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MY ROMANCE:  AN EVENING WITH JIM BRICKMAN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jim Brickman, Olivia Newton-John, Donny Osmond, Dave Koz, Anne Cochran, Tracy Scott Silverman
Director:  Larry Jordan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Windham Hill/BMG
Features:  Music Video, Biography, Photo Gallery, Alternate Angles
Length:  75 Minutes
Release Date:  November 7, 2000

Film ***1/2

Jim Brickman has been successful so far in avoiding the common adult contemporary pratfall of “you either love him or hate him” (think:  Michael Bolton, Kenny G, Yanni).  Brickman you can love or hate, but you can also just simply like him.

I guess I fall into that category.  I’m not a huge fan, but I confess, when his song “Valentine” with Martina McBride was on the radio, I liked it well enough to pick up his Picture This CD.  I listened to it a few times, and thought it was okay.  The most prominent aspect of the disc to me was the free magnet that came with it, which I still have on my refrigerator door.  I guess you could say the CD itself was relegated to the ‘almost forgotten’ pile in my collection…or it would have, except for a number of my female co-workers frequent requests to borrow it.

Brickman is a gifted pianist and composer.  His style is modest, yet very pretty, with nice senses of melody and chord phrasing.  I’ll easily admit that I prefer his music to, say, the bombastic pomposity of Yanni.  So when it came time for me to review My Romance, I approached the event neither with anticipation nor with dismay.

What I experienced, however, was wonderful.  For starters, this is one of the best sounding concert DVDs I’ve ever heard—more on that further down—but secondly, I found the presentation of the songs, along with the surprise guest stars, created a truly memorable concert viewing experience.

Generally, to be good, all a concert needs is a competent artist and a collection of songs you like.  If, by chance, the concert stumbles upon a really magical moment along its course, then it suddenly transcends merely being a piece of entertainment, and becomes something where the music comes alive and absolutely fills you from head to toe.  When Brickman first strikes the opening notes to “I Honestly Love You” and Olivia Newton-John joins him on stage to a rigorous standing ovation, that was one such moment.  When she performed the song, it was like the last twenty or so years had simply stood still.  She’s probably done it thousands upon thousands of times, but between the two performers, it seemed like both were just discovering the magic and emotion of the song for the first time.

When the song had ended, I literally found myself clasping my hands together and saying out loud, “Please, please stay and sing ‘Valentine’.”  You see, there was no song list included on the box, so I was watching without knowing what might come next.  Earlier guest stars, like Anne Cochran and Tracy Scott Silverman, had done a single number with Jim and quietly exited.  But on this night, my hopes were answered.  The very next number was “Valentine”, and off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single concert moment that moved me more. 

As an extra treat, Olivia stayed on for one more tune, one that she had co-written with Jim Brickman, the melancholy and beautiful ‘Change of Heart’.  And there I was, clasping my hands together and saying, “Please, please stay and sing ‘Physical’.”  Well, you can’t get everything you want.

In addition to the celebrities already mentioned, sax man Dave Koz also joins Brickman for a couple of numbers, as does Donnie Osmond, who drew a big crowd response from his home state fans in Utah.  Osmond joins Cochran in rendering “The Gift”, then stays for a solo version of “The Love of My Life”.  Best of all, when you think the surprises are over, he comes bounding back on stage at the end to share the mike with Jim on “The Rainbow Connection”, one of my all time favorite tunes.

Did I say share the mike?  Indeed I did.  I was surprised when Jim took a couple of turns singing his own tunes.  His voice isn’t bad, but if I were him, I wouldn’t give up playing the piano just yet.

The rest of the concert is peppered with Jim’s instrumental compositions.  His showmanship is modest, but still attention demanding, as he uses his face and body expressively as he plays.  The sound of his Yamaha grand piano fills the concert hall, and the notes are beautiful and selective.  I didn’t hear a single mistake in any of his performances.  I only wish those who made this video had focused on his hands a little more, which is what I personally enjoy seeing when I watch a pianist play.  Still, there was a good visual mix of Jim at his piano, the crowd responses, and the stage and lighting, which featured a large revolving platform that slowly spun the artist and instrument during some of the numbers.  And Brickman manages to tell a brief story or two between numbers, garnering a few laughs and getting out some information about how some of his compositions came into being.

And by the time it was all over, I was smiling broadly.  It was 75 minutes of very good music, with some nice surprises along the way, and an excellent sounding concert going experience.  Did I say I wasn’t a huge Jim Brickman fan earlier?  It might be time for me to rethink that.

Video ***

This concert was originally shot for public television.  As such, it is naturally a full frame presentation filmed on video.  It looks fine, mostly because of the nice, tasteful multi-colored stage lighting and the patterns they create.  I noticed no image problems save for the typical video limitations that are to be expected; videotape never quite looks as sharp as film.  Still, images were clear, and the occasional softness seemed to be a boon considering the nature of the music involved.  No real complaints.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio, on the other hand, is spectacular, and thus far the best sounding live concert I’ve heard on DVD.  You may find that surprising, given that most of the music involved is a simple, single piano.  I was surprised, too, but I have to give credit…the piano sound is crystal clear, dynamic, and the soundtrack captures the concert experience by opening up the music on front and rear stages, with a perfect balance to make you think you’re sitting in a concert hall.  The applause comes from all sides, too, as though you were in the middle of the audience.  Even the .1 channel carries the bass from the piano so strongly that I could feel the vibrations in my couch.  It was a perfectly natural and perfectly rendered concert sound all around.  You could turn off your monitor and enjoy the listening experience alone tremendously.  As mentioned, the music is consistently beautiful, so you really couldn’t ask for anything more to go with this DVD.

Features **1/2

Yes, there are a few features on this concert disc, starting with the music video for “The Gift”.  There is also a Jim Brickman bio and discography, and a photo gallery from the concert set to music.  The box states there is multi-angle capability, but my player told me otherwise when I watched the disc.  My one real complaint, which goes here because I don’t know where else to voice it, is with the chapter stops.  Most are well done, starting right at the beginning of its respective tune.  Others, however, come in partway through Brickman’s spoken introductions, and worst of all, “The Rainbow Connection” chapter stop begins in the middle of the song!  Yeek.

Summary:

My Romance:  An Evening with Jim Brickman is a surprising effective and excellent concert disc, that boasts tremendous use of  5.1 audio, surprise guests, and beautiful piano music by a modest yet masterful showman.  Even if you don’t consider Brickman a favorite artist, I’d still seriously recommend giving this disc a try.  It’s that good.