will certainly enjoy this double concert experience. There's a lot of music to listen to here and McDonald's voice hasn't aged a bit since he started in the business.

Both of these concerts are presented in 1.78:1/1080i high definition widescreen, though neither look overly impressive on the Blu-ray format. Up-converted to 1080i, both feature well defined colors and solid black levels. There's nothing impressive in either of these images, but there's also little to complain about. Your soundtracks options are either DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround or LPCM 2.0 Stereo, both aggressive and exciting for fans of the singer. All of the speakers are fully engaged at all times during the concert and the music is crystal clear. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are included.

There are no bonus features.

The Verdict

Michael McDonald: A Tribute to Motown / Live is worth your hard earned money, if you can successfully sing along to any Doobie Brothers songs and keep a straight face.

Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 122 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb: A Tribute to Motown

* Michael McDonald