Dancing With Mr. D...VD

Musicasaurus.com excavates the best concerts on DVD…

A new review will be posted every two weeks, on Sunday evening.....All of the DVDs reviewed here are (or were!) commercially available for purchase.  We will list a few highlights from each of the DVDs, having mined them for the moments that make endorphins flow, pleasure centers pop, and smiles break wide.



Posted 6/26/22....

Musicasaurus is taking the day off here in “DANCING WITH MR. D…VD”--BUT BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE BRAND NEW POSTS IN THESE OTHER TWO SECTIONS OF THE WEBSITE: “Building A Mixtery” AND “A Day in the Life.”

(Next post: Sunday, July 10, 2022)



Posted 6/12/22.....

Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live...(DVD released in September 2014)

Most famous for his 1970s stints with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed (especially on 1974’s Rock n Roll Animal) and Peter Gabriel, this Hunter was not a gatherer—of fame, that is.  At least not on a grand scale.  His album/compact disc output through the decades has been sporadic but always worthwhile, and now he’s stepped out on his own for a first DVD of full-band instrumental performances.

His band mates here include 1) Tony Levin, a bassist most famous for his longtime association with Peter Gabriel; 2) Phil Aaberg, a keyboardist who early on was part of the new age label Windham Hill and who also has played with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Darol Anger, John Hiatt and Peter Gabriel; and 3) accomplished session drummer Alvino Bennett.

The vibe is “relaxed but laser focused,” shot entirely in a studio setting with the musicians all within eye-and-ear shot of each other.  It’s a musical mind meld on display.

Best track is the unknown one: “222 W. 23rd”… If you have the time to afford, clear your mind and let this unspool.  Beautifully slow, spacious and funky—and lightly skirting the edges of blues and jazz rather than, say, leaning R&B—the tune is very haunting at the same time due to the crystalline production and the interweaving of these skilled, intuitive players.

Musicasaurus.com’s honorable mentions: The rest of it!  And besides the Hunter-penned tunes, check out these covers: “Riviera Paradise”, a Stevie Ray Vaughn composition; “Solsbury Hill”, Peter Gabriel’s underground FM hit from the latter’s first solo album from ’77 (on which Hunter played); and a beautiful reinterpretation of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” 






Posted 5/29/22.....

THE SPARKS BROTHERS…Directed by Edgar Wright…released in theaters June 18, 2021 and released for streaming August 31, 2021…Length: 2 hours, 21 minutes…Distributed by Focus Features. 

Rottentomatoes.com posed this question in their brief synopsis of The Sparks Brothers: “How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time?  Edgar Wright's debut documentary…takes audiences on a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers/bandmates Ron and Russell Mael celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favorite band's favorite band.

Here are what some critics were sayin’ about the documentary:

Leonard Maltin of leonardmaltin.comI am a newcomer to the Sparks phenomenon…But now that I’ve seen Wright’s new documentary The Sparks Brothers I’m a believer.  Russell and Ron Mael—yes, they’re actual siblings—have been making their own kind of music for almost fifty years.  Iconoclasts through and through, they’ve changed their style of music multiple times, refusing to repeat themselves and willing to alienate some fans by adopting radical new ideas.  Through it all, they have remained true to themselves, often using sly, satiric humor to deal with issues of commercialism and loyalty.

Peter Bradshaw of The GuardianI have to admit that I really knew little or nothing about Sparks before this, and for a long time I actually thought they were British, basically because Ron’s purse-lipped eye-rolling and grimacing at the camera reminded me of Kenneth Williams or Blakey from On the Buses.  But Wright’s film has converted me…they are funny, perhaps uniquely so in genuinely fusing pop music and humour, in their extraordinary, surreal lyrics and brilliant album designs.  There is a funny anecdote from Nick Heyward from Haircut One Hundred, who says that as a kid he saw them in the street and was so scared he wanted to hide.

Richard Roeper of Chicago Sun-Times“The Sparks Brothers” features a treasure trove of concert footage and TV appearances, as well as tributes from musicians who were influenced by them, including Todd Rundgren, Beck, Flea and members of Duran Duran.  We also hear from fans such as Patton Oswalt, Fred Armisen and Jason Schwartzman—and most interestingly, we catch up with the Mael brothers in present day.  They’re in their 70s and they’re as charming and self-deprecating and lovely as they’ve always been, and they’re still making music.  (As one observer notes, if they had been a huge success, they probably would have broken up 30 years ago and wouldn’t be talking to each other.) 

Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic [note to Pittsburgh readers: Ed Masley has been covering pop music professionally since 1991.  He worked for a number of years in Pittsburgh writing for the Post-Gazette; he started at the Arizona Republic in 2007.]: Edgar Wright's documentary "Sparks Brothers" looks at the art-pop duo of Ron and Russell Mael, who perform as Sparks…When Sparks were starting out, while Russell was wooing the ladies with his boyishly handsome good looks and spectacular '70s “Tiger Beat” mane, Ron would sit behind his keyboards with a catatonic glare rocking a mustache you could safely say resembled Charlie Chaplin if you'd like…This is a band that performed their first 21 albums in their entirety over the course of 21 consecutive nights.  Who does that?  Some would argue that their most ambitious work can be a bit impenetrable.  Most would grant you that they're weirder than your average pop star.






Posted 5/15/22.....


MUSIC BOX…From executive producer Bill Simmons…This series on HBO covers different subjects per episode such as a close look at music and film producer Robert Stigwood, Alanis Morissette, DMX, Woodstock ’99 and others.

THIS EPISODE OF MUSIC BOX: LISTENING TO KENNY G (premiered December 21, 2021 on HBO)

I remember a 1993 show at Star Lake Amphitheatre when I worked there as marketing director and Kenny G headlined a concert with opening act Peabo Bryson on Friday, June 11.  I actually count this concert as one of my most memorable because of the look on the faces of most every man sitting in the pavilion during Kenny G’s performance.  I can with some authority say that a lot of our male audience was there that evening out of love and respect for their life partners--or, of course, they were there because they had been threatened with reprisal or they had been whispered sweet nothings of inducement.  The look on these men’s faces during the concert was the definition of horizontal; I did not see a hint of a breaking smile, nor a twitch of the lips heading down toward a frown.  Hundreds of expressionless men, sitting beside beaming loved ones…

Er...sorry.  Back to this particular episode of Music Box, Listening to Kenny G.  Currently on rottentomatoes.com the tomatometer ratings are 96% (critics) and 83% (audience score), and a blurb entitled Critics Consensus points out that Listening to Kenny G won't convert skeptics of the famed musician and thankfully doesn't try to, instead delivering a thoughtful deep dive of music appreciation and criticism.”

Here are what some critics were sayin’ about the episode:

Carl Wilson of slate.com pointed out in his December 2, 2021 review that Kenny G--real name Kenneth Gorelick--first gained fame by appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1986, and though all parties had previously agreed that Kenny would perform his latest single, the musician switched to a song that he wanted to perform instead.  Wilson writes that Kenny was given the finger by the talk show’s booker and the producers of the program subsequently cursed him out.  But an Arista Records’ executive’s wife saw the broadcast and told her husband she had loved it.  Arista’s mogul Clive Davis then championed the tune Kenny had played--a tune called “Songbird”--and it became a nationwide hit.  Soon after that the Tonight Show asked Kenny back and this appearance gave him a huge shot in the arm; he was now on the path to become the bestselling instrumentalist in pop music history…But some of the public and especially jazz purists were unimpressed.  According to Wilson, “…the jazz guitar star Pat Metheny went on a famous rant in 2000, after Gorelick inserted his own sax solos into Louis Armstrong’s recording of ‘What a Wonderful World.’  Metheny called Kenny G an at-best-mediocre musician who had committed ‘necrophilia’ and sacrilege against Armstrong and all the other great jazz artists of history, ‘a new low point in modern culture’ that ‘we ignore … at our own peril.’  Along the way, he threatened to brain Kenny G with a guitar if they ever happened to meet.”

Richard Brody of The New Yorker: “The movie tells the straightforward story of how Kenny Gorelick, a teen-age virtuoso in Seattle in the early nineteen-seventies, became the best-selling instrumental artist of all time…It also unstintingly parses the hostility that the musician has long faced from critics, scholars, and others whom Gorelick derides as the ‘jazz police.’  (Some of his detractors appear in talking-head interviews that prove both self-questioning and illuminating.)  But, above all, Lane lets Kenny G do the talking, and the playing, and the displaying of his creative process onstage, at home, and in the studio, which comes off as the authentic expression of a distinctive personality—for better or for worse.”

Glenn Kenny of the New York Times: As a music industry story, Kenny G’s rise, engineered by the mogul Clive Davis but at times bucked by the artist himself, is fascinating.  The analysis of the link between what makes Kenny G a star and what makes him annoying is spot-on — particularly in its treatment of his relationship to jazz.  Celebrated artists in that genre like John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk weren’t merely inspired players; they were bandleaders whose musical conceptions stressed instrumental interplay.  With Kenny G, his sax is the thing.

Matt Zoller Seitz of rogerebert.com“…when [the documentary’s director] Lane gets away from the man and focuses on the details of the business of music, a new frontier of understanding opens up.  Kenny G recognized himself as a product early, embraced it, connected with his audience, and never looked back.  Whether his music actually qualifies as any sort of jazz is beside the point.  And even if it were germane to the conversation, you still gotta picture Kenny G reading the takedown piece from a raft in a kidney-shaped pool, behind one of however many mansions he's bought with the fortune he amassed giving the people what they didn't know they wanted. 






Posted 5/1/22.....

Vinyl Nation…Directors and producers: Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone…limited release to theaters began on August 28, 2020 and the film was released to streaming outlets on April 19, 2022…distributor: Gilman Hall Pictures…One hour and 33 minutes in length.

On rottentomatoes.com, part of the brief synopsis of this documentary includes this: “Vinyl Nation digs into the crates of the record resurgence in search of truths set in deep wax: Has the return of vinyl made music fandom more inclusive or divided?  What does vinyl say about our past here in the present?  How has the second life of vinyl changed how we hear music and how we listen to each other?”

All great questions--and the answers vary.  The record buyers of today are of a couple of types: 1) There are some older folks who long ago had turned in their last pile of original 1960s-1980s albums to their favorite used record store (for a piddling amount of cash, most likely).  But now they’re out there again, scooping up (among other things) the re-releases of the things they had cherished decades ago.  And 2) There are also quite a number of younger people--a multicultural mix of both males and females--and these “newcomers” are exploring the warmth of the vinyl sound, and the tactile pleasures of easing a 33 1/3 LP out of its protective album sleeve and gingerly laying the disc on a turntable with tonearm at the ready.  These young people then sit back and let the music unfold, as their eyes pore over those things called liner notes…

Here are what a few critics said about Vinyl Nation:

* “The clichéd word that’s most bandied about by vinyl enthusiasts really does apply to the movie that’s been made about it: 'warmth.'” - Chris Willman, Variety

* “Visually stunning and populated with a pleasant set of talking heads who walk viewers through each stage of a record from pressing to purchase, there’s a strong sense of the human element surrounding music, whether the focus is on the production or the consumption.  During our America’s current discord, Vinyl Nation is a friendly reminder of this community. - Becca James, Chicago Reader

* “Filmmakers Christopher Boone and Kevin Smokler spend most of their time talking to the "passionate weirdos" who love vinyl records, who break their backs lugging their collections from home to home and who make up the lifeblood of the vinyl industry and its resurgence.  In doing so, they go after a wide selection of people — young and old, male and female, black and white — rather than sticking to the typical long-haired, middle-aged white guy types who tend to be the stereotypical vinyl consumers.  In reaching beyond that demographic, they provide a well-rounded picture of who is collecting vinyl — from the aging hipsters to the Gen-Z Billie Eilish fans to the pre-K set just starting their collections with Disney picture vinyls — and why.” - Adam Graham, Detroit News






Posted 4/17/22.....

The Wrecking Crew – distributed by Magnolia Pictures…initial wide release in March 2015.

In a review of this documentary in the March 12, 2015 edition of the Los Angeles Times, the publication’s film critic Kenneth Turan started out his assessment this way: “To Beach Boys guru Brian Wilson, ‘they were the ones with all the spirit and all the know-how.’  To Nancy Sinatra, they were ‘unsung heroes,’ to Herb Alpert, ‘an established groove machine.’  And to celebrated songwriter Jimmy Webb, they were simply ‘stone cold rock and roll professionals.’

"If the history of rock music means anything to you, you know the individuals in question could only be the Wrecking Crew, a legendary group of Los Angeles-based studio musicians, and though their story has taken decades to reach the screen, it has been worth the wait.”

So…“a legendary group of Los-Angeles-based studio musicians,” saith Kenneth?  Uh, UNDERSTATEMENT.  The Wrecking Crew, a periodically assembled core group of between 15-20 versatile musicians in Southern California, were responsible for literally hundreds and hundreds of pop masterpieces throughout the 1960s and very early 1970s—and remained largely unheralded until this documentary set the record straight.

The hold-up, really, on this recognition stemmed from a wrangling over music rights to be able to tell the full story.  Initial efforts to make the film began in 1996 and it wasn’t completed until 2008 when it finally debuted at SXSW (South by Southwest), Austin’s long-running and prestigiously hip film and music festival.  Lacking the funds to secure the music licensing, the producers could only ply the festival circuit back then versus mounting a full-scale theater release, but by 2013 they came up with funding streams that ultimately unshackled them and the film finally saw release in theaters in March of 2015.

The documentary consists of interviews of Wrecking Crew principals including Tommy Tedesco, the father of the film’s director Denny Tedesco, who obviously was deep into a labor of love.  You NEED to check out this film, and I’ll leave you now with a list that will get you primed for this story of these quite ready for primetime players—some of the pop radio classics from that ‘60s-‘70s era that the Wrecking Crew arranged and played on.






Posted 4/3/22.....

Julia Fordham – That’s Live... (released in 2005 by Vanguard Records).





Posted 3/20/22.....


A lot of people in the music industry likely pride themselves on some single major achievement during their careers.  And then there’s Tom Dowd.  He excelled in two critically important areas of the music business--he significantly advanced the technology related to recording studios, AND he produced the albums of legendary artists, coaxing out of them their very best performances for posterity.

This documentary, directed by Mark Moormann, premiered in some theaters in January 2003 and then became available on DVD and for streaming in August 2004.

