Judge Dave Ryan wonders if it is possible for humans to ever exceed the speed of cheeba...
Tasty herbal is optional.
Jamiroquai is probably the reigning king of Bands That Are Huge In The Rest of the World But Basically Ignored In The USA. They've sold millions upon millions of albums chock-full of their insanely danceable blend of jazz, funk, pot smoke, and disco worldwide over the past fifteen years, but have had only one minor hit in the US ("Virtual Insanity")—and that was only because the video was really clever.
Jamiroquai was founded by a trippy Englishman named Jay Kay way back in 1992. Jay Kay—which is not a stage name, believe it or not—has become quite the favorite of the gossip pages over in London, thanks to his love of fast cars (he currently holds the fastest lap time in Top Gear's "Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car" competition), his string of celebrity girlfriends, and his unique choices in performance headgear. What's on display in this Live at Montreux 2003 disc is not the cheeky side of Kay's personality, though—it's his frenetic musicianship, his knack for finding a killer funk groove, and his excellent taste in band members. If you're already a Jamiroquai fan, you're probably well acquainted with this performance—it's been bootlegged often, and was previously released on a standard definition DVD. But here, for the first time, is Jamiroquai in high definition, with three flavors of high-def audio accompanying it
This performance was, as you probably have figured out, recorded in July 2003 at the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The nearly two and a half hour set covers a broad swath of the band's catalog:
• "Use The Force"
An extended performance of "Space Cowboy" recorded at the 1995 Montreux Festival—which features virtually all of the original Jamiroquai members—is included as a "bonus track."
Jamiroquai's sound isn't that difficult to describe. At heart, it's an updated, uptempo jazzier extension of Stevie Wonder's early- to mid-70s sound, with some doses of Parliament and Chic thrown in for good measure. Approaching it from another direction, Jamiroquai is what the Style Council might have become had Paul Weller taken its sound deeper into the Motown groove instead of going solo and adopting a more aggressive "heavy soul" sound. Or, if you prefer—it's trippy dance-funk. If you like Wonder's "Superstition," or if you can't get enough of "Machine Gun" by the Commodores, then you're probably going to love Jamiroquai. This concert is actually a pretty good introduction to the band—it captures the high energy of the band's live performances while giving you a good cross section of the band's work. It's a recommended disc for that reason alone.
The real question, though, is whether it's worth springing for the Blu-ray version of the show. I don't have a copy of the SD release for comparison, but I can tell you this HD version is pretty spectacular. The concert was shot in 1080i HD, and looks terrific. Not as terrific as most HD recordings, mind you—there's always going to be some loss of picture quality with concert recordings due to the challenging lighting issues involved with recording live music. But there were only a few instances where I saw flaws or distortion in the picture, and they didn't rise to the level of distractions. The sound is stellar. There are three audio options available, all of which do a great job at reproducing the sound. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix—which is a perfectly good surround mix—is probably the weakest of the two surround tracks, sounding a little more compressed and constrained than the other two. Depending on your setup, you can't go wrong with either the Linear PCM stereo mix or the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, both of which are stellar. Obviously the DTS surround track is the preferred option if your equipment supports it. It's a bright, forceful, and sparkly track that gives you plenty of bass response without drowning out any of the other instruments (or Jay Kay's voice). I wish the surround channels had been used a little more, but what use is there is enough to create a good sense of "being there." If you don't have a surround setup, the LPCM stereo mix is equally sharp and accurate—it just lacks that 3D soundstage effect that the DTS audio gives you.
Jamiroquai fans know this concert has a bonus feature built into it: this is the only recording available of the song "Shoot The Moon." "Shoot The Moon" had been written for what would eventually become the band's fifth album A Funk Odyssey (released in 2001), but was ultimately abandoned. This live version of it is all that remains—it was never even demoed in the studio.
For fans or for newbies, this is a great introduction to one of the funkier bands ever to come out of England. And once again, Eagle Vision has delivered a technically excellent concert disc. If you're a Jamiroquai fan, this should be a no-brainer purchase. For everyone else, you might want to give it a shot. Just make sure to clear out a dance floor for yourself first.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Bonus Track
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