DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD-Video Reviews, Part 1 of 3


Published on March 1, 2004

March 2004, Pt. 1 

ALL MUSIC VIDEOS [Pt. 2] [Pt. 3]


Claudio Abbado conducts BEETHOVEN:
Symphonies 4 & 7 (2003)

Studio: EuroArts
Video: 16:9 widescreen enhanced
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1, PCM Stereo
Extras: Multi-angle switching on 7th. 14 p. booklet
Length: 81 min.
Rating: ****

This was one of the most enjoyable video concerts of symphonic repertory I have yet seen. All the elements were of the very highest quality. When you start with the Berlin Philharmonic doing Beethoven how can you lose? Then you have the conductor who stepped in to lead the world’s finest orchestra following the death of Karajan. He had just overcome a serious illness and the orchestra was invited to perform all nine Beethoven symphonies in the strikingly beautiful Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. The audience in the hall entirely surrounds the orchestra. Abbado had been reconsidering the performance styles of the symphonies and decided on a fresh approach which greatly reduced the size of the string section. The low end instruments, for example, were reduced to just three basses and four cellos. He also adopted faster tempi in many of the movements.

The reproduction of the orchestral sound of this exciting live performance is superb in DTS. Although there is a slight increase in transparency in PCM stereo the wonderful envelopment of the hall’s sonics with multichannel more than makes up for that slight loss. Where there was a major loss was in switching to the Dolby 5.1; I don’t believe I have ever heard such a degradation going from DTS to Dolby on a video. The Dolby option sounded dulled and distant, without life, compared to the DTS. Most classical videos so far have had only Dolby 5.1 if they had multichannel options at all, so it is encouraging that some are starting to appear with both options or all three options. (What really frosts me are some archive releases which are only in stereo or even mono and they yet encode Dolby instead of uncompressed PCM!) I can’t imagine very many purist audiophiles preferring an audio-only version of this concert in 96K PCM or DVD-Audio when we have this superb visual record with only slightly-sonically-compromised DTS sound.

And that brings us to what’s up on the screen. Camera work on symphonic concerts such as this has improved greatly over the years. While it’s still a challenge to make a straight symphonic work without a soloist visually interesting for its length, concerts such as this one are a great deal more pleasurable to view than of yore. The live concerts on PBS years ago were often painful: You often were looking at players doing nothing at all while the action was off-camera, or you saw an edifying closeups of a horn player emptying his condensation on the floor. Then there was the audio sync problem – the audio was sent across the U.S. on an entirely different path than the video, so in the operas the singers opened their mouth’s and about two seconds later you heard their voice. In addition to musically appropriate shots of the players and conductor, the Seventh Symphony has a special multi-angle feature on this DVD. You use the Angle button on your remote control to switch at any time between the Conductor Camera and the Concert Camera, which shows the various orchestral sections or the whole orchestra. The only problem was that the alternate view refused to stay on for more than a few seconds, and I tried it on two of my DVD players.

Just watching Abbado is a trip in itself. I don’t believe I’ve seen a conductor smiling so much and so thoroughly enjoying his time on the podium as Abbado appears in these videos; perhaps Bernstein at times. His facial expressions and movements convey more excitement and involvement for the viewer/listener in the music being experienced. It is sort of like a body-language continuous analysis of the music as it goes along, without the need for speech at all. This is especially strong in the Seventh, with its very balletic feeling – the favorite Beethoven symphony of many people. I couldn’t recommend this one more highly.

– John Sunier

Martha Argerich, piano = SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54/LISZT: Funerailles/RAVEL: Jeux D’Eau

Franz-Paul Decker conducts CBC Symphony Orch.
Studio: VAI DVD 4210
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: 4:3, color
Length: 47 minutes
Rating: ****

Taped July 31, 1977 by Radio-Canada, this fairly brief concert by the distinguished Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich (b. 1941) features at least one rarity, the Liszt homage a Chopin, Funerailles, in a sturdy and lyrical performance. The Schumann is a studio performance, no audience, just Ms. Argerich in her vividly orange or red dress and the stark black and whites of the orchestra. The camerawork is focused either on Argerich’s hands or head and shoulders, with occasional zooms into the woodwinds for Schumann’s internal filigree and open-work for oboe, clarinet and piano. Conductor Decker’s hair gets the Stokowski cameo or two. The mono sound is a bit thin, so audiophiles won’t be crazy about this one; but the piano playing is closely monitored, so we can see exactly how Argerich achieves some of her luminous effects, in spite of a facial sang-froid that rarely reveals the internal fires.

