Apart from his somewhat diminutive stature, the late great Ronnie James Dio was the quintessential metal frontman, even laying claim to pioneering the use of the ‘horns-up’ gesture (though a certain Gene Simmons would quibble with that claim). Little doubt though that Dio, with bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio, was responsible for some of the most iconic hard rock songs ever. And this is clearly evident on this previously unreleased concert film from two decades ago, which documented a reformed Dio performing in support of its Strange Highways album.
The quality of the concert film might not grainy but it is exciting to watch Dio not only play its best known numbers like “Stand Up and Shout”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Holy Divers” but throw in a couple of Black Sabbath (“The Mob Rules” and “Heaven and Hell”) and Rainbow (“The Man on the Silver Mountain”) tunes as well. There’s a bonus of behind the scenes the footage which is perfunctory at best.
What else can you say about Tommy? Well, if you are a diehard classic rock fan, then this documentary endeavours to be all you really need to know about The Who‘s famous rock opera. And the documentary certainly spares no detail in getting the story right. Interviews with survivors who were instrumental the creation of the album – Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Chris Stamp (ex-manager), Bob Pridden (sound engineer), Mike McInnerney (cover artist) – provide the historical background for how the album came about, the individual tracks themselves and the post-release impact.
Suffice to say that The Doors is one of the most important rock bands ever and if you’re a rock lover/scholar then one just cannot get enough of this seminal outfit. This DVD strings together The Doors’ use of the visual medium to convey not only commercial messages but also the core values of the band. From its earliest music with awkward TV appearances (John Densmore has hardly enough time to get behind his drums when “Light My Fire” kicks in on American Bandstand!) and innovative music film, The Doors quickly realize the potential of the visual medium as an additional promotional and creative avenue – Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek were film students after all. Bonus material include outtakes and a documentary recounting how The Doors began to use film to highlight their talents. Essential.
Alright. In the booklet insert, there are claims that Caro Emerald‘s music is some unique hybrid of jazz and hip-hop. But clearly, it isn’t! Which is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to bios and press releases that do not tell the truth! C’mon!! At best, Emerald is a jazz-pop singer, and regular visitors will know that that is one ‘genre’ I find particularly risible. It positively reeks of entitlement, designer clothes and 1 percenters. Of course, these are all gross generalizations but I guess you should not have started this argument with this talk of a jazz/hip-hop hybrid then!?!?! Sorry if this is a negative review (something I personally try to avoid) but this is such pretentious bullshit. Avoid.
There’s little doubt that Cliff Richard is the one true Peter Pan of pop music. Now in his early 70s, he still looks and sounds good enough to belt out his famous hits in his own inimitable way. The set list on this performance video is dominated by his earliest numbers, like “Livin’ Doll”, “Move It”, “Young Ones” and “In the Country” etc but as well as the obligatory 70s songs like “Devil Woman”, “We Don’t Talk Anymore” and “Wired for Sound”. Naturally, unless you are a diehard Richard fan, there is nothing much here for even the most studious of rock scholars. It’s all rather glitzy and entertaining – not necessarily a bad thing but Richard represented the musical establishment that the likes of The Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks et al would soon overturn and by now, it’s appeal is limited at best.
This live performance film from Luna Park, Bueno Aires, captures Dream Theater Mark II as the band tours 2011 album A Dramatic Turn of Events. After having drummer Mike Portnoy leave the band a year earlier, as explained in the documentary bonus feature, Dream Theater was revitalized with the recruitment of Mike Mangini and the subsequent release of A Dramatic Turn of Events. Judging from the album and this concert film, Mangini has assisted to reshape the band’s sound towards progressive metal, which has certainly not hurt the band’s reputation. Mangini in facts takes centrestage quite a bit with his enigmatic style. No slouch in the virtuosity department, Mangini more than keeps up with his illustrious partners viz. guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. That all said, it does seem at times that singer James LaBrie is unsuited for this change of direction but there’s little doubt that he still makes the material his own. Dream Theater fans will not want to miss this as the band goes from strength to strength.
