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.

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Posted 8/7/22....

(Next post: Sunday, August 21, 2022)

FILLMORE:  THE LAST DAYS

THE FILM WAS RELEASED 50 YEARS AGO IN 1972.  THE RELEASE ON DVD CAME 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.

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 fifty-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-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 is 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 Franciscan 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 that Santana puts on Miles Davis’ classic composition “In A Silent Way,” and in a way, it foretells the future directions of Carlos Santana in his 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.

 

 

 

 

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Posted 7/24/22....

Rottentomatoes.com said this about the 2014 documentary Mistaken for Strangers which centers on siblings Matt Berninger of the band the National and his brother Tom Berninger: A suitably complicated look at fraternal bonds, Mistaken for Strangers offers more depth and insight than the usual tour documentary.

92% TOMATOMETER ... 85% AUDIENCE SCORE.

AND THE CRITICS SAID:

* Ann Hornaday of Washington Post (4/4/14): “The best thing about Mistaken for Strangers, a new documentary about the band the National, is that you don't have to be a fan to enjoy it.”

* Johnathan Romney of Film Comment (4/28/14): “After years of being wholly or partly bamboozled by documentaries that aren’t 100 percent bona fide, it may no longer be of much critical value to use terms like “mock doc”—but it’s clear that at the very least, Mistaken for Strangers turned at some point in its making into a very playful masquerade.”

* Sheri Linden of Los Angeles Times (4/3/14): “When amateur filmmaker Tom Berninger’s rock-star brother Matt, frontman for Brooklyn quintet the National, invited him to be a roadie on his band’s biggest tour, Tom had never even been on a tour bus.  His lack of experience did not serve him well during his initiation into the business, but a funny thing happened on the way to the concert hall: Tom turned defeat into a documentary that’s insightful, sweet and often hilarious.” 

Susan Wloszczyna of rogerebert.com (3/28/14): “...a gently amusing and ultimately poignant Can and Not Able tale, about a rising rock star and his younger slacker sibling as they try to lessen the gulf between them created by one's great success and the other's countless failings.”

* Leslie Felperin of Guardian (6/26/14): “Charitably hired by Matt to work as a roadie, the feckless Tom struggles to do the simplest things he's paid to, like fetch towels and make sure the guest list gets to the venue's front door.  Instead, he gets drunk, fails to show up on time, and noodles about with his camera compiling footage for this doc, much to the annoyance of his brother, the band and the management.  The result is an amusing, and occasionally touching meditation on fame, sibling rivalry and ambition, with a sweet payoff.” 

 

 

 

 

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Posted 7/10/22.....

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

 

 

 

 

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Posted 6/26/22....

Musicasaurus is taking the day off here for the 6/26/22 post 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.”

 

 

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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.” 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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. 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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Posted 4/3/22.....

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

 

 

 

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Posted 3/20/22.....

TOM DOWD AND THE LANGUAGE OF MUSIC

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.’

 

 

 

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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).

 

 

 

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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.

NOTE THAT THE DVD IS NOT AT THIS POINT READILY AVAILABLE, SO ONE MAY WANT TO SCOUR YOUTUBE TO FIND AND VIEW!

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.

 

 

 

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Posted 2/6/22.....

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

 

 

 

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Posted 1/23/22.....

SING ME BACK HOME: THE MUSIC OF MERLE HAGGARD

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/

 

 

 

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Posted 1/9/22.....

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

 

 

 

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Posted 12/26/21.....

 

12/26/21 IS A HOLIDAY BREAK FOR THIS DANCING WITH MR. D…VD SECTION OF THE WEBSITE...

BUT NOTE THAT THERE ARE NEW POSTS IN THE A DAY IN THE LIFE AND BUILDING A MIXTERY SECTIONS OF THIS WEBSITE AS OF DECEMBER 26TH!!!

 

 

 

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Posted 12/12/21.....

SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY

WHAT THE DOCUMENTARY IS ABOUT:  

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.”

WHAT OTHER REVIEWERS HAVE SAID:

***  “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

 

 

 

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Posted 11/28/21.....

  

A TRIO OF PRINCELY PERFORMANCES ON DVD…

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.

 

 

 

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Posted 11/14/21.....

ALL THINGS MUST PASS: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOWER RECORDS (2015 documentary)

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

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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)

2.) SUZANNE VEGA / LIVE AT MONTREUX 2004

 

 

 

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Posted 9/5/21.....

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

 

 

 

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Posted 8/22/21.....

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

THE CORRS / UNPLUGGED

MY MORNING JACKET / OKONOKOS

RAY CHARLES / O-GENIO: LIVE IN BRAZIL, 1963

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

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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…

Enjoy.

 

 

 

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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. 

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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”).

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

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Posted 3/21/21.....

A COUPLE O’ MICKS FOR YA…

  

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.  

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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:

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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…

Enjoy.

 

 

 

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Posted 1/10/21.....

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

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