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Music Video Distributors presents
"We are all one. We are the human race. We are humanity."
DVD ReviewMuch like blues-rock, reggae music is quite restricted in its musical boundaries. There are not a wide variety of avenues reggae musicians can explore before they find themselves stepping outside of the genre. Morgan Heritage sneaks around this limitation by sticking firmly to the reggae style, but also incorporating a heavy gospel influence within the genre's grooves.
Morgan Heritage: Live at the London Astoria is an admirable look at the band promoting their More Teachings album. Prior to the Morgan Heritage set, LMS shows off their melodic reggae styling. While their show is short, they deliver a powerful vibe with nice vocal duets. Unfortunately, the sound mix for each song varies greatly. One song I could not hear the hi-hat; the next song it was crisp and clear. One moment the bass guitar is muddy and distorted; the next it is rich and clean. I get the impression that the sound engineers were experimenting with the room acoustics before Morgan Heritage took the stage.
By the time the band began their set, the sound has been evened out. Each instrument slices through without covering up the other instruments or, more importantly, the vocals. With upwards of eight musicians on stage, the sound never becomes too muddled or chaotic. Much of the music is straightforward reggae, but there is a nice contrast in their sound that transcends the monotonous, staccato guitars and repetitive rhythm section. When Troddin to Zion jumps into I'm a Rastaman, the blend is executed so naturally that I hardly noticed the awkward key change and drastic tempo alteration. The intricate vocal harmonies are particularly impressive. In a live setting, the introduction of multiple singers often causes intonation to suffer greatly. With as many as four separate voices, Morgan Heritage's intonation remains tight. The lead singer, Peter Morgan, has a strong reggae voice backed by stunning range. I am deeply impressed with the musicianship of this group.
The band is comprised of five brothers and sisters, all of whom are the offspring of reggae legend, Denroy Morgan. The "teachings" of the band are greatly based upon the Rastafari religion. Peter assures the audience that this is not about wearing dread locks or smoking ganja, but more about promoting a sense of unity amongst all people of the human race. The band's beliefs are strong, but never do they overshadow the warm, carefree vibe invoked by the reggae music.
The coverage of this concert is both good and bad. The editing provides an encompassing look at the band with no particular focus on one member over another. Sadly, it is confusing for non-fans to understand the flow of the concert, as the three bands are not introduced in a traditional sense (I had to watch the concert a second time to realize that the first band was actually LMS and Morgan Heritage performing together, semi-incognito). Furthermore, the event does not convey the sense of a concert environment as well as one would hope. Nevertheless, Morgan Heritage fans will certainly be satisfied by this commendable concert experience. As someone who was unfamiliar with their music, their talent and professionalism impressed me.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer looks pleasing at first glance, but the image is plagued with video noise. From the opening frames I noticed significant jaggies, moiré, and a hazy look to the picture. The transfer appears to have gone through mastering problems, as there are frequently drastic shifts in the overall visual aesthetic. Casual viewers may be satisfied with the bold colors and deep blacks, but more discriminating viewers will easily recognize the abundance of visual deficiencies.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: My excitement over the inclusion of a 5.1 soundtrack was quickly defeated. The mix sounds predominately monaural with a wider soundstage. Most of the soundtrack is heavily locked in the center channel, with unsubstantial expansion into the front mains. The surround channels are indiscernible; I had to put my head against the speakers to hear anything. The inability to switch audio tracks on the fly made a direct comparison between the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes difficult, but I did notice slightly more expansion and depth on the 5.1 mix. Both tracks have a distinct emphasis on the mid-range of the audio spectrum. On the positive side, fidelity is clean with no hint of distortion. These are pleasant soundtracks, but the lack of envelopment on the 5.1 track left me disappointed.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 21 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sublime: Bad Fish, Heartland Reggae, Israel Vibration: Roxanne Club—Tel Aviv, Toots and the Maytals: Monkey Man, Rockers: Kiddus I—Graduation to Zion
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:16s
First is a collection of four full-length music videos of average quality. I only recognized one of them as being by Morgan Heritage, however, the other three are a mystery, as the DVD does not make any mention of band names.
Next is a two-minute trailer, which plays very much like another music video, as well as a commercial for the Astoria concert.
The first of three featurettes is a 10-minute radio segment with Morgan Heritage discussing their latest album and their beliefs with London DJ, David Rodigan. This is an interesting Q & A session, but I get the impression that Mr. Rodigan had no idea who Morgan Heritage was prior to this meeting.
The next featurette is a five-minute look at the band on the road. This also plays much like a music video, featuring concert footage from their performances on the Warped Tour in 2001.
The last and most interesting featurette is titled Short Songs and Interview. This shows the members from Morgan Heritage performing short acoustical numbers and discussing their teachings between performances. The music shines with terrific vocal harmonies, but the teaching gets to be a bit heavy-handed by this point. I would much rather hear them teach me through their music.
Also included is an icon titled Also Available From MVD. Here is where the viewer will find trailers and footage from five other MVD titles.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsMorgan Heritage's strong performance at the London Astoria has been admirably preserved on DVD. Though the audio and video presentations are lacking, nothing can detract from the enjoyment invoked by this heartfelt reggae music.
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