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Category:    Home > Reviews > Country Music > Awards > Backstage > Soul > R&B > Multi-channel Music > Classical > Documentary > Biograph > Mantovani: The King Of Strings (2018/MVD/FilmRise Blu-ray)/Sunshine (1973/Universal/Redwind Blu-ray)/Tender Mercies (1983/EMI/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)

CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments: 1965 - 2015 (Time Life 3-DVD Set)/Johnnie Taylor: Ear-ga-sm & Rated EXtraordinare (1976 - 1977/Columbia Records/Sony/Vocalion Import Hybrid Super Audio CD/SACD/SA-CD)/Mantovani: The King Of Strings (2018/MVD/FilmRise Blu-ray)/Sunshine (1973/Universal/Redwind Blu-ray)/Tender Mercies (1983/EMI/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Tender Mercies Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on all Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray players, while the Johnnie Taylor Super Audio CD is now only available from Vocalion in the U.K.. All can be ordered from the links below.

This is a really good mix of new music titles for you to know about...

Though this new 3-DVD set is entitled CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments: 1965 - 2015, it is a mislabeled highlights edition of the 10-DVD set we reviewed at this link...


You get some of the interviews and a smaller booklet versus the larger set and it is at less cost, but I'd think true Country & Western Music fans would want the full set, even if they had to pay more. The three discs we get start with highlights starting in the years 1968, 1985 and 2012 if that helps anyone. Maybe some would like the smaller set, but it just feels a bit emptier, even if I had not seen the larger set before. Now you can choose.

Next up are two albums by a soul vocal legend who is not remembered as much as he ought to be. Originally a major singer for many years at the legendary Stax Records label, with classics hits like 'Who's Making Love' among others. By the mid-1970s as the label was becoming even more richly soul oriented, Johnnie Taylor landed up signing a big contract with Columbia Records and the result was new state-of-the-art recording facilities and two major albums in Ear-ga-sm (1976) and Rated EXtraordinare (1977), now issued as a strong double feature single disc from the great British label Vocalion as an Import Hybrid Super Audio CD with CD tracks. However, you have to have SA-CD capacity to enjoy both albums at their best in their original 4-track Quadraphonic mixes. The result shows off his voice better than ever and puts him in the same realm easily more so with Marvin Gaye and Al Green (both with multi-channel audio releases of their own) among the best soul male vocalists of the period, maybe even of all time.

Here's the track listing for each album...


1: DISCO LADY (Scales; Vance; Davis)
7: SOMEBODY'S GETTIN' IT (Jones; Colter; Davis)
8: IT DON'T HURT ME LIKE IT USED TO (Jordan; Ross) alto sax: Eli Fountain
9: PICK UP THE PIECES (Davis; Barker; Briggs)

Rated E'X'traordinaire

11: STORMY (Moore; Davis)
13: DID HE MAKE LOVE TO YOU (Scales; Griffin)
14: AND I PANICKED (Roach)
15: LOVE IS BETTER IN THE A.M. (PARTS 1 & 2) (Scales; Griffin; Davis)
16: IT AIN'T WHAT YOU DO (IT'S HOW YOU DO IT)(Scales; Davis; Robinson; Harralson)
17: NOT JUST ANOTHER BOOTY SONG (Davis; Briggs; Hamilton)
18: I'M JUST A SHOULDER TO CRY ON (Scales, Vance; Davis)

Needless to say, the first track on the first album, ''Disco Lady'' was a stunning, across the charts, across the board, crossover megahit nationwide and worldwide, yet it is not necessarily a disco song per se and those expecting two sexed-out disco records will be shocked to know that they are actually very rich soul vocal releases that have tracks that are up there with the best seductive tunes of the time. I am also impressed with how the content holds up and often rings true, but at the same time, why have these gems not been sampled enough?

Then we have the playback quality. Those with a home theater system that has SA-CD playback can enjoy the stunning sonics of the 4.0 ultra high definition DSD (Direct Stream Digital) multi-channel stereo few people got to hear back when the albums arrived on Quad. Taylor has range and bass that goes beyond disco or other genres, really phrasing the content for best impact and this was a great second wave for his career that hit the mark critically and commercially at the time. Too bad the second album was not as strong commercially.

The ultra high definition DSD (Direct Stream Digital) 2.0 Stereo tracks are also decent, if not as great as the 4.0 and will sound more like the mixdowns you would have heard at the time. That leaves the PCM 16/44.1 2.0 Stereo tracks sounding good, but passable versus the stunning impact of either DSD choice. Those multi-channel music fans will even find some demo moments on the disc that make it worth going out of your way for.

The only extra once again is the illustrated booklet included with tech info and another outstanding essay by David Zimmerman.

Mantovani was a musician, composer and director. He is considered to be the King of String orchestra in that he believed sting instruments can play the lead roles like any other brass instruments. He brought more class to orchestra music and into the world modern entertainment. Mantovani: The King Of Strings (2018) is a documentary takes a look back over his life and his dream and how he became a world class performer.

