Patti Smith, Slash lead DVD concerts
Owls Head — Patti Smith: Live at Montreux 2005 (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, 83 min.). Smith has been making groundbreaking music since before her 1975 debut album, “Horses,” one of my all-time favorites. It is great to finally have her in a live performance on DVD. The band, in addition to long-time collaborators Lenny Kaye on guitar (as well as co-songwriter), Tony Shanahan on bass and Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, includes guitarist Tom Verlaine, formerly of Television, a band that broke in New York City’s underground rock scene about the same time as Smith’s Patti Smith Group. Kaye and Daugherty were original members of the Patti Smith Group.
There are 12 performances here, covering all aspects of Smith’s career, opening with the reggae beat of “Redondo Beach.” Smith takes up guitar herself for “Beneath the Southern Cross,” with Verlaine’s guitar adding excellent atmosphere. Verlaine also solos nicely on an extended “Dancing Barefoot,” easily one of the highlights of the show. Very nice piano opens “Free Money,” before the song turns heavy after the first verse; and Smith plays distorted guitar on an intense “25th Floor.” Another highlight is her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lie a Rolling Stone” -- I dare you not to sing along -- and then she dedicates “Seven Ways of Going” to Ornette Coleman and plays clarinet on the song. From off the beaten track to her biggest hit, “Because the Night,” co-written with Bruce Springsteen. The penultimate song is a mash-up of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” with Smith on harmonica, and her own “Momento Mori,” with a guitar-led bit that recalls San Francisco flower power of the Sixties. Grade: A
Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators: 2011/2012 (Eagle Vision, 2 DVDs and 2 CDs, import). There is no argument that Slash is one of the best rock guitarists around, as evidenced by his work with Guns N’ Roses and subsequent group and solo efforts. He is also a terrific rock songwriter. This hardbound import set is the one to get, as it features the full, 21-song July 24, 2011 concert in Slash’s hometown of Stoke, England on DVD, plus a 14-song live CD distilled from that concert, the full “Apocalyptic Love” CD and a 20-song May 22, 2015 New York City concert on DVD. (Eagle Vision has released in this country a package with two CDs containing the full Stoke concert and a DVD with five performances only.
Turning to the Stoke concert, it is head-banging hard rock at its finest. By the second song, “Nightrain,” the crowd is already singing along. Of course, “Nightrain” is one of six Guns N’ Roses songs sprinkled throughout the show. The others are “Rocket Queen” (with an extended Slash solo), “Civil War” (softer, with lots of wah wah), “Patience,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Mr. Brownstone” and “Paradise City.” Kennedy is an excellent rock singer, with a tenor range of four octaves. One of his early bands was Mayfield Four and he now splits his time between Alter Bridge and working with Slash. He also rehearsed for an unrealized Led Zeppelin project with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham in 2008. One of the highlight Slash/Kennedy collaborations is “Back from Cali.” Guitarist Bobby Schneck sings lead on “Doctor Alibi.” The rhythm section is Todd Kerns on bass and Brent Fitz on drums.
For the NYC concert, which was originally broadcast live via Livestream, Schneck is replaced by guitarist Frank Sidoris. Much of the song selection is the same, but band performs “One Last Thrill,” “Standing in the Sun,” “You’re a Lie,” “Halo” and the title track from “Apocalyptic Love.” The 60-page hardcover books is mostly close-up photos from the two shows. Grade: A
Lady Antebellum: Own the Night World Tour (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, 124 min.) The concert portion is 94 minutes, recorded in Little Rock. It includes the rock/country trio’s number one hits “I Run to You,” “We Owned the Night,” “American Honey,” the piano ballad “Just a Kiss,” “Our Kind of Love” and “Need You Now.” The three leads -- guitarist Dave Haywood and vocalists Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley -- enter on a lift part-way into the crowd and by the second song, “Stars Tonight,” the crowd is singing along already via the old divide the crowd into sections and prompt them to sing. Generally, I like my concert films to be nothing but music, once the performers take to the stage, but here there are several flashbacks between songs, including a 2007 “concert” at a Citgo station for the start of the deer-hunting season. (The band has been performing slightly more than six years.). In addition to the main 13-song concert, there are five bonus tracks, including “Black Water,” featuring Darius Rucker and Thompson Square. There also are two mini-features. Grade: A-
Peter Frampton: FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, 189 min.). Simply put, Frampton still has it. The first half of this 166-minute concert -- recorded at two February 2012 shows, one in Milwaukee and the other in New York City -- has a very happy Frampton recreating his 17 million-selling live album, “Frampton Comes Alive!” in its entirety. The second set contains songs from throughout his career, including many instrumentals. Highlights of set one includes his very nice guitar solo that opens “Lines on My Face” (he plays very expressive guitar throughout and then rocks out in the middle and at the end); “Show Me the Way,” which he explains had flopped as a single when it was released the year before his groundbreaking live album; “It’s a Plain Shave”; his solo trio of “Wind of Change,” the instrumental “Penny for Your Thoughts” and “All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)”; the band’s “Baby, I Love Your Ways”; the piano opening on “(I Wanna) Go to the Sun”; the cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”; and his hit, “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
The second set includes the instrumental “Float,” a funky “Boot It Up,” the banjo and guitar novelty “Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolelel,” an instrumental cover of Chris Cornell’s “Black Hole Sun,” and the closing cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” with a very nice vocal. There is a brief indulgence midway when his son, Julian, sings on “Road to the Sun,” which they co-wrote, and a cover of “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” A bonus feature looks at Frampton’s reunion with his beloved and long-lost Gibson Les Paul guitar, which he played on stage during the 2012 leg of the two-year tour. Grade: A
Various: 12/12/12, The Concert for Sandy Relief (Columbia, 2 CDs, 2:07:35). As live benefit efforts go, you cannot get a much more star-studded affair with some genuinely fine music. Mick Jagger refers to it on stage as the greatest collection of aging British rockers, and indeed, it is a collection of top British acts and bands associated with the New Jersey/New York area. The concert was performed at NYC’s Madison Square Garden to benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund and efforts to offset the misery created by Hurricane Sandy. Just about every track is a highlight, including a hilarious take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by Adam Sandler and Paul Shaffer, with completely new, storm- and non-storm-related lyrics (including a certain fumble in the New England-New York Thanksgiving Day football game).
