Sunday, March 9, 2014

Music DVD/Blu-ray reviews: Doors, US Festival

Recent music DVD reviews you might have missed…

The Doors 
(Eagle Vision)
Grade: A 

When The Doors emerged on the ‘60s music scene, most rock bands were either using the visual medium sparingly or in conventional ways to advance their careers.

But UCLA Film School grads Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek had other ideas in mind. After a period where The Doors had to go along with the TV show appearance norm, the musicians’ eventual visual experimentation proved daring for the era. 

R-Evolution expertly traces that trajectory from 1967-71, with additional later music films in the ‘80s and ‘90s. With sound remixed and remastered for 5.1 by original Doors producer Bruce Botnick, the DVD, Blu-ray and digital release includes previously unreleased and restored footage.

There’s also a deluxe 40-page DVD sized hardback book edition packaged with a “scrapbook” style presentation on each track including lyrics, background info, trivia and photos. The informative booklet liner notes, written by Phil Alexander and Robin Hurley, contains multiple archival photos.

Here, the band is seen on popular TV programs like Shebang, American Bandstand  (the extended segment of “The Crystal Ship” and “Light My Fire” is notable for Dick Clark’s mini interview and Manzarek’s metaphysical answer), The Jonathan Winters Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

European program Musik Für Junge Leute: 4-3-2-1 Hot And Sweet is quite amusing: the band plays “Hello, I Love You” in the middle of the street before a blonde dancer and for seemingly unimpressed onlookers. “Touch Me” is vibrant alongside additional musicians, “Moonlight Drive” proves to be a good spotlight for Robby Krieger’s slide guitar work. “Wild Child” and “Crawling King Snake” are intriguing glimpses of the band in the studio and rehearsal room.

The bonus features comprise “Love Thy Customer” - a 25-minute tongue-in-cheek Ford Motor Corp. training film for which the band did the backing music (it is barely heard and hard to sit through), a minute of lip synched outtakes from the Ricky Nelson hosted show Malibu U and “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” live from the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970.

But the real treat on the DVD is Breaking Through The Lens, a 47-minute documentary with interviews from Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, Botnick, Densmore, Krieger and Manzarek.

Densmore recalls how ridiculous and “corny” they felt miming to their songs on TV shows and that is was “an honor” to do Bandstand, while Manzarek relates how the guys were “heading down Sunset Blvd. in LA to the beach the first time they heard ‘Light My Fire’ on the radio.” Plenty of fascinating tidbits emerge as well.

All told, R-Evolution is a must for casual fans and diehard enthusiasts who want all these clips in one place.

Various Artists 
’83 US Festival Days 1-3 
(MVD Visual/Unuson Corp./Icon)
Grade: B- 

Back in September 1982, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak put on the first US Festival at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore, Calif.  It drew a couple hundred thousand people to the outdoor site near San Bernardino.

Several of the top rock and (what was to become known as) alternative acts of the time performed on the world’s largest stage.

Then on Memorial Day Weekend 1983, the festival returned with themed genre days (new wave, heavy metal, rock) and another one the following weekend devoted exclusively to country music. This time, the crowds were even bigger, with the metal showcase alone reportedly drawing upwards of 400,000 music fans. Showtime recorded the event.

Since 2009, VH1 Classic has aired some of this footage featuring fresh commentary from Wozniak, MTV VJ Mark Goodman and Men at Work’s Colin Hay. Now much of the footage has been re-mastered and restored with standard 4:3 resolution images. This is the only officially sanctioned DVD.

A majority of the 15 acts here receive 1- 2 song spotlights, with Triumph inexplicably getting four tunes. Not everyone consented to having their set filmed, which might explain the absence of David Bowie music.

Other DVD omissions (Ozzy Osbourne, Pretenders, Van Halen, Motley Crue) are glaring; it would’ve been good to see Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, A Flock of Seagulls, Joe Walsh and Little Steven.

The interviews are sometimes heard at the expense of the clips: Berlin is introduced by KROQ’s Richard Blade, then only gets in about a minute of its “Sex (I’m A).” U2 is briefly faded out for Goodman’s comments and chatter almost ruins INXS’ “The One Thing.”

Standouts on Day 1 include a rousing Stray Cats (“Rock This Town”), Men At Work - who are in fine form (“Who Can It Be Now”) - with Hay describing his experience and The Clash marking the final live performance with Mick Jones (“Should I Stay or Should I Go”). Day 2, with Judas Priest, Scorpions and Triumph, is just serviceable.

For Day 3, U2 is head and shoulders above everyone else, especially during “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Electric Co.,” as Bono climbs atop the high stage scaffolding. Stevie Nicks seems bored during “Stand Back” and the poorly edited segue to “Outside the Rain.”

Recommended for fans of any of the bands and those in attendance.

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