09/08/06
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

With so many exceptional releases surfacing over the past couple of months, it should come as no surprise that a few choice nuggets initially flew beneath our radar. However, this week we're gonna do our best to rectify that, as we take a look and listen to some of the best music DVDs to have been issued during the Summer of '06.


David Bowie -- Serious Moonlight (Virgin/EMI)

This performance film has been upgraded with digitally remastered visuals and a Dolby 5.1 Surround audio option. Plus, the disc includes the equally hard-to-find tour documentary Ricochet (1984) -- filmed on the Far East leg of the Serious Moonlight tour.
 
Fans may recall Bowie's mid '80s renaissance and return to form with a string of hits from the album Let's Dance (1983). And it's in support of that platter that we find the 'Thin White Duke' in Vancouver, Canada where his live set skims the surface of the newer material with "China Girl," "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)," and of course the LPs chart-topping title track "Let's Dance."

Those neo-classics are joined by another dozen-and-a-half sides of vintage Bowie that reach all the way back to his late '60s interplanetary saga "Space Oddity," and hit upon Ziggy Stardust-era "Life On Mars?," as well as the primal entries "Young Americans," "Rebel, Rebel," "Golden Years," "Heroes," "Fashion," "Look Back In Anger" and "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)."

Additionally, Bowie bumps and grinds through the comparatively deeper cuts "What In The World," "Breaking Glass," "Sorrow," "Station To Station," the thoroughly theatrical "Cracked Actor," and a cover of the Velvet Underground staple "White Light/White Heat."

Those continuing to cling to their well-worn videotape incarnation of Serious Moonlight, should note the sonic and visual ameliorations are nothing short of stunning and provide a crispness that the old VHS tapes can't compare to.

The Pixies -- Acoustic: Live In Newport (Eagle Vision)

A decade and some change after The Pixies mid '90's dissolution, the Boston-based alternative rockers reunited in 2004 for a series of sold-out shows throughout North America. This nearly two-hour DVD captures the quartet holding court in their native New England at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. Rather than an amp-cranking set of high velocity  rock 'n' roll -- and in keeping with the tradition of the venerable venue -- the band unplug and unleash a monstrous acoustic show. Regardless of wattage, the combo provide a powerful and commanding presence during their lengthy 22-song set. They rip a hole in their sizable back catalogue, effectively erasing any indications of their 12-year self-imposed sabbatical.

"Caribou," "Vamos," "Ed Is Dead," "The Holiday Song," and "Nimrod's Son" -- all circa their debut EP Come On Pilgrim (1987) -- are joined by choice cuts from their subsequent long players. Surfer Rosa (1988) yields both the opener "Bone Machine," and closer "Gigantic," as well as Pixies' enthusiasts favorites "River Euphrates," "Where Is My Mind?," and "Cactus." Doolittle (1989) was their critically acclaimed follow-up with "Wave Of Mutilation," "I Bleed," "Here Comes Your Man," "Monkey Gone To Heaven," "Mr. Grieves," "Crackity Jones," "Hey," and "Gouge Away" all making the cut. Bossa Nova (1991) is represented meagerly by comparison with "Is She Weird," "Velouria" and "Been All Around The World" in tow. Similarly, the sole offering from  Trompe Le Monde  (1991) -- their final studio outing of the '90s -- is "Subbacultcha."

After the houselights have gone up, the DVD continues with the 20+ minute backstage "Fly On The Wall" mini-documentary. Viewers are treated like VIPs with private rehearsal moments. The band are seen hashing through and trying to adapt their pre-grunge repertoire from frenetic electric to sublime acoustic renderings. One primary focal point being "Debaser" -- which was one of the tunes not included in the show. And while we’re on the subject … where are "Levitate Me," "Something Against You," or their cover of Neil Young's "Winterlong" -- any or all of which would have easily turned this from a four-star into a five-star project.

Audio buffs can chose from either standard stereo, Dolby 5.1 or a DTS Surround Sound audio playback option. Visually, the image is practically hi-def and that is on a regular old tube video monitor. I can only imagine the depth of field and richness in the subtleties when watching on a plasma or LCD screen.

The Tomorrow Show -- Tom Snyder's Electric Kool-Aid Talk Show (Shout! Factory)

Once again nostalgia-riddled kudos to the audio/visual archivists over at the Shout! Factory label. As long as they continue to lovingly restore the past, consumers and critics alike will inevitably keep on heaping praises upon them.

This single-disc volume houses four excerpts from the Tom Snyder-hosted Tomorrow Show -- which ran for nearly nine years following Johnny Carson's Tonight Show on the NBC television network. Unlike most 21st Century late night TV fodder, Snyder never talked down to his audience. And while his ego often reared its ugly head, the host never make it a habit of  dumbing down his tête-à-têtes with his guests either. Nowhere is that more evident than the conversations found here.

The Grateful Dead rarely did talk shows, but they just happened to be in the neighborhood on May 7, 1981 -- an off night during a run at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. Plus, it gave them a chance to play acoustic versions of "On The Road Again," "Cassidy," "Dire Wolf," and "Deep Elem Blues." All those tunes were also on their most recent live album Reckoning (1981) -- which Snyder dutifully hawks.

Arguably as interesting as the music is the round-table chat between the host, Kesey, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. Their genuinely warm interaction when talking about Deadheads and their craft is heartening to see. The tale about Weir's mom and her initial trepidation about her son's decision to join the band is particularly memorable.  
 
Some viewers may actually find the remainder of the DVD just as fascinating from a cultural point-of-view. The pair of dialogues between Snyder and Tom Wolfe are an interesting contrast. On the August 6, 1979 chat he talks about his then latest book The Right Stuff. The October 14, 1980 segment is a bit more colorful -- even though neither mention LSD or Wolfe's infamous novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.Instead, talk turns to Wolfe's current endevor -- a collection of drawings titled In Our Time.   

The final program -- from August 9, 1981 -- has Snyder going one-on-one with Dr. Timothy Leary. He openly discusses his experiences and with the former Harvard professor's uncanny gift of gab, no wonder an entire generation followed his mantra of "Tune-In, Turn-On & Drop-Out." While there are no surprise revelations, if you were a subscriber to his philosophies, you'll get a kick out of seeing the guru in action.


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 <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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