Thursday, October 07, 2010

Recent DVD releases celebrate rockers in peak form

Although the holiday season won’t arrive for a month or so, many of the year’s finest rock DVD titles are out now. And adding to that good news is most of the sets retail for well under $20.

Artist: The Beatles

Title: “The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles”

You will be interested in this DVD if you are a fan of: The Beatles, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” 1960s pop culture.

Tell Me More: With the world poised to celebrate what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday on Oct. 9, 2010, now is the perfect time to ‘get back’ to where it – Beatlemania that is – all began. The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles is a terrific collection – time machine really – where everyone can see all four complete episodes (including the original commercials featured on the broadcasts) where the Fab Four unleashed their musical and magical powers across America in 1964 and 1965 on the popular variety show.
It is really magical to see the quartet tear through gems like "All My Loving," "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There" at a moment where nobody knew where it would all lead. Looking at the restored footage on the two-disc set, it's easy to glimpse with 20/20 vision and marvel at the Beatles' still- monumental grasp on popular music.
The DVD also includes 13 minutes of behind-the-scenes moments from "The Ed Sullivan Show," including a brief interview Sullivan conducted with John, Paul, George and Ringo in London in 1964 in connection with the release of A Hard Day's Night.

What about the packaging? The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles looks like a small book. When you open the colorful booklet, both DVDs are presented on one panel while the other panel features details on each of the four episodes. Viewers can view the wide-screen episodes and listen using either Dolby Digital Stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.

Artist: Nils Lofgren

Title: “Cry Tough”

You will be interested in this DVD if you are a fan of: Nils Lofgren, Neil Young.

Tell Me More: Cry Tough is a wonderful collection that features legendary singer-songwriter-guitarist-pianist ace Nils Lofgren at three points in his career, all courtesy of the “Rockpalast” German TV series. Disc 1 features a lengthy 20-song, 1991 performance with Lofgren playing both emotive solo acoustic material (“Sticks and Stones”) and assured rock with a four-member band before an enthusiastic audience. As evidenced by his work with Neil Young beginning when he was in his teens and more recently as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Lofgren’s guitar skills shine. But what comes across in these three shows is his power as a singer able to tap into the deepest of emotions and weave his multiple gifts into genre-defying songs.
His performance of the affecting rocker “Keith Don’t Go,” poignant “Delivery Night” and tender “Valentine” are highlights on the first disc. Fans of Lofgren’s 1970s project will love the persuasive take on that outfit’s rousing and mystical rocker “Moon Tears.”
Disc 2 features two concerts; a 1976 date with nine tracks and a 1979 outing featuring 15 selections. The early concerts are especially revealing, with Lofgren's style a wide-ranging mix of Southern rock, Moondance-era Van Morrison and traditional blues blended into something his own.
What do all three concerts have in common? The personable and talented Lofgren sharing real world emotions in song while unleashing impressive solos on acoustic and electric guitar, as well as on piano.

What about the packaging? Cry Tough comes in a hard shell case, with a beautiful colorful booklet with details about the shows and the lineup of band members backing Lofgren at each show.

Artist: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Title: "Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes"

You will be interested in this DVD if you are a fan of: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tell Me More: It may well be a good idea to view the aforementioned Nils Lofgren collection and segue into the new documentary focusing on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 1979 disc Damn the Torpedoes featured on VH1 Classic as part of the popular "Classic Albums" series. After all, as viewers of the Petty special will learn, the group got its first taste of success when critics and fans raved about the troupe when they were featured as an opening act for Lofgren on a tour of England in the mid-1970s.
But it is Petty and company who get to shine on Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes and this is one of the best in the series. Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench and other key players and behind-the-scenes producers and engineers tell the story of the band's journey through the recording of their third and arguably best album. And even for those who caught the hour-long documentary when it aired, the DVD's bonus footage goes to even greater depths in telling the complete story of the recording of tracks such as "Refugee," "Here Comes My Girl" and "Even the Losers."
My favorite chapter amidst the 42 minutes of extras actually is a guitar-minded tale with Campbell recalling how he was looking for a 12-string Rickenbacker when he answered an ad in the Recycler and drove down to Anaheim to pick up the guitar. Several years later on a visit to Rickenbacker's factory in Santa Ana, California he found out the model he had purchased (the guitar is the one Petty is holding on the cover of the album) was the second off the manufacturing line - the first was produced for George Harrison.
"It was probably the best $150 I ever spent," Campbell admits.

What about the packaging? Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes comes in a hard shell case with a single disc featuring the documentary and bonus materials.

Artist: Neil Young

Title: Le Noise (forthcoming deluxe edition features the ‘Le Noise Film’)

You will be interested in this CD/DVD package if you are a fan of: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Radiohead.

Tell Me More: With a look that is somewhere between the radiant black and white of Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles flick A Hard Day’s Night and grainy-saturated look of Phil Joanou’s 1988 film Rattle and Hum starring U2, filmmaker Adam CK Vollick’s Le Noise Film adds another full dimension to rocker Neil Young’s outstanding new studio disc Le Noise.

The album my feature Young alone with his distinctive tenor accompanied only by acoustic or electric guitar, but the wide-ranging lyrical themes and sonic experimentalism enhanced by Vollick’s terrific camera work bring new depth to the eight songs in the Le Noise Film.

In particular, the unsettling “Angry World” is enhanced by Young’s edgy performance (much of it shot deliberately out of focus) interwoven with stark shots of the U.S. and earth as seen from space before everything gives way to the grand expanse of the universe.

What about the packaging? I wrote this review after listening to an audio stream provided me by Reprise Records and watching the film on YouTube. I will update this post with more details when I get the physical copy featuring both the album and the film to view on my home theater system. A bona fide deluxe edition is set for release on Blu-ray in November 2010.

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