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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

The DVD Show

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis, Russ Breimeier, Andree Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
The DVD Show
Every now and then, we'll bring you a wrap-up of music DVDs that come through our offices. Here, four of our reviewers deliver the good, the bad and the bottom line on a dozen discs from the latter part of '04.Gary Anglin and the Voices of CCCGary Anglin and the Voices of CCC (CCC Music Group)


The Good:
The concert features worship leader Gary Anglin, backed by the Voices of CCC, the choir from the Christian Cultural Center in New York. The concert is visually and aurally superb, with highlights including "Give Him All the Praise," "Enter In," "Hallelujah" and "Father We Worship You." Excellent camera work gives the full sense of activity throughout the concert and tastefully uses pan and fade techniques to accentuate rather than distract from the worship experience. The DVD also includes interviews with Anglin and other songwriters and producers.

The Bad:
Extras include lots of promotion for the Christian Cultural Center, home to the group and the label that produced the CD. Unfortunately, most of these extras have very loose connections to the actual concert or viewer interests. Examples: a series of photos of Anglin with various celebrities; vignettes of celebrities talking about the church; a PSA featuring Anglin and a 15-minute sermonette followed by a cheesy ad.

The Bottom Line:
The concert portion of the DVD is exceptional. However, the quality of the overall production is marred by too many unnecessary extras.
— LT

Hillsong + Delirious[UP] Unified:Praise (Hillsong/Integrity)

The Good:
Delirious, the renowned UK rock-worship band, joins Australia's famed praise team (led by Darlene Zschech) and over 20,000 worshippers down under for Hillsong Conference in July 2003. Both groups offer their usual passion and excellence performing some of their latest, best-loved material. It's a grand scale 90-minute video production with great camera work that captures what's on stage as well as the scope of the Sydney SuperDome. Worship concerts don't get much bigger and livelier than this. Plus, there are two extra songs not on the related CD—"More Than Life" and "My Glorious."

The Bad:
Unfortunately, this isn't as unified an event as you'd hope—think of it as Hillsong opening/hosting for Delirious. Collaboration between the two is minimal, and neither noticeably adds to the other. Example: Hillsong's choir is indistinguishable from the arena audience. Video production shifts to a music video style for some of Delirious' set, inconsistent with the rest of the DVD. Extras are scarce with only an 8-minute behind-the-scenes documentary. The impressively large scale of the event would have benefited from a multi-angle option.

The Bottom Line:
UP isn't different enough from past Hillsong and Delirious live worship albums to warrant strong recommendation, though some may appreciate it as a 2-for-1-concert deal.
— RB

Israel Houghton and New BreedLive From Another Level—The Video (Integrity Gospel)

The Good:
Full disclosure: I attended this recording as a guest of Israel and New Breed. So I can't decide which is better: having been there, or having the DVD to watch whenever I want. Y'all, it was crazy—the type of concert where you kick off your church shoes early, 'cause you know you'll be standing all night. And jumping, clapping, dancing and singing. The top-quality, high-energy performance is captured from start to finish through frenetic, zooming cinematography that takes the viewer from Houghton to background vocalists to band members to audience, often within a few seconds. Songs include hits from New Season, Real and Live From Another Level, and the DVD features guests Joseph Garlington and Martha Munizzi. Extras include backstage footage from before and after the concert, personnel intros and a "drum cam."

The Bad:
Though most of the DVD is pretty smooth, there are a couple of slightly abrupt transitions toward the end, and a brief portion where the audio and video are noticeably out of sync.

The Bottom Line:
If you buy one gospel DVD this year, this is the one.
— LT

The KatinasRoots (Gotee)

The Good:
This concert-slash-documentary does a good job of exposing The Katinas as a musical group, not just a vocal quintet, as most people consider them to be. The band of brothers faithfully interprets some of their most recent ("Are You Ready," "Come Back to Love") as well as most popular ("Thank You") material, with some unexpected, older selections ("Takin' Me Higher") thrown in as nostalgic bonus. The performances are generally intimate and subdued, although occasional dance routines from the group's edgier early days do sneak in when you least expect it.

The Bad:
The footage has a flat, home video-type appearance to it, looking more like a live-to-tape performance made for the PAX network than a slick live production. Additionally, several of the live selections are interrupted abruptly by cute, family-oriented segments aimed to give us a glimpse at the family and heritage behind The Katinas. Repeated replays of these snippets, however, end up breaking the flow of the project and give it a slower, more uneven feel.