People might not (especially at this point in time) remember the name of Mantovani, but most people would remember and heard his music. Mantovani loved strings instruments and one of the most interesting things he did for music was was being able to create an 'echo' effect without being in a cathedral, church or echo chamber, he was able to take an orchestra and create a sound that was more than just the sum of the instruments. He wrote and created music that was played in hotels, early stereo and films... and he became world famous. Probably his most famous piece was 'Charmaine' the background music from Sunset Boulevard.

This was a biography of Mantovani, he was like the Frank Sinatra/Elvis Presley of string orchestra. Without this biography I probably wouldn't have even of known he existed and how he effected the world of music and entertainment. The biography is made of black and white pictures with his music in the background and various narrators telling about his life and music.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image mixes new and especially old footage, but looks pretty good considering, so that means the audio is also mixed, here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that is often monophonic. The real question is why was this not in a lossless audio format?

Extras include various performances of Mantovani, though a special edition has also been issued.

Sunshine (1973)

Joseph Sargent's Sunshine (1973) is one of the more unusual films from the very prolific journeyman director who was in especially good form in the 1970s. The film about a dysfunctional, toxic young couple (Cliff DeYoung with toxic male issues and Cristina Raines as his wife and mother of their child) gets rougher when she becomes sick with a very serious illness. At first though, everyone is singing songs from John Denver and you think this might be some kind of lost operetta, especially unusual before hit songs started showing up (especially as filler) in film and TV releases in the 1980s to date too often for our own good.

This is actually a TV movie Universal (who owned MCA Records at the time, now known as Universal Music, though Denver was an artist at competing RCA Records) made, first shown on CBS and almost a decade before MTV arrived, though Denver himself was all over TV and several music charts. The film is interesting in that it has its moments of peace and leisurely silence, but also is brutally honesty about how the couple does not get along, something we rarely see in any dramas honestly anywhere.

Meg Foster (Carpenter's They Live) turns up as 'the other woman' and Brenda Vacarro is great as the caring, even loving doctor who tries to help Raines out with the best decisions and best advice possible. Universal and ABC created what we now know as the TV Movie/telefilm and that means they did it better than most and they were all pretty much shot on 35mm film, so that is why they hold up as well as they do. They were also made for audiences with a brain, so that is a big plus.

This also makes for a nice time capsule and in a year where TV movies were usually very interesting. A few have made it to Blu-ray (Spielberg's Duel, Trilogy Of Terror, Dark Night of The Scarecrow, Bad Ronald, Dan Curtis' Dracula, Night Stalker and Night Strangler among them), so it is great that the Redwind label has joined it with this impressive Blu-ray edition. The result is more than a mere 'disease of the week' film and everyone ought to see this one at least once.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer comes from 35mm film as noted and since Universal had a contract with Universal at the time, some elements might have been dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor and the color here is more impressive than you might think. It also remains one of how good color block style filmmaking (aka narrow vision) can look, so expect some fine color range and detail. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is also in nice shape, from the original soundmaster apparently and as clear as just about any TV produced at the time. Extras include chapter stops for the songs and an Original Theatrical Trailer as it were.

Finally we have a film that is not discussed enough for all of its success and the talent of its lead star. Winner of two Academy Awards, Bruce Beresford's Tender Mercies (1983) lands on Blu-ray in a nice looking (and sounding) HD transfer courtesy of Umbrella. Out of his six nominations, this is Robert Duvall's only Academy Award winner, and well deserved for his captivating performance here. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay (Horton Foote).

Tender Mercies centers around a country singer named Mac Sledge (Duvall) whose past his prime and has taken residence in a broken down motel. Struggling with alcoholism and depression, Mac soon falls for widow Rosa Lee (Tess Harper) who runs the motel along with her young son. Once he starts to get his life back on track, Mac must choose between a comeback or a quieter life...

The film also stars Betty Buckley, Ellen Barkin, Tess Harper, and Wilford Brimley to name a few.

Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a 2.0 DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Stereo lossless mix, which looks and sounds very nice here. The film isn't available in the U.S. yet (Universal was its original distributor), so this is your best bet if you want to see a nice HD presentation of the film as of this writing.

Special Features include...

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Bruce Beresford

Miracles & Mercies featurette, featuring interviews with stars Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, and Allan Hubbard, Director Bruce Beresford, and Writer/Co-Producer Horton Foote

and a Theatrical Trailer.

Tender Mercies is a little slow, but has nice performances and a very grounded and realistic feel to it. The highlight is Duvall's performance and has some interesting commentary on life and romance.

You can order the Johnnie Taylor Super Audio CD directly from Vocalion starting at this link...


...and order the Tender Mercies Umbrella import Blu-ray, go to this link for it and other hard to find releases:


- Nicholas Sheffo, Ricky Chiang (Mantovani) and James Lockhart (Tender Mercies)



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