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03/28/05
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

Music-related DVDs have been coming out at a fast and furious pace this early spring of '05. While there are more due over the course of the next month or so, here is a brief run down of some recent arrivals that caught my eyes and ears. If the rumour mill is to be believed, the Jerry Garcia Band, Brian Wilson's SMiLE tour and vintage Miles Davis are among those to have highly anticipated DVDs to be released in the upcoming weeks. Of course, As The Disc Spins will give you the complete 4-1-1 when we get confirmation and details.


Abba -- Super Troupers (Polar/Polydor Home Video)

Neither the passage of time nor the changing of tastes will ever topple the perpetual success of 1970s Swedish pop icons ABBA. As each new generation discovers their interminably catchy and exceedingly finely crafted tunes, the legend of Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Reuss and Agnetha Faltskog grows in stature. This 90 minute documentary was made not onlyto commemorate the fifth anniversary of the musical Mamma Mia! -- based on the songs of ABBA -- but as a retrospective of the quartet's 30+ years as influential icons, whose impact reached far beyond their era. The program is narrated by UK impresario Pete Waterman, who walks viewers through the band's timeline, with pre-ABBA footage, rare television appearances, live concerts as well as their unforgettable short-subject videos -- all of which predated MTV, a few by over a decade.

The emotional center of Super Troupers hinges on the first reunion of all four members in some 22 years at the celebration marking the aforementioned fifth anniversary of Mamma Mia!'s run in London's famed West End. While both Ulvaeus and Andersson have made the rounds, neither of the ladies have ever joined them. Will they all turn up? Especially the reclusive Faltskog, whose fear of flying has precluded all previous attempts for the foursome to get together in a public setting. You'll just have to watch and see!In addition to the feature presentation, the DVD contains an extra half-hour of bonuses, exclusive and extended interview segments with Mr. Ulvaeus and Ms. Reuss and the complete "Finale: Medley from Mamma Mia!" with shots of the backstage 'after party' and the on-stage get-together with ABBA and the cast. The audio is offered in a standard Dolby 2.0 Stereo and stunningly realistic 5.1 Surround Sound.


The Cranberries -- live (Island/UMe)

After being out of print for several years, it is great to finally see the DVD release of The Cranberries' live, which was initially issued back in 1994. Not only is the entire January 14, 1994 performance at London's Astoria II presented, but the audio contents have been significantly upgraded to an optional Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound mix. The unit draw upon both their debut Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We (1993) and the follow-up No Need To Argue (1994).

Interestingly, their set consists primarily of material from the first album as they play seven of the disc's 11 tracks. The band was initially formed in the late '80s by siblings Mike and Noel Hogan, Fergal Lawler and Dolores O'Riordan, who replaced the original vocalist, Niall. Their fresh sound remains a combination of strong compositions and undeniably contagious melodies that owed as much to the jangle-pop renaissance scene of the early '90s as to the burgeoning alternative genre that the combo were unceremoniously cast in with. That said, the attitude-laden "Daffodils Lament," "Ridiculous Thoughts," "Zombie" and "Liar" are all edgy and finely honed, contrasting the lovely and affective "Dreaming My Dreams," "Linger" and "Waltzing Back," which are simple, yet uniformly beautiful love songs.

As anyone who has seen them in concert will attest, their shows provide a similar dichotomy of high energy rave-ups and moments of deeply moving introspection. Viewers are treated to a flawless digitally remastered image that is significantly sharper than its VHS predecessor and the DVD offers a jukebox feature as well as an interactive photo gallery to boot.

Roxy Music -- The High Road (Hip-O/ UMe)

It's taken far too long to get this 70+ minute film into the digital domain Stateside, as it has been available for several years overseas. Art-rockers Roxy Music are captured in Frejus, France on August 27, 1982 during the European leg of the Avalon (1982) tour, which found them sharing the bill with the '80s reformation of King Crimson. The BBC-produced High Road features a primary cast consisting of Bryan Ferry (vocals), Phil Manzanera (guitar) and Andy Mackay (sax/oboe) with Neil Hubbard (guitar), Andy Newmark (drums), Alan Spenner (bass), Jimmy Maelen (percussion) and Guy Fletcher (keyboards) in supporting roles.

The repertoire incorporates every era of the band from early favorites including an energetic "Do The Strand" and "Editions Of You" from For Your Pleasure (1973) as well as "A Song For Europe" circa Stranded (1973). Even though the sole entry from Country Life (1974) is "Out Of The Blue," they make it count with one of the best offerings on the DVD. The landmark Siren (1975) is not as skimpily represented with "Both Ends Burning" and the somewhat obligatory "Love Is The Drug" submitted for our approval. With Manifesto (1979), the Roxy's hit a skid that lasted through the mostly dismissible Flesh + Blood (1980) and are signified by "Dance Away" and "My Only Love" respectively, as they wisely choose to concentrate on their recent and comparatively superior Avalon (1982) era material unleashing essential performances of the opener "Main Thing," "While My Heart Is Still Beating" and the album's powerful title track. The pair of covers -- Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" and John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" are of similar calibre, especially the former which was worked up for these gigs.



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