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11/12/04
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

There have been a beaucoup of music DVDs released over the last few weeks. While several titles present notable digital upgrades, others are offering up vintage sounds and visions for the first time.


NRBQ -- One In A Million (Music Video Distribution)

The vintage incarnation of the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (NRBQ) with "Big" Al Anderson (guitar) is featured in this high-energy set captured in Montreal, Quebec during the band's Fall 1989 tour. The 'Q are as rambunctious as ever, digging out classic covers such as Jimmy Logsdon's "I've Got A Rocket In My Pocket," and a hard-hitting reading of the oldies anthem "Shake, Rattle & Roll" -- which is suitably dedicated to the denizens of the Bay Area who were recovering from a recent earthquake. The outing is also peppered with cuts from their concurrently recent release Wild Weekend (1989), including the title track and Anderson's automobile ode "Little Floater". The remainder is packed with essential 'Q entries, among them are a demented "Crazy Like A Fox," the always autobiographical "Here Comes Terry" as well as "Girl Scout Cookies". In addition to the short but sweet concert, there is a bonus NRBQ slide show and an MTV-style video for the 2004 tune "Dummy". The audio is presented in both Dolby 2.0 stereo and a 5.1 Surround.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble -- Live At Montreux 1982 & 1985 (Epic/Legacy Music Video)

This two DVD package features a pair of performances from the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Double Trouble. Each show is digitally remastered from the primary audio and video elements, but are now presented in new Dolby 5.1 Surround in addition to the previously available stereo. The July 17, 1982 set became legendary not only because the primarily-unknown band played brilliantly, but also due to their less than enthusiastic reception by some very vocal audience members who booed the quartet at every possible opportunity. Despite (or in the face of) that, Vaughan and company rip through incendiary readings of the originals ""Pride and Joy," "Texas Flood," "Love Struck Baby," and an equally scorching cover of Freddie King's rollicking instrumental "Hide Away".

Almost exactly three years later on July 15, 1985 the combo triumphantly returned to Montreux and appeared to a comparatively exuberant crowd with special guest Johnny Copeland (guitar) joining in the festivities during "Cold Shot", a frisky "Look At Little Sister" -- neither of which have ever been released before -- as well as "Tin Pan Alley". Other highlights from the '85 set are "Scuttle Buttin'"," Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," and a nine-plus minute "Life Without You". Supplementing the over two hours of music is "Success In Disguise," a half-hour documentary with interviews from Double Trouble members Chris Layton (drums), Tommy Shannon (bass), early Vaughan advocate singer/songwriter Jackson Browne and guitarist John Mayer, whose style has is influenced by Vaughn. This is an indispensable title for inclined parties.


Hank Williams -- Honky Tonk Blues (Mercury Nashville)

This film initially aired in June of 2004 as an episode of the PBS American Masters series, the DVD includes significantly expanded contents with 45 minutes of additional footage that was previously edited out of the broadcast version. Hank Williams' history is traced from his meteoric rise, while  recounting all of the anguished brilliance of the first country superstar. Viewers are given a definitive look into his early life in Montgomery, Alabama through the well documented carousing and the addictions that ultimately led to his dismissal from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. More importantly however, there are many examples of Hank Williams' timeless craftsmanship and the tales behind some of his greatest songs are recounted. Among the notable numbers are "Move It On Over," "Lovesick Blues," "Cold, Cold Heart" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and Williams spoken-word recordings under the alias "Luke The Drifter". Stories and legends are told on-screen by those who knew Williams, as well as those intimately affected by him, such as Hank Jr., Hank III and even some of his former bandmates and even a few words from the man himself courtesy of rarely seen or heard archival clips. As the most authoritative biopic on Hank Williams, enthusiasts will definitely want to include this title in their respective libraries.

