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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Music > Blues > Soul > Pop > Addiction > Jazz > Bass > Mental Illness > Mod > Punk > New > Amy (2015/A24/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Jaco (2015/MVD Visual Blu-ray set)/The Jam: About The Young Idea (2015/Eagle Blu-ray/DVD Set)/Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All (2015/Eagle Blu-ray Set)

Amy (2015/A24/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Jaco (2015/MVD Visual Blu-ray set)/The Jam: About The Young Idea (2015/Eagle Blu-ray/DVD Set)/Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All (2015/Eagle Blu-ray Set)

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

Here is a remarkable new group of music releases on Blu-ray everyone should see...

Asif Kapadia's Amy (2015) tells the amazing rise and sad fall of the amazing vocalist Amy Winehouse, an uncompromisingly Blues-oriented singer who managed to single-handedly revive the genre with her amazing voice and for far to brief a time become one o the top female vocalists in the world. We see more video footage than expected since many around her had consumer camcorders and her father insisted on taping everything later on not knowing how we would loose her too soon.

Unfortunately, addiction was not far away and in addition to a mixed family life and eventually toxic relationship with the lead singer of a major alternative British Rock Band of the time, all of her commercial success and accolades would eventually come crashing down as more drinking and drug usage would slowly chip away at her talent and her personal health. Sad also is how the media embraced her, than (as the 128 minutes shows us) shows the industry start to turn on her a bit instead of reaching out to help her. She did have support among her family and friends, but it simply was not enough and by the time the self-abuse did damage beyond the point of no return, her days were sadly numbered.

The last big glory moments are her Back To Black album produced by Mark Ronson and her Tony Bennett duet (he handles her adjustment issues with the recording session brilliantly, as usual for the legendary singer) which gave some hope that maybe she could break free from her private nightmare, get well again and make more music while finding peace of mind and personal happiness. The opposite happened and this documentary does a great job of showing us the story behind the scenes of her public life. In the end, the significance of the loss is enough to leave anyone speechless.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds Deleted Scenes, a feature length audio commentary track by Director Kapadia, Editor Chris King & Producer James Gay-Rees,Teaser Trailer, Original Theatrical Trailer, a Making Of featurette, Unseen Performances and Interviews with Yasiin Bey, Mark Ronson, Salaam Remi and Jools Holland.

Paul Marchand & Stephen Kijak's Jaco (2015) is the incredibly untold story of one of the greatest, most important and most influential musicians of all time, bassist Jaco Pastorius, a young man who loved music and found it when family life was uneven (to say the least) and found a new way to play bass that no one ever had before. Slowly being discovered and playing whatever shows he could, a meeting with a key member of Blood, Sweat and Tears led to solo recordings, a solid streak of work with the underrated Jazz band Weather Report and more. However, he was having problems, issues he did not initially know about and though he found happiness often, he died at an early age after an incident that should not have cost him his life.

I had seen Jaco himself in action before and knew some of his music, even if I could not identify it, but this intense 110 minutes includes a great wealth of footage, some rare music and images, private materials and a bunch of new interviews with the likes of Flea, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Joni Mitchell, Geddy Lee, Wayne Shorter, Bootsy Collins, Meshell Ndegeocello, Mike Stern and Producer Robert Trujillo. This is one of the most important music releases of the last few years in great company with the other gems here. This is very much worth going out of your way for.

The only extra is 100 minutes on the bonus Blu-ray of Outtakes, Anecdotes & Stories from 35+ interview sources worth your time, making a great companion with the documentary.

Bob Smeaton's The Jam: About The Young Idea (2015) is a grand new documentary about one of Britain's greatest bands, up there with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Blur, Pink Floyd, Yes, The Zombies, The Clash and so many others (including a few New Wave acts like Human League) we could name. However, The Jam somehow remain underrated, as relevant as ever and never totally got their due. This might be part of their appeal to fans, but they also were the last major Mod band (soon going/adding Punk and New Wave) and it is arguable they remain the most underrated band in U.K. history. Without necessarily trying, this 130 minutes of non-stop amazing music history makes that case very clearly showing how the trio came together and became an inarguable force that thrived in the face of the Thatcher Era (likely only accelerating their rise), ironically known best in the U.S. for ''Strange Town'' and '''Absolute Beginners'' among the early video played on an MTV that was just starting out (Universal music issued a great DVD set of their videos, et al, a few years ago that deserves a Blu-ray upgrade).

So if you are interested in great music and want to know more about The Jam, this is an excellent place to start.

Extras include a nicely illustrated paper pullout on the band with informative text and the bonus 1980 Rockpalast TV concert DVD, while the Blu-ray adds Additional Interviews, live performances of ''It's Too Bad'' & ''Saturday's Kids'' from The Rainbow in London, December 1979 and ''The Modern World'' & ''The Eton Rifles'' at The Ritz in New York City, May 1981.

Alex Gibney's Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All (2015) at first might make one wonder if there is anything else to say on one of the most important, successful and influential singers of all time, who also happened to be a political activist and actor, but thanks to Gibney and the Sinatra Family opening up with a brutal new honesty, this two-part documentary mini-series is one of the best releases on the man, his life and his art ever made. Sure, it is going to miss some things, but the combination of familiar footage, rare footage, stills and quotes and comments by those who knew him best makes for a very compelling 259 minutes that never becomes boring at all.

The big surprise here is that the family is willing to discuss the mobsters Sinatra knew and how he interacted with them, a sticking point that put Scorsese's Sinatra feature film on hold, so I cannot imagine what he could say or do that is so bad that is any worse than anything they are admitting here. However, that is a small part of the amazing story of his rise, fall, rise and battles for perfection and quality. I liked the sonic quality of the music as well, as the family's estate made sure the best copies are used here, sounding warm and enhancing the storytelling. This is definitely worth your time and was as surprising as it was impressive. Only a die-hard Sinatra scholar will not be impressed.

Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text, while the Blu-ray adds a section of reminiscences on Sinatra of video footage and stills accompanied by comments from Robert Wagner & Jill St. John, Jerry Weintraub, Emil Davis, Quincy Jones, Jerry Lewis and Mia Farrow.

All the releases offer 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers that mix new HD-recorded interviews with stills and older video and film footage that can show the age of the materials used, but all four programs look really fine throughout. Sure, the older tape sources might have analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage, but that is the way they survived. The 1.33 X 1 PAL videotaped image on the Jam DVD show is as good as it is going to get for its age and the format.

As for sound, all the Blu-rays have good DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that include audio that can be rough and even monophonic, but play back as well as can be expected. Jaco is incorrectly listed as only having inferior, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, but it is DTS MA as well. The Jam DVD has lossy DTS 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that try to expand the sound, but the recording shows its age more than expected, though I like the DTS a bit more and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 option is here, but the weakest of all.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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