DVD

DVD REVIEW: Van Halen – Video Hits Volume I (1998)

VAN HALEN – Video Hits Volume I (1998 DVD)

Van Halen had some of the best videos of the 80s, bar none. After David Lee Roth, the visionary behind the videos, left the band, they refused to film any new clips for their first six singles with Sammy Hagar! They didn’t want the comparisons.  Instead they released live versions of singles as videos.  They finally filmed an actual studio video for the ballad “When It’s Love” in late 1988.

It seems Van Halen still can’t reconcile all the different singers from the past.  That is obvious by the omissions from this disc.  Go ahead and list the missing videos:

The excellently corny “Oh Pretty Woman”. “You Really Got Me”, the timeless Kinks cover. The live videos for “Unchained” and “So This Is Love”. All the live video clips are missing, even Sammy’s debut in “Why Can’t This Be Love”.  As is Gary Cherone’s “Fire In The Hole”. “Feels So Good”, “Top of the World”, “Amsterdam”…all missing.

At least they included one Cherone video (“Without You”), but then again, he was the band’s current singer when this was released in 1998.  It would have been weird if he wasn’t on it.  He hasn’t made an appearance or even been mentioned on any Van Halen releases since.

For Van Halen to refuse to release those videos on DVD just indicates they’re scared of their own shadows. You can’t bury your past, you may as well celebrate it.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 CD/DVD)

QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 Shout! CD/DVD set)

This was a long awaited release, since the US Festival was way back in 1983!  The Holy Grail would be an official Van Halen release of their legendary performance, but I digress.  There aren’t a lot of really great live Quiet Riot albums out there, with one called Extended Versions being the best package.  Live at the US Festival is brief at just seven songs (plus a 4:38 guitar solo that also includes a sneak preview of a song called “Scream and Shout”).  It does capture Quiet Riot at their peak, at a critical gig, and includes a DVD of the whole thing for the complete package.  (Come on, Van Halen…)

Let’s have a look at the DVD first.  The crowd is vast, the costumes ridiculous, but there’s some kind of fire in the air.  The atmosphere is electric and the band are absolutely great visually, particularly Rudy Sarzo.   DuBrow is the consummate glam frontman, and an underrated one at that. Have a giggle at the old style giant screens displaying the band logo.

The CD itself sounds good, no complaints there, and the recording sounds untampered (evidenced by a messy Carlos Cavazo guitar solo in “Cum On Feel the Noize”).  Sarzo’s bass is mixed nice and audibly.  It would have been better if more of a booklet was included, but it’s just a simple fold-out with no liner notes.  This set is sparse and just over 40 minutes long.  A lot of that time is taken up by talking.  You get the big hits though, and the non-album track “Danger Zone”.

Live at the US Festival is a pretty easy Quiet Riot purchase to justify because of the included DVD.

3.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Billy Connolly – Live in New York (2010)

BILLY CONNOLLY – Live in New York (2010 Rykodisc DVD)

There are few funnier than singer/comedian Billy Connolly.  My theory is that it’s the Scottish accent.  Live in New York is the funniest comedy DVD that I own. I don’t buy a lot of them, because I find they have a limited lifespan before they get old. I have another Billy as well (Erect For 30 Years), which combines his old standup plus interview and documentary footage. From his Too Old to Die Young tour, Live in New York is the one to get; it’s pure gold.

There isn’t much “standing” in Billy’s stand-up.  He’s mobile, acting out his scenes, rarely stationary.  This was recorded in 2005, before Billy’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.  What storytelling ability!  Like a big beast, every story is recreated on stage for your entertainment.

Even though I have seen some of these bits before (Billy scaring his sister is classic), they all come across as if Billy is telling the stories for the first time. Halfway through a story, he will go off on a tangent. He’ll stop his story mid-breath, pause, and then say, “I just have to tell you about something…” Then he’ll tell another story, and come back to his original story 10 minutes later, to much laughter and applause.

Everything’s funny, but some bits here were absolutely hilarious. They include:

  • The afforementioned “sister” story which takes 10 times as much time to set up as the story itself.
  • The stories about his dad who had a stroke. If you have ever had a family member who’s had a severe stroke, then you’ll know. Billy nailed this one on the head, hilariously.
  • The “thistle” tattoo.
  • And best of…opera. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Billy nails everything I love and hate about opera!

Audio is plain stereo, format is full screen.  No special features; just the show. Billy may be getting old, his hair may be white, but his humour has lost absolutely nothing over the years. This is, in my humble opinion, the very best DVD that Billy has to offer.

5/5 stars and 1 thistle tattoo.