Here are some observations about the film from some noted critics:

Stephen Holden of the New York Times (8/13/04): “The real history of pop music over the last half-century is as much a story of technological innovation as it is a star-driven genealogy that connects the usual legends in an elaborate family tree of styles and influences.  To hear the producer and recording engineer Tom Dowd describe his pioneering role in the evolution of studio recording, from monaural to stereo to multitracking to digital, is to begin to understand the degree to which machines, as much as performers, have shaped the changing sound of pop.  Machines, of course, are useless without human engineers to operate them.  And Mr. Dowd, who is profiled in Mark Moormann's admiring documentary Tom Dowd & the Language of Music, comes across as a musically sophisticated sound technician whose respect for musicians always took precedence over his fascination with gadgetry.”

Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle (8/13/04): “Recording engineer Tom Dowd was the secret weapon behind records by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and so many others.  As a teenager, he helped build the atom bomb, but after World War II, he abandoned nuclear physics in favor of the science of recording.  This wise and warm man, who died in 2002, is captured in all his glory by the remarkable documentary Tom Dowd and the Language of Music.  Dowd is the person who dragged recording kicking and screaming into the 20th century."

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post (8/13/04): “Interviewing the consummate storytellers [Ahmet] Ertegun and [Jerry] Wexler, as well as artists such as [Ray] Charles and [Eric] Clapton, Moormann creates a straightforward portrait of his subject, throwing in a few tasteful re-enactments and some terrific archival footage of Coltrane, Otis Redding and Booker T. and the MG's.  Throughout Tom Dowd & the Language of Music, viewers come to learn how some of the greatest hits of the past 50 years were created, including the distinctive tom-tom beat of ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ and the classic Clapton-Duane Allman duet on ‘Layla.’





Posted 3/6/22.....

Legends Live At Montreux 1997 – Eric Clapton, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller, Joe Sample and David Sanborn... (released in 2005 by Eagle Rock Entertainment).





Posted 2/20/22.....

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today (British made-for-TV documentary)

Directed by John Sheppard, written by Colin Bell, and distributed by Granada Television.  Released in June 1987 in the UK.


Below is the Top Review of this documentary (submitter/author unidentified) as currently posted on the website IMDB.com:

THE classic documentary on the 1960s…I recorded this documentary off of the Discovery network.  I played it at least a hundred times and showed it to everyone I knew.  Then in about 2003 I found out there was an even longer version of the film which an acquaintance had taped from PBS.  It is based on a book of the same name by Beatles publicist Derek Taylor.  It really isn't just about the Sgt. Pepper album but uses it as a platform to discuss a variety of experiments in the counterculture.  Having only been 10 years old in 1967, I was clueless about these social changes.  It goes into everything: experiments in the Netherlands, Hoppy Hopkins arrest for marijuana in the UK, San Francisco culture, mass arrests in L.A., the Diggers, the underground press in the UK and the US, the anti-war movement, the levitation of the Pentagon, pot and LSD, the influx of Eastern religions, psychedelic art and music, happenings, the Monterey Pop Festival, the San Francisco Be-in, and of course Sgt. Pepper. 

I've watched anything I could get ahold of about the 1960s (including the 6-hour PBS special Making Sense of the Sixties) but nothing comes close to this film in capturing the range of ideas being explored at the time or the exhilaration of it.  The film features many important participants of the times: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Paul Kantner, Peter Coyote, Ron Thelin, Barry Miles, Chet Helms, Allen Cohen, and so many others.  The role of Sgt. Pepper was to put a small slice of the counterculture in the bedrooms of millions of kids around the world.  It took the counterculture from a cult interest to a mainstream interest.  If you haven't seen this film and you are a sixties buff, it is essential viewing. 

We have seen a few countercultures since this time, like the punk movement and the rave scene, but neither of those seem to have had the breadth or heart of the 1960s breakthroughs.  I think this is why the 60s counterculture is a reference point for youth of each succeeding generation.  It Was Twenty Years Ago Today is an excellent introduction to the 1960s and the Sgt. Pepper album.





Posted 2/6/22.....

APPALACHIAN JOURNEY LIVE IN CONCERT – Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor...Sony Classical (2000).





Posted 1/23/22.....


Tribute concerts with a variety of artists performing one man or one woman’s song catalogue are sometimes overdone and underwhelming---but not THIS one.  The focus is Merle, and this one’s a pearl.

Somehow I missed news of this particular all-star event that took place in Nashville in April 2017.  The taped concert featured country stars, alt-country artists and rock ‘n’ rollers all paying tribute to Merle Haggard, and now there is a DVD and streaming opportunities available for one and all.

Blackbird Presents--a leader in the production of concerts, broadcast specials, TV series, music festivals and more--was the driving force behind this project, and from their website I picked up this tidy summary:

“Sing Me Back Home: The Music Of Merle Haggard, an all-star concert event which was taped at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, took place on Thursday, April 6, 2017 in honor of what would have been Merle’s 80th birthday and the one-year anniversary of his passing.

“This one-night-only concert event taping brought together fans, friends, and music icons to honor the life and songs of music legend Merle Haggard.  Sing Me Back Home: The Music Of Merle Haggard featured performances by Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, John Mellencamp, Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams Jr., Toby Keith, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Ronnie Dunn, Alabama, Billy Gibbons, Warren Haynes, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Buddy Miller, Jake Owen, Chris Janson, Aaron Lewis, John Anderson, Bobby Bare, Tanya Tucker, Connie Smith, and Ben Haggard.

“In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Merle Haggard racked up an astounding 38 number one country hits and every major award imaginable.  Songs like ‘Mama Tried,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘I’m A Lonesome Fugitive’ and ‘The Fightin’ Side Of Me’ continue to inspire new generations of artists and fans alike, and as we approach what would have been a major milestone, the time has come to celebrate his truly remarkable career.  He was an iconoclast who refused to bend to country music convention and helped create the indelible Bakersfield sound.  He gave voice to outlaws and outsiders in a way that few, if any, have ever equaled.”

You’ll find streaming opportunities on Amazon (i.e., the movie to rent or to own) at this website address: https://www.amazon.com/Sing-Me-Back-Home-Haggard/dp/B08YCRLF44/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2AFQIKUS2ANUP&keywords=merle+haggard+sing+me+back+home&qid=1642799076&s=movies-tv&sprefix=merle+haggard+sing+me+back+home+%2Cmovies-tv%2C54&sr=1-1  

…OR if you’d like to grab the physical DVD, check out the following link: https://blackbirdpresents.com/shop/sing-me-back-home-the-music-of-merle-haggard-3-disc-cd-dvd-pre-order/





Posted 1/9/22.....

LIVE FROM ABBEY ROAD – Best of Season One...Fremantle Media Enterprises (2007).





Posted 12/26/21.....








Posted 12/12/21.....



In her July 12, 2017 review of this 2017 film from director Matt Schrader, Seattle Times art critic Moira Macdonald sums up its essence: “Schrader walks us smoothly through a primer on film-score history: Originally intended, in silent films, to cover the noise of a projector, film music was revolutionized by Max Steiner’s 1933 score for ‘King Kong.’  (Its grandeur made the film less schlocky and more frightening.)  Orchestral scores were popular for several decades, followed by a rise in more jazz-flavored music in the ’50s and ’60s (Alex North’s score for ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’; Henry Mancini’s theme for ‘The Pink Panther’; the James Bond theme by Monty Norman).  John Williams, in the ’70s, ushered in a new era of orchestral scoring, with his sweeping music for ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Superman,’ ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and many more.”


***  “Score: A Film Music Documentary is a celebration of the artists who create the musical heartbeat of the movies we love.” - Richard Roeper / Chicago Sun-Times

***  "‘Score’ does leave you with a real respect for these people, and their tireless search for ways to turn emotion into sound.  An honest appreciation for their literally invisible work.” - Stephen Whitty / Newark Star-Ledger

***  “Score may be little more than a superficial primer on a dizzyingly expansive subject, but Schrader offers just enough to satisfy both film-music novices and dyed-in-the-wool fanatics.” - Kenji Fujishima / Village Voice

***  “For the modern era, almost everyone you would want to see and hear from is represented, from Hans Zimmer to Danny Elfman.  (There is also great archival footage of John Williams working with Steven Spielberg.)  Schrader doesn’t miss a beat (pun intended): his eloquent subjects include Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat, Thomas Newman, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, John Debney, and Marco Beltrami.” - Leonard Maltin / leonardmaltin.com

***  “Inordinate time is spent with Hans Zimmer [editor’s note: Zimmer’s film scores include, among others, “Rain Man,” “The Lion King,” “No Time To Die,” “Inception” and “Dune”] whose symphonic-synthesizer scores define the current action-spectacle template.  But he rightly says film composers are ‘one of the last people on earth’ who regularly employ orchestra musicians.  ‘Without us,’ he adds, ‘the orchestra might disappear,’ which would be ‘such a loss to humanity.’  And who can argue?” - Andy Webster / The New York Times





Posted 11/28/21.....



1.) From the DVD Rave un2 the Year 2000—Prince’s direct-to-video concert film that actually aired as a pay-per-view broadcast on New Year’s Eve 1999—check out “Purple Rain” which eases into existence with interpretative dancers and Prince’s low-key entrance partway in...Rapturous guitar work, of course, peppered with some religious exhortations.

2.) From the DVD Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas, recorded in December 2002, look into the duet Prince does with American funk/soul/blues singer Nikka Costa on the song “Push & Pull”…Soulful throughout, and explosive in vocals (she) and guitar (he) at the scorching conclusion.

3.) And for the pièce de résistance of a Prince guest appearance, seek out the DVD Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum LIVE (released in 2009).  The track to bathe in is a 2004 all-stars-on-stage tribute to inductee George Harrison, a version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which features Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne (of ELO), Steve Winwood, and George’s son Dhani Harrison—until halfway through the song, when Prince unobtrusively slinks on stage and then takes the tune spiraling up to Heaven.





Posted 11/14/21.....


Dinosaur that you are, if you are still occasionally purchasing DVDs you might want to check out this flashback documentary about Tower Records.

I personally recall many memories from my teens and twenties of being deliriously, deliciously lost in reverie, rooted with singular focus before many a stacked-to-the-gills record bin in department stores and little indie record shops—and my fingers were always flying.

There was an art to this, the flipping of albums forward from the front of the bin to the very back, with my thumb as stabilizer and my pointer and middle fingers systematically scrambling atop, flicking each album quickly into and out of view so my brain could rapidly process the ones that were new and yet unexplored…

Obviously it was the album cover art that spoke to me as the first real clue to the potential treasures within.  If the album had a visually arresting illustration or photograph or overall design, my right hand would overrule the flying fingers and pluck the record up and away from the rest so that I could study its cover, turn it around to read the song titles and liner notes, and then agonize within as to whether it should join my nearby small pile of must-haves.  

Ahhhhh…Let’s pull ourselves together now, and move ahead…

Below is some guidance from a handful of critics who reviewed All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records.

These and additional reviews are available in the “Critic Reviews” section of this page on Rotten Tomatoeshttps://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/all_things_must_pass_the_rise_and_fall_of_tower_records

“Colin Hanks makes his feature directing debut with this irresistible documentary about the evolution of the music business.” - John Hartl / Seattle Times

“But Hanks wisely limits the celebrity talking heads in this rise-and-fall story. Instead, he focuses on the people who built the company from a Sacramento drugstore annex to a global brand, creating a ragtag family in the process.” - Sheri Linden / Los Angeles Times

“Solomon's skills as a raconteur, the employees' unabashed love for their work, and the constant stream of rock music playing in the background advance the film into something much more than a talking-heads documentary.” - Marjorie Baumgarten / Austin Chronicle

“It's loving and lovely, but goes too easy on the hubris and greed.” - Matthew Lickona / San Diego Reader

“As Bruce Springsteen says in the film, ‘Everybody in a record store is a little bit of your friend for 20 minutes or so.’  And he's right - including all the ups and downs that friendship entails.” - Bill Goodykoontz / Arizona Republic.

“This movie makes you appreciate anew the one-on-one social dimension lost in the music industry's headlong switch to digital downloads.” - Andy Webster / New York Times





Posted 10/31/21.....


One Cream is Quite a Dream…The Other Might Make You Scream

Let’s set the stage: Cream rises to the top in ‘66, but then things go sour in ’68 and the band members—guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker—go their separate ways.  Thirty-seven years later they return to the Royal Albert Hall, the site of their original farewell performance.

And so whadda we got?  Two in-concert DVDs from Cream that are years and worlds apart.

One is beautifully captured in sound and vision, and the band exudes a tremendous power that is almost transformative---and then we have the DVD of the ’68 concert.

Both of these DVDs--Cream / Royal Albert Hall / May 2-3-5-6, 2005, and Cream Farewell Concert / November 28, 1968--were released simultaneously in October 2005 but by different DVD companies.  With all of the hoo-ha over the Cream 2005 reunion show, the distributors of the other DVD must have had a carpe diem-for-dollars moment when they decided to push that unpolished puppy “out there” for the unsuspecting fans who were still all aglow from the May 2005 performance.

The Cream / Royal Albert Hall / May 2-3-5-6, 2005 DVD is uniformly praised.  As elder rock statesmen at that point, they were still far from wizened though age had taken its toll a bit in mobility (take note of Jack Bruce in particular, who parks his butt on a heightened stool every now and again while playing).  The music, execution and editing, though?  Excellent.  [Editor’s note: Both Bruce and Baker died in the month of October—the former in 2014 and the latter in 2019.]

The Cream Farewell Concert / November 28, 1968 DVD is lacking--a LOT.  And rather than go to critics, I spot-checked a review on the purchase page and there was Sam Graham’s right after the Product Description.  Great to see some truth in advertising: Graham calls this DVD release “sub-par” and says “The sound has been digitally remastered, but the audio is still a turgid sonic sludge.  The visuals are even worse, with director Tony Palmer jerking the camera around as if this were an episode of NYPD Blue.”  This 1968 Cream farewell concert on DVD, as already mentioned, came out in 2005 and it should be noted as well that a “Restored Extended Edition” of this same show was released eight years later.  Reviews of this particular money-grab were frankly not much better.





Posted 10/17/21.....

One of television's music incubators, starting in 1975...

Saturday Night Live / 25 Years of Music / Performances and Sketches......released on DVD in 2003 (Warner Reprise Video)

This five-disc DVD set contains over fifty musical performances from a wide range of rising stars and established artists, covering the years 1975 through 2000 on Saturday Night Live...

The disc also contains key SNL comedy sketches, some musically-oriented...but we’re hear to talk tunes.





Posted 10/3/21.....

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE / A One Night History of The Blues.....DVD released in March 2005.

In an effort to capture the blues masters and their acolytes in concert together, and to simultaneously tell the tale of origins and torch passings, executive producer Martin Scorsese and director Antoine Fuqua teamed up in February 2003 and staged a celebration-in-song of this treasured art form.

