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BMG Music presents
25 Years of #1 Hits: Arista Records 25th Anniversary Celebration (2000)

"Don't you wanna dance?"
- Whitney Houston

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 04, 2000

Stars: Santana, Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, Sarah McLachlan, Puff Daddy, WhitneyHouston
Other Stars: Annie Lennox, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Toni Braxton, Patti Smith, Kenny G, Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Melissa Etheridge, Carole King, Deborah Cox, Monica, Next, Westlife, LFO and David Foster
Director: Bruce Gowers

Manufacturer: Sonopress
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:27m:04s
Release Date: June 06, 2000
UPC: 078221574891
Genre: pop

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+AB B-

DVD Review

Clive Davis had been a record executive at Columbia for many years in 1974, having made stars of such names as Janis Joplin, Billy Joel, Chicago and Bruce Springsteen. In that year, he set out to start his own record company, trusting his own ear and diverse tastes to develop and work the same magic as he had at Columbia. The result was Arista Records, named after a high school honor society that focused on both excellence and selectivity, which Davis wanted in his company. From this program, it's clear that Davis succeeded admirably in these goals.

This event was set up to honor the 25th anniversary of Arista's first #1 hit, Barry Manilow's Mandy (1975). In addition to brief glimpses of many if not all of Arista's #1 hits over the years, the centerpiece of the program was live performances by many of the luminaries who have recorded under the Arista banner over the years, in an amazing array of styles from the latin-soul tinged rock of Carlos Santana to the white-bread pop of Barry Manilow to the folky sound of Sarah McLachlan to the country twang of Alan Jackson to the rap of Puff Daddy. There's truly something for nearly every taste in popular music here; that's the strength as well as one of the few weaknesses in the program. Unless you're completely omnivorous in musical tastes, there are bound to be some numbers you'll want to skip over as well.

However, the package is undeniably entertaining (with the notable exception of an incredibly maudlin and out-of-place tribute to Notorious B.I.G. by Puff Daddy). All of the performers are in top form, other than Barry Manilow who no longer has the range of 25 years ago, but he undeniably still knows how to put on a show and please a crowd. The other old-timers, Aretha Franklin and Patti Smith both give powerful performances that demonstrate they've still got it. The medleys by Manilow and Aretha are each well assembled, giving a significant chunk of the songs included without going on endlessly with each of them. The same is not true of Whitney Houston's medley, which seems like a series of complete songs welded together. I'm frankly not a Whitney fan and this seemed interminable to me, but her devotees will be very happy with this program and will definitely want to own it. Kenny G fans will be disappointed to learn that his performance of Songbird is almost entirely covered up by voiceover from Dick Clark. For me, the highlight was Sarah McLachlan's searing performance of Angel (and I'm not particularly a fan of hers either), but there's plenty to like here.

The visuals are interesting, with dozens of camera angles and plenty of movement throughout the show. There is a People-magazine tendency to look for notables in the crowd which becomes irritating; I really didn't need to know that Jeff Bridges and Magic Johnson were in attendance.

Musical Performances:
Santana: Maria Maria and Smooth
Barry Manilow: Medley of Mandy, Can't Smile Without You, Copacabana, Even Now, Ready to Take a Chance Again, It's a Miracle, Daybreak, This One's For You and I Write the Songs
Annie Lennox: Why
Brooks & Dunn: My Maria
Alan Jackson: Chattahoochee
Aretha Franklin: Medley of I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), It Hurts Like Hell and Freeway of Love (with Boyz II Men)
Sarah McLachlan: Angel
Puff Daddy: Mo Money Mo Problems and I'll Be Missing You
Toni Braxton: Un-Break My Heart
Patti Smith: Because the Night (with Sarah McLachlan)
Whitney Houston: 'Medley' of I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), How Will I Know, I Believe in You and Me, I Will Always Love You and My Love is Your Love
Kenny G: Songbird
Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Melissa Etheridge, Carole King, Barry Manilow, Kenny G, Deborah Cox, Monica, Next, Westlife and David Foster: That's What Friends Are For

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For a live stage show, the video image quality is excellent. Blacks are rich and full, and colors are nicely reproduced. The picture is sharp and crisp in the live segments. The older video clips of such ancient memories as The Bay City Rollers are soft and washed out, but this is obviously a source material issue. The bit rates during the musical performances are often quite high, ranging up to about 8 Mbps, as opposed to 2 or 3 Mbps during the introductions by Jay Leno and others. A very pleasing presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There are some serious problems with the 5.1 audio mix on this program. The bass on the 5.1 track is unpleasantly boosted to the point of being obnoxious in some segments (notably during Carlos Santana's numbers), and the center channel seems to be lacking badly, so that lead vocals tend to get lost. Since the surrounds are almost entirely limited to audience noise, listeners with full-range mains will probably be best off with the DD 2.0 audio (the default selection), which suffers from neither of these defects. I would give the 2.0 an A- grade, and the 5.1 track about a C, at best. Hiss and noise are not noticeable on either track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 25 cues and remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Footage of stars arriving at the event
  2. Backstage footage of preparations for the show and rehearsals
Extras Review: The highlight of the extras is a set of four deleted musical performances, which are quite entertaining in their own right. They can be played individually, or all in succession. The video and audio quality on them is equivalent to that of the main program. The deleted songs are:

Santana: Da le Yaleo
Dionne Warwick and Barry Manilow: I'll Never Love This Way Again
Monica: For You I Will
Deborah Cox: Nobody's Supposed to Be Here

Two segments of video clips are also included. The first, slightly over a minute in length is nothing more than shots of the stars and the notables in the audience arriving and striking a pose. Fashion devotees of Entertainment Tonight will like this, I suppose, but it did nothing for me. The second, and slightly meatier (4m:47s) clip gives us shots of the preparations and rehearsals for the program; if you wanted to see the stars dressed in their grubbies and performing, this is the spot for you. It's all set to music by Santana, so there's no live audio, which is a little disappointing, and there's no linking or background information, so the utility of the clip is limited. But it's a nice little backstage glimpse if nothing else.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

There's truly something for every popular musical taste here. A nice assemblage of stars giving rousing performances. A problematic 5.1 track is the main drawback, but the DD 2.0 audio is excellent. A must for Whitney Houston lovers.


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