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Blu-ray Review Michael Feinstein: The Sinatra Legacy Blu-Ray Review (1 Viewer)

MatthewA

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Michael Feinstein, one of the biggest modern champions of the Great American Songbook, pays tribute to its greatest interpreter, Frank Sinatra, those who influenced him, and those who were influenced by him. While some of the Sinatra connection’s are indirect and no tribute can ever really do him justice, Feinstein puts on an overall enjoyable show that is sure to please his fans and is a good way introduce some of the greatest music of the 20th century to those who may not be familiar with it. This Blu-Ray from Image offers a deleted song and two versions of another insubstantial extra, sharp picture, and a 5.1 surround track that is technically superb but does little to make it feel like a live performance.



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The Sinatra Legacy
(2011)


Studio: Image Entertainment


Year: 2011


Rated: NR


Length: 63 Minutes


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


Resolution: 1080i


Languages: English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround, English 2.0 PCM Stereo


Subtitles: None


MSRP: $24.98


Film Release Date: December 6, 2011


Disc Release Date: December 6, 2011


Review Date: January 9, 2012



The Movie:


3.5/5



The Great American Songbook is a term used to refer to popular songs written between the turn of the 20th century and the time that rock ‘n’ roll became the default form of popular music. Acclaimed for its harmonic complexity and clever lyrics, this music, written by such storied composers as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, and countless others, was the foundation of jazz, Broadway and Hollywood musicals, and pre-rock pop music. Arguably the greatest interpreter of these songs was a man who was born in the era in which they were composed and kept the songs alive until the end of his life: Frank Sinatra. While the Baby Boomers, who preferred a new sound known as “rock ‘n’ roll,” largely disregarded Sinatra and the other singers of the previous generation that their parents loved, one Baby Boomer did not: Michael Feinstein.



Born in 1956 in Columbus, Ohio, Feinstein taught himself to play piano while he listen to the standards his parents loved. After high school he played piano in local bars for two years until he moved to Los Angeles. There, he met Ira Gershwin, George’s brother and collaborator, who hired the young pianist to catalogue and preserve his extensive collection of rare recordings and unpublished songs. He also met Gershwin’s next-door neighbor, Rosemary Clooney, with whom he formed a close friendship that lasted the rest of her life. Feinstein’s career as a cabaret performer took off from there, as did his passion to preserve the music of the Great American Songbook and keep it alive.



In this concert, taped at the recently renovated Palladium at the Center for Performin Arts in Carmel, Indiana (where he happens to be the artistic director), he sings a collection of twelve songs that were sung either by Sinatra, those who influenced him—Feinstein cites Mabel Mercer and Billie Holiday specifically—or those who cited him as an influence, such as Dean Martin, Sammy Davis., Jr., Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, etc. Backed by a 32-piece orchestra with unbeatable musicianship, Feinstein is a charismatic performer with a unique voice and an unflinching reverence for a melody, something that today’s American Idol wannabes could certainly learn to develop. As a musicologist, he does not bore the audience with dry academic discussions of music theory or harmonic theory, nor does he go into the sociological aspects of the era. He does an exemplary job explaining the origins and histories of the songs he sings, without getting too technical or obscure for a layperson to understand. He even does dead-on impersonations of such long-dead figures as Louis Armstrong, Paul Lynde and Liberace. If there’s any negatives about the concert, other than the fact that the concept sometimes seems like a game of “Six Degrees of Frank Sinatra” than a full-fledged tribute to the man, it’s the fact that no tribute can ever do justice to what Frank Sinatra contributed to the world of music. The only way to do that is by actually listening to his music. But this concert is a good start for those who may not be familiar with him or the Great American Songbook.



The concert’s set list consists of “Once in a Lifetime,” “I Thought About You,” “Fly Me To The Moon” (which Feinstein sings as a tender ballad, the way it was originally written), a medley of “Put on a Happy Face” and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” from Bye Bye Birdie, “So In Love” from Kiss Me Kate, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Aquarela do Brazil” (acknowledging the Songbook’s international influences), “For Once in My Life,” “Maybe This Time” from the film of Cabaret, and “New York, New York.”



The Video:


5/5



The concert was shot in 1080i HD and is presented that way in its native 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture is sharp as a tack with vivid fleshtones, dark blacks with ample shadow detail, and no overblown highlights.



The Audio:


3/5



The disc offers two sound options: a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track and a PCM 2.0 Stereo track. For this review I listened to the 5.1 track, and while it features highs that are crisp without being brittle, the bass is a bit weak. In addition, the track is front-centered and focuses more on Feinstein’s voice at the expense of the orchestra. Surround activity is there but it’s very subtle. It sounds more like a studio recording than a live performance, but it sounds like a good studio recording.



The Extras:


2/5



There are only a handful of extras, but that’s more than a lot of concerts get.



Sway (6:06): In a deleted sequence from the concert, Michael recalls a duet he recorded with Rosemary Clooney, then sings this song, which she first recorded in the 1950s as a tribute to his late, great mentor and close personal friend.



Journey to the Palladium (7:26): A music video detaling the Palladium; Michael sings “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.



Palladium Community Video (7:00): An alternative version of the above, but starting with generic rock music and segueing into Michael’s performance of “Begin the Beguine.”



All extras are 1080i and 16x9 with 2.0 PCM stereo sound.



Final Score:


3.5/5



Michael Feinstein has done a lot to preserve the music of the Great American Songbook and keep it alive. This concert pays an affectionate and reverent tribute to those who were connected in some way to its most esteemed interpreter, Frank Sinatra. Recommended for fans of Mr. Feinstein or anyone who wants a starting point to discover some of the greatest music of the 20th century.
 

Mike Frezon

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Thanks, Matthew!


I have had this disc in the collection since ordering it for release date from Amazon.


I was peripherally aware of Feinstein's "Sinatra Project," but hadn't actually heard any of the CDs. I am a big fan of Sinatra's music and that of many of his contemporaries. (In fact, as I l write this post, I am listening to some Nat King Cole on SACD!) And, I am familiar with Feinstein...so thought this would be a very nice title.


I was underwhelmed. As you noted, the musicianship is top-notch...but I just felt the performance was left wanting. Feinstein certainly presents himself as an able (one might say "old school) performer and the orchestra was terrific...but I think I might be more tempted to take out some of my old DVDs of A Man and His Music or The Main Event before putting this one back in the player.


Maybe the Sinatra Estate will consider some decent upgrades of some of those great Sinatra concerts onto Blu-ray?!?
 

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