Filmed at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Lightning In A Bottle features some truly tantalizin’ testifyin’, and gives us some killer collaborations between the old—uh, sometimes the very old—and the new.

Backed by a talented house band (including musicians such as Dr. John), these venerated performers tore into the material, taking the audience from Africa to the Delta and then up into Chicago, tapping into a wellspring of deep emotion and ritualism.

Slight warning: A few of the tracks are interrupted by commentary and/or clips...My favorite interview snippet: Son House, the Delta blues artist (1902-1988) who inspired both Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, is shown in an old taped interview speaking about the meaning of the blues: “Ain’t but one kind of blues, and that consistses (sic) between a male and a female that’s in love.”

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks: 

“I Pity The Fool” – Shemekia Copeland joins Robert Cray on this 1954 song originally performed by Bobby “Blue” Bland.

“Turn On Your Lovelight” – Another “Blue” Bland tune, this one is performed by 70-year-old soul pioneer Solomon Burke, who passed away in October 2010.

“Sittin’ On Top of The World” – A song originally performed by the Mississippi Sheiks in 1930, and also famously covered by Cream on their 1968 album Wheels of Fire; here, it’s a short and sweet root-sier rendition by James “Blood” Ulmer with Alison Krauss.

“St. Louis Blues” – W. C. Handy’s 1914 composition, covered here by Natalie Cole.

“Can’t Be Satisfied” – Buddy Guy—often credited with being the bridge between Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and the later blues-rock disciples Clapton, Page and Beck—performs a 1948 Muddy Waters tune.

“Sweet Sixteen” – 78-year-old B.B. King sits and sweetly, stingingly delivers his own 1960 composition joined by Lucille—that’s his guitar, and he knows how to make her sing.





Posted 9/19/21.....

Here’s a Double Shot of Required Viewings...And a Standout Track from each:

1.) LEON RUSSELL AND THE NEW GRASS REVIVAL (self-titled release)






Posted 9/5/21.....

Amnesty International Presents RELEASED!  The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 - A 2008 MVD Entertainment Group release





Posted 8/22/21.....

A trio of must-haves for your DVD collection...








Posted 8/8/21.....


TWO DVDS WORTHY TO PLACE ON TOP OF YOUR PILE (should you still be buyin’ discs instead of streaming or YouTubing)…

1.) Back To Front: Live In London – Peter Gabriel.....I saw a 2012 Philly stop on the tour that produced this new DVD, and the musicians that backed-up Gabriel during his 1987 So tour were all present and accounted for.  For any Gabriel-period Genesis fan and/or solo career follower, this would be a fine addition to your concert video collection.  Gabriel is noted for high-performance shows that have a real creative spark in execution and style, and that carries forward to the editing and final time-capsule nature of his released concert films.

2.) The Dukes Of September – Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs.....This one holds a treasure trove—the “hits” of Steely Dan, McDonald’s Doobie Brothers and signature solo stuff, and Scaggs’ time-honored material from his overwhelmingly popular Silk Degrees album.  As with Gabriel, I happened upon a live show from this outfit in 2012, and was rewarded with great material (including old R&B classics like Teddy Pendergrass’ “Love T.K.O.” and The Isley’s “Who’s That Lady”) and stellar musicianship from the backup band.  The sum effect here is mesmerizing because of the HD quality and the pristine sound capture—so enjoy!





Posted 7/25/21.....

Johnny Winter  - Live Through The ‘70s - A 2008 MVD Entertainment Group release

This DVD has gathered up both live-in-concert and television performances (1970-1979) from Texas blues guitarist Johnny Winter, ranging from appearances in Denmark, Germany and London to native soil gigs in Chicago and Waterbury, Connecticut.

Recommended tracks:

*  “Frankenstein” - from a 1970 performance...Albino blues brothers Johnny AND Edgar play on this instrumental that Edgar later on parlayed into a monstrous hit (he first released it in studio form two years later, via his 1972 album They Only Come Out At Night).  The setting is a small stage in a low-ceilinged, firetrap-lookin’ teen club in Denmark, Copenhagen and the jam includes not one but two drum solos (one by Edgar, who jumped over from keyboards to drum kit perhaps to prove his “multi-instrumentalist” tag was warranted).  Admittedly, the song as performed here is not entirely captivating; it’s just worth a peek because of the look and feel of a young and hungry blues-rock band bangin’ it out in a club setting.

*  “Be Careful With A Fool” - This is more like it.  From that same 1970 Denmark club session, Johnny stretches out on a B.B. King composition and plays heartfelt blues-rock riffs punctuated by his own guttural growls that seem to goad his flying fingers.  This is the Winter of my content—the more straight-ahead blues before he blossomed into an arena headliner a few years down the road, sometimes wearing (as he did on a ’73 Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert appearance), a top hat, cape and platform shoes.

*  Also on the disc:  Winter with bandmates Randy Jo Hobbs (bass) and Richard Hughes (drums) appear in performances circa ’73 and ’74, the time period that—on vinyl—Winter was also pushing out albums like Still Alive And Well and Saints & Sinners, both featuring guitarist Rick Derringer as well.  Still Alive And Well, a release so named marking Winter’s personal emergence from a heroin habit, is especially a treat.  Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau says of that album: “Winter will never be an especially personable singer, but I like what's he's putting out on this monkey-off-my-comeback: two late-Stones covers, plenty of slide, and a good helping of nasty.”





Posted 7/11/21.....

SOUNDBREAKING / Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music (2016 PBS television series)

Here’s a gem if you missed it during its premier broadcast on PBS in the Spring of 2016, or through occasional rebroadcasts.  It’s available now on DVD in a four-disc set containing all eight episodes, and one doesn’t have to be a music insider to appreciate this march toward creative freedom and innovation in the world of music production.

Interest level is maintained throughout because of the masterful editing and the “sound" content—landmark recordings dissected gleefully by hands-on producers like George Martin (the “fifth Beatle” at all Abbey Road recording sessions) and Rick Rubin (who benevolently nurtured disparate artists from the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy to Neil Diamond and late-career Johnny Cash)…a multitude of artist interviews including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Devo, Ben Harper, Roger Waters, Dr. Dre, Brian Eno, Nile Rodgers, The Black Keys and Annie Lennox…and a fascinating look, of course, at the initial springboard of recording technology in the 1960s and the innovations that followed, fueled by tech, trends and artistic creativity. 

It’s all here…rock, rap, MTV, disco, Dylan-gone-electric, EDM, sampling, streaming, and what’s bubbling up (hold onto the handrails).

A great collection, vetted by musicasaurus.com and his non-music industry couch mate Mary Ellen, who was used as the “control” in this viewing experiment and whose enthusiasm jumped the baseline into something close to awe…






Posted 6/27/21.....

Here’s a real find from the underground—the DVD of The Best of Bluegrass Underground, Volume 2. 

This compilation, from a taping 333 feet below the surface in Tennessee’s 32-mile long Cumberland Caverns, holds performances household names in the Bluegrass realm, and some a bit more recognizable.  The concert area proper is called the Volcano Room amphitheater and the acoustics are marvelous.

The Volume 2 Best Of DVD features a fairly wide-ranging bunch of artists, old and new, including Leon Russell, Lucinda Williams, Old Crow Medicine Show, North Mississippi Allstars, Jason Isbell, Del McCoury Band, The Civil Wars, David Grisman FolkJazz Trio, and more.

The highlight of the line-up is a performance by Andrew Bird entitled “Danse Caribe” (originally from the 2012 album Break It Yourself).  A four-piece acoustic band (inclusive of Byrd) is poised and pitch perfect on the instrumentation as well as on voice.  Eyes closed, lead singer Byrd absolutely swings with the flow of the four-piece's perfectly nailed notes. 





Posted 6/13/21.....

DAVID BOWIE.....A REALITY TOUR.....DVD released in 2004.

Recorded in November 2003 in Dublin, Ireland, this is everything one would expect from the now much missed, multifaceted Mr. Bowie.  The band is a stellar assemblage of talent and it’s hard to single them out for individual praise, because this seems to me very much a band effort rather than a singular showcase for Bowie, and I mean that in terms of the total effect on the viewer.  If I HAD to, though, I’d point out the pure-bliss delivery of the two guitarists who barnstorm with sophisticated assaults but then lay back and spool out amazing shadings as well; Gerry Leonard is one of the guitarists and is also the band leader, and the other—the essence of punk rock cool—is shades-adorned Earl Slick, a longtime collaborator from the Bowie studio and touring stables.

The DVD liner notes, under “Show Production,” list a little over 50 names associated with the recording of this concert and production of the DVD.  This might give you a sense of the quality of the finished product; the sound & vision are excellent.

The song selections span over thirty years of Bowie’s recording career, from 1970’s The Man Who Sold The World through 2003’s Reality.  If you were a big fan of Bowie back in 1972 and were counting on some classics from that era, you’ll be gettin’ Ziggy with it—the last three songs on the DVD are “Five Years,” “Hang On To Yourself” and “Ziggy Stardust.”

Also laudable is the cinematography—some DVD concert recordings are cringe-inducing in terms of special effects that, in the end, decidedly detract from what is intended to be delivered.  This is not the case with A Reality Tour; there is a perfect blend of intelligently, judiciously applied “touches” and these augment the viewer’s emotional payoff. 

Lastly, there are a couple of songs included that are not pure Bowie compositions, but rather are the result of collaborations with other artists.  These are tracks that shine—see below.

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  

*** “Sister Midnight” – A song originally written by Bowie, Iggy Pop, and guitarist Carlos Alomar, it first appeared in a studio version on Pop’s 1997 debut The Idiot.  Here, it’s a blistering and powerfully pure rock song; again, I have to cite the Slick guitarist who takes this song to the finish line with a sonic power wash like I’ve rarely heard or seen.

***“Under Pressure” – Bass player/singer Gail Ann Dorsey (session musician in the alternative rock scene, and frequent Bowie band member since the mid-1990s) tackles the original Bowie/Queen collaboration and hits the Mercury highs.  This is an enveloping treatment of the tune and Dorsey soars.

***Also recommended – Lead-off track “Rebel Rebel”...“Sunday” (an atmospheric, “deep cut” kind of track from Bowie’s 2002 album Heathen)...“I’m Afraid of Americans”...and “Fame.”





Posted 5/30/21.....

Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio.....a documentary released in September 2013; written and directed by Chris Gilson & Carolyn Travis.

1.) As originally seen on PBS, this revelatory tale begins with the early days of AM Radio in the U.S.A. and the impact that early disc jockeys—and their pioneering playlists of rhythm & blues “race records”—had on the American music scene and society at large. 

2.) Those interviewed include the regional disc jockeys from the late 1950s and early 1960s who first championed black music to their listening audiences—Dick Biondi, “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, Wolfman Jack and Casey Kasem, among others.  There is also footage of deejay Alan Freed, who organized the first shower-of-stars type concerts that brought out fans across the color lines.

3.) Note: There is a website that was launched to accompany the documentary, and part of it is dedicated to the aforementioned on-air jocks who broke ground and broke down barriers.  Of particular interest to Pittsburghers is the section that covers Porky Chedwick (Feb. 4, 1918 – March 2, 2014) who first started to spin his sounds in 1948.  Chedwick, the self-described “Daddio of the Radio [editor’s note: the latter, in this case, was pronounced “rad-ee-o”], was the first white deejay on the Eastern Seaboard to exclusively air rhythm & blues music.  He also helped launch the careers of a number of artists including but not limited to Bo Diddley, Little Anthony, and Smokey Robinson.  To access Porky’s info, go directly here: https://www.theairplaychannel.com/the-deejay-lounge

4.) Also covered in the documentary: The payola scandal which kneed Freed...the rise of the Top Forty format and FM radio...the effect of corporate influence...and the birth of satellite radio.





Posted 5/16/21.....

Glastonbury - A Julien Temple film - A musical documentary (BBC Films / HanWay Films / TH!NKFilm) released as a two-DVD set in June 2007.





Posted 5/2/21.....


TWO DVDs OF PERFORMERS FLYIN’ HIGH: The Robinson brothers taking flight (as Crowes tend to do), and Chick Corea back on the mothership!

1) Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson / Brothers Of A Feather - Live At The Roxy.....released on DVD in 2007.

The Crowes collectively (hmmm…should we call them a “band,” a “flock” or a “murder?”) were on a break from recording and touring in the early 2000s, and before the band took wing again, the Brothers Robinson toured together in 2006 in a largely acoustic duo setting. 

This DVD was released a year later, and what peaked musicasaurus.com’s initial interest was discovering that they cover Little Feat’s song “Roll Um Easy” (originally on Feat’s Dixie Chicken album). 

I checked a few reviews from Crowes fan-atics on Amazon and they were all positive, of course.  The disc features stripped-down versions of a few key Crowes tunes in addition to a few covers.  Besides “Roll Um Easy” the cover songs include “Over The Hill,” originally written & performed by Brit folkie John Martyn, and “Polly,” a song popularized by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss on their 2007 album Raising Sand, but originally written and recorded by folk artist and one-time Byrds member Gene Clark.

2) Return To Forever / The Mothership Returns - A 2 CD and 1 DVD set.....released in 2012.

The jazz fusion group Return To Forever’s mainstay founder is keyboardist Chick Corea, who started up the band in 1971 as largely a Latin-influenced jazz ensemble (another founding member was bassist Stanley Clarke).

The band went through some personnel shifts from there and had its greatest success (commercially speaking) with the more muscular jazz fusion mid-70s line-up of Corea, Clarke, Lenny White on drums and Al Di Meola on guitar.  This foursome reunited once on stage in 1983 and then—25 years after their original disbandment—again in the summer of 2008.

In 2011 a reformed and reconstituted Return To Forever toured again, this time without Di Meola but substituting in guitarist Frank Gambale and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.

The DVD included in this The Mothership Returns CD/DVD set has interviews, etc., but most tantalizing are the two complete song performances on the disc, one captured in Austin (“After The Cosmic Rain”) and the other at Montreux (“The Romantic Warrior”).





Posted 4/18/21.....

Currently in another section of this website—in A DAY IN THE LIFE—we explore the key album releases from the year 1978 including The Band’s The Last Waltz soundtrack and of course the landmark film from which it came, directed by Martin Scorsese.  

So at this time in DANCING WITH MR. D…VD, we thought it appropriate to turn to another Scorsese achievement, this one from 2008—the rock doc called Shine A Light.  This film captures the Stones in concert at NYC’s Beacon Theatre as part of the Stones’ 2006 A Bigger Bang Tour.