For the aged Brits, there is Roger Waters on “Another Brick in the Atlantic Wall,” :Us and Them” and “Comfortably Numb” (with Eddie Vedder singing on “CN”); The Rolling Stones on “You Got Me Rocking” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”; The Who on “Who Are You,” Baba O’Riley” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”; Eric Clapton on “Got to Get Better in a Little While” and “Crossroads”; and Paul McCartney on “Helter Skelter.” Chris Martin of Coldplay represents the younger Brits on “Viva La Vida,” a cover of REM’s “Losing My Religion” (featuring REM’s Michael Stipe) and “Us Against the World.” For the Americans, there are Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band on “Land of Hope and Dreams” (new lyrics touch of Sandy) and “Wrecking Ball”; Bon Jovi on “It’s My Life” and “Wanted Dead or Alive”; Billy Joel on “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and “You May Be Right”; and Alicia Keys on “No One” and “New York State of Mind (Part II).” It is a dynamite effort throughout. Grade: A+
Graham Parker & The Rumour: Live at Rockpalast 1978 + 1980 (either MIG, 2 DVDs, 144 min. or 2 CDs). Parker may have started out as part of the punk movement, but his songwriting was way beyond anything punk ever produced. His early records with The Rumour were both exhilarating and, at times, beautiful and brilliant (“Squeezing Out Sparks” album of 1979). The Rumour were made up of young musicians from British roots bands, such as Brinsley Schwartz. The 1980 show has 19 songs and the 1978 show has 15. The only repeats are “Thunder and Rain,” “Don’t Ask Me Questions” and “Soul Shoes.” The 1980 show, which features guest Nicky Hopkins (The Beatles) on piano, highlights songs from “The Up Escalator,” which was to be the group’s last album together for decades. It also includes such favorites as “Stupefaction,” “Jolie Jolie,” “Discovering Japan,” “Passion is No Ordinary Word,” “Howlin’ Wind,” “Can’t Get No Protection” and “Nobody Hurts You.”The 1978 show includes “Heat in Harlem,” “Stick To Me,” “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” and “Hold Back the Night.” Grade: A-
The Rolling Stones: Charlie is My Darling, Ireland 1965: Super Deluxe Box Set (Because/ABKCO, Blu-ray and DVD, 2 CDs and LP). The centerpiece here is a new 65-minute version of the Peter Whitehead film that captures the shockingly-young Rolling Stones during one of their first concert tours, that of Ireland in 1965. It was still when Brian Jones was part of the band, although in interviews he sounds like he was not going to be with the group for the long haul from the get-go. Jones comes across as the most introspective and ambivalent about the group’s sudden fame. In addition to the revealing interviews and getting to see the band sing for fun during train rides and at their hotels, there is the incident when fans storm the stage during “I’m Alright,” resulting in absolute chaos. Other performances include “Heart of Stone,” “The Last Time,” “Time is on My Side,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “Pain in My Heart” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Incidental music is provided by Stones’ producer Andrew Loog Oldham’s Orchestra.
