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Take Me To The River (Blu-ray Review)

Take-Me-To-The-RiverNarrated by Terrence Howard, the rich musical legacy of the Mississippi Delta and Memphis comes alive in the award-winning documentary Take Me to the River. Celebrating the heart of American music, Take Me to the River celebrates the magical mixture of generations and genres that gave birth to the Memphis sound that has influenced the world’s popular music, by recreating that spirit today.  Featuring a soulful ensemble of contemporary and legendary artists, the award-winning Take Me to the River makes its home entertainment debut February 5th, 2016 from Shout! Factory.  The release also includes a number of bonus features offering viewers a deeper look into this one-of-a-kind project, including  an interview with Snoop Dogg and William Bell, an interview with Al Bell on how he wrote the song “I’ll Take You There”, and a session video featuring the Bar-Kays, 8Ball, and MJG. Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com

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Take Me to the River  brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording a historic new album that  re-imagines the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday.  The film features a soulful ensemble that includes William Bell, Snoop Dogg, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Academy Award winner Frayser Boy and The North Mississippi All-Stars.

Narrated by Terrence Howard, the rich musical legacy of the Mississippi Delta and Memphis comes alive in the award-winning documentary Take Me to the River. The film, which features William Bell, Snoop Dogg, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Academy Award winner Frayser Boy and The North Mississippi All-Stars.

Take Me To The River is a fun, energetic, emotional and educational journey through the great music to come from the Memphis area.  The whole thing follows the recording of a tribute album that brings musicians young and old together to celebrate.  With each one of the elder stewards you get a quite a firsthand history lessons that is full of vintage video and audio of older performances and the like.

Each piece of this documentary is done during the recording of a song.  And you get to see the inner workings and build of the studio used to record.  And it is a really awesome classic looking place.  The performances are full, but intertwined with interviews and such.  However, every one is powerful in its own way, making old classics spun with a fresh modern twists.  Nothing is insulting, only complimentary.

If you’re into music, this is a must.  If you’re not into music, its still a pretty big deal for all the rich history on display.  Plus, this is likely to convert many and hopefully get people doing “research” and looking for the older albums and rediscovering them.  With an enlightened track by track style of approach to the narrative, just like listening to a new record, there is a big time story to each recording and how it, the writer and the performer got there.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Take Me To The River features many different qualities of video due to its usage of vintage clips and sometimes internet video.  However, the stuff shot for this documentary (Interviews, recording sessions, establishing shots) is rich and gorgeous.  Its a full image rife with detail and up there with the best of any video you see on modern releases today.

Depth:  Movements are smooth and lifelike, very clean.  Spacing is never an issue and the image is the furthest thing from flat.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and deep.  While there is a lot of darker environments here, no crushing was witnessed and no details seemed to be hidden.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are bold and quite striking her in a fun fashion.  They lift right off from fashions, but also feel their place in worn areas and in the studio setting.  

Flesh Tones:  Natural skin tones, timing is consistent throughout.  Detail is outstanding from all distances on modern footage shot for the documentary.  Freckles, wrinkles (There’s a lot in this one lol), stubble, makeup, lip texture all clear as day.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean, anything that may distract you is likely in the source.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a beautiful sounding 5.1 mix that makes sweet sweet Memphian love to all the live studio performances featured in the film.  It is full sounding and delightful.

Low Frequency Extension:  Bass and drum hits get the brunt of duty from the subwoofer.  The LFE’s main contribution to this mix is the music performance scenes.

Surround Sound Presentation:  They probably could have gotten away with just a 2.0 track here, but its modern, so we gotta use all five channels.  And this mix does make use.  Particularly during the music scenes, as songs really come to life with different parts stationed all over the room as like the studio.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is top notch, crisp and clear.

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Bonus Performance “Be Like Me” With 8-Ball & MJG (HD, 3:58) 

Extended Interview With Snoop Dogg and William Bell (HD, 22:22) 

Extended Interview With Terrence Howard and Al Bell (HD, 8:19) 

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Summary Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-_5

Take Me To The River may feature old musicians, but the power and electric attitude in the music is as youthful and energetic as it was back then.  You’ll be moving to the music while becoming enlightened with the rich history of one of music’s hotbeds.  This Blu-ray features top-notch audio and video presentations.  The extras are what they are, but that might be all that really remained worthwhile.  Besides that, technical merits warrant this a terrific release and a documentary worth seeking out to see if not own.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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