REVIEW: Mr. Big – Defying Gravity (2017 deluxe edition)

MR. BIG – Defying Gravity (2017 Frontiers CD/DVD edition)

I can still remember, very clearly, my thoughts about “To Be With You” when it finally became a hit in 1992.

“It’s a deserved hit,” I thought, “But that’s the end of Mr. Big having any chance of being seen as a serious band by the general public.”

Serious indeed.  Eric Martin had a previous career as a blue-eyed soul singer.  Paul Gilbert was in shred band Racer X with future Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis.  Pat Torpey was a well-known drummer for appearing on several shred rock albums, like Impelliteri.  And Billy Sheehan, of course, is generally listed as one of the top bassists of all time, with a period at the end.  These guys were not slouches.  But they did form a commercial rock band, and suffered the consequences that most commercial rock bands did in the 1990s.  They faded to obscurity.  Everywhere but Japan, where they continued to thrive as rock heroes.

It’s gratifying that 25 years later in 2017, Mr. Big have an album out that’s as good as any of their first four.  They even reunited with their original producer Kevin Elson.  But it’s all not peaches and cream.  Pat Torpey suffered a setback in 2014 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Undaunted, Torpey still worked with his loyal bandmates on Defying Gravity.  Just as before, he participated in shaping the songs, even though he was unable to play on them.  Ace Frehley’s drummer Matt Starr* has taken over live and recording duties, while Torpey wrote and produced the drum parts.  In the accompanying DVD, it’s very gratifying to see the band adapt seamlessly to this new reality.  They even have fun with it in the music videos, as Starr and Torpey play together and switch instruments.  Check out the lead single and title track for a great example of making it work.

Speaking of the lead single/video…holy shit, what a hook! Gilbert’s tricky and exotic timing and note choices are somehow bent and twisted into a pop song! It’s that schooled approach that makes certain Mr. Big songs completely unlike whatever is on the radio, but just as catchy.

All the songs have spark, and the solo work is untouchable.  Bluesy and funky hard rock is the basis of “Open Your Eyes”.  The second single (“Everybody Needs a Little Trouble”) stomps out a heavy blues rock beat.  On to “Damn I’m In Love Again”, Mr. Big take a drive into the country.  “Nothing Bad ‘Bout Feelin’ Good” is a hybrid, using the acoustics in a heavier way.  There are plenty more hit-quality highlights:  “Forever & Back”, and “She’s All Coming Back to Me Now”.  For the fans:  “Nothing At All”, the heavy rockin’ “1992” (a brilliant look back at the glory days), and “Be Kind” which is just a jaw dropping example of what these guys can do with just their voices, instruments and a song!

For a deeper understanding of this album, check out the deluxe edition with bonus DVD.**  Not only will you get all the music videos, but also behind the scenes segments on set, and the EPK (“electronic press kit”).  Finally there is a track by track analysis of every song featuring each member, and more behind the scenes footage.  This is where you’ll find the most insight.  Influences abound from the expected to the  unexpected.  From doo-wop to Christina Aguilera?  Why not.  The one with the beat cribbed from Aguilera is actually one of the heaviest and solo-dense tracks (“Mean to Me”).

Defying Gravity isn’t really a surprise, because Mr. Big have put out plenty of good albums over the recent years.  Perhaps it’s a bit more inspired.  It certainly has potential to be on a few “top ten of 2017” lists this year.

4/5 stars

* Matt Starr may in fact be a Klingon.  In the Original Series, Klingons looked much like humans, without their trademark head ridges.  What gives away Starr’s possible Klingon status is his dead ringer of a Klingon moustache and beard.

Matt Starr is the one with the drum head.

** I know what you’re thinkin’. “LeBrain, why didn’t you buy the Japanese edition with a bonus track?” This time out the only bonus track is a radio edit of “Defying Gravity” which, cost considered, I can live without.

RE-REVIEW: KISS – eXposed (1987 video)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 31

 – eXposed (1987 VHS/2002 Mercury DVD)

“Hello.  The show we are about to see is a rousing docu-drama.  It will disgust some, and titillate others.  But whether it disgusts you, or titillates you, it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but…the truth.”

Kiss were on to something here.  The concept of a home video release that was more than just a compilation of clips was fairly new.  Kiss took the bull by the horns and put together a video that was all at once extremely sexist and innovative, offensive and invaluable.  Only fans need apply; anyone who is sick of Gene Simmons’ schtick will bore quickly of his oafish humour.  But when Kiss play it “straight” in certain interview segments, light shines through.  The old memories and the old friendships are fresh and vivid.