The Blu-ray and DVD versions also include the shorter director’s cut (35 min.) and producer’s cut (49 min.), but the main presentation includes restored footage added in.. The first CD is a soundtrack to the film, while the second CD (and vinyl copy) are from shows in England during 1965. The deluxe version also includes a 40-page book with unseen photos, essays and newspaper articles; a replica tour poster; and a numbered, limited edition, enlarged film cell. Grade: A
The Rolling Stones: Under Review 1975-1983, the Ronnie Wood Years (Part 1) (Sexy Intellectual DVD, NR, 115 min.) and Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case of Jagger & Richards (Chrome Dreams, 2 DVDs, NR, 224 min.). These are two of the newest of the many unauthorized DVD documentaries on the Rolling Stones. The first covers the first seven years of Ronnie Woods in the Rolling Stones. He replaced Mick Taylor, who resigned. (Taylor replaced original member, the late Brian Jones.) Woods came from the freewheeling Faces (original the Small Faces, Rod Stewart’s old group). Wood helped the Stones regain some of their luster, working on the funky “Black and Blue” album and “Some Girls,” which covered both New Wave and disco in its palette. The next albums during this period were “Emotional Rescue,” “Tattoo You” (it had the hit “Start Me Up”), the live “Still Life” and “Undercover.” The year 1983 also ended their association with Atlantic Records. (Interestingly, among those auditioned to replace Taylor were Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher,” although the latter two claimed not to know it had been an audition.) Grade: B
The second DVD set goes back to when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were in primary school together in Dartford, England in the early 1950s. It also looks at their 50 years together in the oft-called Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World. The set looks at both their often rocky relationship and the mechanics of their songwriting partnership. Grade: B
Produced by George Martin (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 86 min.). This is a wonderful, homey look at Martin’s career, which, of course, was highlighted by his work with The Beatles. Among those who interview Martin are his son, Giles, former Monty Python member Michael Palin and former Beatle Paul McCartney. Another Beatle, Ringo Starr is interviewed. Viewers learn about Martin’s early years at EMI, when he was given control of the Parlophone label and worked extensively on comedy singles and albums with the likes of the Goons, Spike Mulligan and Peter Sellers -- all in the days before TVs were a household item. He met The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, by chance and, at first, rejected the group’s demo, but then had them record some standards in the studio. His post-Beatles work is covered as well, including that with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, America, Jimmy Webb, Jeff Beck and Paul McCartney’s Wings. It is an intimate look as we see Martin revisit some pivotal locations and people, and then listen to some of the recordings he helped make. A bonus feature in 52:28 of interviews, including producers T Bone Burnett, Rick Rubin and Ken Scott telling how Martin changed the rules for record producing. Grade: A
The Doobie Brothers: Let the Music Play, The Story of the Doobie Brothers (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 100 min.). This documentary includes extensive interviews with band founders Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons. Hailing from San Jose, the band emerged at the end of the big San Francisco music era. Ted Templeman began producing on their second album and helped create their sound, which became very broad when Michael McDonald came on board as keyboardist and then songwriter, after Johnston got sick and left the band for a while. This led to a more soft rock and soul-based sound. From the beginning, the band featured twin guitars (one more like drumming, the other a picking style), three-part harmonies and two drummers. The hits, such as “Listen to the Music” and “Jesus is Just Alright,” began with their second album, “Toulouse Street.” The year 1973 brought “Long Train Runnin’” and “China Grove.” In 1974, Steely Dan co-lead guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter joined the Doobies as Steely Dan was retiring from performing live. In the documentary, we get to ride aboard their rented airplane, the Doobieliner, and McDonald and bassist Tiran Porter (very candid) also are interviewed. The bonus feature is nine complete live tracks (45:38), which are seen in bits during the documentary. Grade: B+
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros., 3 CDs). “Rumours,” simply put, is one of the best albums ever band, as most of the 45 million who have bought a copy know. While telling the story, in song, of the breakup of all three of the couples in the band, it fused pop, 1950s rock and wonderful harmonies. Every track is a highlight, whether the group rocker “Second Hand News,” Stevie Nicks’ revealing “Dreams,” Lindsey Buckingham’s storming “Go Your Own Way” and Nicks’ Gold Dust Woman.” The remastered album adds the B-side “Silver Springs.” The second disc is live from the 1977 tour, recorded in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Nashville and Columbia, SC. The sound is rawer and it works, especially on “The Chain” and an extended “Rhiannon.” Of the 12 live tracks, seven are from “Rumours.” Te third disc includes early takes , instrumental versions and demos. Grade: A+
Billy Joel: She’s Got a Way: Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy CD). Eighteen of Joel’s best ballads and love songs are collected here, including “Just the Way You Are,” “Honesty” and “She’s Always a Woman.” “Nocturne” is an instrumental from the 1971 film “Spring Harbor,” while “Travelin’ Prayer” was the B-side of the “Piano Man” single. Garth Brooks made “Shameless” a number one country hit; here is Joel’s own version. Grade: A
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra: Music from The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings (Silva Screen CD). This is another winning effort by the Prague Philharmonic, featuring Howard Shore’s music for four of Peter Jackson’s epic films. The first three tracks are from the newest, “The Hobbit,” which is due on home video shortly. Grade: A
Marco Beltrami: A Good Day to Die Hard original motion picture soundtrack (Sony Classical CD). This is the music for the fifth film in the franchise, which hit the theaters last Friday. Bruce Willis returns as iconoclastic cop John McClane, this time headed to Moscow to help his son out of a jam. Beltrami also wrote the score for “Live Free or Die Hard,” the fourth film in the series. He picked up for the late Michael Kamen, who scored the first three films. Due to his background in concert composition, Beltrami has a characteristic use of intense percussion, supported by violins and big symphonic sounds. For the final number, the percussion turns groovy and is joined by what sounds like a jazz saxophone. Grade: B+