Sunday, December 22, 2013

(Really) Last Minute Gift Guide Part 2: Music DVDs

By George A. Paul
With Christmas only a couple days away now, see below for suggestions on what to give the visual music enthusiast on your gift list.


Note: All titles except "The Human Rights Concerts" are available in both DVD and Blu-ray; many can also be purchased digitally from merchants like 

Artist: Various
Title: Released! The Human Rights Concerts: 1986-98 (Shout! Factory)
For those who enjoy: Any of the artists involved
Tell me more: During the Eighties, musicians rallied around global political causes (and more regional ones) like never before. This six disc DVD box set – my pick for Best Archival DVD release of 2013 - focuses on several human rights concerts presented by Amnesty International from 1986-1998. All are digitally restored. A companion double CD spotlights performances from the four concerts.

There’s nearly 17 hours of material here, with new documentaries and interviews, alongside any other archival footage made. A good chunk was either never issued for home video sale before or only aired a single time on TV.

On A Conspiracy of Hope (1986), there are standout turns by Jackson Browne (a lovely “For Everyman,” “Lives in the Balance”), Lou Reed (“Walk on the Wild Side,” with quite a sax solo), Peter Gabriel (“Shock The Monkey,” where he bounces across the stage), Bryan Adams (a blazing “Run to You”), U2 (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and The Police (Sting is particularly animated on “Message In A Bottle”).

Human Rights Now! (1988) has rousing performances from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (the entire set, namely “Born In The USA” and “The River,” where Sting trades verses with The Boss) as well as Gabriel with Youssou N’Dour (“In Your Eyes”). An Embrace of Hope (1990) finds Sting doing Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” in Spanish. 

The Struggle Continues…(1998) has a wealth of sterling moments, captured in crisp lighting. Most notable are Jimmy Page & Robert Plant (a fiery “Rock and Roll”), Radiohead (“Karma Police,” an intense “Bones,” “Paranoid Android”) and Bruce Springsteen – solo acoustic (a fun “Working on the Highway, where he admits in one documentary here that was out of tune).

The Legacy DVD opens with a rare Pete Townshend (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” in 1979), Sting (“I Shall Be Released,” 1981), then moves straight into the 2000s through last year. Best of the lot include Bono & Damien Rice (breathtaking during “Walk On”) and Coldplay (“Vida La Vida”). 

Net proceeds from sales of the DVD set and CDs benefit Amnesty. 

What about the packaging: The DVDs are handsomely packaged in a slide out box for easy access. The 39-page booklet is chock full of color photos, interviews and credits.

Artist: Morrissey
Title: 25 Live (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: The Smiths, Blur, London Suede 
Tell me more: Los Angeles is one of Morrissey's biggest fan bases in the world, so shooting the ex-Smiths singer's first official concert film in eight years there made perfect sense.

25Live shows why this influential Brit continues to draw extreme fan devotion a quarter century after launching a solo career. The impressive concert runs about 90 minutes, features ample crowd shots and excellent lighting.

Bonus features include four tracks recorded in a casual studio session with producer Tony Visconti (“The Kid’s A Looker,” “Scandinavia,” “Action Is My Middle Name,” “People Are the Same Everywhere”). This is almost worth the DVD purchase price alone. There are also two “Behind the Scenes” montages and a brief interview with actor/comedian Russell Brand. Highly recommended for all Moz fans. 

What about the packaging: The liner notes contain song credits, several pictures of Morrissey, his band and the venue, plus thoughts of the day at Hollywood High by the band’s guitarist Jesse Tobias.

Title: Springsteen & I (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge, John Fogerty
Tell me more: The
special bond between The Boss and his followers is at the crux of this absorbing documentary. A few dozen video submissions (via Skype, YouTube, cell phone, camera) from America and Europe were winnowed down more than 2000. The director also utilized professional Springsteen concert footage and archival material.

Among the bonus footage is 45 minutes from the Wrecking Ball festival appearance at London’s Hard Rock Calling and Paul McCartney’s fun guest spot, expanded fan submissions/profiles.

