05/23/08
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

In this installment of As The Disc Spins we'll peruse a trio of recent audio-visual delights ranging from the reunion of '70s and '80s British synth-pop quartet Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD), the DVD debut of grunge-gods Nirvana's legendary 1993 Unplugged and rare footage of the late, great Dusty Springfield out of the voluminous vaults of the BBC.  


Nirvana -- Unplugged in New York (DCG Records, Inc/MTV Networks/UMe)

Fans have been clamoring for nearly a decade to get this essential piece of rock and roll history onto home video. And by all accounts, it has been well worth the wait. Included is not only the 45-minute broadcast version -- originally aired on MTV in mid-December of 1993 -- which looks better than before, but for the very first time ever the complete and unedited concert can be experienced note-for-note, just exactly the way that lucky attendees at the NYC-based Sony Music Studios heard and saw it. In fact, arguably better thanks to one of the most intimate Surround Sound audio mixes to have graced these ears in years. But more about that in a moment.

The confab took on added importance with a decidedly maudlin and poignant turn four months later upon the death of troubled front man Kurt Cobain (guitar/vocals). Joining him on stage are, of course, his Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic (bass) and Dave Grohl (drums/vocals/bass). The trio are flanked throughout by Georg Ruthenberg aka Pat Smear (guitar/vocals), Lori Goldston (cello) and siblings Curt Kirkwood (guitar) and Cris Kirkwood (bass/guitar/vocals) 2/3's of the Meat Puppets. The full-length gig -- now boasting a running time of close to 70 minutes -- incorporates "Something In The Way" and "Oh Me," neither of which made the MTV edit. Further supplementing the DVD is the 1999 MTV special entitled Bare Witness: Nirvana Unplugged. Here MTV staffers, producers and audience members talk about the band, their music and the gig itself. There are likewise no less than five never-before-available rehearsals of "Come As You Are," "Polly," "Plateau," "Pennyroyal Tea" a cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World" and a brief jam on the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock staple "Sweet Home Alabama".

As mentioned above, the concert sound has been upgraded and is offered in the viewers' choice of a 5.1 Dolby or 2.0 Stereo, as well as my personal preference of DTS Digital Surround. However, a comparison between the DVD's no-frills 2.0 Stereo and Nirvana's previously released MTV Unplugged In New York (1994)CD -- which was a Top Ten entry in no less than 13 different countries -- the newly remixed and refurbished DVD wins, no contest. The full-color glossy insert booklet is ornamented with rare and candid photos taken during the show's rehearsals and taping.

OMD -- Architecture & Morality & More (Eagle Records/Eagle Vision)

Out of our 'they-said-it-would-never-happen' files comes not one, but two live documents from the 2007 reunion of the OMD's 'classic' incarnation with founding members and multi-instrumentalists Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys as well as Martin Cooper (sax/keyboards) and Mal Holmes (drums). It was this lineup that would unleash the combo's critical and commercial zenith Architecture & Morality (1981) album. From the long player, the tunes "Joan of Arc," "Souvenir" and "Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc)" garnered the group a string of three consecutive Top 10 singles in the UK.

Over a quarter-century after its initial release, the foursome came back together and reintroduced the album to modern audiences. The overwhelmingly positive response is evident in spades and can be seen and heard, if not felt, on the CD and the sizably expanded DVD of Architecture & Morality & More. The festivities were captured exactly one year ago this week (on May 19, 2007 to be exact) before an SRO crowd at the venerable Hammersmith Apollo in London. While the CD pares down the concert, the DVD serves up the whole shebang … and then some. The show was split into two sets, the first presented a slightly reconfigured rendering of Architecture & Morality and the second was chocked full o' hits and deeper cuts from throughout OMD's back catalogue.

Among the goodies in the latter category that are exclusives on the DVD are "Messages," "Tesla Girls," "Talking Loud and Clear," "So In Love" and "Walking On The Milky Way". And of course both contain the biggies "If You Leave," "Forever (Live And Die)," "Pandora's Box," "Locomotion," "Sailing On The Seven Seas," "Enola Gay," "Electricity" and "Romance Of The Telescope". There are several additional bonus features on the DVD, namely alternates -- with different visuals and video backdrops -- for the Architecture & Morality tunes "Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)" and "The New Stone Age". Plus, there is roughly 20 minutes of conversation with band members McCluskey, Humphreys, Cooper, Holmes and  Hambi Haralambous, who is responsible for designing OMD's complex and extensive video backdrops. The DVD audio playback options are a lifelike DTS, Dolby 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo. And in terms of OMD's stellar performance, it truly sounds as if they were never gone.

Dusty Springfield -- Live at the BBC (Mercury/UMe)

Although there still remains a huge void in terms of getting the bulk of the Britpop diva's numerous filmed television guest shots onto DVD, the incomparable Miss Dusty Springfield is finally receiving the royal treatment with this nearly two-and-a-half hour package. During the mid 1960s, the vocalist hosted two seasons -- or what the Brits call 'series' -- of a music-intensive programme simply titled Dusty. It ran during 1966 and '67 and from those dozen installments (six per series) came most of the contents culled here.

As noted in the text of the accompanying 10-page foldout liner insert, several episodes were not archived properly and are not included. However, that should not deter Dusty-ophiles from picking up Live At The BBC as the DVD is packed with what can best be described as an embarrassment of multi-media riches -- the vast majority of which were never rebroadcast and frankly, largely forgotten up 'til now. Interestingly, Ms. Springfield isn't trying to promote her big hits. Instead, she selected what was presumably her favorite music from a remarkably wide array of genres.

Of course her love of soul -- particularly Motown -- was copiously documented when she hosted the 'Sound Of Motown' edition of the venerable Ready Steady Go! To that end it is not surprising to see and hear her cover of "Heat Wave," "Nowhere to Run," "Get Ready," or even lesser-known material, namely "You Lost the Sweetest Boy" -- from Mary Welles. Springfield likewise demonstrates a penchant for show tunes and Great American Songbook entries, such as "The Mood I'm In," "I'll Never Stop Loving You," "Gonna Build A Mountain," "If You Go Away," "Do-Re-Mi," "Peel Me A Grape," "Time After Time" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now," among others. As her pre-solo career was rooted in folk, the inclusion of "Poor Wayfaring Stranger," "Two Brothers," "My Lagan Love" and "The Water Is Wide" is far from surprising. Particularly interesting is the Spanish-derived "Anna," flawlessly exemplifying Springfield's proclivity for such. And we've barely scratched the surface of the nearly four-dozen performances. In terms of extras, they are practically as amazing as the main event.

From 1970 she updates the blue-eyed soul of The Young Rascals "How Can I Be Sure," while the 1973 Tom Jones Show is the source for her take on Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" and the pop standard "Since I Fell For You". After several years of self-imposed exile, she returned to the concert stage in the late '70s and she sat down to talk about her comeback on Saturday Night Live At The Mill, where she likewise unleashes the apropos "I'm Coming Home Again". Other supplements of note are a 12 cut  audio-only jukebox of Springfield's best loved sides  -- "I Only Want To Be With You," "Goin' Back," "Son Of A Preacher Man," and the like, as well as a nice photo gallery. In other words, Live At The BBC is essential viewing and listening for any dimension of Dusty Springfield aficionado. 


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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