Earth, Wind & Fire: Live At Montreux 1997

Featured In Issue 145, December 2009

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Eagle Rock Entertainment
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Not Rated
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Single Side, Single Layer (BD-25)
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Not Indicated
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Gavin Taylor
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Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS HD Lossless 5.1, PCM 24/48 5.1
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Earth, Wind & Fire were in typically exuberant form when they paid their first visit to the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997. They delivered a sparkling performance, featuring a string of classic hits, including "Saturday Nite," "September," "Let's Groove," "Fantasy," "Devotion," "After The Love Has Gone," "Shining Star," "Can't Hide Love," and "Boogie Wonderland." As a bonus, also included are seven additional tracks from the band's equally fine return performance in 1998. (Tricia Spears)

Special features include seven 1998 Bonus Tracks and a booklet.

The 1.78:1 1080p AVC picture is superb! Vibrantly colorful, with rich and warm hues, the imagery is well staged and lit. The imagery is nicely dimensional and fluid, as the group romps across the stage in a constant state of motion. Blacks are solid and well defined, as is shadow delineation. Resolution is excellent, with revealing facial features, clothing, and instruments. The picture is sharp and clear throughout. This is a wonderful picture experience that is certain to please fans of the group, providing an up-close intimate on-stage presence. (Gary Reber)

Mixed and recorded live by Justin Shirley-Smith in the Auditorium Stravinski, the 11-piece ensemble, plus two female dancers, is spread across the soundstage. Unfortunately, none of the soundtrack options do justice to the dynamic sound that this group is known for. The PCM two-channel is constricted to a narrow soundstage. The Dolby® Digital and DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtracks, which are far more surround enveloping, suffer, unfortunately, from a lack of clarity, especially with respect to the vocals, which sound underpowered relative to the other instruments. This is also true of the PCM soundtrack, but less underpowered. The discrete center channel provides support for the otherwise phantom center provided by the left and right stereo channels. The lossless fidelity of the DTS track is excellent, except for the underpowering of the vocals. The DTS track delivers a very dimensional soundfield, with ambiance presence that slightly subdues the articulation of the instruments. The mix improves as the concert progresses, and the DTS presentation is the preferred rendering. The music is engaging, with fans of the group grooving and dancing along with a smile. While not a close-up sound mix, the sound is exciting, and some of the instrumental solos (saxophonist Gary Bias), and especially the drum solos (star drummer Sunny Emory), are spectacular! Fans won't be disappointed with the 1997 concert that impressively captures the group's combination of stabbing brass, dense percussion, and dynamic vocal blends. The concert audience reaction is jubilant and wraps completely around the soundfield! This is an extraordinary entertaining jazz-funk concert that is guaranteed to entertain and delight. Unfortunately, the encore 1998 concert selections are not as well recorded, and vocals are virtually unintelligible. (Gary Reber)