It was released to DVD in July 2008…

Martin Scorsese had previously done the film The Last Waltz, one of the best rock documentary/concerts of all time starring The Band and assorted musical guests.  Here, he deploys his team and employs his craft to deliver a time capsule piece on the enduring power of the Stones’ live performances.

There are many highlights on this disc and the Stones invite along, on certain performances, the likes of Christina Aguilera, Jack White and Buddy Guy.  But it is the Stones’ own material and performances that put the real glow in Shine A Light, and these reliable, rousing relics include “Live With Me,” “All Down The Line,” and “Faraway Eyes.”

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  “She Was Hot:"  On the DVD, there is a brief snippet of a 1960s television interview with Mick Jagger in which he is asked by the interviewer “How much longer do you give yourself doing this thing?” (i.e., releasing records, because at this juncture the Stones had but two albums out).  Mick replies that he never thought he’d be doing it for even two years, and goes on to say “I think we’re pretty well set up for at least another year.”

The track kicks off right after that, and there’s wizardry at work in front of and behind the cameras.  Scorsese’s editing and the Stones’ balls-out performance of this track (from their 1983 album Under Cover) is amazing.  We all look for moments in a particular live performance that give us that endorphin rush and irrepressible elation, and here it comes at just shy of 4 minutes in, when Jagger is engaged in a provocative, raise-the-bar exhortation with his backup singers, particularly Lisa Fischer.  Suddenly the Stones’ front man cuts loose in a mad rooster spin that is somehow timed to a blistering crescendo from Keith Richards and the rest of the band—it’s all of a few seconds, but the moment is a lightning bolt directly from heaven to your rock and roll soul.  I’m just glad that it is preserved forever for all of us—thank you, Mick and Martin!





Posted 3/21/21.....



1.  From the 25thAnniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts.....Two four-hour shows at Madison Square Garden on two consecutive nights.....DVD released in September 2010.

On October 29 and 30, 2009 chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and Rolling Stone editor & publisher) Jann Wenner—with the help of an august steering committee—brought to life TWO nights of unforgettable rock and roll performances at NYC’s Madison Square Garden.

The two concerts featured amazing collaborations of reigning, retro and retired rock artists with the event’s driving purpose to raise a permanent endowment for the Hall. The two-night celebration ended up raising around $5 million dollars.  Jagger was a surprise walk-on guest because the Stones were unable to attend as full band.  He guested on U2’s performance of a Stones classic as well as joined in with Bono & company on a U2 song.

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended Mick track:  “Gimme Shelter”...It’s an atmospheric and artistically successful reworking of the time-honored Stones song by U2, and it starts off with special guests will.i.am and Fergie on stage.  As Bono and band wind up to the opening vocals on the tune, Jagger suddenly rooster-struts onto the stage and sings out “Well, a storm is threatening…”

Mick is at his best here, sharing the spotlight and lead vocals with Bono, but it is the Fergie interlude that raises the stakes—and the temperature.  Fergie masterfully steps into the role of Merry Clayton, the original voice on this now fifty-two year old track from the classic Let It Bleed album, and the former wails merrily along so that the tune doesn’t veer off its righteous path for even a few seconds.

2.  From the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.....A 1968 made-for-TV special starring the Stones, plus special guests.....DVD released in October 2004.

This vintage TV special was long delayed to home video reportedly due to one or more of the Stones not being satisfied with the band’s performances.  The original broadcast was in December 1968, and it wasn’t until almost thirty years later (1996) that it finally appeared on VHS; the DVD was then released in 2004.  The special also featured The Who, John Lennon, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, Marianne Faithful, and Eric Clapton.

The performances were a bit uneven.  The Stones performed a number of tracks from the just-released Beggar’s Banquet album (“Parachute Woman,” “No Expectations” and “Salt of the Earth”) and Jethro Tull unfortunately lip-syncs their one contribution.

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended Mick track: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”...In front of the live studio audience and the television cameras, the Stones roll out a relaxed but really quite powerful performance of this track from the soon-to-come 1969 release Let It Bleed.  Twenty-five-year-old Mick plays to the cameras—which ain’t a crime but he IS quite the mugger—and he delivers a lock-up-your-daughters, sleazy-cool performance of this landmark Jagger-Richards composition.  





Posted 3/21/21.....

20 Feet From Stardom.....2013 Oscar-winning Documentary available now on Netflix, home DVD, etc.

The film is just 90 minutes long, and it is a beautifully edited work that provides an emotional wallop.

The film explores the impact of individually unheralded backup singers who, through their participation and extraordinary talent & passion, have helped shaped our collective appreciation of some major musical artists’ recordings.

Back-up singers who reveal their hopes, dreams and challenges most notably include Merry Clayton and Darlene Love, but also lesser-known but no less talented performers such as Claudia Lennear, Judith Hill, Táta Vega, and an incredible should-be-a-star named Lisa Fischer.  The latter almost steals this documentary’s thunder through a short but spine-tingling session with Sting in the studio...

The whole film is a work of art and a tale that needed to be told...and Clayton’s story may be the best of the lot.  In a June 2013 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Clayton told host Terry Gross about getting the call (literally) to do a vocal cameo for the Rolling Stones back in the Fall of 1969.  The song that she recorded late that night with the band was “Gimme Shelter."

“Well, I’m at home at about 12–I’d say about 11:30, almost 12 o’clock at night.  And I’m hunkered down in my bed with my husband, very pregnant, and we got a call from a dear friend of mine and producer named Jack Nitzsche.  Jack Nitzsche called and said ‘you know, Merry, are you busy?’  I said ‘No, I’m in bed.’  He says, ‘well, you know, there are some guys in town from England.  And they need someone to come and sing a duet with them, but I can’t get anybody to do it.  Could you come?’  He said ‘I really think this would be something good for you.’”

(Musicasaurus.com’s interjected comment here): So Mary, who was tired, pregnant, and had NO idea who the Rolling Stones were, gets out of bed and rushes down to their studio where she first runs into Keith Richards, who explains what they would like her to do.

Mary continues: “I said, ‘Well, play the track.  It’s late.  I’d love to get back home.’  So they play the track and tell me that I’m going to sing–‘this is what you’re going to sing: Oh, children, it’s just a shot away.’  It had the lyrics for me.  I said, ‘Well, that’s cool.’  So I did the first part, and we got down to the rape, murder part.  And I said, ‘Why am I singing rape, murder?’…So they told me the gist of what the lyrics were, and I said ‘Oh, okay, that’s cool.’  So then I had to sit on a stool because I was a little heavy in my belly.  I mean, it was a sight to behold.  And we got through it.  And then we went in the booth to listen, and I saw them hooting and hollering while I was singing, but I didn’t know what they were hooting and hollering about.  And when I got back in the booth and listened, I said, ‘Ooh, that’s really nice.’  They said, ‘well, You want to do another?’  I said, ‘well, I’ll do one more, and then I’m going to have to say thank you and good night.’  I did one more, and then I did one more.  So it was three times I did it, and then I was gone. The next thing I know, that’s history.”





Posted 3/7/21.....

TEN YEARS OF LATER...30 Great Performances (A BBC Production on Warner Music Vision)

This late Friday night BBC music program hosted by Jools Holland has been on the air since 1992, and this one-disc DVD retrospective released in 2002 contains some highlights from the show’s first decade.  The show is currently still up and running on Britain’s BBC Two network, and stateside has most recently run on Ovation.

The performers on the program are a mix of the well-known and the maybe-more-deserving, and there are five per program.  Holland leads off each episode with a short jam session involving all five artists and there are some brief interview sessions as well.

Pianist Holland also occasionally plays with one or more of the bands when it’s time for the individual performances.  The band gear set-ups are interestingly arranged; they’re situated in a circle with audience members peppered in between.

This particular DVD contains 30 individual performances and as stated, all are culled from the shows that aired between 1992 and 2011.

Musicasaurus.com’s Choice for Standout Track:

“No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.....This is incendiary, inspirational, and you may have to watch it several times at first sitting to actually believe your eyes & ears—this track builds with an intensity that is unparalleled.  (I know.  This is high praise.  But praise the Lord, Blige delivers.)

Musicasaurus.com’s Other Recommended Tracks: 

“Down By The Water” by PJ Harvey (1995).....Kind of a chameleon from album to album, English singer-songwriter and musician Harvey donned a black dress, red lipstick and teal eye shadow to perform this enticingly bizarro alternative tune.  She’s not for all tastes, but stands tall as a real creative force in music (two of her records are in Rolling Stone Magazine’s“500 Greatest Albums of All Time”).

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve (1997).....Lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft and band are appropriately backed up by a 7-piece string section for a stirring version of this track.

“The Star and The Wiseman” by Ladysmith Black Mambazo (1998).....Introduced to many of us via their appearance with Paul Simon on his Graceland CD and DVD, Ladysmith is ten gifted African Americans who deal out the sweetest a cappella gold.

“Babylon” by David Gray (2000).....Backed up only by drums and electric piano, Gray plays acoustic guitar and performs a fetching rendition of his 1998 hit “Babylon.”

“Wahira” by Ibrahim Ferrer & Cachaito (2001).....Afro-Cuban singer Ferrer and Cuban bassist Cachaito were members of the Buena Vista Social Club.  Here, they are backed by percussionists and horn players who follow in that tradition.

The Rest of the DVD: Includes performances from Portishead, Massive Attack, Paul Weller (formerly of The Jam), Oasis, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Coldplay, Orbital, D’Angelo, Diana Krall, Morrissey, Moby, and more.





Posted 2/21/21.....


Just a few weeks back, while filling the shopping cart on Amazon.com, I decided to put my near-future satisfactions in the hands of the Police...So I bought the following two concert DVDs, curious about what a gap of 24 years might look and sound like in terms of two different tours, that many years apart:

When the shipment arrived, musicasaurus.com did a quick experiment right out of the box (or boxes, technically).  I took one song, and not any of the hits which have nestled sometimes too well into our consciousness; to seek some measure of objectivity, I chose a track from the band’s first studio album Outlandos d’Amour from 1978--“Hole In My Life”.

It’s been a favorite album track of mine through the years, all punky and propulsive.  How would the songs compare?  In this corner:  The Police during their initial 9-year ascension to global superstardom.  In the other corner:  The Police reunited after 21 years apart--and was it for Love?  Or was it for Money?  Was it for Love of Money?

Comparing the Two Performances of "Hole In My Life" (performed live, 24 years apart):

The Crowd:

The On-Stage Look:

Production Values:





Posted 2/7/21.....

The Best of Sessions at West 54th, Volume I...released in 1997 (Automatic Productions/Columbia Music Video)

This is a collection of in-studio performances by a variety of artists, captured during Sessions at West 54th’s premiere season in 1997.  The program ran on APT (American Public Television), a sub-group of PBS stations nationwide.

The production values are killer—digital video and Surround Sound audio; recorded at Sony Music Studios on West 54th Street in Manhattan.

The recording environment consists of a small (and reverent) studio audience, while on-stage it’s just the artist in his or her element—no dry ice, no flash pots, no laser lightshow.  The performances shine through in this intimate set-up and setting so you get a real glimpse of an artist in the zone.

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:

*   “32 Flavors” by Ani DiFranco

It’s DiFranco with just two other musicians, a bass player and drummer, and she weaves a spell as the camera unobtrusively captures her passion close-up.  DiFranco’s garbed in blonde and pink tresses, tattoos, and nose ring, and might look to the uninitiated like she should be wielding a chainsaw as part of her act, but “32 Flavors” unfolds with quiet beauty and no flash or excess—just the artist and her exquisite voice, and her total command of mood, feel and vibe.

*   “I Feel So Good” by Richard Thompson

Thompson is truly in his element—armed with just his acoustic guitar and his wicked wit, he snarls out a tune from his 1991 album Rumor and Sigh that is indicative of his vision of love: “I feel so good I’m going to break somebody’s heart tonight."

*   “People Have The Power” by Patti Smith

Patti has the Power...Smith and her longtime band mates grind out a bewitching rendition of this “anthem for the people” originally recorded for her 1988 album Dream of Life.  I first became aware of this lyrically inspiring call to action when Springsteen, Michael Stipe, Bright Eyes, John Fogerty and others employed it as the rousing, closing number on the Philadelphia stop of the 2004 “Vote For Change” tour.

*   The Rest of the DVD includes...Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (“Back to Basics” from Blood On The Fields).....Suzanne Vega with acoustic guitar, backed by just cello, clarinet, accordion & bass (“Caramel”).....Ben Folds Five (“Smoke”).....Yo-Yo Ma (“Libertango”).....Keb’ Mo’ (“Just Like You”).....Daniel Lanois (“Orange Kay”).....Jane Siberry (“Love is Everything”).....and more.





Posted 1/24/21.....

SOUNDBREAKING / Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music (2016 PBS television series)

Here’s a gem if you missed it during its premier broadcast on PBS in the Spring of 2016, or through occasional rebroadcasts.  It’s available now on DVD in a four-disc set containing all eight episodes, and one doesn’t have to be a music insider to appreciate this march toward creative freedom and innovation in the world of music production.

Interest level is maintained throughout because of the masterful editing and the “sound" content—landmark recordings dissected gleefully by hands-on producers like George Martin (the “fifth Beatle” at all Abbey Road recording sessions) and Rick Rubin (who benevolently nurtured disparate artists from the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy to Neil Diamond and late-career Johnny Cash)…a multitude of artist interviews including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Devo, Ben Harper, Roger Waters, Dr. Dre, Brian Eno, Nile Rodgers, The Black Keys and Annie Lennox…and a fascinating look, of course, at the initial springboard of recording technology in the 1960s and the innovations that followed, fueled by tech, trends and artistic creativity. 

It’s all here…rock, rap, MTV, disco, Dylan-gone-electric, EDM, sampling, streaming, and what’s bubbling up (hold onto the handrails).

A great collection, vetted by musicasaurus.com and his non-music industry couch mate Mary Ellen, who was used as the “control” in this viewing experiment and whose enthusiasm jumped the baseline into something close to awe…






Posted 1/10/21.....

Spectacle – Elvis Costello With... (released to home video October 2011).





Posted 12/27/20.....

LIVE AT KNEBWORTH – PARTS ONE, TWO & THREE...Previously released in three volumes on VHS and Laserdisc, this is a DVD reissue (all on one disc) with remixed sound, released in 2002...

The origin of this all-Brit 1990 music festival started with the desire in 1988 to raise funds for The Nordiff-Robbins Music Therapy Center and the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology.

The Nordiff-Robbins organization sees music as an essential tool in communicating with, and developing & enhancing the lives of, mentally & physically handicapped children.  The Knebworth concert set for June 30, 1990 was seen as an opportunity to raise specific funds for a newly-planned Nordiff-Robbins centre in the UK.

