08/24/07
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

This week we're letting our freak flags fly in celebration of the 40th anniversary of 'The Summer Of Love'. So, go grab your incense and let's 'tune in' these recently released DVDs. Included are some of the eras most enduring talents -- musical and otherwise -- and all are available for the first time on home video.


Various Artists -- All My Loving (Voiceprint/MVD Visuals)

This long lost documentary by British director Tony Palmer serves up an exemplary slice of pop culture during the height of the late '60s hippie experience. The film itself acts as a mirror to the incongruities inherent in the youth movement's ideas versus their idealism. Especially when contrasted with the horrific images being beamed back into the world's living rooms from Vietnam.

The stars of All My Loving (1968) are not a bunch of over-educated talking heads either. In fact, it was John Lennon and Paul McCartney who convinced Palmer to make the picture to begin with. They are joined via interview clips by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend and other members of The Who, Pink Floyd, Cream as well as Donovan, Frank Zappa and Eric Burdon from the Animals.

The movie's leitmotif deals with how 'love' (or, perhaps if love ) still has relevance as inspiration in art and not only for the artisans. Likewise, how the concept of 'love' has turned pop music from simple entertainment into multi-million dollar commerce.

There is also a bonus interview with Tony Palmer, the visionary behind and producer of All My Loving. The conversation offers additional first-hand insight into how Lennon encouraged the creation of the film and the proclamation that they were attempting to make.

The Original Country Joe Band -- Turned Up and Turned On (MVD Visual)

Country Joe McDonald is a survivor in every sense of the word. His status as one of the most prominent and singular voices from the late 1960s was cemented in several memorable scenes during the film Woodstock (1970). Likewise, his unforgettable "Gimmie An 'F' Cheer remains a rebel call for the ages. This DVD contains a 19-song set from June of '04 with the original line-up of Country Joe's Band, as well as an exclusive and extensive one-on-one with McDonald on a myriad of topics.

The feature presentation captures McDonald (guitar/harmonica/vocals), Bruce Barthol (bass/harmonica/vocals), David Bennett Cohen (keyboards/guitar/vocals) and the one-and-only Gary "Chicken" Hirsh (drums) at South Parade Pier in Southsea, England.

The combo sound remarkably fresh after all this time. Some purists might feel as if the vintage lineup is not truly complete without Barry "The Fish" Melton -- whose full-time gig as a Public Defender in Yolo County, California kept him off this tour. But, all is forgiven when the assembled combo reach way back to unleash particularly potent updates of the ode to McDonald's one-time-girlfriend Janis Joplin, simply titled "Janis," as well as the psychedelic relics "Section 43," "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine," Bass Strings," and the ever popular "I Feel Like I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag."

Various Artists -- A Night at the Family Dog (Eagle Vision)

This disc brings the sights and sounds of one of the Bay Area's best-known rock and roll dungeons right into your own home. Initially, A Night At The Family Dog  (1970) was made for the PBS precursor National Educational Television. It is half of a two-part special -- the other being the equally compelling Go Ride The Music -- both of which focus on San Francisco's ever-growing music scene. And what a scene it was! The all-star triple-threat bill features the 'classic' line-ups of Santana, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. They've converged at the venerable venue to unleash some of their latest sounds.

The focus is entirely on the music, beginning with an intense "Incident At Neshabur" and a similarly scorching "Soul Sacrifice" -- the latter being Santana's show-shopper at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair less than six months earlier.

They are followed by the Grateful Dead, whose distinctive mutation of rock and rhythm can be heard on their loose and limber update of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle". This is a rare chance to see Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (lead vocals/harmonica/organ) in action as he takes the band through the funky R&B changes. The medley of "China Cat Sunflower" and  I Know You Rider" allow the Grateful Dead's improvisational prowess to be further explored and stretched out. The Jefferson Airplane are last, but far from least, unleashing a venomous "Ballad Of You and Me and Pooneil" that blazes around Jorma Kaukonen's (guitar) flammable fretwork. Grace Slick's environmental anthem "Eskimo Blue Day" remains as sharp an indictment in 2007 as it was nearly four decades ago.

Concluding the festivities is a nearly quarter-hour long instrumental jam with Carlos Santana (guitar), Jerry Garcia (guitar), Jorma Kaukonen (guitar), alongside the Airplane's Jack Casady (bass) and Paul Kantner (guitar). There are a few sections of the free-form convergence that do get bogged down or -- perhaps more accurately -- snarled up with so much going on at the same time. Yet that is a relatively minor point when comparing the participants world class talent. 


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist based out of the Piedmont of North Carolina. He's a  frequent contributor to All Music Guide, All Movie Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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