When Bryan Ferry burst onto the UK scene as Roxy Music’s leader/singer in the early 70s, the band found itself branded as somewhere between art-rock and glam. However, as the band evolved from a progressive rock to a sophisticated pop outfit, its image would also change from quirky to glamourous and chic. Ferry himself has always been the epitome of rock cool – inspiring numerous followers in the 80s New Romantic movement – and even though he is in his late 60s, he has lost none of these indelible qualities as evidenced by this live performance recording. Naturally, the man has put on quite a few pounds and there are wrinkles all over his visage but there’s no mistaking the fact that Bryan Ferry’s stage presence and attitude is still able to capture the attention of a modern audience. This solo performance finds Ferry and band (not forgetting sexy dancers and backing singers!) cherry picking from his illustrious career including Roxy Music hits, solo favourites and interpretations of the Dylan songbook. Bonus feature – Making of Olympia (Ferry’s most recent album).
The true measure of a rock star is the kind of fans he or she has. Springsteen & I is a documentary with a difference – it was made for Springsteen fans by Springsteen fans! By the end of the documentary, you will be convinced about the depth of love and passion that Springsteen fans hold for their icon. Judging from the diversity in age and nationality, it’s clear that Springsteen’s appeal covers a broad range of fans. This special connection is what makes this documentary unique. Also worth checking out – numerous previously unseen archive footage of performances from throughout Springsteen’s career. The DVD bonus features include performances from 2012’s Hard Rock Calling (including two songs with Paul McCartney) and fan homemade video submissions.
Virtually impossible to watch this without the inevitable lump in throat and teary-eyed response. The measure of love, admiration and respect that the late great Freddie Mercury and Queen engendered amongst their peers is plainly obvious judging from the stellar lineup of this tribute concert.
This 3-DVD collection contains the whole shebang – the opening acts (Extreme does an awesome Queen medley), the main event itself (simply mind-boggling from start to finish) and a bonus DVD of extras (10th anniversary documentary, rehearsal performances and photo galleries).
As rock n’ roll history moves further and further away in time from its origins, live recordings of epochal performances become our relics of a Golden Age that we will never ever see again. The rock n’ roll world in 2012 (if we can even call it that) is completely unrecognizable from the late 60s rock & pop scene inhabited by The Doors. Watching this remarkable restoration of an incandescent concert film recorded 44 years ago in Los Angeles, it’s uncanny how ageless the band, its music and especially the legendary Jim Morrison comes across.
Regular visitors to PoP will be more than acquainted with the fact that Queen is one of my favorite rock bands of all time. Music videos have always played a significant role in Queen’s success and finally almost all of the band’s promotional videos have been compiled and collected into one 2-DVD set for fans to savour. All the videos are restored and shown in 16:9 widescreen and audio has been remixed for DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Also includes audio commentary from Brian May and Roger Taylor (even snippets of interviews with Freddie Mercury as well).
If you’re a Queen fan, I don’t really need to sell it to you, do I?
I’ve lost count of the number of DVDs that Eagle Vision has released which feature live performances of Carlos Santana but this definitive ‘Greatest Hits’ two-DVD set probably the best one yet! But seriously, there is not much else to say about Santana – he is a guitar legend that has transcended his roots in San Francisco’s 70s psychedelic hippie scene to become a worldwide mainstream rock phenomenon.
The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live DVD (Eagle Vision)
Nostalgia is a powerful force especially in relation to rock music. Much of 70s classic rock has faded into obscurity and remembered mostly by the young generation of the time. Styx is a band that had massive commercial success in the late 70s and early 80s but its platinum albums are not given much critical merit in the scheme of things nowadays. A shame really.
So how does one approach a live DVD wherein the band reproduces two of these best-selling albums (viz The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight) in their entirety? Especially when the main player (i.e. Dennis De Young) is no longer on board? Purely I suspect only as a well-crafted instance of nostalgic entertainment.
I would confess to being a big fan of Styx’s recorded output of this special era and songs like “The Grand Illusion”, “Superstars”, “Come Sail Away”, “Sing For the Day”, “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and “Queen of Spades” still resonate with me strongly. So with that in mind, I must say that as an exercise in nostalgia this DVD succeeds wildly.
To his credit, Lawrence Gowan has filled De Young’s shoes (as singer and keyboards player) very well and to such an extent that if you didn’t look at him, you’d never think that De Young was absent. Gowan is an excellent showman and he possesses all the chops to keep anyone from missing De Young. Whether this is a good or bad thing is hard to say actually!
