Judge Adam Arseneau used to be number ten, but now he's permanently one.
Wyclef, preacher's son, ichiban.
Wyclef Jean, hip-hop troubadour extraordinaire, has kept churning out the music long after his band, the Fugees, fell apart due to massive and cataclysmic creative differences (a.k.a. dating the girl in your band) Though not as financially successful as his infamous female counterpart Lauryn Hill, Wyclef keeps himself plenty busy, fusing rock, folk, and hip-hop in experimental ways and teaming up with everyone from Santana to The Rock on his albums. He also keeps himself fairly socially active, spearheading a charity to benefit inner-city youths of musical prowess and talent, giving them a chance to go to school and get educated in their gift.
Wyclef Jean: All Star Jam At Carnegie Hall is a live concert DVD of the first annual "Clef's Kids" concert, the profits from which benefit the Wyclef Jean Foundation, featuring performances from the Clef Kids and Wyclef himself, along with such well-known acts as Charlotte Church, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Steven Marley, Mary J. Blige, Macy Gray, and Destiny's Child. The track listing for the concert is as follows:
• "Minnie the Moocher / Take the A-Train"—Wyclef
The entire affair feels more like a variety hour show rather than a concert. Wyclef spends more time talking between songs, coming out in various different outfits, sitting on the edge of the stage casually, wandering through the audience to "rap with his people," and other non-musical activities. It reeks of lameness, and the majority of the material selected for performance seems tame and inoffensive compared to the majority of Wyclef's work, as if appealing to the rich white audience of New York socialites. Others barely qualify as live performances, with all the overdubbing and pre-recorded vocals. (Destiny's Child, anyone?)
That being said, not all the performances are bad news. Highlights include the avant-garde cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" with Macy Gray on piano, Eric Clapton's sublime reggae-influenced version of "Wonderful Tonight," the hyperkinetic "Bach Melody" performed by Wyclef's young virtuosos, and the natural coming-together of Steven Marley and Wyclef singing "No Woman No Cry." Four good tracks do not a great concert DVD make, but it certainly helps ease the discomfort.
The presentation of this DVD is somewhat perplexing, existing in that uncomfortable gray zone between excellent and mediocre that many DVDs seem to occupy these days. The visual quality at first glance is quite sharp and detailed, with rich detail and clarity, but the longer you watch it, the more you notice the murky backgrounds, the heavy enhanced edges, and the general pixelated quality of the transfer.
Three audio modes are included, a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, a 5.1 surround track and a five-channel DTS track, all of which at first listen sound quite pristine, but eventually I noticed a peculiar high-pitched hissing in both the DTS and the surround track during some of the more active songs. Try as I might, I was unable to put my finger on what the problem was, but eventually, it was all I could hear. The 2.0 track is a joke, really; weak and feeble and with no muscle or oomph. The 5.1 track is a step up, with bright trebles and excellent distribution to the rear channels. Unlike other Eagle Vision concert discs I have reviewed in the past, the DTS track is actually quite modest and understated in its volume levels, offering a more sophisticated and balanced presentation than simply blowing the cloth covers off your speakers. The DTS track sounds the most dynamic and impressive of the three tracks, but it should be noted that all three modes lack any significant bass response, which is completely unacceptable for a concert DVD.
Two small featurettes are also included, focusing on the performers themselves, one for the kids and one for the superstars, both completely uninteresting.
The inherent absurdity of seeing Wyclef onstage in his b-boy stance, trying to coax well-dressed, well-fed and wealthy white people out of their seats in order to "jump around," simply boggles the mind. It yahtzees the mind, even. I can only imagine the horrifying and self-deprecating thoughts going through poor Wyclef's mind during the concert—I bet he really misses the Fugees at a time like this. To his credit, he sure does suffer for his charitable cause; I'll give him that. But he is so, so much better than this.
All making fun of the inherent ridiculousness of the performance aside, it is hard to be brutally critical of this DVD beyond mockery and a good-natured comedic ribbing. The quality of the visual and audio are moderately decent, and the charity certainly benefits a just and noble cause. Of course, nothing on the DVD packaging suggests any of the profits from its sale will end up in the hands of the charity itself—but that's just the cynical jerk in me talking.
The good bits are admittedly quite good, but the majority of Wyclef Jean: All Star Jam At Carnegie Hall is lamer than a lame duck at a lame duck festival. The final verdict? Not guilty, but just barely.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Vision
• Featurette: "The Kids"
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