Interviewer Mark Blankfield strolls up to the “Kiss Mansion” where all four members live Monkee-like together in one house with dozens upon dozens of beautiful women. The doorbell plays “Rock N’ Roll All Nite”, and Paul Stanley is confused. He thought the interview was scheduled for…not noon, but 12 midnight! Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

The KISS Mansion

Some of the scripted bits are actually funnier than you’d expect. Paul and Gene are natural clowns, and playing the role of disinterested rock stars tickles the funnybone.  Blankfield keeps chasing them around, trying to get them to do some interviews.  All the while, he encounters scantily clad babes in various states of undress, and a butler intent on keeping him away from them.  Subjects of discussion in the scripted bits include nutrition and fitness.  Learn about Joseph Kiss Sr., who came up with the vision of Kiss in 1773.  Check out Paul Stanley’s workout video!  Meet his best friend, a monkey named Sonny Crockett. Cut to a music video!

The music videos are something. In a scripted bit, Paul is surprised that they have access to the uncensored version of “Who Wants to Be Lonely”, which neither MTV nor MuchMusic were willing to play. Censors were offended by images of women in bikinis spraying themselves with hoses, even though I’m sure George Michael did something similar a couple years later. Every music video that Kiss filmed from “I Love It Loud” (1982) to the Asylum album (1985) is included, except “Thrills in the Night”.*  All videos from eras prior to this are live and unreleased!

“Deuce” in San Fransisco

Live in Rio, from Kiss’ very last concert in makeup, it’s “I Love It Loud” with Vinnie Vincent!  This is good quality video and audio from a TV broadcast.  From the now famous bootleg Kissin’ Time in San Francisco (1975), it’s a nuclear version of “Deuce” in black and white.  It’s the first appearance of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in this feature, and the rawness of the old band is a delightful contrast to the new.  Then it’s “Strutter” at Cobo Hall in ’76, an Ace guitar solo from 1980, and “Beth” in 1977 with Peter Criss (and a pretty bad final note).  Gene’s got a bass solo/blood spitting clip to show off, but the most interesting clip of the batch could be “Detroit Rock City” in Australia, 1980.  Paul did the verse melody with a slightly different twist.  “Rock and Roll all Nite” is included from the same show, which had Eric Carr on drums.  “I Stole Your Love” and “Ladies Room” have the original lineup from the Love Gun tour; Kiss at their bombastic best.

Of the best of the “straight” interview clips is the question, “How did you two get together?”  Paul and Gene start busking to “I’ll Be Back” by the Beatles, and suddenly you can imagine what they sounded like in 1972.  They even sing bits of Gene’s more…obscure early material.  “I love Eskimos…”  “My mother is beauuuutiful…”  (Hopefully we will hear these songs on Gene’s upcoming 150 track box set, Vault?)  Another good question, to Gene, is “Have you gone Hollywood?” which he answers with candor.

Incredible special features

The very large issue with this DVD is the absence of Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr.  They only appear in brief cameos, and get a couple lines a piece.  That’s very unfortunate.  And then there is the excessive objectification of women.  It’s done as an obvious satire of the rock star stereotype, but not particularly well.  Too bad.  This isn’t Spinal Tap.

Some of the diehards would have preferred a home video with more music and less gags.  Fortunately Kiss got the message when they eventually  got around to a sequel.

3/5 stars

* It appears  that “Thrills in the Night” must have been intended for inclusion at one point, because it’s in the songwriting credits at the end of the video.

 

 

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/03

REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Left For Dead (1988-1992) (CD/DVD set)

“You know, Sean Connery was the best Roger Moore they ever had.” — Frank C. Starr

THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Left For Dead (1988-1992) (2005 CD/DVD set)

“Nobody said it was easy…and they were fucking right!”

The final review in this Four Horsemen series is a valuable live album/DVD set.  The CD was put together from “a box of old tapes”, all from 1992 gigs (one of which was Toronto), and there are ample liner notes discussing the band’s history and the songs herein.  It’s a brilliant live set, loaded with energy and Frank C. Starr’s unmistakable charisma.  Every track sweats whiskey.  With an opening one-two punch of “’75 Again” and “Moonshine”, you know you’re in for an action packed ride.  “Moonshine” is particularly cool, because the album version featured an authentic over-the-phone lead vocal, but the live one is full-on.  Throwing in a couple extra screams, Frankie added the icing on the cake.  Man, we so miss Frank C. Starr.