The Bottom Line:
Although this DVD has a hard time deciding whether it's a family video album or a Katinas live performance, it's still a nice-enough token while the world waits for a new album from the brothers.
— AF

MercyMeLive (INO)

The Good:
These mainstream crossover mainstays capture 2004's Imagine Tour on film, featuring cuts from Almost There, Spoken For and Undone. Along with hits like "I Can Only Imagine," "Word of God Speak," "Here With Me" and "Homesick," MercyMe brings along top-notch production, lighting and professionalism across the board. Additional insight beyond the concert is provided in the second disc's "On the Road" diary and a sports section where the band sings "The National Anthem" at a Major League Baseball game.

The Bad:
Despite its encouraging nature, "I Can Only Imagine" has been played to death on radio and a special story behind the song segment only adds to the over-saturation pool. The message has been explained countless times in concert plus interviews and thus isn't really needed.

The Bottom Line:
Serious followers and those that simply track the band's radio singles are both likely to enjoy this solid show and earn a closer look at the off-stage life of its members. This project and the tour it chronicles are both bar setters of which other acts in Christian music should take note.
— AA

Neal MorseTestimony Live (Radiant)

The Good:
The progressive rock innovator translates his modern day epic Testimony to the stage fleshed out by a full band and light show. The generous 29-track event is wound with several moving crescendos and detailed instrumental solos, showing Morse's effectiveness not only as a vocalist, but also a guitar player and pianist. Like the theatrical sound of Yes, King Crimson or early Genesis, this is a textbook example of a conceptual work setting a standard all by itself and succeeding in its live adaptation. Thankfully, that's all captured through potent production and excellent camera work that give viewers an intimate look at the artists in action (which works especially well when peering from overhead at the drummer).

The Bad:
Despite the thoroughness, the project can try one's patience by the end, if only for the extreme length of several cuts. Plus, to an untrained ear, the incredibly detailed chord structures might sound like dated '80s throwbacks best left in the past.

The Bottom Line:
Fans looking for an expressive and intricate evening captured for their home viewing pleasure should snatch this one up, but less dedicated buyers must beware this musical style is an acquired taste and can come across long winded at times.
— AA

Stacie OrricoLive in Japan (Forefront/Virgin)

The Good:
Beyoncé who? Stacie Orrico may not yet be a household name in the U.S., but that doesn't keep her from being a platinum star in Japan, a place where she can easily pull off a lavish tour with an elaborate stage set, a tight R&B band, choreographed moves, intricate lighting, and a number of costume changes. The mature-beyond-her-years chanteuse saunters and glides on the stage as if she's been doing this for a lifetime, aptly transitioning between pop numbers, piano ballads, and a playful jazz number. Oh, and her band is bad, doing a marvelous job of translating her lighthearted pop into aggressive funkafied romps.

The Bad:
As much as pop audiences enjoy dancers, they become a distraction, particularly during the slow jams. Case in point: the ballet-inflected routine during "Strong Enough" is delicate and classical, but also quite schmaltzy. A few noticeable vocal overdubs take away from the live fidelity of Orrico's voice, and the lack of extras—the music videos for "Stuck" and "More to Life" is all you get—make this a very modest offering.

The Bottom Line:
Christina Aguilera's Live in the UK or Jessica Simpson's Reality Tour Live have nothing on Live in Japan, proving that Orrico has the sass and style to stand side-by-side her more controversial competitors.
— AF

Fernando OrtegaLive in St. Paul (Curb)

The Good:
If there's an artist you'd least expect to release a live concert DVD, it's Fernando Ortega. The guy isn't into vocal acrobatics or virtuoso playing, but his craft possesses a warmth and refinement that's rare in music. Backed by a solid backing band, Ortega may not sound as aggressive as on his latest CD, but he still upholds the integrity of the originals, whether he's at the piano or playing the accordion. He may not be a Christian music hotshot, but Curb was meticulous to give him a royal treatment, packing the DVD with goodies and extra features, including bonus tracks, behind the scenes footage, outtakes, and a nifty commentary option with musings from the artist himself.

The Bad:
Most of the project is comprised of selections from Ortega's most recent self-titled release, which means that most of his celebrated earlier material is only given "bonus material" status or is excluded altogether. The video quality gives the impression that the concert was filmed using a soft focus filter, giving the performances a "sleepy" feel that's reminiscent of a 700 Club appearance.

