Michael McDonald – This Christmas Live In Chicago (Eagle Vision EREDV784)

This Christmas Live In Chicago (Eagle Vision EREDV784)

Grainger Studios, Chicago, IL – October 28th, 2009

(approx. 72 minutes):  It Keeps You Runnin’, I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near), Sweet Freedom, Every Time Christmas Comes Around, On This Night, This Christmas, Come, O Come Emanuel/What Month Was Jesus Born, Wexford Carol, Christmas On The Bayou, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, That’s What Christmas Means To Me, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Peace, White Christmas/ Winter Wonderland, Minute By Minute, What A Fool Believes, Takin’ It To The Streets.  Bonus: Hallelujah

Michael McDonald’s occupies a unique place in American rock music by straddling such diversity from the complex jazz arrangements of Steely Dan to bringing white soul to The Doobie Brothers.  He brings a British like fascination of American music.  And he delivers this in his voice which combines feminine vulnerability with masculine assertiveness.

Eagle Vision have just released This Christmas Live In Chicagoon both DVD and Blu-Ray.  This is a special performance videotaped in October, 2009 for the PBS “Soundstage” program.  Unlike the telecast least year which edited much of the show, Eagle Vision present the entire performance from the taping including the encore cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”   

Regarding the video quality, the review on Shakefire correctly points out:  “Presented in 1080i the feature is just shy of being perfect. Eagle Vision has produced far better releases to date and of course, as I’ve stated several times, even to the slightest degree smoke tends to mess with picture in HD products. Definition is crisp and colors are gorgeous but the slight video noise is what dampers the overall grade of the picture. Sound quality comes at you with a DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital 5.1, and LPCM Stereo option. I took the DTS-HD MA which is fantastic sounding. Instrument levels are even, the mix allows just the faintest amount of audience interference, and vocals mesh well with the overall soundtrack though McDonald does do a bit of rocking from side to side missing his mark on the microphone. All in all if your not a total cinephile your going to be extremely impressed with this BD.”

At the start McDonald points out that The Doobie Brothers were one of the first to do “Soundstage.”  The first song is “It Keeps You Runnin’,” the first hit for the Doobies when he joined the band in 1976 followed by his solo hit “I Keep Forgettin'” from 1982 and “Sweet Freedom” from 1986 (but not telecast). 

But he has released four Christmas albums (In the Spirit: A Christmas Album, The Best of Michael McDonald: The Christmas Collection, Through the Many Winters: A Christmas Album and This Christmas issued a month before this performance) and the next eleven tunes, which comprise a bulk of the set, is drawn from these releases.

Every Time Christmas Comes Around” from In the Spirit: A Christmas Albumreleased in 2001 is the first, but almost all of the remaining tunes are arrangements from the latest album This Christmas.  Some are quite daring, such as the poppy strumming for “Wexford Carol” with very a very subtle Celtic taste.  There most radical is reserved for “Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.”  The French carol from the 19th century is transformed with a reggae beat and is part of a medley with “What Month Was Jesus Born.”

This section of the show ends with the “White Christmas / Winter Wonderland” medley which is one of his greatest arrangements.  The show ends with three classics Doobie Brothers tunes, “Minute By Minute,” “What A Fool Believes,” and “Takin’ It To The Streets.”  The only encore is his arrangement of “Hallelujah,” one of the most covered contemporary songs.

Eagle Vision unfortunately didn’t include any extras on the disc, but rather lets the show stand as is.  It is to their credit they released the entire concert instead of the edited broadcast and is worthing having for fans of the Doobies and McDonald.   

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