I recently posted my top albums of 2011. And as tough as it was to rank my top 10 albums and worthy honorable mentions for the year, it proved to be almost as tough to rank my favorite DVD releases of 2011. So here goes...
1. Bad Company, Live At Wembley (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Recorded live at Wembley Arena in London in 2010 and released on DVD, Blu-ray and audio CD in June 2011, this release caught vocalist Paul Rodgers, lead guitarist Mick Ralphs, drummer Simon Kirke, guitarist Howard Leese and bassist Lynn Sorensen (original bassist Boz Burrell died in 2006) in perfect form. Some bands find their music becoming more dated with time; this excellent DVD makes a case that Bad Company's rock has never sounded better.
2. Rory Gallagher, Irish Tour ’74 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Eagle Rock Entertainment has been at the forefront of helping champion renewed interest in Rory Gallagher, having issued restored and re-mastered versions of his celebrated catalog throughout 2011. Irish Tour ’74 is a two-hour DVD (also available on Blu-ray) that truly captures what made Gallagher (who died at the mere age of 47 in 1995) so special. On stage he was a fiery presence as he sang and played high-powered electric guitar or acoustic blues with equal fervor, able to get young audiences to their feet with Springsteen-like command. Off-stage he was articulate and focused on his passion making music and the relationship an artist forges with their fans that is as much about life as it is the power of music.
3. Gary Moore, Live At Montreux 2010 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Watching the legendary guitarist Gary Moore in the very last live performance of his life, Live At Montreux 2010 is a release as bittersweet as any issued this year. But there is no better way to celebrate and remember Moore than by watching this wonderful DVD (also available on Blu-ray and on audio CD). In addition to his final 2010 concert (Moore died at age 59 on Feb. 6, 2011), there are four bonus tracks of his performance at Montreux in 1997 among the extras so fans get to see several different versions of "Still Got the Blues" and "Walking By Myself" performed. But the gems of the set are the new tracks he had written for a planned forthcoming 2011 album (sadly, never completed) that are performed here.
4. Sigur Rós, Inni (XL Recordings)
Few modern-rock acts to emerge since the early 1990s have been able to craft music that is as original as it is beautiful. But like England’s Radiohead, Iceland’s Sigur Rós has found its own little niche in the sonic universe, a place where lush symphonic textures, intense live performances that feature singer Jónsi attacking his electric guitar with a violin bow and additional otherworldly sounds please audiences looking for something to call their own. Inni, a three-disc collection featuring a concert DVD (also available on Blu-ray) on one disc and two audio CDs, was recorded and filmed over two nights at London’s Alexandra Palace in late 2008.
5. The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition (Reprise Records)
For the past 25 years, Neil Young and his wife Pegi Young have hosted the annual Bridge School Benefit Concerts to benefit The Bridge School, a non-profit, innovative organization educating children with severe speech and physical impairments. 2011 marked the release of DVD and CD collections highlighting wide-ranging performances captured at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California since the first concert was produced in October 1986. Highlights on the DVD include Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller on the duet "Love Hurts," Fleet Foxes performing "Blue Ridge Mountains," a heart wrenching "Fire and Rain" courtesy of James Taylor," and Elton John and Leon Russell teaming up on "A Dream Come True."
6. AC/DC, AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (Warner Home Video)
Titles featuring Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher were not the only bittersweet rock 'n' roll keepsakes to make their way onto DVD and Blu-ray in 2011. More than three decades after Bon Scott's death, his final filmed live concert with AC/DC was finally issued on DVD. The special collector's edition features a Blu-ray & DVD combo pack with the 13-song set that AC/DC performed on stage in Paris in 1979, as well as more than 95 minutes of bonus extras (including haunting interviews and backstage footage with Scott). "Let There Be Rock," indeed.
7. The Rolling Stones, Some Girls Live in Texas ’78 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
The 2011 release Some Girls Live in Texas ’78 captured the band just weeks after the release of their final tour de force, 1978's Some Girls.
In a loose and freewheeling performance of 17 songs, singer Mick Jagger and company delivered a blistering set featuring most of the highlights from Some Girls (a rowdy “Respectable,” disco-tinged “Miss You” and R&B-flavored “Beast of Burden”), as well as gems such as Chuck Berry‘s “Sweet Little 16″ and rocking versions of the Stones’ own “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
8. Deep Purple, Deep Purple with Orchestra: Live At Montreux 2011 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
There have been a few examples where bands performing with a full orchestra are effective, with performances by the Moody Blues and Metallica being obvious examples. But often times the approach is nothing more than a silly gimmick that does little to lift the material. Deep Purple with Orchestra: Live At Montreux 2011 is definitely no gimmick. Released as a two-disc CD, as well as on DVD and Blu-ray, this 115-minute concert ranks as one of my favorite live collections released on DVD this year.
9. Peter, Paul and Mary, 25th Anniversary Concert (Shout! Factory)
There was a time in the 1960s when folk music was also popular music. Bob Dylan, the Mamas & the Papas, Donovan and Peter, Paul and Mary were able to compete in an age dominated by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Byrds and other successful rock 'n' roll outfits. The release of Peter, Paul and Mary's 25th Anniversary Concert (originally broadcast over PBS in 1986) captured the trio in winning form, performing powerful versions of "Blowin' In The Wind," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "This Land Is Your Land."
10. Paul Rodgers & Friends, Live at Montreux 1994 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
When one of rock's greatest-ever singers joins forces with an army featuring some of rock's greatest musicians, the results shine. Look no further than Paul Rodgers & Friends Live at Montreux 1994, which finds Paul Rodgers teaming up on a blues-heavy set with Queen's Brian May, Journey's Neal Schon, Toto's Steve Lukather, Black Country Communion's Jason Bonham and many more. Sure, the set features some great versions of Bad Company material, but the emphasis is on the blues. Songs penned or made famous by Robert Johnson ("Crossroads"), Sonny Boy Williamson ("Good Morning Little School Girl") and Willie Dixon ("I'm Ready") take center stage via some fantastic performances here.
Honorable mentions: Waylon Jennings: Live At The US Festival, 1983; Willie Nelson: Live At The US Festival, 1983; The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975; Paul McCartney, The Love We Make; Peter Gabriel: New Blood - Live in London ; Lindsey Buckingham, Songs From the Small Machine: Live In L.A.; Deep Purple, Phoenix Rising; The Jeff Healey Band, Full Circle: The Live Anthology