The Funerailles is not a work Argerich has recorded for DGG or for EMI, so it is unique to hear the alternately martial, even vigorously punishing octaves set against the nocturne that marks the more sentimental pages of this large piece. The Ravel Jeux d’eau is an Argerich specialty: she glides through its crossed-hands and sweeping, arpeggiated passages with lithe ease. Curiously, I do not know of a single note of Debussy played by Argerich, so it is Ravel that dominates her interest in French music, here in an impressionist guise. We get an almost unbroken view of the pianist’s hands, muscular and supple. The look of utter accomplishment on her face as she concludes the Ravel suggests we have been privy to a moment of aesthetic noblesse oblige.

–Gary Lemco

Yehudi Menuhin, violin and Hephzibah Menuhin, piano

FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A/SCHUBERT: Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D. 898/BARTOK: Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano; Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano: Allegro molto/ENESCU: Sonata No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 25: Moderato malincolico/MENDELSSOHN: Variations serieuses, Op. 54

Also: Maurice Gendron, cello; Thea King, clarinet; Jeremy Menuhin, piano (Bartok Contrasts)
Studio: EMI Classics DVB 4904529
Video: Black&White/Color 4:3
Audio: PCM Mono
Length: 106:59
Rating: ****

As fine a visual tribute to the family Menuhin’s concept of music-making as I have seen, this video includes concerts taped 1960 (Franck) to 1972 (Bartok and Enescu), with guest appearances by Maurice Gendron and Thea King. The two earlier recitals, the ORTF Franck Sonata and the Bath Guildhall Schubert Trio from 1964, are both in black and white, with relatively conservative visuals taken as a series of medium shots and an occasional moving of the camera in on the soloists. One noteworthy visual is the occasional focus on the musical score’s opening page just before the playing begins.

Yehudi and sister Hephzibah began their duo work as children, but their formal recording as an ensemble began in 1933. Hephzibah’s virtuosity at the piano was underrated; but collectors who know their Schumann D Minor Sonata for RCA and Hephzibah’s LP of the Schubert Trout Quintet well appreciate her capacity for alternately lyric and bravura style. Hephzibah appears on the bonus track on this video, in a 1968 ORTF recital of the Mendelssohn Op. 54 Variations serieuses, as elegant a demonstration of facile grace in this piece as Horowitz rendered on LP.

Besides the elegant Franck Sonata, in which Yehudi still maintains good focus on his intonation, the big piece is the 1964 Schubert Trio, executed with a seamless, rhythmic graciousness by all three artists, with Maurice Gendron in top form at the cello. The Bartok Contrasts comes from 1972, shot in a moody, Antonioni-like dark color, with Yehudi, Jeremy, and clarinet Thea King in silhouete or shadowy relief, clearly distracting us from the music, but suggesting some moody responses to this ungainly piece, made famous by its original trio of Benny Goodman, Joseph Szigeti, and Bela Bartok. The Bartok Violin Sonata movement is also in color, with Yehudi in casual dress but still thoroughly focused on the music at hand, which he plays with religious devotion. The knotty piano part has Hephzibah’s hands keeping the camera under their spell. Finally, an October 28, 1972 tribute to Menuhin’s teacher and mentor Enescu, a movement from the A Minor Sonata in Romanian folk style, urgent, modal, passionate and disturbing at once - elements the Menuhins cultivated in their priesthood of musical art.

–Gary Lemco

The Art of Jean-Pierre Rampal = COUPERIN: Concerto Royal IV/BACH: Sonata for Flute and Continuo in G Minor, BWV 1020/HAYDN: Concerto for Flute, Harpsichord and String Orchestra in f Major/DEBUSSY: Syrinx/BOCCHERINI: Concerto in D Major for Flute and Orchestra/MOZART: Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, K. 314; Flute Concerto No. 1 in G Major, K. 313

Robert Veyron-Lacroix, harpsichord
Alexander Brott cond. The McGill Chamber Orchestra
Studio: VAI DVD 4227
Video: Format 4:3, Black &White
Audio: PCM Mono Sound; (in French without subtitles)
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: ***

A lengthy tribute indeed to the great 20th Century master of the flute, Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000), whose aerial acrobatics and chastity of style made him the dominant apostle of his art, certainly in France, but for no less for two generations of music lovers. These Radio-Canada telecasts, 1956-1966, present Rampal at the top of his form, musically and physically: his sleek and muscular stature is matched by a resilient and sinewy sound, capable of any number of feats, from double-tongue trills and glissandi to added ornaments that arise spontaneously, as he and shadow Veyron-Lacroix collaborate seamlessly.