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Track:  “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears.....Tears For Fears are essentially two Brits from Bath—Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith—who started up a synth-based new wave band in the early 1980s devoted to the works of Arthur Janov and his primal scream therapy (you may remember the band’s song with the lyrics “..shout...shout...let it all out”).  The song performed here, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” was on Tears For Fears’ second album Songs From The Big Chair released in 1985.  It’s a good live performance that captures the emotional intensity and churning good feel of the original studio recording.

The Rest of the DVD:  Includes...

* Genesis (post-Peter Gabriel) performing “Mama,” “Throwing It All Away” and “Turn It On Again"

* Pink Floyd (sans Waters) doing “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Run Like Hell”

* Eric Clapton performing “Before You Accuse Me” and “Tearin’ Us Apart”—and then joining Mark Knopfler for a few songs including “Money For Nothing”

* Paul McCartney with “Coming Up,” “Birthday,” “Hey Jude” and “Can’t Buy Me Love”

* Robert Plant performing “Tall Cool One” and “Hurting Kind”—and then inviting up Jimmy Page for “Wearing And Tearing” and “Rock and Roll”

* ....and others, including a couple of lesser-known-in-the-USA artists such as Cliff Richard and Status Quo.





Posted 12/13/20.....


                                    TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL / 30 YEARS…..DVD released in June 2005.

  • The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is a longstanding tradition for roots revelers and acoustic music fans who flock to this beautiful box canyon setting every summer.  The site is nestled among the snow-capped San Juan Mountains, where one can breathe in clean air and soak in the restorative sounds…
  • The festival features a wealth of diverse performers who practice bluegrass, jamgrass, newgrass, and—not saying this in a disparaging way—pull-it-outta-yer-assgrass.
  • Filmed at the festival over four days in June 2003, Telluride Bluegrass Festival / 30 Years serves as an excellent representation of most of the bluegrass strains, with artists ranging from Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush, to Yonder Mountain String Band, Nickel Creek and String Cheese Incident…If one could literally “map out” bluegrass, it would show these performers tumbling out of the wellspring, creating their own channels and tributaries, crisscrossing with others in time-honored patterns yet flowing into new directions all the while.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  
    • “BT” – A dazzling workout by a trio consisting of string bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin marvel Sam Bush and mandola player Mike Marshall
    • “Going to Glascow” – An inspiring piece by progressive banjoist Alison Brown, who started out in the late 1980s as a member of Alison Krauss’ band Union Station, but then went on to a solo career fronting an excellent quartet in further explorations and incorporations of jazz…There’s a very cool sequence during the song when there’s some “thumpin’ on the ol’ banjo”—to say more would spoil the effect.
    • “Human Fly” – A song from The Horse Flies, at the core a traditionalist band that has fully embraced a wacky meld of other styles, including Caribbean, jazz, punk, and classical minimalism…I’ve seen them just once in concert, and at that particular gig, the vibe was very much a Celtic Talking Heads.
    • “Deeper and Deeper” - The Sam Bush Band with Bela Fleck and John Cowan…Mandolin brandisher Bush is the founder of legendary group The New Grass Revival, from which the generic subset term “newgrass” first arose.  He’s been on the scene and instrumental in the growth of newgrass since 1972.
    • “When I Die” - This is the most infectious, grin-inducing performance on the DVD.  Australian folk band The Waifs is fronted by sisters Vikki (Simpson) Thorn & Donna Simpson, who share lead vocals and a love of performing that just ain’t constrainable.  It’s pure joy pouring out of this one.





Posted 11/29/20.....

THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST, VOLUME THREE..... The UK’s legendary live music show (DVD released in 2006).

This is the third volume in the 1971-1987 British television series that largely captured English and American artists in a high-quality, in-studio performance setting.

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks in this Volume Three:

  • “Jamaica Say You Will” by Jackson Browne – This is Jackson alone at the piano, with a dark blue shirt, clear aviator glasses, and a simple but clear-voiced reading of this tune from his 1972 self-titled debut album (which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Saturate Before Using, simply because that’s written on the cover in addition to Browne’s name).
  • “Black Coffee” by Humble Pie – This 1973 performance is a staggeringly soulful treat because of the vocal prowess of lead singer Steve Marriott, but also because of the setting—just Marriott on guitar, with a slide player, a bass player, and instead of a drummer, three female African Americans providing the tantalizing back-up.  The song is a slow, swinging groove, kind of like “the gospel according to Marriott”; he was a gifted rock ‘n’ roll front man with a deep-seated love of rhythm & blues.
  • “Sweet, Sweet Baby (I’m Falling)” by Lone Justice – Country rockers Lone Justice—featuring sweet, sweet Maria McKee on lead vocals—appeared on Whistle Test in 1985.  The song is a decent rocker; not compelling, but the big voice that leaps out of that little girl certainly is...Musicasaurus.com was made to wonder, “How beautiful a thing would it be if she just hauled off and tore into some Janis Joplin?!!”
  • “Frame By Frame” by King Crimson – This is Crimson from the early 1980s in a riveting (yes, challenging for some) performance by this progressive rock band.  Adrian Belew in a pink suit bounces and shreds on guitar, while the band’s other guitarist (and most famous member) goes frippin’ crazy with lightning-fast notes as the song’s major underpinning.  Rounding out this particular court of the Crimson kings is Bill Bruford on drums and Tony Levin on Chapman Stick.  There are no in-betweens about King Crimson—one either falls to their knees, or scratches their head.
  • “Meet Me On The Corner” by Lindisfarne – Lindisfarne?  Musicasaurus.com suspects you recognize this name ONLY if you regularly fingered through the “Miscellaneous L” bins in record stores in the very early 70s.  They were a talented British folk-rock band armed with acoustic guitars, bass, drums, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, and harmonies aplenty.  Their sound (judging from this performance) is not really dated, either; this song could be heard in a club in any college town, present day.
  • “Sunday Papers” by Joe Jackson – Musicasaurus.com has always appreciated the recorded odysseys of Jackson as he’s sumptuously laid them out for his fans through the years—power pop, swing, jazz, and a lot more.  “Sunday Papers” is Joe from his power pop period circa ’79 and it’s herky-jerky heaven with a great New Wave-ish rhythm anchored by a strong sense of, and appreciation for, pop music.
  • “Dreamer” by Supertramp -- Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Supertramp delivers on this quirky showing from ’74.  The high-pitched vocals blend well with the keyboard swirls and “Dreamer”—from the band’s Crime Of The Century album— is an endearing mix of prog-rock and pop music.
  • OTHER ARTISTS CAPTURED ON THIS THIRD EDITION OF WHISTLE TEST INCLUDE...Janis Ian (“At Seventeen”)...Johnny Winter (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”)...Howard Jones (“No One Is To Blame”)...Steppenwolf (“Born To Be Wild”)...Fairport Convention (“Brilliancy Medley”) and sixteen more.





Posted 11/15/20.....

“It was just far enough down the road for Traffic to have its second wind.  People had not heard that music performed live for twenty years and they felt that it was a good time to hear it again.” – Steve Winwood commenting on Traffic’s 1994 reunion tour of the United States (from the liner notes of this featured DVD)

TRAFFIC...The Last Great Traffic Jam...filmed in 1994; released in 2005 (Epic / Sony BMG Music Entertainment)

The British band Traffic had originally formed in 1967, influenced by the Beatles but also brandishing a couple of key instruments that set them apart from others in the rock field—a heavy emphasis on organ, and on saxophone & flute.

The original line-up of Traffic in the year of its formation: Nineteen-year-old multi-instrumentalist Stevie Winwood (already a success in his previous outing with The Spencer Davis Group), drummer / percussionist / singer Jim Capaldi, guitarist / singer Dave Mason, and reeds player Chris Wood.

After releasing ten albums from 1967 through 1974—including the band’s critical & commercial highpoint The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971)—the band broke up to pursue individual interests.

Departures: Dave Mason came and went in the earliest stages of the band, and was not on 1970’s John Barleycorn Must Die, but reappeared on the subsequent live album Welcome To the Canteen (1971).  By the time Low Spark arrived later in 1971, Mason was gone for good.


* 1983 – Chris Wood

* 2005 – Jim Capaldi (not long after this 1994 reunion tour wrapped up).

The Personnel on The Last Great Traffic Jam: Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Randall Bramblett (keyboards/sax/flute), Rosco Gee (bass), Walfredo Reyes Jr. (percussion), and Mike McEvoy (guitar/keyboards).

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:

* “40,000 Headmen”.....The performance is pure relaxed, flowing Traffic and the editors weave in some road scenes near the climax which leavens the concert performance footage with 1960’s-style psychedelics...Nice flute work by tour musician Randall Bramblett.

* “John Barleycorn”.....This is Winwood and Capaldi, front and center, in a compelling performance of this traditional English folk song, again with some camera work / footage that hews to the Spirit of the Sixties...This tune was originally brought to the duo’s attention by band mate Chris Wood when working to complete this eventually same-titled 1970 album.

* “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”.....A faithful rendition of the classic song that sums up the appeal of the band—stretching rock’s boundaries into folk and jazz, and stretching out in their execution of it.

* “Dear Mr. Fantasy”.....Jerry Garcia joins the band (at Chicago’s Soldiers Field) on this track. The Dead had captivatingly covered this song through the years at their own shows.

The Rest of the DVD includes: “Pearly Queen”..... “Medicated Goo”..... “Glad”..... “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone”..... “Gimme Some Lovin’ ” (the old Spencer Davis Group hit) ..... and more.





Posted 11/1/20.....

The Bridge School Concerts / 25thAnniversary Edition.....released on DVD in 2011 (Reprise Video)

As the DVD says, "The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications, and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies.”

The initial concert that Neil Young and his wife at the time Pegi first put together to benefit the Bridge School was in 1986, and except for the following year, the event took place annually every October at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California through the year 2016.

The Bridge School Concerts / 25thAnniversary Edition consists of 3 DVD’s

* Disc # 1 and # 2 are select artists’ performances spanning the 25 years of the event (between 1986-2010).  Most every artist performs acoustically, and in most cases this only enhances the power of the performance as there’s a unique energy in this approach and a resulting ratcheted-up focus on the lyrics and the message.

* Disc # 3—The Bridge School Documentaries—has “Backstage at the Bridge School Benefit Concert,” “The Bridge School Story,” and also an interviews section that has Bridge School students conducting one-on-one interviews with artists (including Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, and others).

Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:

“Blue Ridge Mountains” – Fleet Foxes (October 24, 2009).....Great crystalline harmonies (a little CSN-like) abound in this song that’s perfectly suited for an all-acoustic treatment; a nice blend of mandolin, acoustic guitars, percussion and piano.

“Fire And Rain” – James Taylor (October 27, 2002).....This is just James, his acoustic guitar, and a cello player providing all the right accents for the melodious tenor of Taylor.

 “At The Hop” – Devendra Banhart (October 22, 2006).....Five acoustic musicians (including Banhart) are all in a row on stools onstage, peeling off a loose, pokey little number that would be perfect for a campfire sing-a-long. Four of the musicians (including Banhart) look all crunchy, of course; the fifth looks like their dad, but it’s really British folk legend Bert Jansch sittin’ in.

“Country Feedback” – R.E.M. (October 18, 1998).....Michael Stipe and company have a special guest on stage with them, a rockin’ and swayin’ and stage prowlin’ Neil Young, plinking on his acoustic guitar, sporting a fedora, and wearing a bushy, mountain-man gray beard.  Neil elevates this already-very-fine performance by R.E.M.

“The Way It Will Be” – Gillian Welch (October 21, 2006).....Just two interweaving voices, two acoustic guitars, and one great song...Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings spin Appalachian/Americana magic with this one.

“Heroes” – David Bowie (October 20, 1996).....Armed with an acoustic guitar, a red-headed Bowie and a supporting bassist and guitarist sit on stools and unspool this classic title tune from Bowie’s 1977 album.

Honorable Mentions:

“Rebel Yell” - Billy Idol (October 20, 2001):  Idol almost pulls this off; it’s infectious because he’s so obviously pleased to be there, and even though the tune’s delivered all acoustic, it kinda rocks.

“Surfin’ USA” – Brian Wilson (October 31, 1999):  Maybe more fun-fun-fun to look at rather than listen to, because Wilson—who looks just a little “tentative” on stage—is surrounded by a delighted bunch of supporting stars including Eddie Vedder, Roger Daltrey, Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams.





Posted 10/18/20.....

I stumbled upon an interesting DVD recently, and had known nothing about it beforehand.  It’s a unique mix of a concert and a history lesson—uh, remember the Alamo?

On the evening of May 2, 2005, an outfit called WOW Music Group produced and filmed a concert at the Alamo and there are full song performances on the resulting DVD from Gipsy Kings, Lyle Lovett, Los Lobos and…Arc Angels!  The latter is a supergroup—and maybe only rock snobs call them that—composed of killer guitarists Doyle Bramhall II (who’s played with Clapton) and Charlie Sexton (who’s played with Dylan), plus the rhythm section from Steve Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble, drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon.  Back in 1992 Arc Angels released their self-titled debut album, and it is still one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite classic rock indulgences because of its rock ‘n’ roll heart and searing blues hues.  The DVD might be worth it for the Angels alone, but the other performances are really fairly riveting as well.

Here’s an explanatory snippet or two from a July 9, 2007 press release about the project and the event, from Cary Floyd of the WOW Music Group:

“The Remember The Alamo concert was designed to pay tribute to the Alamo and the City of San Antonio through an entertaining, made-for-history musical event. The concert film, via performances by some of the world’s best-known artists and light-hearted comedic entertainment by Paul Rodriguez, retells the story of the 13-day battle that took place in 1836, thus solidifying the Alamo shrine as an historical wonder of early American culture.

“The 90-plus minute concert film includes a documentary about the Alamo and an historical tour of the shrine led by Alamo Director David Stewart and Paul Rodriguez.”

Also interesting as hell:  The WOW Music Group were labeling this project as one of more to come.  They had created the concept of a Wonders of the World Music Series which was intended to marry together on film “distinguished musical artists with the world’s most storied historical sites”—and they may have since pulled another one off at the Great Wall of China, with more planned for the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower and other key historic hotspots.  Cool idea, but I have no update on their progress…





Posted 10/4/20.....

Windham Hill is a record label—often labeled New Age—founded in 1976 by acoustic guitarist Will Ackerman.  By the time the compact disc began to penetrate home sound systems in the early 1980s, the label had expanded beyond its original folk emphasis into world and electronic music as well.  The Windham Hill “sound” became a brand of sorts; the production was superior, the album art classy, and the artist roster impressive.

