By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
The Confessions Tour
Warner Music Japan, 3,480 yen
It would seem that Madonna's live albums are like the proverbial London bus. You wait 23 years for one and a couple arrive in quick succession.
Following last year's I'm Going To Tell You a Secret collection, recorded live during her 2004 Re-Invention Tour, The Confessions Tour draws heavily from her 2005 album, Confessions on a Dance Floor.
The DVD and CD capture Madonna performing in London last August. DVD director Jonas Akerlund does a fine job of grasping the theatrical elements of Madonna's performance without succumbing to the temptation to get too pretentious.
Quite simply, Madonna is an entertainer and knows how to put on a good show, which is why the DVD is such an important part of this package.
Madonna has never been far away from controversy, though, and The Confessions Tour is no exception, with her use of a cross and crown of thorns during her performance coming in for criticism from certain religious quarters.
Yet the songs Madonna performs in this section of the show are perhaps the most powerful numbers on the DVD. At the end of Live To Tell, images of African children adorn the vast video screen behind her and a series of U2-like messages highlight the plight of AIDS orphans in Africa, while Forbidden Love focuses on the conflict in the Middle East.
Not that Madonna's turning into Bono--she doesn't wear enough leather for one thing--and most of the show is straight off the dance floor, complete with a mirror ball the size of a small planet. Yet, if you're not really interested in her dance tracks, the visuals that accompany the tunes more than make up for any shortfall in the music.
Madonna devotees will lap this up, but even nonbelievers will be surprised at her versatility and star quality.
Her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, may call her Madge but to her fans Madonna is always magic.
Universal Music, 2,500 yen
While Robbie Williams left to find superstar fame and fortune (in Europe, at least), the rest of the group weren't so lucky.
So when their respective albums were released within a month of each other in Britain last autumn it was interesting that Beautiful World outsold Williams' Rudebox.
Take That are all on the downhill slope to middle age, so they're definitely not a boy band anymore, and the songs on Beautiful World reflect this maturity.
For a group that made its name as a singles band, Beautiful World has its fair share of songs that are more than mere three-minute ear candy, though this collection should keep them on the radio for quite some time to come.
The vocals are shared among the band, though as usual, Gary Barlow takes the lead on most of the tracks. However, Howard Donald's rendition of their homage to their hometown, Mancunian Way, about a motorway that crosses Manchester, is an impressive showstopper that's crying out to be released as a single.
Jason Orange's first lead vocal outing for the band, Wooden Boat, offers a refreshing country/folk ending to a strong comeback album by the band.
The domestic version of the CD comes with bonus tracks, Butterfly and 6 In The Morning Fool, both of which are more than mere fillers