The video quality of the telecasts is rather grainy, and at times, a bit blurred. It takes at least two movements of the Haydn Concerto before we get a full shot of conductor Brott’s face in front of his players. Veyron-Lacroix, seated immobility at the harpsichord, seems a wraithlike figure from Resnais’ Marienbad. One amazing shot, from the back of the stage left, puts the orchestra, Veyron-Lacroix, and Rampal in perspective during the Haydn, a supreme moment of total, artistic ensemble. Both the Couperin and the Bach selections are poised, sec, pristine examples of the art of recreated Renaissance and Baroque salon practice, excepting the continuo instrument, say, a cello, for pedal support.

The Classical part of the program–Haydn, Boccherini, Mozart–are concert performances attended by sold-out houses, thoroughly delighted by what they came to hear. The video ends with that unisono clapping of which European audiences are noted, besides the unabashed whoops and whistles ofa crowd quite dazzled by the most natural emulation of avian pyrotechnics any man can produce. The Mozart concertos simply sing and dance, especially the rondo from K. 314, which Rampal owned as much as anyone could. The Debussy Syrinx is supposed to be performed in the dark, but we see Rampal play it. Its mysteries are still intact. The Hercules of the flute, Rampal is always a treat, even if this dosage quite exhausted me at one sitting.

–Gary Lemco

Arthur Grumiaux, violin = MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor , Op. 64/BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61/BACH: Sarabande and Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor/PAGANINI: Caprice No. 14 in E-flat/BLOCH: Baal Shem: Nigun; Bonus Video: Ivry Gitlis = SAINT-SAENS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28

Manuel Rosenthal Conducts ORTF (Mendelssohn)
Antal Dorati conducts ORTF (Beethoven)
Andre Chomedon, piano (Bloch)
Georges Pludermacher, piano (for Gitlis, Saint-Saens)

Studio: EMI DVD DVB 49044469
Video: 4:3, Black and White
Audio: PCM Mono
Length: 98:13
Rating: ****

Among the most suave, elegant masters of his instrument, the Belgian artist Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986) never played a false note, never suffered a moment of musical mishap. We hear him in concert and solo tape 1961 to 1967, with the camera often right on top of his violin, allowing us to witness the effortless bow and left-hand technique of this flawless interpreter. The Mendelssohn and Beethoven concertos (I especially recall his inscriptions of the Beethoven and the Brahms with Eduard van Beinum) were Grumiaux staples, and he plays swiftly in both without sacrificing the clarity of his line or the high arch of his concepts. To see legendary conductor Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003) of Gaite Parisienne fame in concert is a rare delight. His gestures are economical but not without emotion, and we can plainly see he savors Grumiaux’s pliant wizardry in the Mendelssohn Concerto. From the same Nice concert of 22 January 1961 we hear Grumiaux’s encore, the solo Caprice No. 14 by Paganini, with its alternate staccato and arco bowing and expansive wrist action.

For the Beethoven, a most elegant affair, the conductor is Antal Dorati (1906-1988), rather a literalist interpreter but attentive to those details of accent and tympani that move the drama along. Grumiaux takes the long line with the Beethoven, but his cadenzas are sober and beautifully poised; the G Major theme-and-variations second movement is a classic. Although we have no Mozart on this program, Grumiaux’s Bach is passionate, secure, and thoroughly thought out for balance and textures. He moves through double stops and harmonics so fluently his performance might be accused of overripeness. The Bloch Baal Shem from 1967 is rife with poignant breaths and Semitic, soulful rifts. Ther program is a virtual study in violin refinement.

What a sudden contrast is the Saint-Saens track with Ivry Gitlis (b. 1922), whose Huberman style of gypsy and rasping, acid attacks makes the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso a nervous, spectacular display piece. Gitlis’ use of selected bow pressure and his sizzling glissandi make this a tape of a mature Paganini (1971) at work in a piece he clearly enjoys. Georges Pludermacher, known for his accompanying Nathan Milstein, provides some ‘orchestral’ piano sound for this volatile filler track that may well steal the show.

