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Roy Orbison: Black & White Night(1987)
Artistically filmed in black and white, Roy Orbison's 1987 television concert covers all his hits, including "Pretty Woman," "Only the Lonely," "Crying" and "Dream Baby." A star-studded group of friends -- Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen, among others -- joins Orbison onstage in a 1940s nightclub setting, jamming with one of rock 'n' roll's most unforgettable voices.
For more about Roy Orbison: Black & White Night and the Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray release, see the Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray Review
Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 16, 2009
Recorded at the Ambassador Hotel's Coconut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night is a marvelous concert celebrating one of the most popular music singers of the 20th century. Joined on stage by a number of well known musicians - Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, T Bone Burnett, J D Souther, James Burton, Tom Waits, Steven Soles, Jennifer Warnes, K.D. Lang, Jackson Browne, Jerry Scheff, Ron Tutt, Steven Soles, and Glen Hardin – Roy Orbison performed seventeen of his greatest hits, including "Dream Baby", Blu Bayou", "Candyman", "Go, Go, Go (Down The Line)" and "Oh Pretty Woman".
Clocking in at a little over 60 min, the concert was filmed specifically for Cable TV (it was first broadcast on HBO on January 3rd, 1988). Directed by Tony Mitchell and edited by T Bone Burnett (also contributing as a musical director), this was also an event proving that Orbison was admired by everyone, from casual fans to fellow musicians and singers.
What really impresses in Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night, however, are the fantastic improvisations courtesy of Orbison and his guests. Switching between blues, rock, and even country music, these remarkable musicians deliver once in a lifetime show where the atmosphere is simply impossible to describe with simple words (all you need to do is see how Kris Kristofferson and a few of the other spectators in the Coconut Grove react to the music to know exactly what I mean).
The actual concert is also notably well filmed. Tony Mitchell's camera provides a terrific view of the stage, the supporting musicians and singers as well as the enthusiastic audience constantly applauding Orbison and his guests. Finally, the concert also reveals an unusually stylish look that certainly enhances tremendously the sense of nostalgia Orbison's singing evokes.
1. Only The Lonely
2. Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)
3. Blue Bayou
4. The Comedians
5. Ooby Dooby
7. Running Scared
9. In Dreams
12. Go, Go, Go (Down The Line)
13. Mean Woman Blues
14. (All I Can Do Is) Dream You
16. It's Over
17. Oh, Pretty Woman
18. Blue Angel
Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080i transfer, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Image Entertainment.
Before I address the quality of this Blu-ray disc, I would like to quickly note that I have been very surprised to uncover a sea of incorrect information pertaining to the technical specs of this release, which a number of online sources have posted. I hope that our technical evaluation clears out the confusion these posts might have produced.
First of all, unlike what some reviewers claim, the transfer for this remarkable concert has been encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, not VC-1. It is fairly stable, with a terrific contrast and a (black and white) color-scheme that evokes a strong sense of nostalgia. The quality of the actual print is also very good – aside from a few tiny specks that I was able to detect, there are absolutely no disturbing scratches, debris, or stains on this print. Furthermore, there aren't any traces of DNR manipulation that I could detect either.
Second, unlike what some reviewers claim, Roy Orbison: Black & White Night has received a 1080i "live" transfer, not a 1080p transfer. This being said, there are a few suspicious blurs that I was able to detect on it (for the record, this isn't motion "judder", but a very unusual mix of softness and blurriness that pops up here and there); they are most noticeable during the second half of the concert and, apparently, they have been inherited from the master print (at least, this is what I am told). With that in mind, the rest of the presentation is fairly convincing and certainly something that fans of Roy Orbison will appreciate. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release which you will be able to play on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Music DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Music Dolby Digital 5.1 and Music: LPCM 2.0. I opted for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and did a few random comparisons with the other two tracks for the purpose of this review.
Originally broadcast on January 3, 1988 as an HBO special event dedicated to Roy Orbison and his music, Roy Orbison: Black & White Night is definitely one of the best sounding concerts currently available on Blu-ray. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track the disc contains allows for a pleasingly nuanced listening experience - every single guitar riff, the solid but not overpowering drums, the keyboard improvisations and, of course, the velvety voice of Roy Orbison come off the speakers in a very impressive fashion. Furthermore, I did not detect any annoying drop outs, cracks, or pops to report here and, in my opinion, this live performance definitely comes very close to resembling a polished studio effort.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track and the LPCM 2.0 track are also of incredibly high quality. Obviously, they don't match the richness and color of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, but, truly, you would be hard-pressed to find any serious flaws on them (for what it's worth, they have also been mixed exceptionally well). Still, I strongly recommend that you opt for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. As many have already stated, Roy Orbison: Black & White Night is one of the very best live shows currently available on Blu-ray, and the fantastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is undoubtedly responsible for that. (For the record, Image Entertainment have not supplied any optional subtitles for this release).
Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Aside from Blue Angel, which was cut from the final version of the concert that HBO aired, there is absolutely nothing else to be found on this Blu-ray disc.
Roy Orbison: Black & White Night Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A fantastic concert that was recorded a year before Roy Orbison passed away, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night arrives on Blu-ray via US-based distributors Image Entertainment. While there are a few minor issues with the video treatment, the audio presentation is very, very impressive. I find it hard to believe that anyone interested in the music of Roy Orbison would pass on this terrific disc. Highly Recommended.
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