I have been a serious ELP listener since I bought their first LP, and have purchased several DVD's of their performances from the 70's, only to be disappointed by the abysmal sound and video quality. So I was glad to see that a stage performance was available in Blu-ray and 5.1 surround. I was also happy to read mostly glowing reviews of the disc on the Amazon site. So I bit, and now have my own review to offer.
I agree with most other reviewers that this disc was better than expected, but not all that you would like it to be either. My personal take in this disc: Performance=4, Picture=4, Sound=3.
I feel that considering their age (and mine), ELP gave a fine show. Energy and musicianship is about as good as you can expect. The disc showcases some of the best material of their career, especially those from ELP(first), Tarkus, Trilogy, Pictures, and BSS. However I have a hard time appreciating the selections from the later, and justly unsuccessful, LPs after BSS.
On the production quality side, this is certainly not the "technical audio and video gem" opined by another reviewer. It is a Montreux Jazz Festival Production, with post at their own facilities.
I checked with other web reviews of the disc to confirm my conclusions about audio quality, which are:
- Greg Lake's vocals are pretty badly buried in the mix, not center channel as you would expect, but disembodied in the L, R, and surrounds. Thankfully his guitars are well presented, especially the acoustic.
- Keith's keyboards are well recorded and mixed. No complaints except: why didn't he use his original Moog more than he did?
- Carl's drums are "all there", but not up front in the mix like they should be in a power-trio. The snare and kick come through alright, but high-hat and cymbals are weak. The drum mix just does not have the impact it should.
- I'd be willing to bet that this was remixed from stereo to 5.1; that would explain some of the above weaknesses. The DVD format was new in 1995, and 5.1 mixes did not show up on it until 1997. The original production from 1997 might have been mixed to stereo only, and the original multi-tracks not used for remixing when the DVD was finally produced in 2004.
The quality of the video is good, but not great as Blu-rays go. It is 1080i rather than the preferred 1080p. According to the credits, it was "recorded in HI Definition", and downconverted. This implies the early Sony HD1280(?) system was used. I saw no evidence of film grain or motion artifacts that would indicate transfer from film. In general, color and sharpness is good, and the editing did not get in the way of my enjoyment of the performance. It was thankfully free of MTV-type production frenzy.
In summary, if you love ELP, you will like this blu-ray better than the other available performances on disc. Some of those look more like documentaries or even newsreels.