December 2004

Great Big Sea - Great Big DVD & CD
Rounder/Zoe Vision 01143-1059-2
Formats: CD and DVD-V
Released: 2004

by David Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Image Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Great Big DVD & CD, a music and video package by Great Big Sea, is a live-in-concert romp. The CD contains traditional Newfoundland ballads and drinking songs plus some original tunes, while the DVD includes video of the music CD’s 20 tracks, 13 more music videos, Karaoke versions of three songs, a 28-minute documentary of the band on tour, "home movies," and a band chronology. This is the Canadian multi-platinum Celtic-rock quintet’s seventh album, hot on the heels of the well-received Something Beautiful from earlier this year.

Opening with a jet-propelled rendition of the traditional "Donkey Riding," the disc moves to the original "When I’m Up," which starts contemplatively but shifts to the band’s trademark 100 mph with mixed rhythms, stirring the devoted crowd to provide the refrain when the band briefly stops playing and singing.

"Boston and St. John’s," the fourth track, slows things down a bit, but you can hear the roiling crowd in the background waiting to get hopping again, yelling and whistling at pauses in the singing. They get what they came for when the band launches into a raucous "The Night Pat Murphy Died." The album is largely a dance party.

Great Big Sea’s members grew up in Newfoundland. As the DVD’s documentary portion notes, they learned the album’s traditional tunes when they were young -- it came as naturally to them as eating and breathing. The songs are part of their centuries-old cultural heritage -- and ours. Well mixed and not at all a poor concert recording, the sound nevertheless includes some of the inevitable live-recording blemishes and noises. Folk music was not created for audio perfection, though, and listeners inclined toward the band’s folk repertoire are not likely to begrudge the audio glitches.

Great Big Sea are dedicated entertainers, playing and singing skillfully, logging thousands and thousands of touring miles, and giving their audience abundant good times.