Windham Hill In Concert...featuring the music of Will Ackerman, Scott Cossu, Michael Hedges and Shadowfax...released in 1986 (Windham Hill Productions, Inc. / Pioneer Entertainment)

  • The artists’ performances were captured live in the studio in July 1986 at S.I.R. Sound Stage in Hollywood, California, with additional footage from Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, Colorado 
  • If your initial responses to the tag “New Age” are a nose in the air and an attitude that this is elevator music, you need to check out this DVD if only to witness the performance of Michael Hedges...
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Overwhelmingly Recommended Track:
    • “Aerial Boundaries”
      • Michael Hedges was 33 years old when this DVD was released.  He was a classically trained guitarist and composer who frequented Baltimore in the very late 1970s and early 1980s, playing clubs and restaurants—and developing his own unique style to playing a steel-string acoustic guitar.
      • In his best recorded works, it seems he’s totally in tune with the music of the spheres, weaving into his own stamped style a very complex set of tunings, strums, and percussive guitar-body slaps.
      • On this track, he comes off visually like a serene yet laser-focused fellow from the corner of Haight & Ashbury, wielding his guitar and coaxing out breathtaking sounds while his pigtails wave and the incense stick on the neck of his guitar spins off a trail of tiny smoke.
      • The song itself is an acoustic marvel.  It is hard to fathom the depths (or heights) from which Hedges pulls these sounds together, and also whether he’s channeling or just that damn accomplished (in a Malcolm Gladwell “10,000 hours” sense of the word).  Regardless...“Aerial Boundaries” as performed here is a force of energy from a harmonic paradise beyond our ken.
      • Michael Hedges died at the age of 43 in late 1997, after a solo car crash about 100 miles northwest of San Francisco.
  • The Rest of the DVD:  Includes...
    • “Silent Anticipations”, “Woman of the World”, “Because It’s There”, and “Follow Through”—all from Michael Hedges.
    • “The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit”, “Visiting”, and “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter”—all from guitarist Will Ackerman.
    • “Vashon Poem” from pianist Scott Cossu.
    • “The Orangutan Gang”, “What Goes Around”, “New Electric India”, and “Streetnoise”—all from world-music fusion ensemble Shadowfax.








Thanks to Stacy Innerst (www.stacyinnerst.com) for the design and creation of the Musicasaurus.com logo and the Tunes for Tables logo.
And...The "Tunes For Tables" fundraising campaign was created and conducted in memory of Margot Gloninger Jones (1952-2007).  With family and friends alike, she was a true knitter of the bonds that hold us together.




Posted 9/6/20.....

Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live…..This concert DVD is a product of Geffen Records / Real World productions; filmed in Modena, Italy on tour in 1994.

  • This is my personal favorite, from the standpoint of artistry in design, production and execution.  With his unique artistic vision, Peter Gabriel created and mounted “one for the time capsule”—the perfect synthesis of musicians playing as one, a brilliant stage set, and seamless and savvy editing that captures all of the emotion inherent in the live music experience.
  • Though an artist of vision in his own right (in writing, recording, video and performance), Peter Gabriel collaborated with Quebec City’s playwright/actor/film director/stage director Robert Lepage in the creation of the Secret World Live tour.  (Lepage is one of Canada’s most honored theatre artists; among his other triumphs:  Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show entitled Ka, and Quebec City’s The Image Mill, the latter constituting the largest outdoor architectural projection ever made in the world.)

The Secret World Live band:

  • Drums – Manu Katche
  • Bass, vocals – Tony Levin
  • Guitar vocals – David Rhodes
  • Keyboards, vocals – Jean Claude Naimro
  • Violin, vocals – Shankar (not Ravi, in case that name gave you pause)
  • Vocals – Paula Cole
  • Vocals, keyboards – Peter Gabriel

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:

  • The opener, “Come Talk To Me”.....Start the DVD from the very beginning to get a true sense of the wizardry at work.  Peter and Paula are locked into a powerful musical and philosophical exchange.
  • “Steam” and “Sledgehammer”.....Some of Peter’s more recognizable songs (from the MTV glory days).  Here, you can bask in the band’s prowess and thus easily overlook the masterful editing—but don’t!
  • “Secret World”.....A track that unfolds quietly at first; an artist’s inner journey masterfully expressed that builds to an unleashing near the end—and the exiting of the band, one by one, before encore.
  • “Don’t Give Up”.....Another beautifully expressive piece that is once again Peter and Paula (the latter taking the voice part originally recorded by Kate Bush for the studio album track).
  • The best track:  “Shaking The Tree” (written by Peter Gabriel and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour).....One could even approach this song knowing very little about Peter Gabriel’s work, and come away indelibly changed in terms of discovering a heavenly convergence of song and performance, sound and vision.  It doesn’t make you wish you were there; you ARE there.  The joy is inescapable.  It’s everything that we hope for in a live musical performance.





Posted 8/23/20.....


This two-DVD set captures for posterity sixty-six musical performances that aired on The Johnny Cash TV Show from the summer of 1969 through March of 1971.  The show was produced in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium which was, back then, the home of the Grand Ole Opry.  Johnny’s show was the first major network series produced at this venue, and as the DVD’s informational brochure points out, the Ryman today is a “refurbished, restored landmark.  The ’69 version, cramped and creaky, was untouched by modern heating and cooling.”

  • Johnny handpicked his guests, some of which were appearing for the very first time on network television.  The DVD set contains great performances by Johnny solo, with wife June Carter Cash, and with a myriad of musical legends and major talents ascending...
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommendations:
    • Bob Dylan (in a rare TV appearance) performing two tracks from Nashville Skyline:  “I Threw It All Away” (performed solo) and “Girl From The North Country” (performed with Johnny).  The latter is a relaxed classic—Dylan and Cash evidence their real connection and mutual affection.
    • Derek and the Dominos (guitarist & singer Eric Clapton, keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon).....Alas, no “honorary 5th band member” appearance here by Duane Allman, though of course he contributes mightily to the one (and only) Derek and the Dominos album Layla.  On Johnny’s show, in an episode that aired in January of 1971, Derek and the Dominos perform “It’s Too Late” from Layla, and then Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins come out to join the band in a slap-down, scorching version of Perkins’ 1956 rockabilly classic “Matchbox.”  You can see Clapton, sandwiched by his mentors, beaming with delight; it’s almost as if the thought swirl “I am not worthy” is runnin’ ‘round his head during this heady, 3-guitar workout.
    • Neil Young, 26 years old, in a passionate solo performance of “The Needle and The Damage Done.”
    • Louis Armstrong, world-renowned jazz singer & trumpeter, performing with Johnny on a Jimmie Rodgers tune from the 1930’s, “Blue Yodel # 9.”  Satchmo (Armstrong’s nickname) had played on the original Jimmie Rodgers recording of this song; eight months after this Johnny Cash Show episode aired in October 1970, Armstrong passed away.
    • Mother Maybelle Carter, Johnny’s mother-in-law and original member of the Carter Family, performing “Wildwood Flower” with the Carter Sisters, and then solo—on autoharp—on the traditional instrumental “Black Mountain Rag.”  Notably, Mother Maybelle helped to influence the overall shift of the guitar from rhythm to more of a lead instrument, through her own developed style of thumbing melody lines on the bass strings while her fingers strummed to fill out the rhythm.
    • Jerry Lee Lewis, 35 years old and at his piano bench-kickin’ best, in a 1970 performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”  The performance is Suggestive with a capital “S”; just ten years or so after the famous scandal involving his third wife—his 13-year-old cousin—Jerry certainly wasn’t married to the concept of propriety.  Hey, it’s only rock ‘n roll (and we like it).
    • June Carter Cash with Homer & Jethro singing their 1949 parody of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  Okay, I can’t really recommend this, but you might Hee and Haw over it.
    • Truly Honorable Mentions:  Linda Ronstadt dueting with Johnny on “I Will Never Marry”.....George Jones.....Pete Seeger.....Waylon Jennings.....Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By Your Man”.....Roy Clark pickin’ up a storm on the lightnin’-fast “In The Summertime / 12th Street Rag”.....Chet Atkins.....Ray Charles doing “Ring of Fire”.....Roy Orbison performing “Crying” (solo) and “Pretty Woman” (with Johnny).....and a small dose of classic cheese:  Glen Campbell layin’ it ON, locked into sincerity overdrive on the song “Wichita Lineman.”





Posted 8/9/20.....

MUSIC SCENE:  THE BEST OF 1969-1970, Volume 2.....(DVD released in 2001)

  • Someone here has raided the catacombs of Old Television Shows That Tried to Lure In Hip Viewers, But Ended Up Breaking Their Hip Quotients...
  • This DVD contains four episodes of Music Scene from its ill-fated ABC-TV limited run; debuting on the television fall schedule in 1969, the show gasped for breath and sustainability through the early parts of 1970, but lost its battle for survival reportedly due to lack of corporate advertising support.
  • The show was hosted by 1960s comedian David Steinberg who just doesn’t weather well, as They say...
  • The performances range from lip-synched presentations to live performances, and the sound production on the DVD is...well...very television-like.  Expect not to be overwhelmed with the audio efforts here.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s One Truly Recommended Track:  There’s a gem buried deep in the “bonus performances” section, and that’s a 1969 performance by British bluesman John Mayall.  Here he has his ensemble in tow from a classic live album he released that same year.  Entitled The Turning Point, this album is an amazing blend of acoustic blues featuring harmonica by Mayall, acoustic guitar by Jon Mark, and sax & flute work by Johnny Almond.  The song performed on Music Scene is entitled “The Laws Must Change”, and it resonates (“resin-ates?”) once again today because of the current drive to legalize marijuana in more state legislatures.
  • Other Artists featured on the disc: James Brown, Dusty Springfield, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Diamond, Gordon Lightfoot, Lee Michaels, The Everly Brothers, Zager & Evans, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Three Dog Night, The Cowsills, Moms Mabley, Bobby Sherman, Janis Joplin and Judy Collins---all proving that The Sixties were a bit of a landmine, so be careful as you excavate for worthwhile artifacts. 





Posted 7/26/19.....

Bryan Adams - Unplugged - recorded September 26, 1997 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC - part of MTV’s Unplugged series - released on DVD in 2002

  • Musicasaurus.com was never wild about Adams (really always likin’ Ryan rather than Bryan) but this DVD caught my attention, as sometimes “unplugged” situations reveal more nuances and artistic divergences compared to the standard “live” concert approaches of electrified + amplified.
  • Adams is aided here by some fluid backing from his band, and a couple of nontraditional touches including Irish pipes and some masterful Juilliard string players under the direction of conductor Michael Kamen.
  • When surfing through the song selection menu, opt for the unknown especially if an Adams’ radio hit has irked you in the past (whether that’s from the song’s construction, or the fact that it has been played to death)
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  
    • “Fits Ya Good” - the original studio version of this song is on Adams’ second album You Want It, You Got It (from 1981)...Here in the acoustic band setting, it is a beautifully moody, insinuating piece featuring Adam’s heartfelt, husky tone.
    • “18 Til I Die” - the song first popped up on Adams’ seventh album which was named for that tune, and released in 1996...In performance here, the song is an earnest plea to exhaust yourself in pursuit of living Life to the fullest, and it is augmented by a Juilliard string quartet, one of whom (a female violinist) has a very brief but outright sizzling solo turn...Quite good stuff.
    • There are more treats here, but the above two selections almost make the purchase worthwhile on their shoulders alone.





Posted 7/12/20.....

Musicasaurus.com was trolling for new concert DVD purchases when Celebration at Big Sur popped up on my computer screen--lo and behold, finally, here was a DVD of the September 13 & 14, 1969 folk festival at Big Sur, California.  I had heard about this particular “gathering of the tribes” and that it had occurred just one month after the newly minted Woodstock generation was born on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York.  But I hadn’t been aware that the film of this festival had finally seen a DVD release in 2011, forty-two years after the event...

Big Sur is a pretty, pristine location where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean on California’s central coast, and from 1964 through 1971, the Big Sur Folk Festival was held there on the grounds of the Esalen Institute.  The institute is a non-profit organization that espouses humanistic alternative education via teachings and workshop settings, and it promotes spiritual growth, psychology, environmental stewardship, mediation, organic food--you know, all of the things that the late-‘60s hippies should have embraced, without the detours to the brown acid and the EZ widers.

The 1969 Celebration at Big Sur is a great snapshot of Sixties Youth and Change:

  • Featured artists included Joan Baez (a Big Sur festival regular who coaxed more pop & rock acts onto the bill as the ‘60s progressed), CSNY, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful, gospel act Dorothy Combs Morrison and the Combs Sisters, singer-activist (and Joan Baez’s sister) Mimi Farina, and more...
  • This DVD includes one of the earliest filmed appearances of Joni Mitchell and also of Neil Young (the latter appearing here with CS&N).  Neil had also played with CSN at Woodstock, but reportedly had refused to be filmed as part of that festival appearance
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Favorite Couple of Tracks:
    • “4 + 20”.....A solo acoustic number by Stephen Stills, and it lives up to expectations for anyone who treasured that 2-minute song from CSNY’s 1970 album Déjà vu.
    • “Get Together”.....A song originally written by Jesse Colin Young and performed by his band The Youngbloods, here it is exquisitely covered in a loose and free-spirited rendition by Joni Mitchell, backed up in harmonious fashion by David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and John Sebastian...The sound quality is a bit lacking, but the enthusiasm of the players (and the decent harmonies) nudge this past a mere nostalgia trip.





Posted 6/28/20.....

Tom Dowd & The Language of Music...released in 2004.

Musicasaurus.com is still missing Gregg Allman, who passed away just a little over three years ago.  Although one can take some solace in knowing he’s with up there above the blue sky with his brother Duane, it’s still no consolation that down here on Mother Earth we’re without that blues-soaked growl and that whirr of the Hammond B-3…

Thinking of Allman prompted me to look into my DVD collection for a specific documentary that was released by Palm Pictures, an independent film and music company started up in 1998 by Island Records company founder Chris Blackwell.  Tom Dowd & The Language of Music is a 90-minute documentary released on DVD in 2004, after premiering the year before at the Sundance Film Festival and being showcased later that same year at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The first time I ever encountered the name Tom Dowd was from the liner notes of the Allmans Brothers’ second album Idlewild South (1970).  Dowd produced this record as well as the band’s subsequent release At Fillmore East, which to this day still spine-tingles listeners with its live-on-stage capture of a young, hungry band—all of ‘em just in their twenties—at the absolute peak of their powers.