Artist: Bryan Ferry
Title: Live in Lyon (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: The Divine Comedy, Ultravox, Roxy Music   
Tell me more: Looking dapper as ever and sounding swelligant, Ferry’s 98-minute concert film was shot in France during the Nuits de Fourviere Festival. Backed by a large band and dancers, he covers all career facets (Roxy Music, Dylan covers) with the usual panache. “Oh Yeah” and “Love is the Drug” are particularly dazzling.   

Bonus material is comprised of an entertaining 45-minute film about the making of 2010 studio effort Olympia (with its all-star lineup), edited by Ferry’s son Isaac.

What about the packaging: The lavish 40-page booklet features a historical essay, full tour personnel/bios, song credits and a multitude of photos.

Artist: Peter Gabriel  
Title: Live in Athens 1987 (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: Gotye, Sting, King Crimson, early Genesis 
Tell me more: Having seen the So tour last year, I was really interested in this 2 DVD title, which offers the complete two-hour Greek show and the opening acts’ sets for the first time (Youssou N’Dour among them).

Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, it makes intriguing use of light and shade. “Shock the Monkey” proves riveting, “Don’t Give Up” is emotionally resonant and the 15-minute “In Your Eyes” is simply a joy to behold. The extras include an 11-minute interview with Gabriel and the “Slegehammer” video in 5.1 audio. Disc 2 contains Play: The Videos – 23 of Gabriel’s innovative visual clips. 

What about the packaging: The liner notes comprise tour info, a wealth of color photos and video stills.

Artist: Lady Antebellum
Title: Live: On This Winter’s Night (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: Little Big Town, The Band Perry 
Tell me more: Christmas is all about family and togetherness. If any musicians spotlight those qualities, it’s Lady A.

On this 52-minute holiday concert held at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center in 2012, the superstar country trio performs 11 favorites (Donny Hathaway’s soulful “This Christmas” is a highlight) backed by an orchestra, plus their own sublime original, “On This Winter’s Night.” Lighted in rich hues, there are also cozy holiday recollections from the group.    

Bonus features include the “A Holly Jolly Christmas” video (and factoids), half a dozen intimate acoustic performances done in a living room and humorous behind the scenes footage.

Artist: CeeLo Green
Title: Loberace: Live in Vegas (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: Isaac Hayes, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Gnarls Barkley
Tell me more: Since becoming a judge on NBC’s “The Voice,” the flamboyant Green has become a household name in America. Filmed at Planet Hollywood on the Strip and originally broadcast o AXS-TV, the 78-minute concert is just Green onstage. He’s joined by a bevy of scantily clad female dancers and vocal impersonators. The emphasis here is on glitzy attire, sexual songs and paying tribute to influences like Prince (“Hot Thang”), Chic and Rick James (a medley incorporating “Le Freak/Super Freak”). Green’s old Goodie Mob put in a cameo. The bonus material comprises a 7-minute interview.    

Artist: REO Speedwagon
Title: Live at Moondance Jam (Speedwagon Recordings)
For those who enjoy: Styx, Journey, Ted Nugent, Foreigner 
Tell me more: REO Speedwagon is one of a few veteran classic rock acts around whose lead singer is the same from its commercial heyday. Kevin Cronin is all positive vibes onstage on this solid DVD, shot in high-definition at a 2010 Minnesota rock festival. Containing a partial set of 13 songs, the standouts include a High Infidelity segment with hits "Keep on Loving You," “Don't Let Him Go,” "Take It on the Run" (Dave  Amato’s guitar solo is spot on) and "In Your Letter." The latter is the first ever live DVD version, as well as "Golden Country" and "Like You Do.”

Available in both Blu-ray and a deluxe edition (containing a CD and DVD in a glossy digipak), the CD+DVD and Blu-ray packages contain a brief bonus interview with Cronin. 
What about the packaging: The booklet has more than a dozen concert photos.