It’s a noisy affair, which actually suits this band just fine.  It’s appropriate that a Four Horsemen live album isn’t an overdubbed and glossed collection.  What it sounds like is a live band in a tiny club.  All three of the Horsemen’s singles are included in live form.  The slide-drenched “Tired Wings” goes down a treat.  “Nobody Said it Was Easy” and “Rockin’ is Ma Business” are both electrifying; the latter especially so.  You don’t hear a singer with a voice like Frank’s very often.  He had the grit, the power and the ability, wrapped up in a rock star-sized bottle of Jack.  Frank Starr has to be one of the greatest unsung losses in modern rock.

And what a band behind him!  There is a constant and very hard-hitting beat at the back, courtesy of the man-mountain Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery.  According to the liner notes, Dimwit was a psychiatric nurse in addition to being a hell of a punk rock drummer.  The name Dimwit was clearly a joke, but there is a dark side.  The rigors of his work and the amount of care and emotion that went into it may have contributed to the depression and substance abuse that eventually took his life.  It’s sad really, but thankfully these live recordings exist.

One non-album cut is included in this set, a slow raunchy one called “Can’t Get Next To You”.  The AC/DC influences are obvious as this one is clearly in the musical mode of “The Jack”.   The fans wouldn’t have known this song, but Frank wants to see how many people know the album.  Introducing “Hot Head” he announces, “Let’s see if some of you fuckers actually went out and bought this shit!”…right before an equipment breakdown!  And it’s all there, documented for history.  Leaving in things like amp troubles makes for a more authentic listening experience.

All told, only two songs from the legendary first Four Horsemen record are not on the live CD:  “Can’t Stop Rockin'” and “Homesick Blues”.  Although unlisted, “I Need a Thrill” does contain the “Something Good” coda, just like the album.  It’s even longer, with some absolutely consummate playing from lead guitarist Dave Lizmi.  The low grade sound quality perhaps enhances the overall experience.  This was a dirty rock and roll band and that’s how the live CD sounds.  That seems right.  With almost the entire first album plus an unreleased song, any Horsemen fan worth his or her salt should probably get their ears on this.  But there is still the DVD to feast our eyes upon!

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Interspersed with rare footage and interviews, you get all the original Horsemen music videos, starting with “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.   The stark music video for “Nobody Said it Was Easy” is a previously unseen version with some risque shots.  An interesting clip from MTV has the band mistakenly called “Four Horseman”.  (Apparently it was Riki Rachtman’s first show.  But then MTV got the name wrong on a later episode too!  MuchMusic got it right though.)  A rare live bootleg of “Hard Lovin’ Man” is audio garbage but video gold.  “High School Rock and Roller” is a blast to watch, especially the moving mountain that was Dimwit on drums.  There is big stage action from October ’91, opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd (“’75 Again” and “Rockin’ in Ma Business”).   Perhaps most interesting are some rejected music videos that didn’t see the light of day.  An early version of “Tired Wings” (with a pre-fame Kate Moss) is pretty crap and rightfully hated by the band.  Better than this is a rare “Mexican version” of “Nobody Said it Was Easy”.  The intro borrows liberally from “The Old Man Down the Road” by John Fogerty, but it’s cool watching the band mime in a hot dusty town in Mexico.  Then there is a never before seen $2000 budget video for “Welfare Boogie” from the original EP.  This video was rejected by MTV because the band were “too ugly”.

DVD special features are sparse but cool.  There is an exclusive acoustic demo version of “Tired Wings”.  What a different spin this is!  In demo form it was a slow acoustic drawl, laid back with angelic band harmonies.  The lyrics and melodies are identical but the arrangement is completely different.  This is set to a nostalgic slide show of rare band photos.  There is also a band commentary track for the main feature (Haggis, Dave Lizmi and Ben Pape). Lots of laughs, memories and anecdotes.  And making fun of “Dave Lizmo’s” hockey stick-style guitar neck.   Mostly they poke fun of each other’s clothes.  It’s a lot of fun to hang out with the Horsemen.  The audio commentary track is a highly recommended shambles.

The CD/DVD set can be ordered straight from the band, and it comes autographed.  I think mine is signed by Haggis but I cannot be sure!

4/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Rushmore (The Criterion Collection) #WesAndersonBlogathon

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#WesAndersonBlogathon


Scan_20160807 (2)RUSHMORE (1998/1999 Criterion DVD)

Directed by Wes Anderson

Whether they know it or not, everybody has their first Wes Anderson movie.  Mine was Rushmore, an easy entry point, and I had never seen anything like it before.  It has a genuine quality, an old-fashioned look, and a killer soundtrack — all Wes Anderson trademarks.