To be fair, the concert overall is top notch with the songs re-produced perfectly. Considering all the work and effort that was obviously put into the show, one cannot fault the professionalism of all involved. The sold-out audience lapped it up eagerly and if this DVD somehow gets new music fans to check out Styx’s discography then at least something more than mere nostalgia would have been achieved.
Talking Heads. Now what more can one say of this iconic, legendary band? Especially when its legacy continues to seep into the contemporary indie-alternative rock scene. This DVD collects choice videos of the band: –
(a) from its early days as a trio (David Byrne – vocals, guitar/Tina Weymouth – bass/Chris Frantz – drums) in New York City’s famous CGBG where a shy Byrne never makes eye contact with the audience whilst nervously singing “Psycho Killer” and “The Girls Want to be with the Girls” to
(b) the accomplished quartet (with Jerry Harrison) as Byrne transforms into the confident frontman on classic Heads material like “Don’t Worry About the Government” and “Warning Sign” to
(c) morphing into a full-blown live act (embellished with backing singers, percussionists and extra musicians) with “Love –> Building On Fire” and “Burning Down the House”.
As a bonus, the DVD also includes a 35 minute South Bank Show documentary in 1979 and an interview with Byrne circa 1978. Not only that but every band member contributes to an audio commentary as well.
No other way to say this – if you’re a music lover, this DVD is essential.
So if my recommendation for this live DVD is ‘strictly for fans only’ – would you take that positively or negatively? I mean, when you consider that UK trio Placebo has sold ten million records worldwide, then that’s a whole bunch of people who would be interested, right?
But seriously, as a non-fan myself, I found Placebo‘s androgynous image and 90s alternative rock approach enjoyable and interesting enough – especially as a sometimes Smashing Pumpkins listener – but beyond that I do not place much significance on the band in the history of rock music.
So definitely fans will want this excellent live recording of a 2010 gig in Brixton Academy with the highlights being lively renditions of “Nancy Boy”, “Ashtray Heart”, “Infra Red” and “Taste in Men”. Hardly essential but fans of 90s alternative rock will certainly want to check out We Come In Pieces.
Deep Purple with Orchestra: Live at Montreux 2011 (Eagle)
I’m sorry but for me the spine of Deep Purple has always been Jon Lord and Richie Blackmore. You can take away anybody else but once Lord and Blackmore are not part of the equation, to me it’s not Deep Purple. Of course, the current incarnation of Deep Purple has had Don Airey on keyboards and Steve Morse on guitars for some time now.
Worse still, based on this DVD, it really seems that singer Ian Gillian has lost his legendary vocal chops as well. Not that it matters to the sold-out crowd at this concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2011. To compound the problem, the band is backed this time by a full orchestra to provide horns and strings to classics such as Highway Star, Maybe I’m A Leo, Woman from Tokyo, Space Truckin’ and Smoke on the Water. It’s not hard rock anymore I’m afraid. It’s all very soft, wet and flaccid.
So in many ways, this like a Vegas show version of the legendary band and of course, they’re perfectly entitled to continue to tour and bring the classic rock repertoire to willing fans worldwide but I don’t have to like it. Strictly for die hard fans only.
The self-styled ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’ seemed to rejuvenate and reinvent itself in 1978 with the release of Some Girls, an album that incorporated elements of disco, punk and new wave into the Stones’ tried and trusted brand of blues-rock.
This DVD covers that special era in rock history – perhaps the Stones’ last great incandescent moment of glory before descending into self-parody since. The main attraction is concert footage from a memorable gig in Texas, where Mick Jagger and company pulled out all the stops to demonstrate that even in their 30s the band was still a potent force.
Aside from the new material (Eg. Miss You, When The Whip Comes Down, Beast of Burden. Far Away Eyes, Shattered and Imagination), the Stones also delivered their ‘greatest hits’ with the usual aplomb – Honky Tonk Women, Tumbling Dice, Happy, Brown Sugar & Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Bonus features include contemporaneous clips from Saturday Night Live, 20/20 and a 2011 interview with Jagger. For classic rock fans everywhere.
Also worth picking up – the latest reissue of Some Girls which includes an unmatched collections of outtakes that no Stones fans would want to miss.
