Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Santana: Hymns for Peace - Live at Montreux 2004

Street Date:
February 19th, 2008
Reviewed by:
Peter Bracke
Review Date: 1
February 6th, 2008
Movie Release Year:
2004
Studio:
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Length:
181 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our HD DVD review of 'Santana: Hymns for Peace - Live at Montreux 2004.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

In late 2003, Montreux Jazz Festival director Claude Nobs approached Carlos Santana about doing something special to honor the annual event's 37th year. Over the next six months, the pair would conceive a one-of-a-kind performance that would bring together a few dozen of Santana's "closest friends” for a three-hour jam session honoring the best protest songs of the last fifty years.

The result was 'Hymns for Peace.' Staged in front of a sold-out crowd for one night only on July 15, 2004, the guest list featured a virtual who's who of rock legends, with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Patti Austen, Steve Winwood, Nile Rodgers and a host of other master musicians all joining Santana for a three-hour performance that felt like the biggest musical block party ever thrown.

At first glance, some may be disappointed by the setlist. This is no Santana solo show, and you won't find recent hits like "Smooth" among the 18 peace-lovin' tunes here. Where 'Hymns for Peace' excels is in the looseness of its performances -- this group cranks em out! Sure, there are plenty of incredibly talented guitarists fronting popular bands today, but Santana is, without argument, a true guitar god. I don't think I recognized more than a couple of songs on 'Hymns for Peace,' but I was never less than mesmerized by his playing. The man can truly captivate with the flick of a finger.

This is a long show, spanning more than three hours, with the average song running a good eight minutes. Improvs and extended jams are frequent, with the band simply inspiring awe as they seem to dream music up out of thin air, as if under the guidance of some higher force. The fun they seem to be having and the sheer joy displayed on stage, were clearly contagious, and by mid-set the band and the audience seem to become one, everyone swaying to the same universal groove.

Visually, 'Hymns for Peace' is a straightforward show, there are no pyrotechnics, no cavalcade of dancers, just a bunch of musicians up on stage, jamming for three hours in support of a cause they passionately believe in. At times, the show may become a tad self-indulgent, but when you have artists as mesmerizing and talented as these, who cares?

The 18-song setlist features the following songs: 01. Intro / 02. Afro Blue / 03. Adouma / 04. Redemption Song / 05. Exodus / Get Up Stand Up / 06. Blowin’ In The Wind / A Place In The Sun / 07. Just Like A Woman / 08. What’s Going On / 09. Peace On Earth / Boogie Woman / 10. Why Can’t We Live Together / 11. Light At The Edge Of The World / 12. Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord / 13. Banana Boat Song / 14. Day Of Celebration / 15. Ah Sweet Dancer / In A Silent Way / 16. Jingo / 17. A Love Supreme / 18. Ode To Joy

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Santana: Hymns for Peace' was recorded entirely with HD cameras, and is presented here in its native 1080i (1.78:1 widescreen) as a VC-1 encode (identical to the previously-released HD DVD version). As with most shot-on-high-def live presentations, it generally looks excellent, with a three-dimensional level of clarity that doesn't disappoint.

Though the photography and stage design are without frills (don't expect any jumbo-sized video screens or bombastic lighting), it's definitely colorful. The band and special guests wear some, um, rather cheesy '60s-meets-'80s hippie-esque clothing, resulting in some very vivid hues that always remain nice, clean, and stable. Typical of shot-on-HD material, detail is excellent, with only some fuzziness in the darkest areas of the picture. The picture is generally sharp, although a fair amount of fog is used during the performance, which sometimes gives a soft and flat look and can flatten out apparent depth in the transfer. This is the only real problem area of the presentation, as fine details in the shadows can be lost in a soft haze, making the darkest areas of the picture appear impenetrable. However, such small nitpicks aside, 'Hymns for Peace' looks quite nice.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Eagle Vision has not deviated from the previous HD DVD release of 'Hymns for Peace' for this new Blu-ray, which again offers DTS-HD High-Resolution and Dolby Digital mixes (both 5.1 surround and 1.5mbps), plus a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option (at 448kbps). While the quality of the recording is clearly high, the lack of a true high-resolution track (such as PCM or Dolby TrueHD) ultimately results in a sound presentation that never truly soars. It's too bad Eagle Vision didn't pony up for a new high-res mix, especially as its been several months since the previous HD DVD, and there was certainly enough time to upgrade.

In any case, both the DTS and Dolby Digital mixes boast bass that has some strength, but which never really delivers those deep, powerful low tones that can challenge the subwoofer. Similarly, highs don't have that truly bright, realistic quality of the best live recordings I've heard on high-def. Surrounds are also not fully employed, with only slight crowd noise and little in the way of exciting, creative placement of instrumentation.

To be sure, purely in terms of clarity and sheer listen-ability, 'Hymns for Peace' sounds just fine, but compared to some of the truly exceptional high-resolution mixes available on Blu-ray, this one is decidedly average.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Typical of the slim supplemental packages found on most music releases, Eagle Vision has included only a couple of extras on 'Santana: Hymns for Peace,' each of which originally appeared on the standard DVD and HD DVD editions. (Note that like the main feature, all supplements are presented in 1080i/MPEG-2 video and of very high quality.)

  • Bonus Tracks (HD) - There are three songs total: "One Love," "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance." Given that the main program already runs a lengthy 181 minutes, I can't help but wonder why they just didn't add these three tracks in, but regardless these three songs look great in 1080i, and the audio options are identical to the feature.
  • Featurette: "An Interview with Carlos Santana" (HD, 8 minutes) - This short vignette incorporates a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage, as well as rehearsal clips with Santana talking about what drew him to stage the concert and choosing his collaborators, but it's still a bit too thin.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high-def exclusives.

Final Thoughts

'Santana: Hymns for Peace' is a lively one-off concert celebrating some of the best political power anthems of all time. Though fans won't find any of Santana's biggest hits in the setlist, a strong group of collaborators and some intense, extended jams still make 'Hymns for Peace' a must-see for the faithful. This Blu-ray release from Eagle Vision is a solid high-def music release. The video transfer is typical of live concert recordings, with a very vivid presentation, plus there are a couple of good supplements. However, while the included Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are perfectly fine in their own right, they just can't compare to the true high-resolution audio on similar releases. Still, this one is probably worth a look for Santana fans.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-25 Single Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD High-Resolution 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (448kbps)

Subtitles/Captions

  • English Subtitles
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Portuguese Subtitles
  • Dutch Subtitles
  • Italian Subtitles
  • German Subtitles

Supplements

  • Bonus Tracks
  • Featurette

Exclusive HD Content

  • None

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