I will let you uncover other revelations as you immerse yourself in this film, but here a few tantalizing bits to send you on your way to full discovery:

  • Before his recording career, the tech-savvy-for-the-times Dowd was a physics whiz who late in his teens worked on the Manhattan Project—the under-the-cloak development of the atomic bomb.
  • Dowd is renowned as an innovator in the field of multi-track tape recording.  While working at Atlantic Records (starting there in the 1950s), he convinced the label to move away from acetate disc recording to using tape instead—and thus he made some of the very first commercial stereo recordings, having designed and then built Atlantic’s first stereo and eight-track consoles.
  • He also happened to be the one who brought Duane Allman and Eric Clapton together for the latter’s landmark double album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (released under the band name Derek and the Dominos).
  • Along his path of producing and engineering, Dowd was the man behind John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Bobby Darin’s “Mack The Knife” and many more.






Posted 6/14/20.....

Classic Albums:  The Band (The Band) - Isis Productions / Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

  • Classic Albums is an ongoing series of documentaries (most of them 50 minutes in length) that dissect one particular landmark album of an artist or group, specifically in terms of production and recording.
  • Series episodes have been aired on television channels here and abroad (including the BBC, and VH1 and VH1 Classic), beginning with Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms in May of 1989.  The series is also available on DVD.
  • Classic Albums:  The Band pores over the production process of this group’s second album, the eponymous release that came out in 1969.  This is the album that contained “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Up On Cripple Creek”, “Rag Mama Rag”, “Across The Great Divide”, and more.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s favorite moments:  
    • Any of the interviews with Levon Helm, whose smile is wider than the barn door of his Midnight Ramble sessions at his Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York (incidentally, the rambles may still be continuing to this day, even without Levon; for more information, go to http://www.levonhelm.com/midnight_ramble.htm)
    • Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson are also interviewed about the creation of the album and its various songs.  The interviews were done around 1997, eleven years after the passing of Band keyboardist/occasional drummer Richard Manuel, whose heavenly heart & soul are propped up, I’m sure, by the endearing comments of his Band mates.
    • The album’s producer John Simon also weighs in, as does Eric Clapton and George Harrison (the latter two in terms of how important this particular record and group were to them at the time of this classic album’s release).
  • This is likely one of the better “behind the scenes” accounts of any band at a pivotal crossroads, and in this case, the viewer is easily led to reflect upon what a rich slice of Americana music was born back then in ’69.  The Band is a mature rock record with music mightily influenced by country, R & B, blues, folk, gospel and more, full of historical themes and incredible imagery—five distinct musical talents and storytellers, weaving as one.





Posted 5/31/20.....

Here’s a brief look at an early 1970s “master and commander” who was steeped in tradition and yet wooed & wowed the youth market during that era of unparalleled musical experimentation brewing in San Francisco...

Commander Cody - Blues-Rock Legends Vol. I (part of the Rockpalast series of concert DVDs recorded for German television, starting in 1974) - This particular performance was recorded on July 1, 1980.

  • George Frayne, alias Commander Cody, helmed a unit called Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen (1967-1976), and their recordings and live shows were a mix of heritage covers (tributes to earlier styles of music) and novelty hits.
  • Lost In The Ozone (1971) was the group’s recording debut, and with songs like “Seeds and Stems (Again),” the band immediately appealed to a growing legion of youths hungering for wildly different musical experiences.  The band--based in San Francisco after a career start in Ann Arbor, Michigan--mixed Western swing, jump blues, boogie-woogie and rock ‘n’ roll into a unique and spirited blend, and their concerts were marathon-length events.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  
    • “Hot Rod Lincoln”, the band’s cover of a 1955 ode to these souped-up, big engine roadsters.  Before the song speeds down its own musical highway, Commander Cody rattles off the famous spoken-word intro: "My Pappy said, ‘Son, you're going to drive me to drinkin' if you don't stop drivin' that hot rod Lincoln.’"
  • Also on the DVD: 
    • “It Should Have Been Me” (originally performed by Ray Charles in 1954).
    • “Beat Me Daddy 8 To The Bar” (first recorded by the Will Bradley Orchestra in 1940).
    • “Rocket 88” (some say that this was the first real rock ‘n’ roll song; it was written and first performed by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats in 1951).
    • “Riot In Cell Block No. 9” (written by legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller in 1954, this was first a hit by an R & B group called The Robins--and later covered by groups including the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys, and Johnny Winter).





Posted 5/17/20.....

Here’s a mixed bag of concert DVDs--one is from a North Carolina band whose style is a mash-up of influences.....the second is by a classic rock lygynd--er, legend.....and the last one features Finnish and Swedish jazz fusion guitarists.  If one doesn’t fulfill, you know another probably will...

The three DVDs:


  1. The Avett Brothers - Live, Volume 3 - recorded on August 8, 2009 at Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte, NC
    • The band:  Two brothers front this North Carolina band that incorporates a wide number of influences into their music--folk, bluegrass, country, pop, alternative, and more.
    • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  A tossup between “I and Love and You” (reminiscent--a little, at least--of The Band) and “Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise”.
  2. Lynyrd Skynyrd - A double feature DVD including Freebird: The Movie and Tribute Tour 
    • FreeBird: The Movie is part documentary and part concert film, originally released in 1996.  Most of the live footage emanates from a festival performance in England in 1976, after Skynyrd had added guitarist Steve Gaines to the band.
    • Tribute Tour is a documentary about Skynyrd post-plane crash, and their decision ten years after that band-ending calamity to do a Tribute Tour--a reemergence that led to resurgence).
    • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track from Freebird: The Movie:  Hands down, it has to be “That Smell”.  The band is crisp, tight and focused, and the guitar work by Steve Gaines and Gary Rossington is enough to make even non-smokers grab a lighter.  The song’s performance was shot in black & white which is neither a distraction or a detraction, but it also (unfortunately) has less-than-stellar sound reproduction.  Still, it’s a powerhouse performance.
  3. Jukka Tolonen and Coste Apetrea - Scandinavian Guitars - recorded February 19, 1982 at Holbaek Power Plant
    • The artists:  Jukka Tolonen is a Finnish jazz-rock guitarist of great renown in his native country, and he’s been on that music scene since the early 1970s.  While pulling together musicians for his five-man band in 1977, Tolonen welcomed in the Swedish fusion guitarist Coste Apetrea, and in 1982 the two paired up for a special acoustic evening concert which was videotaped for future sale.
    • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  There are only four tracks on this 35-minute DVD, and all of them swing in this lovely acoustic-only, all-instrumental setting.  While one handles rhythm flourishes the other is tearing off fleet-fingered leads, and the style is a melting pot of influences including classical, jazz, Gypsy, and more.  Not for all tastes, but quite intriguing due to the level of artistry on display.





Posted 5/3/20.....

SHORT TAKES.....A couple of concert DVDs and recommended tracks...


1. GUSTER.....from Guster On Ice / Live From Portland Maine.....released in 2004.

  • The original three members of Guster formed as freshmen at Tufts University in Boston in 1991.....This is a band that very capably blends folk & pop elements in quite catchy, intelligent tunes that are far from the usual radio pablum.  Fourth member and multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia joined the band in 2003, which is when this live CD/DVD set was recorded.
  • Guster’s signature sound (on a number of their releases and tours) featured guitars, keyboards, bongos and other hand percussion—no drum set in sight.  Through relentless college circuit touring throughout the 1990s, the band built up a loyal following (in evidence on this DVD, with occasional shots of rapt, rabid audience members mouthing the words to all of the songs).
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  “Fa Fa”.....“Happier” (with standout contrapuntal lead vocals from Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner).....and “Demons”.

2. R.E.M......from Perfect Square.....released in 2003.

  • R.E.M formed in 1980 in Athens, Georgia and their DIY approach in their early years—relentless touring; cryptic, mumbled vocals from Michael Stipe; and their solid support of college radio and other up-and-coming bands—was the perfect prescription for “from the ground up” credibility and audience building.
  • Their 1995 tour in support of their album Monster was a huge success, as they had taken a number of years off the road before that time, though were pumping out albums in the interim.  I remember from my amphitheatre days in Pittsburgh that their June 10, 1995 Star Lake concert was a sellout, aided by a very smart move on their part—putting the concert on sale in January of that year, to avoid the usual March-April-May pile-up of many other amphitheatre shows’ on-sale dates.  That logjam of on-sales only served to cannibalize the entertainment dollars in the market, and led to more than one concert limping out of the gate.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:  “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”.....“The Great Beyond”.....“Orange Crush”.....“Losing My Religion”.....“It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.





Posted 4/19/20.....


Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks from Three DVDs recently unearthed from the archives…

1. The Jeff Beck Group’s “Situation”.....From the DVD The Jeff Beck Group / Got The Feeling...This is Beck circa ’71-’72, when his group featured Bobby Tench on vocals (even though the DVD cover clearly shows Rod Stewart, who by this time had left the band).  This unit produced two albums from this era, Rough And Ready and The Jeff Beck Group....Though the sound quality is flat--i.e., this television appearance predates any real audio advances in this area--the performance is blistering with Beck on guitar, Max Middleton on keyboards, and Cozy Powell on drums.

2. X’s “The New World”.....From the DVD X: Live in Los Angeles...This concert by this American punk-and-folk rock band was recorded in their hometown of L.A. in 2004 as a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of their debut album Los Angeles.  The stand-out song of the moment is “The New World” which originally came from their 1983 album--the band’s fourth--More Fun In The New World, produced by ex-Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

3. Counting Crows’ “Anna Begins”.....From the DVD August And Everything After / Live At Town Hall...This 2011 DVD is the first official “live in concert” video release by the group, and it captures an innovative and accomplished rock band in its musical prime, aided immeasurably by the walking, stalking, ruminating, words-tumbling-forth style of lead singer Adam Duritz.  The performance consists of all songs, front-to-back, from their first album August And Everything After released in 1993...“Anna Begins” beautifully unfolds; it is like Theatre of the Mind--more precisely, a revealing and most melodious excursion into Duritz’s mind.





Posted 4/5/20.....

America:  A Tribute To Heroes (aired on television and the internet on September 21, 2001, and released on DVD & CD on December 4th of that year)

  • Low-key, somber, and impactful...This is the benefit concert that aired ten days after 9/11 on over 35 major network & cable systems simultaneously across the USA.
  • Structured as a telethon, the program featured musical performances with celebrity spoken-word interludes; over $200 million was raised during the broadcast for the United Way’s September 11th Telethon Fund.
  • The musical performance settings:  Studios in Los Angeles, New York City and London.  No applause, no pomp & circumstance; just candles and shadows as a backdrop to the messaging and the music.
  • It may be sacrilegious to say that some of the performances were only modestly moving, if at all, but that’s a matter of personal taste, of course; all were well intentioned and from the heart but with the passage of time, only some key performances still resonate powerfully...
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:
    • Bruce Springsteen’s “My City Of Ruin”.....Springsteen opened the show with this song that hadn’t yet appeared in recorded form.  Originally written about Asbury Park, the song would ultimately appear on the artist’s album The Rising, released in 2002.  Here, it’s a powerful, inspiring treatment with Springsteen on acoustic guitar & harmonica, backed only by seven singers (including Patti Scialfa and Steven Van Zandt) who by the end are all linking hands as the chorus hits its peak with the repeated refrain “C’mon, rise up”...
    • Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down”.....In hindsight, it’s unusual to see Petty and his longtime band members not fully rocking out with their trademark intensity, but the group here adeptly balances pure power with reverence and even some slight restraint.  The occasion also beautifully lays an elevated spin on Petty’s words about standing ground and not backing down.  There are lovely guitar accents by the amazing Mike Campbell, and the song ends with a subtle, nonverbal salute by Petty with the last chord struck--he arcs his guitar upward in a final note of determination and a silent plea for perseverance.
    • Neil Young’s “Imagine”.....Majestic in every way...First of all, how damn appropriate that Neil Young, a truly trailblazing & idiosyncratic musical legend (and socially conscious force in the world, via Farm Aid) would do this particular song.  It’s beautifully rendered, with Young at the piano and no-syrup strings in the background that heighten the simple & sweet aspirations of the tune.  Young also has two “moments” during the song, and who the hell knows what was rolling around his head, but I’d like to conjecture here: 1) The first moment comes when he sings the line “No religion, too” and turns quite suddenly to look directly into the camera, but just for a second--was this a deep-set editorial comment?  Perhaps...And 2) The second moment comes at the very end of the song, after the closing lines “I hope someday you’ll join us / And the world will live as one”.  Young closes his eyes and his head rolls back for just a few seconds, eyes still closed, before he looks straight ahead again and then down--maybe it was a reflective nod to Lennon, or a prayer-like missive to The Great Beyond.
  • Honorable Mentions:  Dave Matthews’s solo-acoustic “Everyday” and Eddie Vedder’s “Long Road.”





Posted 3/22/20.....

Stevie Wonder’s Live At Last (released in 2008)

  • Finally...47 years after his first song was released--the regional Detroit single "I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues"--Stevie Wonder was finally captured in full live performance for a DVD.
  • The DVD is a mix of two evenings’ performances at the O2 Arena in London on September 30 and October 1, 2008.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Most Recommended Track: “All I Do”, a song from 1980 originally on Wonder’s 19th album Hotter Than July, is replicated here in a stunning version of sleek musicianship and that wonder of a voice.
  • Also Kinda Cool: Though the song is abbreviated as part of a medley, “Isn’t She Lovely” is especially heartwarming.  Wonder’s daughter Aisha Morris—one of the tour’s back-up singers—was 32 years old at the time of this filming, and she had made quite the initial splash in the music business some 31 years before:  In 1976 Wonder had captured her beautiful baby squeals during a tub time washing, and then planted them in the original recording of this tune that ended up on his Songs In The Key Of Life album. 
  • Other Songs On The DVD:  “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”.....“Higher Ground”.....“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”.....“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”.....“Superstition”.....“Living For The City”.....“Sir Duke”.....“My Cherie Amour” and more.





Posted 3/8/20.....