The Criterion Collection (“a continuing series of important classics and contemporary films”) deliver some of the best colour transfers, and that is necessary for any Wes Anderson film.  Soaked in dark but rich colours, Anderson fills his work with vibrancy.  His visual trademarks are apparent right from the first scene, a hilarious fantasy sequence introducing our main protagonist Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman).  Max is more than a dreamer though.  He is a doer.  He dreams things and makes things happen.  As such he is the founding (and sometimes sole) member of multiple clubs at Rushmore Academy.  He writes, produces and directs lavish school plays with no thought given to compromise, or safety.  Unfortunately, Max doesn’t dream much of his own schoolwork, and never seems to get it done.  He is on notice.  Fail one more class, and he’s expelled from the school he loves so much.  Brian Cox (Super Troopers) is excellent as Dr. Guggenheim, the school principal.

Max soon meets steel magnate Herman Blume (Bill Murray), to the tune of “Making Time” by The Creation (1967).  The retro music and formal dress at Rushmore Academy gives the movie a timeless feel.  Could it be the 90’s?  The 80’s?  The 70’s?  Sure, why not.  Instead of working at getting his grades up, Max continues to dream.  He dreams of saving the Latin program in school (for no real reason other than just to do it), and of new teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams).  He’s a charmer, but often with ulterior motives.  He and Blume manage to find a bond together.  That is, before Blume himself falls for Miss Cross.

This leads to a strange rivalry between Max and Blume, with each jockeying for position in the Miss Cross stakes, with little thought given to how she feels about the whole thing.  It also sets up some pretty amusing situations, such as Max trying to build a school aquarium for Miss Cross.  He almost succeeds, too.  Max is a hard character to read, as he often wants to make certain impressions.  Blume, on the other hand, is clearly depressed, living in a sham of a marriage with two barbarian sons he doesn’t even seem to like. As their rivalry grows in intensity, so does the music, culminating in The Who’s epic live version of a “A Quick One While He’s Away” from the deluxe version of Live at Leeds.  Wes Anderson has a knack for a musical montage too, and Cat Stevens’ “Here Comes My Baby” is host to one such montage.  (Stevens also appears later on with “The Wind” in another song-appropriate scene.)   The Stones’ “I Am Waiting” is more great music for marking the passage of time.

Max might not have been the best student, but genius does not always get good grades.  His plays have an epic scope, and his aquarium does too:  $35,000 cost, just for the initial plans.  (Some of the aquatic movie footage that Max views may foreshadow a future Anderson film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, starring Bill Murray).  He’s also a perfectionist.  When it comes to his plays, every line matters.  “Don’t fuck with my play!” he screams to the star of his version of Serpico, right before getting punched right in the nose.  Finally young Max possesses a razor sharp wit, which he uses at will especially when it comes to those he considers love rivals, like Peter Flynn (Luke Wilson).

Rushmore is an ode to the creative mind.  After some humbling experiences, Max learns to use his inventiveness to bring people together.  His final triumph, to the strains of “Ooh La La” (The Small Faces), is to bring all the film’s characters (even the bully student Magnus) together in solidarity.  It’s all done with plenty of laughs, smiles and a few tears.

Wes Anderson utilizes a cast of talents he would work with repeatedly, with Bill Murray being the most obvious.  Kumar Pallana as Mr. Litteljeans, the groundskeeper, was an Anderson regular.  Brian Cox, who also participated in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, brings a sour delight to Dr. Guggenheim.   Secret weapon in this movie however is Mason Gamble as Max’s ally Dirk Calloway.  Another Anderson trademark is that each frame possesses astonishing detail and visual information.  Like beautifully painted and impossibly detailed storyboards, his scenes have a life and tell a million stories in the background.  Much like one of Max’s plays, actually.

Without a doubt, one of the best special DVD features is a selection of play adaptations by the Max Fischer Players, from the 1999 MTV Movie Awards.  The players do their own on-stage takes of:  Armageddon, The Truman Show, and Out of Sight.  MTV were producing some very funny bits for their movie award shows at the time, and these are some of the best. Utilizing the original cast and familiar music from the film, these feel like a fairly natural extension of Rushmore.

Other valuable trinkets include an on-screen program for Max’s Vietnam drama Heaven & Hell, and his adaptation of Serpico.  Of course there must be an audio commentary and that is by Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and star Jason Schwartzman.  There are also the requisite making-of featurettes and supplements.  The biggest selling feature of this Criterion edition for those who value physical products is the giant fold-out map.  From here you can follow the events of the movie on a delightful full colour sketch by movie artist (and director’s brother) E.C. Anderson.  In fact all the packaging for this DVD was designed by Anderson.

