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What could have been a joke is a wonderful endeavour that shows beneath the labels, music is music.

DVD Review: Easy Star All-Stars Dub Side of the Moon

Admittedly, the idea of a reggae version of Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side of the Moon sounds like it has its origins in some hazy, black-lit dorm room or frat house similar to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of stoner multimedia: starting the album at the third roar of the MGM lion on The Wizard of Oz. However, rather than being a comedic novelty act like Dread Zeppelin, Dub Side of the Moon is a serious artistic endeavor by earnest, talented musicians that works surprisingly well, even garnering praise from David Gilmour. That’s not to say the band doesn’t have a playful sense of humor. The cash register montage from “Money” has been switched for a montage of a lighter being lit, someone inhaling and then coughing, and the lyric “The lunatic is on the grass” from “Brain Damage”, which obviously has a different connotation.

Easy Star All-Stars released the Dub Side of the Moon album in 2003 and it still remains on the Billboard Reggae Catalog Chart. This concert was recorded September 2005 at the State Theater in Falls Church, VA. The DVD opens with animation as a Rasta-naut awakes from hibernation and receives a transmission of the concert.

The concert opens with a slow, rumbling progression of music. Then the familiar strains of “Breathe” begin on guitar and horns as the rhythm section of drums, bass, and keyboards shuffles along with a relaxing reggae beat, which the congas and singers’ accents accentuate.

One of the signature elements of Dark Side is the engineering and its use of sound effects and audio clips. In a wise choice, Easy Star All-Stars skipped most of that as illustrated on “On The Run”. They create the chaos and madness through music and bypass the screams and plane crash. “Eclipse” closes out with a drum solo instead of a beating heart. All the bits of talking are absent.

A number of times the artistic decisions and performances really excel. Jenny Hill’s flute wonderfully recreates Gilmour’s lead into “Time”. “Any Colour You Like” has a great trombone solo by Buford O’Sullivan. Tamar-Kali’s wailing vocals on “Great Gig in the Sky” are masterful. She evokes such power and emotion using Clare Torry’s performance as a template to soar to her own heights. It is the concert’s greatest single performance.

On “Money”, the band really hits their stride. Hill does a very good job on the sax solo. The song comes to a raucous conclusion as Junior Jazz tears it up on guitar while the band jams under him. They smoothly segue into the slow, contemplative “Us & Them”, which along with the following instrumental of “Any Colour You Like” showcases the talented Jeremy Mage on keyboards.

What doesn’t work is DJ Menny More’s rapping during “Time” and “Money”. His thick Caribbean accent and the poor audio mix that finds him blended in with the instruments make him incomprehensible for the most part.

The video is presented in 16:9 Widescreen or 4:3 Letterbox and the audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 DTS and 2.0 Stereo. There’s not much in the way of bonus features — some fans before the show chatting and getting ready, three minutes of samples from the album, and interviews with the artists and producers.

Next up for the Easy Star All-Stars is Radiohead’s OK Computer.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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