Abba -- The Movie (Polar/UMe Chronicles)
The long-anticipated DVD debut of this film has definitely been worth the wait. Playback now includes a DTS, Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound or sparkling 2.0 stereo. The upgraded audio equals the vibrant visuals with significantly improved detail and contrast that comparatively puts all previous incarnations to shame. The Movie (1977) is similar to The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (1964) -- offering a peek inside the incessant mania surrounding the quartet's personal appearances.
The plot centres on ABBA's visit to Australia and Ashley, a popular disc jockey who is -- often in vain -- trying to get an interview with the band for a once-in-a-lifetime radio special. While ABBA endure the isolation and mass adoration that comes from being in the biggest pop band in the world at the time, our hapless hero Ashley is always one step behind them. However, the real star of course, is the music. Even three decades after the fact, the songs remain stunning. The excellent live versions of "Tiger," "SOS," "Rock Me," as well as "Get On The Carousel," and "I'm A Marionette" from the Girl With The Golden Hair mini-musical are but a few of the high-octane tracks brought to life -- especially when incorporating the exceptional Surround Sound options.
The DVD comes with a 20-page full colour liner booklet that helps put The Movie in proper historical perspective and gives some behind-the-scenes information on the logistical nightmare involved in creating what has become one of the most important multi-media pieces in the ABBA cannon.
Marvin Gaye -- The Real Thing: In Performance 1964-1981 (Hip-O/Motown)
This 70+ minute title features a variety of television guest spots by the one and only Marvin Gaye. As was an accepted custom during the 1960s and '70s, most artists -- especially vocalists -- would lip-sync to a pre-taped backing track during their TV appearances. Although I guess Ashlee Simpson has proven the technique has never fully gone out of style. Gaye was certainly no exception.
Modern technology now allows the lip-sync to be used to its fullest advantage. As Gaye was mouthing the words to the actual record, producers have painstakingly matched newly-remastered audio to the vintage video to uniformly breathtaking results. However the pièce de résistance is the Marvin In The Motown Studios bonus that takes us into the vocal booth with Gaye to hear his unaccompanied solo lead on such classics as "Hitch Hike," "Pride And Joy," "Can I Get A Witness," Pretty Little Baby," "Ain't That Peculiar," "You’re A Wonderful One," and with Tammi Terrell, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." There are a few live clips from actual concerts, most notably footage from September of 1972 after Gaye's return to public performing after an extended hiatus.
The medley "What's Going On" and "What's Happening Brother," show Gaye on piano leading a small combo backed by the legendary Eddie 'Bongo' Brown (percussion), James Jamerson (bass) and Earl Van Dyke (keyboards). There are also archival interview clips interspersed between the songs, allowing the artist to explain his music in his own words. Speaking of words, the accompanying 24-page booklet has new essays from Otis Williams of the Temptations and for hard-core fans and tech geeks (like yours truly) an extended set of liner notes -- from Grammy-award winning author Rob Bowman -- that put each of the 16 selections in greater historical perspective.
Disraeli Gears (Eagle Vision)
The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon (Eagle Vision)
The Making of A Night at the Opera (Eagle Vision)
Never Minds The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (Eagle Vision)
Rock music enthusiasts who have never seen an episode of Classic Albums are missing out on a sonic and visual delight. Each installment presents all surviving parties -- and vintage interviews from those who have passed -- as they themselves dissect their own landmark long players. The artists perspectives are broadened by those of other key figures, such as various record company executives, producers, engineers and journalists.
These four recently released instalments perfectly capture not only the programme's broad spectrum, but also the range of rock as it existed by the mid 1970s. In fact it is interesting to note that it took less than a decade for the evolution from Cream's Disraeli Gears (1967) to the Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks (1976). Even more revolutionary is that band members have set aside years of publicly displayed acrimony in order to contribute to a common project. Of course that means that some of the territory covered isn't always pleasant, but it's as real as it gets.
The always animated and incorrigible John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) doesn't hide his level of distain for his former mates and especially admitted 'mis-manager' Malcolm McLaren. Beyond the personalities are the folks whose aid and assistance was crucial in getting the sounds onto tape. The track-by-track breakdowns provide an opportunity for the various producers and technical engineers to provide their insights. It is here that all of the behind-the-scenes studio trickery and innovation are uncovered. One particularly revealing segment during The Making Of The Dark Side Of The Moon finds tape-operator/engineer Alan Parsons divulging how the sound effects used in the opening of "Money," were conceived and then created. The musicians similarly analyse the compositions with exclusive revisitations of practically every number.
Who wouldn't want to see and hear Cream's Jack Bruce soloing "We're Going Wrong" while accompanying himself on piano. Likewise, Sex Pistols' stringman Steve Jones demonstrates his blistering leads on "Submission" and "Bodies" and even gives a mini guitar seminar during one of the extended bonuses. Each DVD is not only packed with interview segments, but also exclusive performances -- some new and others rarely seen. Standouts from this batch would include an acoustic reading of "Outside Woman Blues" from Eric Clapton, David Gilmour's recreation of his guitar parts from "Breathe" and "The Great Gig In The Sky," the never-before-released live version of "Sweet Lady," from Queen's 1976 Hyde Park concert, as well as the Sex Pistols' blazing through "New York" and "Seventeen," live in Stockholm.
Other titles in the series include Jimi Hendrix' Electric Ladyland (1968), Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (1977), Bob Marley & The Wailers' Catch A Fire (1973), Steely Dan's Aja (1977), U2's The Joshua Tree (1987), Elvis Presley's Elvis Presley (1956), Iron Maiden's The Number Of The Beast (1982) and Paul Simon's Graceland (1986).
Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.