5/5 stars

RUSHMORE MAP

#479: Cracking the Case

DISC CRACK

GETTING MORE TALE #479: Cracking the Case

Whoever invented the DVD case, damn you.

In case you’re wondering, the dimensions of the standard DVD case are not random.  Somebody didn’t just say, “Hey!  Let’s package a round disc in an oversized rectangle!”  Since DVD was the format destined to replace the old VHS video tape, the dimensions of the case are roughly the same:  Height and width.  Only the thickness is different.  This was done to ease the transition from one format to the next.  Stores would presumably have to display their new and exciting DVD inventory on the same old shelving they already had for VHS tapes.  Makes sense from that point of view, although the cases are mostly empty space and could have been made smaller to cut costs, and waste.

When Blu-ray came along, the cases were reduced in height, slightly, to differentiate them from their DVD cousins.  It’s still mostly a waste of space.

That’s not the big gripe, though.  The issue was that some of the cases designed to hold DVDs would eventually destroy them if you put them in and out too many times.  This happened to my now long-discarded copy of the Matrix: Reloaded.

The problem with the DVD cases were the spindles or “teeth” inside the held the disc tight, by the center hole.  Remember how you had to push down to release the disc?  Either by poor design or bad tolerance issues, the act of pushing down and trying to release your disc could introduce tiny cracks around the center hole.   Like death by a thousand tiny cuts, the discs would crack further and further every time you used them.  Just like your windshield, the cracks grow.  Eventually tiny pieces of plastic would begin to flake off the middle.

At the old Record Store, we saw many DVDs that were cracked and flaking in the middle.  Customers were always pissed off when we pointed this out, and who can blame them?  They didn’t do anything wrong, they were just trying to watch a movie.  It’s not their fault that the cases they came in were so poorly designed.   Take that disc out one too many times and it’ll crack right in half.  I know because I’ve done it myself.

The traditional DVD case is a double fail.  Not only was it too big for its britches, but some would damage your precious movie inside!  That is unforgiveable.

REVIEW: Rachel Fuller presents: In the Attic with Pete Townsend & friends (2 CD/1 DVD)

Hey folks! It’s The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2! Just like last time, Mike and Aaron will be doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

RACHEL FULLER presents: In The Attic with Pete Townsend & friends (2009 Eel Pie 2 CD/1 DVD set)

A long time ago, Aaron found this triple disc set at Giant Tiger, for the ridiculously low price of $1.00!  Not being a foolish man, Aaron bought three of them.  One for me, one for the Heavy Metal OverloRd, and one for himself!

Pete Townsend and Rachel Fuller are life partners and musical collaborators.  She hosted a web show called In the Attic that featured performers from all over the musical spectrum.  The Pete Townsend & Friends installment was gifted to me by buddy Aaron!  What he did not know is this:  I’m only a casual Townsend fan (not a collector), but by buying me this, he added some more Tenacious D to my collection of that band!

The DVD contains most (but not all) of the same material as CD, but also a lot more.  For example Tenacious D’s “Tribute” is only on the DVD.  Jack Black was suffering from strep throat that night, and they had to lower the song an octave. For a guy with a sore throat, he still sings pretty great…and even more demonic and evil!  Their “Tommy Medley” is damn impressive, but it’s really too bad that Jack wasn’t in full voice.  Kyle Gass apologized to Pete for this jokey, uber-fast medley, but I don’t think the apology was necessary, since Pete yelled for an encore!

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Joe Purdy was unfamiliar to me before, a folk musician with a large discography.  When he invites his dad Dad onstage, and Pete Townsend fixes his mic stand, there is a brief “we’re not worthy” moment that must have been mind-blowing.  The pair does an original song called “Daisy” (great bluegrass) before Joe performs a couple more: “Let My Love Open the Door” and “Talk About Suffering”, both with Pete.  “Let My Love Open the Door” is the familiar Townsend classic, and delightful in its tender acoustic guise.

Rachel Fuller then performs her original song “Sir Walter Raleigh”, an f-bomb laden piano ballad!  A song is cut here from the DVD, another Fuller original called “I Can Fly”, on CD 1.  This pretty song is a nice contrast.  British solo artist Alexi Murdoch is next with two songs, both originals:  “Dream About Flying” and “Orange Sky”.  His impressive bluesy picking creates a dark folk sound on these songs.  “Orange Sky” is performed with Pete and Rachel which I would imagine reduces most people to jelly.  Imagine having Pete Townsend and his significant other playing on a song YOU wrote….

