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Rhino presents

VH1 Storytellers: Natalie Merchant (1998)

"That young boy without a name
Anywhere I'd know his face."- Lyric from What's the Matter Here?

Stars: Natalie Merchant
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:42m:41s
Release Date: 2005-04-26
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

I still instantly think of the 10,000 Maniacs when I hear Natalie Merchant's name mentioned or I hear that unforgettable voice of hers. The lead singer of that group since she was 17, Merchant led them to numerous hit albums, critically, if not always commercially. However, since the 10,000 Maniacs broke up years ago, Merchant has been able to enjoy a very successful solo career, gaining a wider following over the course of four solo albums than she had following the release of the 10,000 Maniacs 5+ albums.

Natalie Merchant has one of the most distinct voices in the music industry, and that voice was responsible for some of the most memorable songs on the college radio scene back in the early 1990s. After the success of 1992's Our Time in Eden, Merchant announced that she was pursuing a solo career, essentially ending the 10,000 Maniacs' existence. Her first solo album, Tigerlilly, was a huge success, entering the Billboard charts at #13, and spawning the hits Carnival and Wonder.

Next came 1998's Ophelia, which wasn't as successful as Tigerlilly, but still produced the hit single Kind and Generous. 2001 saw the release of Motherland, which didn't sell very well at all, and didn't even feature a hit single. Her fourth solo effort, the independently made (under her own record label, Myth America Records) The House Carpenter's Daughter was a slight change of pace, as it was full of traditional folk music.

VH1 Storytellers: Natalie Merchant is a solo performance from 1998 at the Manhattan Center in New York City. She covers a wide range of her career with a short setlist of seven songs, selecting tunes from both her solo efforts and her 10,000 Maniacs days. In between tunes, as it is with all entries in the series, the songstress discusses how each song came about and how special they are to her and the events in her life from which they were born.

This is truly a wonderful performance, with the subdued instruments really allowing Merchant's incredible voice to take center stage. Some nice variations on a few of her hits like These Are Days and What's the Matter Here are welcome, and the power of the song Verdi Cries is hard to deny after watching her rendition on this DVD.

The setlist for VHI Storytellers: Natalie Merchant is:

These Are Days
What's the Matter Here?
Kind and Generous
Break Your Heart
Verdi Cries

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: This full-frame presentation is slightly above average and looks very similar to the way this concert appeared on TV. The unique lighting that is a staple of every VH1 Storytellers performance comes across quite well on DVD, using the appropriate amount of solid blacks and vivid colors when they're called for. Shadow detail is nice as well, with very sharp images appearing throughout the show.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is the most important aspect of any concert DVD and the Dolby Digital 5.1 track that's here is excellent. All of the surround speakers are used heavily, essentially putting the viewer at the concert. Along with tight, aggressive bass and crystal clear lyrics, this is how a concert should sound on DVD. A PCM stereo track is also along with the ride, but it pales in comparison to the Dolby Digital 5.1.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 7 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 7 cues and remote access
Isolated Music Score with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus Tracks: Performances of the songs "These are Days" and "Life is Sweet."
Extras Review: The only extras that are available are the bonus tracks These Are Days, and Life Is Sweet, and the option to watch the feature program while listening to the music only, which features performances without Natalie Merchant's introductions to each tune.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

Fans have no reason not to immediately snatch up a copy of VH1 Storytellers: Natalie Merchant, as this excellent, but brief career-spanning performance is a real treat. The audio and video are quite good, and a pair of bonus tracks make this a worthwhile DVD, especially considering its low price.

Chuck Aliaga 2005-04-26