Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Music > Concert > Country > Network Radio > Documentary > Classical > Opera > Tribute > Hank Williams: I Saw The Light - The Unreleased Recordings (1951, 2009/Time Life DVD/3-CD Set)/Britten's Gloriana (1984)/Boito's Mefistofele (1989)/Dvorak's Rusalka (1986/all ArtHaus)/Proms At The Roy

Hank Williams: I Saw The Light - The Unreleased Recordings (1951, 2009/Time Life DVD/3-CD Set)/Britten's Gloriana (1984)/Boito's Mefistofele (1989)/Dvorak's Rusalka (1986/all ArtHaus)/Proms At The Royal Albert Hall/Fischer/Zinman (2014/C Major/Unitel Classica)/William Walton: London Concert (1982/ArtHaus/all Naxos Blu-rays)

Picture: C+/C/C/C/B/C Sound: B-/C+/C+/C+/B/C+ Extras: C-/C-/C-/C-/C/C- Main Programs: B-/B-/C+/C+/B/B-

Here are the classic recordings of a country legend unearthed, followed by more Classical Music...

Hank Williams: I Saw The Light - The Unreleased Recordings (1951, 2009) is being issued as a new theatrical motion picture biopic on the music legend starts turning up across the country for awards consideration. A few years ago, a pile of original magnetic recordings of Williams' had been thrown out by a major record label, but recovered by a fan before they were lost forever. The label's rep (ignorantly) said they were junk and worthless, but the man saved them and only needed permission of the estate to get them issued. I though some of that material might be here, but instead, the songs from all 3 CDs here from a series of radio music programs the Mother's Best food and feed company sponsored in the glorious days of network radio entertainment prior to TV.

After an interesting story in which these recordings survived on 18-inch acetate electronic transcription discs (essentially giant plastic records made for professional use for radio stations nationwide before magnetic tape became standard in the analog era) and they were saved to magnetic tape as backup in 1981! Bravo!!!

We get 56 songs including more spirituals than expected and these priceless performances have been nicely remastered and finally saved against for all of us to enjoy. Though he is a country legend and icon, it is easy to underrate what a fine musician and vocalist he was. Still influential to this day, it is sad to hear him as it is whenever I hear Patsy Cline or Buddy Holly, knowing how much amazing work was lost and by such amazing people. A true American original, the timing of this set could not be better and the DVD has a program hosted by his daughter (born after his too-young death) Jett Williams how these recordings were found (et al) and even interviews he dad's musician friends. That makes this a real complete package and one of the best music releases of the year. Definitely worth your time!

NOTE: Since this release, a very expanded version has been issued, which you can read more about here...


And the I Saw The Light feature film was released, which you can read more about here...


Britten's Gloriana (1984) was staged by The English National Opera at the great London Coliseum bringing back to life a work meant to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 1955 Coronation and expounds on the Elizabeth & Essex tale. It is an often intense English-language Opera that is not the most interesting thing Britten ever made (it was commissioned after all), but it is not bad at 147 minutes unless you don't like the singing or subject matter. Mark Elder conducts and I think it is good, if not great, yet just about definitive.

Boito's Mefistofele (1989) runs a longer 160 minutes, has a narrative that is too obvious and basic, but that does not stop the singers and Director Robert Carsen from leaving no stone unturned. Conductor Maurizio Arena is very consistent in delivering the music, but this is just too long and I was a bit disappointed. Only the very curious (and awake) should look into it.

Dvorak's Rusalka (1986) has slight horror elements, but the well-designed stage looks more like a melodrama with grown woman swinging from swings out of the very high ceiling as a trio of younger gals sing to her, then they are visited by an old man in a wheelchair and a somewhat angry woman who turns out to practice witchcraft. What is going on here? Not as much as there could be as this gets predictable and is also a good bit long, but the singing and designs help, yet it never totally adds up or offers up anything new. Mark Elder once again conducts the English National Opera, but David Pountnoy is the stage director. This is marginally the best of the three in the 'Legendary Performances' series by ArtHaus we are covering this time out.

Proms At The Royal Albert Hall (2014) is a BBC production with conductor David Zinman and the equally amazing guest violinist Julia Fischer playing a great set that includes Richard Strauss, Dvorak, Beethoven and more. They are amazing, the orchestra is amazing, thy audience is even solid and this is my favorite release on the list; a Classical Blu-ray done very well. Running 102 minutes, it is never dull and there's a real joy to the performances throughout.

Finally, we have a tribute concert in William Walton: London Concert (1982) with the then 80-year-old master composer presiding over a show featuring legendary conductor (and music legend) Andre Previn Live from the Royal Festival Hall. Eventually joined by top soloists like Kyung-Wha Chung, Thomas Allen and Andrew Greenwood, Previn and company deliver a top rate show that sadly only lasts 86 minutes and one I wish had been filmed and not taped at the time. Previn's presence will alone spark curiosity, but it is one of the better upscale Blu-ray releases we have seen (I wish the performance of the recording was better, but what can you do) and it definitely worth a good look.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Williams DVD may show its age a bit, but it still looks better than the 1080i upscaling of the old analog 1.33 X 1 video in 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 framing on the rest of the Blu-rays, save Proms. Whatever the reason, conversion of the PAL (or NTSC or SECAM video, if actually applicable) in all cases is just weak, soft, can be rough and have haloing throughout. We've seen better examples from both Naxos and Eagle. Thus, the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Proms, it's native HD shoot format, looks the best on this list easily despite minor detail flaws and is one of the best 1080i we have seen from Naxos to date.

As for sound, Proms easily wins again with a very well recorded DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is well recorded, mixed and presented with some fine sonic moments. It may not be a big demo disc, but it is very consistent in soundfield and better than the PCM 2.0 Stereo versions included for older playback. The rest of the Blu-rays also offer PCM 2.0 Stereo mixes, but they tend to be rougher than expected, so the PCM 2.0 Stereo sound on the Williams DVD actually manages to sound better by default.

Usually, we'd expect illustrated booklets of some kind on all of these releases, but Gloriana, Mefistofele and Rusalka simply have essays built into their paperboard foldouts in English only. Save trailers on all five Classical titles, there are no other extras anywhere on these releases.

- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com