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Reviewed by - Matt Rowe

The Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones'
Rock and Roll Circus

The reappearance of The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus is a shining moment in our musical history. This live audience extravaganza, conceived by Mick Jagger and performed in 1968, was intended for TV broadcast. It never made it. Due to perceptions and bad judgement, this excellent film lanquished on shelves for years until 1995, when it finally made it to VHS.

But we live in a DVD era where surround mixes abound and bonus additions thrive and make the package. The re-introduction of Rock and Roll Circus bring with it all the new features found on DVDs and then some more. The film iself is remastered to provide a new transfer from the original 16mm negatives. The 5.1 surrounds added into this package are largely ambient but a surround mix nevertheless. Stereo is PCM. The aspect ratio is standard 4x3.

For those who have yet to see Rock and Roll Circus and need a short primer on the film, it is simply this. Set in a circus atmosphere with live performances by Jethro Tull, The Who, the gorgeous Marianne Faithfull, Taj Mahal, The Dirty Mac (a convergence of talent featuring Eric Clapton (Cream), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), Keith Richards, and John Lennon), and, of course, The Rolling Stones and interspersed with trapeze acts and fire-eaters, this show embodied the emerging spirit of 70s rock.

In it you see a picture perfect performance by Jethro Tull with Ian Anderson's signature posturing and delivery as well as the band's play of "Song For Jeffrey." It is followed by a performance of The Who with their "A Quick One While He's Away", a smoking R&B performance by Taj Mahal of "Ain't That a Lot of Love", and a bewitching song by Marianne Faithfull, "Something Better."

In the next performance, John Lennon's Dirty Mac (hmmm...Dirty Mac) raises the bar and sets the stage for 70s rock by a free-styled blues-rock set that begins with "Yer Blues" and finishes with the avant garde styled "Whole Lotta Yoko" with Yoko Ono who rattles the stage with her vocals set to a jam for the ages by the assembled super-group.

Following are six Stones tunes that begin with "Jumping Jack Flash", includes a grand performance of "Sympathy For the Devil", fills with "Parachute Woman", a great acoustic and slide guitar performance of "No Expectations", "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and closed by "Salt of the Earth." All in all, this show runs 63 minutes.

On this DVD version of this essential title, the extras make this a set to be desired. The wealth of additions contained on this DVD make this title the gem that it already is but even more so on DVD. There is an 18-minute interview with present day Pete Townshend (who talks about Chip Monck's circus design. You'll remember Chip Monck largely for his involvement with Woodstock), 3 more performances of Taj Mahal that has never been seen, two Julius Katchen classical piano performances not included in the original film, a quad screen split of the "Yer Blues" performance by Dirty Mac, and a Wyman introduced Clowns slapstick sketch that brings to mind The 3 Stooges in several ways. There is also a brief camera moment with John and Mick with a little homo-erotica as they fun around.

As is on any music DVD, there is an obligatory photo gallery. A monster bonus inclusion is a recent video for the Fatboy Slim remix of "Sympathy for the Devil." Add all these bonuses up and throw in 3 separate commentaries, one that involves an outside perspective with David Stark, a 13 year old audience participant during the show and David Dalton, a journalist. More, newly recorded, commentary comes from members of the various participants including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Marianne Faithfull, Jagger, Richards, Mahal, and Ono. The other commentary includes Lindsay-Hogg and the Director of Photography, Anthony B Richmond.

All of this goodness is selectable via a beautifully designed and animated menu. What else could you possibly want in such an historically important document that is so richly complete? Abkco Records has gone to great length to update The Rolling Stones library that it is in control of and has done a magnificent job of it. With the addition of Rock and Roll Circus along with its many bonuses, completists and purists as well true Stones fans will truly love this set. It reflects the time period so well and delivers sterling performances. Bottom line? Worth standing in line for.

Now, what are you waiting for?

Release Date: October 12, 2004
Chapters: 18 - Time: 63:00 (not including bonuses)
Produced by: Rolling Stones
Format: DVD
Extras: Bonus Footage, Photo Gallery, Commentaries (3)
Video: 4x3 Full Frame (1:33 Aspect Ratio)
Sound: PCM Stereo 2.0, 5.1 Surround
Website: www.therollingstones.com

Track Listing:

Song For Jeffrey (Jethro Tull) / A Quick One While He's Away (The Who) / Ain't That a Lot of Love (Taj Mahal) / Something Better (Mariann Faithfull) / Yer Blues (The Dirty Mac) / Whole Lotta Yoko (Dirty Mac w/ Yoko Ono and Ivry Gitlis) / Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones) / Parachute Woman (Rolling Stones) / No Expectations (Rolling Stones) / You Can't Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones) / Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones) / Salt of the Earth (Rolling Stones).

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