–Gary Lemco

Henryk Szeryng, violin = BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77; Hungarian Dance No. 17/BARTOK: Romanian Folk Dances/LECLAIR: Sonata in D Major/RAVEL: Tzigane/BACH: Fuga from Solo Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001/SUK: Love Song/LOCATELLI: Caprice in D Major/NOVACEK: Perpetuum mobile/DEBUSSY: La plus que lente/MOZART: Allegro from “Haffner” Serenade (arr. Kreisler)/KREISLER: Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice for Solo Violin, Op. 6

Paul Paray conducts Paris Conservatory Orchestra
Tasso Janopoulo, piano/Michael Isador, piano (Mozart)
Studio: EMI DVD DVB 4904409
Video: 4:3 screen, Black&White/Color
Audio: PCM Mono
Length: 104:07
Rating: ***

A comprehensive survey of Polish-Mexican violinist Henryk Szeryng (1918-1988), with videos he made 1962-1975, each a picture of the poise and aristocratic line this French-trained (by way of Carl Flesch) virtuoso brought to every work he performed. The entire series of concerts derives from tapes made by the ORTF French Radio, with a few of the musical selections’ having been shot in color. The Brahms Concerto under veteran Paul Paray is lean and eminently elegant, with Szeryng’s keeping a propelled basic pulse in the manner of another artist he admired, Nathan Milstein. Szeryng plays with the violin placed high on the neck and arm, arching his back and leaning into the phrases. He plays the Joachim cadenza in the Brahms first movement. The French oboe, hon and tympani players remain unnamed, but we feel their presence, and occasionally, the cameras move their way.

Szeryng joined the Sol Hurok team of artists around 1954, and he teamed with pianist Charles Reiner. But for the violin-piano parts of the video his partner is Tasso Janopoulo, the Finnish artist who played for Jacques Thibaud. In the Leclair and Bartok selections, we get the camera’s focus on the left hand and facile bowing by Szeryng, a technique he honed with Heifetz and Kogan well in mind.  We do not have Szeryng’s broad knowledge of the Spanish repertory, but the Bartok, Ravel and Locatelli (the so-called “harmonic labyrinth”) demonstrate a huge, dazzling technical arsenal combined with a flair for the long singing line and fast vibrato. A master Bach player, Szeryng taped the Fuga in 1964, just between his commercial traversals of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Sony and DGG, respectively. Always a “vertical” player, Szeryng keeps the harmonic tension in high relief as he sails through double stops and rapid shifts in registration. The bonus track, a tribute to Fritz Kreisler, comes from London 31 January 1975, where a mature artist, clearly in serene command of form and content, lends a sculpted architecture to the Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice that is quite breathtaking. Conductor Yoel Levi called Szeryng “the most prepared artist in my experience,” and we can discern how the man’s catholic taste and high energy mesmerized every audience who heard him.

–Gary Lemco


Three Tales: Hindenburg/Bikini/Dolly

Music: Steve Reich
Videos: Beryl Korot
The Steve Reich Ensemble/Synergy Vocals/Bradley Lubman
Studio: Nonesuch DVD + CD 79662-2
Video: 4:3 (but looks fine in widescreen too)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 on DVD, 44.1 PCM on CD
Rating: depends

More difficult to categorize than most of the recent DVD/CD combinations, this one has the same music on both discs, but the visual presentation adds so much to the experience that it seems to belong in this DVD section. First, you will probably have to be already a fan of this most unflinchingly minimalist-of-the-minimalists in order to really get into either the audio or video discs here. Reich enjoys playing with the phase relationships in sound and music, and Korot’s video images often work with similar effects on the screen. There are speech excerpts and interviews mixing into the soundtrack and the speech is often manipulated electronically in various ways, such as greatly slowing down certain vowel sounds.