Lindsey Buckingham: Songs from the Small Machine, Live in LA (Eagle)
Producer. Singer-songwriter. Guitarist. Legend.
Whether as part of mega-band Fleetwood Mac or on his own as a well-respected solo artist, Lindsey Buckingham always delivered the goods. This DVD documents a show Buckingham performed in April 2011 in support of his last album, Seeds We Sow.
Consisting of two parts, the show opens with Buckingham literally solo with his acoustic guitar – the highlights being Trouble and Big Love – before Buckingham transforms into full band mode.
This is where the show truly takes off as familiar Fleetwood Mac tracks like Tusk, Go Your Own Way and key solo songs like Seed We Sow and Under the Skin get a solid airing. Spine-tingling moments abound with shimmering vocal harmonies, dynamic guitar work as well as Buckingham’s well worn tunes.
There is an excellent interview with the man himself as he shares about his musical history – from Buckingham/Nicks to Fleetwood Mac and beyond. Buckingham has intriguing insights concerning the success of Rumors, the story behind the making of Tusk and his writing process.
For true scholars of rock n roll, this is an essential one to take note of.
According to the publicity blurb on the DVD jacket, the concerts featured in this DVD have been lost for 50 years and just newly discovered. Which is certainly a boon not only for music fans but also historians. Filmed at the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival in France, this DVD features the legendary Ray Charles in his prime.
Covering two sets on 18th and 22nd July respectively, Charles is backed by the original Raelets and run the gamut from jazz to gospel, from the blues to rock ‘n’ roll. Charles himself is the consummate musician, equally comfortable with solo piano as well as singing, there is no denying the genius of the man and the tremendous influence over the popular music of the decades that followed.
The visuals are in sparking black and white, with choice audience shots edited together efficiently. The sound is pristine and Charles performs some of his greatest hits viz. Let The Good Times Roll, Georgia On My Mind, Hallelujah, I Love Her So and What I’d Say. On the last track, it isn’t difficult to see the impact that Charles had on the likes of The Beatles, for example.
Of course, this is 1961 so there is none of the flash or the glamour of modern day live spectacles but none of this diminishes the power and soulfulness of the musicianship and showmanship. Utterly essential for all pop scholars.
Eagle Rock has been paying attention to the lesser known aspects of legendary British hard rockers, Deep Purple. Having recently re-issued the first three albums of the original lineup, Eagle Rock has now released (through Eagle Vision) Phoenix Rising: The Untold Story of Deep Purple Mark IV. This covers the brief period during which founding member Ritchie Blackmore had left Purple to form Rainbow and guitarist Tommy Bolin was brought in to fill Blackmore’s considerable void.
This DVD basically covers features a 30 minute previously unreleased live concert video filmed at the Budokan Hall in 1975 and a 80 minute documentary basically chronicling the numerous problems that beset this lineup of Deep Purple, including drug problems (bassist Glenn Hughes and Bolin) and especially a disastrous tour of Indonesia.
The live concert video is really purely for historical purposes as the quality (sound and vision) is rather poor, especially when compared to Mark II’s triumphant Made in Japan LP. Equally so is the documentary which feature in-depth interviews with keyboardist Jon Lord and Hughes where the focus is very much on the excesses of 70s rock. Both of these videos will probably only interest diehard Mark IV fans.
I guess Eagle Vision themselves sensed that what was on offer was a little light and so what does make the DVD intriguing are the two collectible booklets reproducing an original Deep Purple 1976 magazine and rare photos as well as original vintage Purple articles. Again, for fans only.
When it comes to concert films, ex-Talking Head David Byrne has of course been involved with the seminal Stop Making Sense (directed by Jonathan Demme) – and definitely knows about making the best out of the medium.
This concert film is unique in Byrne’s ambitious concept of mixing up his music with modern dance – resulting in a sinewy, kinetic display of sight and sound. Drawing from the classic Talking Heads repertoire (Once in a Lifetime, I Zimbra, Road to Nowhere, Burning Down the House, Houses in Motion, Life During Wartime and Heaven) and material from recent collaborations between Byrne and Brian Eno, there’s no denying the power and appeal of these songs, especially when combined with exciting dance movements.