Most folks should be familiar with Ben Harper who takes the stage next with cellos and violins!  “Please Bleed” is incredible.  With Pete, he does his hit “Diamonds on the Inside”, still great today.  Finally, and still with Pete, they do “I’m One” from Quadrophenia together.  I imagine this is something you would stroke off a bucket list.  “I want this to last a really long time!” says Ben mid-song.

The final guest of the evening is Pete himself, with four acoustic songs.  “The Real Me” takes on a funky vibe, but brilliant as always.  “Acid Queen”, “Drowned” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” complete this Who set.  Even just solo on an acoustic guitar, this set is incredible.  Townsend’s presence and expertise soak through every note.

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That’s the end of that night’s show, but not the end of the DVD.  The release is split in two sections – “The Hotel Cafe” and “Joe’s Pub”.  The “Joe’s Pub” section has plenty more big name stars.  This came from a traveling version of Fuller’s show, shadowing the Who at their festival gigs.  In New York, they did a show at Joe’s Pub, and the first guest was a starstruck Amos Lee.  His two songs are “What’s Been Going On” and “Freedom” (CD only), with special accompaniment by Pete himself.  “What’s Been Going On” is an incredible moment of folk power and feeling.  “Freedom” celebrates with a big soulful chorus.  These are great songs.

Rachel Fuller played two songs at Joe’s Pub:  “Jigsaw” (CD only) and “Cigarettes and Housework” (what, you mean you and Pete can’t afford a maid to do the housework?).  “Jigsaw” is bright and pretty with lyrical references to some certain Who songs!  Fuller’s remarkable voice is the main feature on the sparse “Cigarettes and Housework”.

Of all people, Jimmy Fallon is next.  “Carwash for Peace” reveals that he actually has a pretty good singing voice.  It’s a silly but fun sing-along.  “Let’s have a car wash for peace, there’s trouble in the Middle East,” he sings.  If we do this, there’ll be no more wars, or dirty cars!  It’s hard to argue with that logic.  “President’s Day” is a folksy send-up on the subject of getting totally wasted on President’s Day, because hey, it’s a day off.  “Beer and a shot with my man Dick Cheney!”  Hey, it was 2007, still the Bush years.

Rachael Yamagata takes the stage with Pete Townsend and Kevin Salem for “Paper Doll”, a sultry original acoustic number with some amazing soulful singing.  There’s a nice moment on the DVD when Rachael smiles, looking at Pete playing her song, a real “pinch me” experience I’m sure.  Her other song, “Be Be My Love” (CD only) has a similar chord progression as Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You”.  This is her first song on her first album and I’m sure any similarity is coincidental.  Then it’s Townsend’s turn to go it alone, with “Acid Queen” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (both CD only).

The final guest on this set is Mr. Lou Reed.  “White Light/White Heat” with Pete is a moment so gravitous* that news reports suggest a new black hole formed over New York that night!  “Pale Blue Eyes”, with accompaniment by Pete on the chorus, is delicate and weighty at once.

For a mere buck, I would postulate that In the Attic with Pete Townsend & friends has to have the most bang-per-dollar value of any purchase made for my collection.  This is great stuff for music fans of all tastes.

4/5 stars

* Not an actual word.

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – To the Rising Sun…in Tokyo (2 CD/1 DVD + Japanese bonus tracks)

The Deep Purple Project is a massive, ongoing series of in-depth reviews.  This is the last for now as we take a break, but Purple will return.  

DEEP PURPLE – To the Rising Sun…in Tokyo (2015 Edel 2 CD/1DVD set, Japanese CD with 2 bonus tracks)

Purple live releases have been in strong supply lately.  Last year, Purple released a matching set of double live albums, each with a complete DVD of the show in one package.  The first set, In Wacken, was reviewed yesterday.  Today, we look at In Tokyo.  In order to “get it all”, I added the Japanese 2 CD set with bonus tracks to my collection.  The bonus tracks are on the CD portion of the package.  As we did yesterday, we’ll get the bonus material out of the way first.

The two Japanese extras are instrumental versions of “Hell to Pay” and “Apres Vous”, newer songs from Now What?!  I am happy to report that these instrumentals are not live.  Since both songs are complete and live on the album proper, I was pleased to find these two are instrumental mixes of the studio cuts.  This makes sense, since the instrumental “Hell to Pay” is used as the main menu backing music on the live DVD.  As with any instrumental mix, it is interesting to pay attention to the musical interplay.  Since it’s Deep Purple we’re speaking about, it’s that much more enjoyable.