Bryan Adams / Unplugged - recorded September 26, 1997 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC (part of MTV’s Unplugged series) - released on DVD in 2002

  • Musicasaurus.com was never wild about Adams (really always likin’ Ryan rather than Bryan) but this DVD caught my attention, as sometimes “unplugged” situations reveal more nuances and artistic divergences compared to the standard “live” concert approaches of electrified + amplified.
  • Adams is aided here by some fluid backing from his band, and a couple of nontraditional touches including Irish pipes and some masterful Juilliard string players under the direction of conductor Michael Kamen.
  • When surfing through the song selection menu, opt for the unknown especially if an Adams’ radio hit has irked you in the past (whether that’s from the song’s construction, or the fact that it has been played to death)
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks: 
    • “Fits Ya Good” - the original studio version of this song is on Adams’ second album You Want It, You Got It (from 1981)...Here in the acoustic band setting, it is a beautifully moody, insinuating piece featuring Adam’s heartfelt, husky tone...
    • “18 Til I Die” - the song first popped up on Adams’ seventh album which was named for that tune, and released in 1996...In performance here, the song is an earnest plea to exhaust yourself in pursuit of living Life to the fullest, and it is augmented by a Juilliard string quartet, one of whom (a female violinist) has a very brief but outright sizzling solo turn...Quite good stuff.

There are more treats here, but the above two selections almost make the purchase worthwhile on their shoulders alone.





Posted 2/23/20.....

Steely Dan:  Aja (released in 2006)

  • This DVD is the story behind Steely Dan’s recording of their classic album Aja, and is part of a series of such exhumations released to select television entities (such as VH1) and to DVD under the series umbrella “Classic Albums”.  Other artists/albums that have had this treatment include Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Paul Simon’s Graceland, U2’s The Joshua Tree, The Who’s Who’s Next, and more...
  • Steely Dan started their recording career in 1972, though the dynamic duo behind the group--Donald Fagen & Walter Becker--met at Bard College in 1967 and discovered immediately a need to be joined at their hipness.
  • In 1977 they were already five albums deep into their quest to create cerebral yet stirring rock-meets-jazz, and they reached the pinnacle with the release of their sixth album Aja.
  • We fans of Dan lapped this album up to make it the band’s best-selling effort to date, and all of us marveled over its crystal-clear sound and flawlessly layered songs.  With the advent of the compact disc in the early 1980s Aja was much in demand once again, as this new CD technology seemed tailor-made to showcase this band’s musically sophisticated career milestone.
  • Warning: If you are NOT a fan of Dan, then beware--this DVD could be the slightest bit dry.  However, for the faithful, it is an incisive look at the meticulousness (nay, obsession) of Fagen & Becker to get down on master tape what they were hearing in their whizzing, whirring noggins.
  • Some of the best scenes are the low-key duo in the studio, sitting before the mixing board and placidly playing with the “slide knobs”, letting us hear the individual and in-tandem aural nuts & bolts that went into the final layered beast.
  • Key recording studio personnel such as producer Gary Katz and engineer Roger Nichols, and contributing musicians such as guitarists Larry Carlton and Dean Parks, and vocalist Michael McDonald, are interviewed as well.
  • That’s it for now...I’m going to drink my big Black Cow and get out of here.





Posted 2/9/20.....

Abstract Logix Live!  The New Universe Music Festival (released in 2001)

  • Musicasaurus.com was surfing through Amazon and spied this DVD, and spurred on by the name “John McLaughlin”, plopped this live music festival DVD into the shopping cart...
  • McLaughlin was, eons ago, critically acclaimed and worshipped by the jazz-rock fusion cognoscenti as part of the band he founded in 1971, Mahavishnu Orchestra.  This early-‘70s pioneering unit also featured Billy Cobham (drums), Jan Hammer (keyboards), and Jerry Goodman (violin).
  • Abstract Logix is a Cary, North Carolina-based record label that deals with and dishes out progressive, usually mind-blowing music by artists that have jetted way past the mainstream to live in the fusion jet stream...
  • The record label formed in 2003, and seven years later originated & produced a two-day fusion fest consisting of Abstract Logix recording artists including John McLaughlin.  The Abstract Logix website advertised the 11/20/10 and 11/21/10 Raleigh, NC festival this way:  “The lineup for the New Universe Music Festival is a music lovers’ dream, boasting a roster of artists who handily defy genre categorization in favor if unbridled expression – all of whom seamlessly mingle compositional ingenuity and improvisational grace and fervor.”
  • So, this is not music for the meek (even if they do inherit the Earth).  It is by and large a very challenging viewing, but watchers are rewarded with performances that stretch and strive for new heights of creative expansion.
  • The festival’s line-up / the DVD performers:  John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension featuring Zakir Hussain, The Jimmy Herring Band, Wayne Krantz, Lenny White’s Anomaly featuring Jimmy Herring, Ranjit Barot, Alex Machacek, and Human Element.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Track:  “Within You, Without You”, performed by the Jimmy Herring Band.
    • Herring has toured and/or recorded with a number of prominent rock/jam/fusion outfits including Aquarium Rescue Unit (as a founding member), the Allman Brothers Band, the Derek Trucks Band, The Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Widespread Panic.
  • This Beatles’ tune in the hands of Herring features much derring-do.  It’s an 8-minute-plus instrumental, starting out true to the spirit of the original then shredding conceptions as it shifts into a soaring, cosmic warp-speed workout before returning to the thematic opening.  Herring is backed here by three others, on drums, bass and keyboard, but he’s the architect and the fleet-fingered driver of the piece.





Posted 1/26/20.....

Two concert DVDs that have at least a track each that are worth the price of admission to your music DVD collection:

Electric Light Orchestra:  Zoom Tour Live (released in 2001)

  • Perhaps call this one “Electric Even-Lighter Orchestra”, because the personnel consists of only two original band members from this 1970s classic rock hit machine--group founder Jeff Lynne and keyboardist Richard Tandy.
  • The concert was recorded in 2001 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, as a sneak preview program for PBS in advance of the band’s planned Zoom tour.  Once the tour went on sale, however, ticket sales stiffed and the tour was cancelled.  The program ended up as a VHS and DVD release instead.  (It was quite a different story, FYI, in August of 2019 when Jeff Lynne's ELO performed at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena and this hockey arena-turned-concert venue for the evening was almost filled--and local area critics were fairly ecstatic.  Beaver County's The Times' Scott Tady reported that "the 12-member ensemble, including two support vocalists, two cellists and a violin player, didn’t show any signs of tour fatigue, delivering a musically accomplished, crowd-pleasing show."  And the Post-Gazette's Scott Mervis said in his post-show review "If they were doing the exact same show again tonight, I would drop everything to be there.")
  • The audio and editing on this disc of the 2001 performance are first-rate.  The full ELO sound is here, and Lynne’s voice is strong and commanding.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s Recommended Tracks:  “Strange Magic” and “Telephone Line” are especially captivating.

Calexico:  Live from Austin, Texas (released in 2009)

  • This DVD is part of the on-going Live From Austin, Texas concert series featuring recorded performances that originally aired on PBS through the Austin City Limits television show.
  • Calexico is a Tucson-based indie band who traffic in Tex Mex, Latin, and sounds of the Southwest.  The performance recorded herein was the band’s actual Austin City Limits debut on September 13, 2006.
  • A preface to musicasaurus.com’s recommended track:  Back in September 2005, Calexico had teamed up with one-man-indie-band Sam Beam (stage name, Iron & Wine), and these two collaborators issued a joint EP (i.e., an Extended Play record, which is just short of an actual album) entitled In The Reins.  On this Live From Austin, Texas DVD, Iron & Wine (Sam plus his sister Sarah) join Calexico on stage for the lead-off track from their co-conspired EP.  The song is called “He Lay In The Reins”, and it’s a sweeping and majestic track, a tantalizing mix of alternative + folk + Tex Mex.





Posted 1/12/20.....

FILLMORE:  THE LAST DAYS.....(DVD released in 2009)

  • This single-disc DVD is a music documentary about the final shows at promoter Bill Graham’s famous Fillmore West venue in San Francisco.
  • The performances were recorded from June 30 through July 4, 1971 and showcase the acts that Graham put on stage through the years at this storied venue.
  • The film was released in 1972.  It ain’t no Last Waltz in terms of production values, but as a testament to the thriving music scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it’s a keeper.
  • The split-screen shots, a la Woodstock, add to the smile-inducing flashback effect of watching this now forty-seven year-old film.
  • Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:
    • “You Got Me Hummin’ ” by Cold Blood - The pint-sized lead singer for this rock and funk powerhouse of a band is Lydia Pense, and she growls and yowls a lot like her contemporary, Janis Joplin (who reportedly recommended the band to Graham for eventual booking).  Cold Blood also features a sizzlin’ horn section, but it is Pense’s performance that raises temperatures, and almost the roof.
    •  “Uncle Sam’s Blues” by Hot Tuna - Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady anchor this blues-based outfit, and here violinist Papa John Creach gives the performance a saucy swing quotient as well.
    • “Fresh Air” by Quicksilver Messenger Service - This guitar-driven outfit says “happy trails” to the Fillmore by playing one of their signature tunes from their fourth album Just For Love, a more rock song-oriented record than the preceding Quicksilver releases that trafficked in more expansive music tinged with psychedelia, blues and jazz.
    • “White Bird” by It’s A Beautiful Day - An interesting curio...The performance is so-so, and it’s truncated and interrupted by some of Graham’s musings about the Flower Power generation, but it may be the only decent footage of this genre-blending San Francisco band that never quite ascended to widespread reverence and success like their San Francisco peers.
    • “Incident At Neshabur” and “In A Silent Way” - Santana - A percolating, percussion-driven jam that ebbs and flows, “Incident At Neshabur” is a song from the band’s classic 1970 album Abraxas.  This is followed by a jazz-rock spin on Miles Davis’ classic composition “In A Silent Way”, and in a way, it foretells the future directions of Carlos Santana in various side projects and exploits to come...
  • Other Artists featured on the disc:  Lamb, Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia with The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Grateful Dead, and The Elvin Bishop Group.





Posted 12/29/19.....

A COUPLE OF CONCERT DVD RELEASES BY FEMALE ARTISTS.....Here are two compelling women singer/songwriters in live performance...and musicasaurus' favorite track from each of their DVDs.

JEWEL.....from Live At Humphrey’s By The Bay.....released in 2002.

  • Originally from Alaska, Jewel started singing at an early age and went through stretches of “living out of a van” in California in order to break into the music business.  Once she signed with Atlantic Records, it took a year or more for her debut album—1995’s Pieces of You—to truly dent the public consciousness to a large degree. 
  • On this 2002 DVD, Jewel—road tested and dues certainly paid—gives a captivating performance that exudes confidence and poise, and her vocal skills are flat-out amazing.
  • Standout track:  “Who Will Save Your Soul” (a song that originally appeared on Jewel’s debut record, and the first to “break wide” with the public).....Almost 7 minutes in length, this is an odyssey of build-and-release, full of sensuality.  Jewel eases in and out, and dips and soars, through the vocal registers; near the end of the song there is a moment of one longheld note that induces astonishment and triggers an almost jaw-dropping reaction (happened to me, at least).  Heavy praise, I know—but it is one of those “concert moments” that we live for...

TORI AMOS.....from Welcome to Sunny Florida.....released in 2003.

  • Tori Amos, who started on piano at the age of four, has carved out a niche as a unique and talented artist who’s won over alternative fans as well as ‘70s singer-songwriter aficionados.  Vocally a bit similar to Kate Bush, she has reestablished the piano as a rock ‘n’ roll instrument (if ever it was in doubt).
  • This concert was filmed at the then-named Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida.  It is Tori on keyboards (Wurlitzer and Rhodes) with just two other musicians: Jon Evans on bass and Matt Chamberlain on drums.
  • Standout track:  “Cornflake Girl” (a song originally on 1994’s Under The Pink album).....The song takes a few minutes to actually commence.  After a couple of minutes of Amos talking to the audience, the song kicks off with a sinewy drum beat, bass, and then that piano...This is a superior performance captured in great “live” sound, and this three-piece unit rocks.  Amos has great command of her key instruments—her voice and her fingers.  The piano solos in this funky, rhythmic six-minute spectacle are intense, as Amos stands up from the piano bench and ignites the ivories.  Intoxicating...Seek it out...Enjoy!





Posted 12/15/19.....

(Next posting:  Sunday evening, December 29, 2019)

A MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young.....(DVD released in 2011)

A friend alerted me to this DVD release that features 17 performances of Neil Young material and the artist line-up is eclectic and all over the map—true to the spirit of Mr. Young himself.  The roster includes Dave Matthews, Keith Urban, John Fogerty, Ozomatli, CSN, Lady Antebellum, Wilco, Ben Harper, Dierks Bentley, Elvis Costello, Josh Groban, and many others.

The MusiCares organization was first established in 1989 by the Recording Academy to benefit ailing and/or financially distressed musicians, and in 2010 boasted the largest number of clients served in its history—more than 2,200 members of the music industry had received needed funds via a grand total of more than $2.5 million in direct financial assistance.

Each year, the organization honors an individual in the business who, as the DVD liner notes say, “has made important contributions to the world of music and has demonstrated extraordinary humanitarian and philanthropic efforts.”

On the evening of January 29, 2010, Neil Young was feted at the MusiCares gala event in Los Angeles...One overarching comment here: Young is an amazing talent, and though I enjoyed the performances on this disc from his peer admirers, there’s simply nothing like taking journeys through the past with the man himself.

Musicasaurus.com’s recommended tracks:

1. “The Needle & The Damage Done”by Dave Matthews- It’s Dave unadorned, just solo acoustic (befitting the song).

2. “Ohio” by Ben Harper - Kind of a reinvention here by Harper...He has a slide guitar on his lap and he’s “zoned” into a passionate rendering with just three female vocalists as accompanists.   

3. “Helpless” by Elton John & Leon Russell - Perhaps the best of the lot...Elton and Leon are in fine form, facing each other, fingers flying over their ivories.  Guesting on the choruses are Sheryl Crow and Neko Case.

Musicasaurus.com’s honorable mentions, in several categories:

1. Quirky, Maybe Even Cool:  “Harvest Moon” by Josh Groban - Groban is playing piano, and the back-up musicians are perfectly in synch with all the right, light touches, but...but...it’s just a bit too much like a TV variety showkind of performance.  Groban does have the pipes, though.

2. Nice Try, but No Cigar:  “Rockin’ In The Free World” by Keith Urban and John Fogerty - Not that this is bad or embarrassing, there’s just not a real lift-off—and when you’ve seen Neil Young do this, or even Pearl Jam, it’s at a whole different level.

3. Best Dressed (couldn’t leave out this award; it’s L.A.):  Norah Jones, sleek and stunning in a black dress, sings “Tell Me Why” and it’s a near-perfect cover with that voice…Jones is accompanied by Sasha Dobson, a bandmate from one of her musical collaborations called Puss n Boots. 





Posted 12/1/19.....

Steve Hunter – Tone Poems Live...(DVD released in September 2014)





Posted 11/17/19.....

Jethro Tull – Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970... (released in 2004 by Eagle Vision).