Artist: Mike + the Mechanics
Title: Live at Shepherd’s Bush (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: Genesis, Chicago, Billy Preston
Tell me more: When the band did this 2004 London charity gig for Nordoff Robbins, it was their first since co-lead singer Paul Young had died four years earlier. The other Paul – Carrack – ably makes up for his absence amid a proficient 76-minute set half drawn from the previous two studio albums.
The major adult rock hits are here, including a soaring “Living Years,” Carrack’s strident delivery on “Silent Running” and the high flying “Word of Mouth” (where backing vocalist Paul McGee gets to shine).

Bonus material encompasses a 20-minute interview with Mike Rutherford and Carrack, behind the scenes tour rehearsals and making of the Rewired album. Seven music videos, some never seen widely in America are included.

What about the packaging: The 8-page booklet has multiple live shots and a short essay about the show by Dave Ling.

Title: Made of Stone (MVD)
For those who enjoy: Oasis, The La’s, Primal Scream
Tell me more: The Stone Roses – one of alternative music’s most influential bands from Britain -- reunited in 2012 after more than 15 years apart and co-headlined the Southern California’s Coachella Festival last spring. On Made of Stone, Shane Meadows (“This is England”) essentially made a love letter to the group (he actually appears onscreen discussing his adoration). The BAFTA-nominated documentary runs 96 minutes and tells the hardscrabble Manchester natives’ story via rare archival footage, old and new performances and frequently humorous interviews with the musicians themselves. The final return debut concert segment is brilliant. For diehard fans.

Artist: Queen +
Title: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy: Queen, any of the artists involved 
Tell me more: Following the untimely death of singer Freddie Mercury, the
surviving members of Queen put on a lavish tribute at Wembley Stadium in 1992. Available as a triple DVD set, SD Blu-ray (with upscaled standard definition original material, uncompressed stereo and DTS-HD surround sound) and digital formats boasting remastered sound, it marks the first time the opening acts' performances have been made available on DVD and  Blu-Ray.

Disc 1 clocks in at 85 minutes and has lengthy hard rock performances by Metallica, Extreme, Joe Elliott, Guns ‘n’ Roses and more. Disc 2 is 106 minutes and comprises the main concert. Highlights are bountiful: Robert Plant seems to be having a blast during “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Paul Young acquits himself well on “Radio Ga Ga,” a black raccoon eyed Annie Lennox & the lime green-suited David Bowie pair up for a breathtaking “Under Pressure,” George Michael does a show-stopping “Somebody To Love,” aided by vocal choir and Elton John adds high drama to “The Show Must Go On,” sans piano.

Among the other guests at the show: Roger Daltrey, Bob Geldof, Ian Hunter, Tony Iommi, Liza Minnelli, Mick Ronson, Lisa Stansfield.

Bonus material on Disc 3 encompasses an hour-long ’02 documentary, including interviews with Queen’s Roger Taylor & Brian May. Rehearsal performances of David Bowie and Annie Lennox doing “Under Pressure” (just as stunning as the later concert version; George Michael is shown standing off to the side, watching and mouthing the words); Michael’s “Somebody To Love” (he puts just as much emphasis on the trial run), photo galleries (professional and fan-shot) and facts about the Mercury Phoenix Trust.

What about the packaging: Contains multiple photos from the show.

Artist: Phil Collins
Title: Live at Montreux 2004 (Eagle Rock)
For those who enjoy:  Genesis, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker
Tell me more: It’s a surprise to see Collins opens his ’04 return to Montreux Jazz Festival with a drum solo (alongside two other timekeepers). But the move definitely stirs excitement at this lengthy show. Shot in high definition, the superstar singer covers all the hit bases with verve. Highlights include the brass intensive “Don't Lose My Number” and “Hang in Long Enough,” as well as Genesis’ “I Missed Again” and always intense “In The Air Tonight.”

The bonus material is a complete performance by the Phil Collins Big Band at Montreux in 1996. This marks the first time any of his big band material has been made available.  

What about the packaging: The booklet contains personal recollections about the gigs from Collins, color photos, band info.

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