The Bottom Line:
Live in St. Paul is an inspirational affair, one that perfectly captures the spirit of Ortega's solemn, meditative live show.
— AF

Third DayLive Wire (Essential)

The Good:
Mac Powell and the Third Day boys have finally gone back to their rock 'n' roll roots after two successful worship projects. Examples of this return to form are plentiful, such as the barreling "Rock Star," the grinding "'Til the Day I Die" and the husky handed "Come On Back to Me." Add in several of the band's hits (including "Consuming Fire" and "Blackbird") and a barrage of gritty guitars over Powell's signature scruff.

The Bad:
This marks the third live concert DVD (and first bundled with a live CD) in a lineage that already traces recent tours like Offerings and Come Together. In doing so, fans will find repeats (like "My Hope Is You") along with some rehashed and predictable behind the scenes material about putting together an album and tour.

The Bottom Line:
The release of Live Wire prompts the question, "Do we really need three Third Day concert DVDs all within the span of a few years?" Although die-hard fans may think so, the answer for the remainder of the listening public is probably "no," especially when this one's main portion is just over an hour and less compelling all around than the previous two.
— AA

TonéxOut the Box: The Movie (Verity)

The Good:
If you were mystified by what went on onstage during the recording of Tonéx's overly indulgent Out the Box release, wonder no more. Out the Box: The Movie is a fitting testament of the night's events, a multimedia blitz that's as overblown and excessive as the entertainer's restless spirit. Some are calling it "the most amazing visual experience ever recorded in music history," but I treat it as a voyage into Tonéx's multifaceted persona, one that loves dancing like a freak onstage, singing rock and gospel and Latin pop and R&B effortlessly, employing lights and video to enhance his show, changing in and out of outfits, and engaging in dancing duets with no other than Kirk Franklin.

The Bad:
Despite containing over two hours of footage from the night of the concert, it's obscured by jarring cutaways to miscellaneous interviews, a number of editing "tricks" (on-screen text, weird image manipulation, low-quality audience shots), and random insertion of homemade-looking music videos that accompany the live performances. Additionally, some may be put off by Tonéx's penchant for the charismatic, with specific sections devoted to "prophetic" singing and praying.

The Bottom Line:
If you're as fidgety and wired as Tonéx, you'll likely enjoy the unconventionality and all-over-the-placeness of this project.
— AF

Various Artists!Hero The Rock Opera Live on Stage (Meaux Records)

The Good:
For fans wanting to relive this historic event or those who want to make up for what they missed, this action-packed DVD will provide that enjoyable opportunity. Starring Michael Tait, Rebecca St. James, Audio Adrenaline's Mark Stuart, T-Bone and many other key Christian singers, the sharp, multi-angle camera work and stereo sounds compliment the story of Jesus' life set in modern times. There's also quality costumes, choreography and theatrics in a fast-paced musical setting.

The Bad:
The second disc is full of lots of unneeded behind the scenes fodder, which aside from the "Behind the Curtain" segment, makes for mostly filler. Although it's interesting at first to get up close and personal with cast members, too many fan testimonials, photos and the "Creating the Wardrobe" shots become tedious overkill.

The Bottom Line:
Consider Disc 1 a worthwhile memento and Disc 2 a last resort option on a desperately rainy day. Still, the powerful songs and script are not only likely to encourage a believers' pre-existing faith, but they can also introduce the gospel to seekers with MTV-styled action.
— AA

CeCe WinansCeCe Winans Live in the Throne Room (PureSprings Gospel)

The Good:
Winans' stage presence shimmers throughout this 90-minute set from her solo albums. Highlights of the recording, which developed from CeCe Winans' recent Throne Room Church Tour, include a slick, expanded version of "Well Alright," a funkified rendition of "Anybody Wanna Pray," the pop-friendly "More Than What I Wanted" and an ethereal, gospel-grounded "Jesus You're Beautiful." An elegant stage set and a gifted corps of dancers choreographed by Winans' son Alvin bring energy to the concert.

The Bad:
Visually, the best shots are those that give viewers a sense of activity on the whole stage. Though there are occasional shots of audience members participating and several of band members and background vocalists, camera work includes a lot of very tight closeups. There's a blooperesque moment where Winans can be seen reentering the stage after a wardrobe change. The only extra on the DVD is an interview with Winans, and the format is a bit jagged, combining the interview with behind-the-scenes footage.

The Bottom Line:
The DVD's strength is its enjoyable concert feel, though this may not be enough for viewers who expect more from a DVD.
— LT


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