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Moving on to the live part of the set, the recorded intro of Holst’s “Mars: Bringer of War” has the Budokan crowd in Tokyo excited for the return of Deep Purple.  The band bravely opened with “Apres Vous”, the new cut from Now What?!  It works surprisingly well by setting a mood.  Ian Gillan keeps it from getting too serious by wearing one of those tuxedo-printed shirts.  I want one of those.

Gillan’s hoarse on “Into the Fire”, but overall he’s stronger than he was in Wacken.  The added grit makes the song tougher and closer to the 1969 original.  Also from way back then is “Hard Lovin’ Man”, a pairing that always works well.  Don Airey takes an extended Hammond solo, and the song gallops in a way that set the basis for Iron Maiden’s career.  Thrills and chills abound, but Morse is smiling so much that you know we’re all in for a good time.  What a contrast with the moody and unpredictable Ritchie Blackmore!  This breathtaking assault of a song absolutely needs to be played live.  It’s no surprise that they need to lay back with something slower after that.  “Strange Kind of Woman” does the trick with that unforgettable groove.  Morse pulls off a jazzy solo that just kills.  This is a far better version than the one in Wacken.  Speaking of women and strangeness, it’s odd that “Woman From Tokyo” wasn’t played this time.

“That was the end of the jazz part of the show,” says Ian.  Back to new songs, “Vincent Price” is rolled out next.  Brought to life on the stage, “Vincent Price” is heavier and chunky.  The spooky keyboards are intact and Gillan injects the song with extra terror.  Steve Morse is on a roll now, and it’s time for his solo.  It’s chopped up a bit compared to how they played it earlier in the year.  “Contact Lost” is still first, but this time that goes into “Uncommon Man”.  I love watching Steve Morse playing volume swells with his pinky on the knob, while hammering out a complex melody.  There are plenty of hand close-ups here.  Copy if you can!  (I can’t.)  When “Uncommon Man” begins, Ian Gillan whispers in Steve’s ear.  I like to think he just said, “That was incredible.”

“Uncommon Man” is powerful live, by the way.  Steve goes again with his playful “The Well-Dressed Guitar”.  The dexterity here is quite unbelievable, but you knew that already.  Once again I’m grateful for plenty of hand close-ups.  I have no prayer of being able to play this but I love to watch and see how it’s done, and just marvel.  During a break in the keyboard part, Don Airey claps and dances along; quite amusing!

The Fireball oldie “The Mule” is always welcome out of the mothballs.  A drum workout, Ian Paice is given a chance to show that time has not lessened his abilities one iota.  It’s a busy drum song, and quickly descends into a mad solo.  At one point, the lights go out and Ian plays with glowing sticks, Sheila E style.  He gets to slow down a little on the Jon Lord tribute “Above and Beyond”.  Jon’s image behind them on the big screens of the Budokan, you can sense the emotion of the moment.  His successor Don Airey plays a Hammond tribute to Jon, before the band return to the sound of “Lazy”.  It’s just a seamless blur of one incredible piece of music after another.

“Hell to Pay” continues to prove its worth as a stage-ready, fun rocker.  You can tell that the formalities are over now, because Gillan has changed out of his tuxedo print shirt!  Don Airey dominates on the Hammond.  He gets a spotlight solo next, a chance to do his own thing.  Like his solo in Wacken, this includes a snippet of “Mr. Crowley”, a song that Don played on way back in 1980, and the ensuing Ozzy Osbourne tours.  His solo runs the gamut from tender piano, to classical passages, to spacey synth.  He quotes the melody of “Woman From Tokyo” which the crowd clearly appreciated.

It’s all business from here.  “Perfect Strangers”, as usual the only song from the 80’s, is as timeless as always.  Back to Machine Head for “Space Truckin'”, Roger Glover seems to be having a great time rocking it for the crowd in Japan.  Gillan’s sounding a bit knackered, but he’s still going for it.  No retreat, no surrender.  The classic riff, “Smoke on the Water” explodes in the Budokan, as we draw close to the end.  You can tell they still have fun playing this song, loose and never the same twice.  Two encores are still to be had:  the medley of “Green Onions”/”Hush”, and “Black Night”.  “Hush” is given a neat slinky jam section, because they’re Deep Purple and why the hell not?  After a brief Glover bass jam, “Black Night” commences as the final song of the night.  Gillan’s sounding tired, but that’s rock and roll.  They’re finally done, Roger lingering to make sure he’s thrown out every last pick.  That too is rock and roll.

These two sets were time consuming but very entertaining.  I think they are both worth having, but if you are not the Purple diehard that needs as much as you can consume, be aware that these are men in their late 60’s.  They are not spring chickens, so don’t expect To the Rising Sun…in Tokyo to be the equal of Made in Japan.

3.5/5 stars