Various Artists -- The American Folk Blues Festival 1962 -- 1969: Vol. Three (Hip-O Home Video)

Volume Three of the Grammy-nominated American Folk Blues 1962 -1969 home video series is available with another 18 highlights from the epic sojourn that brought our country's most celebrated artists and pioneers to Western Europe for eight consecutive years ('62 -- '69). Fortuitously, those tours were often documented by local independent European TV studios. Capturing the likes of Buddy Guy ("Out Of Sight"), Big Joe Turner ("Flip, Flop And Fly"), Earl Hooker ("Earl's Boogie"), Son House ("Death Letter Blues"), Skip James ("All Night Long"), Roosevelt Sykes ("Gulfport Boogie"), Bukka White ("Got Sick And Tired"}, Helen Humes ("The Blues Ain't Nothing But A Woman"), Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee ("Stranger Blues" and "Burnt Child") as well as Muddy Waters ("Long Distance Call" and "Got My Mojo Working") ...Whew!

Undoubtly the rarest of these is the only footage known to exist of Little Walter, seen here collaborating alongside Hound Dog Taylor ("Wild About You") and Koko Taylor ("Wang Dang Doodle"). Even more astounding is the faultless and absolute age-defying quality -- with audio remastering by producer/engineer Eddie Kramer -- gleaned off of sources that had been presumed lost decades ago. The DVD is accompanied by a detailed 16-page liner notes booklet with text from R&B historian Rob Bowman surrounding a handful of previously unpublished photographs taken during the television tapings.

Memphis Slim/Sonny Boy Williamson -- Live In Europe (Hip-O Home Video)

This DVD also contains material from the American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) with 19 clips of Memphis Slim (piano/vocals) and Sonny Boy Williamson (harmonica/vocal), centering on ten tracks used in the 1963 Dutch programme Jazz Prisma. The made-for-TV session includes both artists backed by then unknowns Matt "Guitar" Murphy (guitar) and Bill Stepney (drums) on the classics "Keep It To Yourself," "I'm Lost Without You," "All By Myself," "My Gal Keeps Me Crying," an epic reading of "Your Funeral And My Trial," as well as the killer Murphy-led instrumental "Matt's Guitar Boogie". There are nine additional performances by Slim and Williamson from various sources. Primary among them are Memphis Slim's "Rockin' The House" with special guests Willie Dixon (bass) and T-Bone Walker (guitar) circa 1962 and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Who's Gonna Take Care Of You," "It's Raining Outdoors, Baby," and "JFK Blues" off of a 1964 AFBF appearance. Not to mention a rare shot of Williamson supporting Mae Mercer on "Careless Love." The remaining three bonuses hail from the stateside 1960 Newport Folk Festival as Otis Spann (piano) and James Cotton (harmonica) team up for "Boogie Woogie Blues," "Slow Sweet Blues" and "St. Louis Blues".

SCTV -- Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Shout! Factory)

When SCTV (Second City Television) was initially broadcast south of the 49th Parallel it was under the moniker SCTV Network 90, airing on NBC from August of 1981 through August of 1983. While short-lived in its Stateside incarnation, SCTV spawned memorable characters from equally luminous talents, including John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O' Hara and Dave Thomas. Primary among the music-related satires are Gil Fisher's (John Candy) The Fishin' Musician with performances from The Tubes ("Sushi Girl") and The Plasmatics ("Doom Song"). Plus, Mel Slirrup's (Eugene Levy) low budget teen dance extravaganza Mel's Rock Pile starring Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman"), or Gerry Todd's Midnight Video Special featuring the Talking Heads ("Once In A Lifetime") and the Plastics ("Top Secret Man"). And how can we forget Pre-Teen World with good advice from Rough Trade ("High School Confidential") and an appearance from Natalie Cole ("Nothing But A Fool") on the one and only Sammy Maudlin Show. There is the occasional off-beat movie parody, such as Teacher's Pet with the Boomtown Rats ("Elephant's Graveyard") and Al Jarreau in The Jazz Singer ("We're In This Love Together").

This is just a sampling of the first and second instalments as each five-DVD collection boasts several hours of bonus material, documentaries and full-length audio commentaries from cast members, writers and producers. These are a bit pricey compared to most TV shows on DVD. However, the episodes ran 90 minutes rather than the standard half-hour for a total of more than 13 hours per volume. While seasons one and two are currently available, the third should be hitting shelves by February or March of 2005.



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