Concord Music Group // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // July 3rd, 2010
Established in 2003 by record producer Mark Johnson, the Playing for Change Foundation is a music collective and non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace through music. With musicians from all across the globe performing together on stage and in the studio, Playing for Change has raised a lot of money to fund music schools in poor areas throughout the world. The Playing for Change: Live DVD/CD combo shows the group performing at its best, though it unfortunately doesn't put their message close to the front. Still, it makes for a fine concert video, just not a great documentary.
If you're a fan of the blues or of African music, you'll love Playing for Change: Live. The group features little known, but fantastic musicians performing various blues and rock standards, with a few more traditional African songs thrown in for good measure. These are some of my favorite cuts, if only because I don't know the songs, but the entire set is quite strong. The artists clearly have a blast and, though they were strangers before the tour, they act like a family together on stage. While there's the occasional hard blues standard like "Fannie Mae," their concerts are much more balanced to feel-good songs like Bob Marley's "One Love" and "What's Up" by Four Non Blondes (a song I truly hate). Whatever I think about a few particular cuts, the selections are right in line with the foundation's message.
Playing for Change: Live is presented in three distinct parts. First, we have the documentary, On the Road with the PFC Band, a ninety-minute piece that intercuts concert footage with interviews from the musicians and producers. It's an interesting film, but doesn't go nearly far enough in describing the mission of Playing for Change, instead the focus is more intent on the music. Next, we have their complete concert from Madrid, the final stop on the tour, and it's an excellent, fun-filled show. Much of the footage in the documentary comes from this performance, so there's a lot of redundant material, but it's good nonetheless to see them in their proper order. Finally on the disc, we have two additional songs, including a heartstring-tugging version of "Amazing Grace" sung for a kid as his Make-a-Wish Foundation request. Additionally, we have the CD, which features much of the music from the concert film, but it omits "What's Up," for which I'm grateful. It's great added value and a good addition to anybody's CD library.
Technically, the disc is perfectly acceptable, with a strong image transfer and good sound. Nothing special, necessarily, but good enough.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Concord Music Group
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage
* Bonus CD
* Official Site