Reich describes the sense of the three works as exploring different human attitudes toward technology. In the first Third from Reich some of the Hindenburg footage shows the workers building the giant Zeppelin, and the footage of its explosion in l937 (the first major disaster captured on film) is slowed and repeated in a similar way to what is heard on the soundtrack. (I don’t agree with Reich that this disaster marked the end of a failed technology; it’s a fine technology we could be using today as an alternative to giant ocean liners. We simply should have given the Germans helium for it and all those lives could have been saved.) Bikini, as you may have guessed, is not about the bathing suits – though we briefly see them in the video – but about the atom bomb tests on the little atoll in the Pacific between 1946 and 52. Among the manipulated footage here are shots of the natives being moved off their island before the tests, and the actual tests being carried out. Dolly concerns the recent cloning of a sheep and presents portions of statements by many genetics experts on the pros and cons of this manipulation of natural biology. I used to make experimental films and have viewed quite a few in my time. Korot’s video didn’t do it for me, but it could well be just the ticket for someone else. Perhaps my squirminess under exposure to Reich’s music detracted from my digging the visuals. They just seemed to be playing around with what can be done so easily with video today and took such patience and dedication to achieve with chemical film in the past. And if Philip Glass makes you squirm, please don’t listen to these discs.

- – John Sunier


Sergiu Celibidache and BRUCKNER’s Mass in F Minor (1993)

A Film by Jan Schmidt-Garre
Soloists: Margaret Price, Doris Soffel, Peter Straka, Matthias Holle, Hans Sotin; Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus/Sergiu Celibidache
Studio: ArtHaus Musik (distr. by Naxos)
Video: 4:3
Audio: PCM stereo
Subtitles: English
Length: 60 min.
Rating: ***

Romanian conductor Celibidache, who died in l997, had been even bigger than Karajan in Germany immediately after the war. He was famous for refusing to make formal recordings, and so had to be captured on tape and film on the fly during live performances and rehearsals. This video is the latter situation in which although they do get thru all six movements of the Mass there are stops and starts as Celibidache exhorts the chorus and orchestra (in German) toward a more perfect shaping of the music of a composer who was one of his specialties – Bruckner. There are also cutaways to a short interview with the conductor in which he discusses his special affection for the composer and for this particular Mass. Both images and sound are excellent, as in all the ArtHaus series I have seen. The clean PCM stereo provides a fine approximation of the acoustic of the St. Florian Church in Munich where the video was taped if you run it thru ProLogic II decoding. My only beef is that I would have preferred excerpts from the rehearsal first, and then a complete uninterrupted performance of the entire work.

- John Sunier

The Marsalis Family – A Jazz Celebration (2001)

The PBS Special plus Interviews
Musicians: Ellis Marsalis, piano; Branford Marsalis, saxophones; Delfeayo Marsalis, trombone; Jason Marsalis, drums; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Roland Guerin, bass; Harry Connick Jr., piano; Lucien Barbarin, trombone
Studio: Round Records
Video: 4:3
Audio: Dolby Digital stereo
Extras: Interviews with all the family members plus additional concert footage
Rating: ****

A thoroughly delightful evening with the most famous musical family in jazz today. The interviews fill in a great deal not covered in the PBS special. The brothers explain that their father Ellis didn’t make a special effort to train them and get a family band together. They were just four normal boys running around tearing up the house, with no special musical interest at the start. It all just sort of happened. The concert pays musical tribute to father Ellis. Programming ranges from the expected New Orleans-type traditional jazz numbers to very modern tunes penned by some of the brothers – such as Wynton’s Cain and Abel, which features a high voltage cutting contest between Wynton and his sax-playing brother Branford. Another highlight is a surprising two-piano improvisation on Ellington’s Caravan with friend-of-the-family Harry Connick Jr. tickling the ivories across from Ellis Marsalis. Image and stereo sound are excellent throughout.

Tracks: The Surry with the Fringe on Top, After, Sultry Serenade, Cain and Abel, Caravan, St. James Infirmary, Limehouse Blues, Swinging at the Haven, Nostalgic Impressions, Struttin’ with Some Barbecue, Twelve’s It, The Party’s Over.

– John Henry

VH1 Storytellers: Sarah McLachlan (2003)
Studio: Image Entertainment
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, Stereo 2.0
Extras: Music Only option (skips intros to songs)
Length: 55 minutes
Rating: ****

As much as I enjoyed this DVD overall, I can’t understand why the first song on this disc starts in the middle—couldn’t they have began the DVD from the beginning of the performance? Anyway, if you aren’t familiar with the VH1 storyteller series, let’s just say that it gives the artist a chance to explain/expound upon song content in a semi-intimate setting of about 250 people. Think of MTV unplugged, except the artist is plugged in. This performance takes place in January of 1998, after McLachlan’s first Lilith Fair—a multi-act performance that Sarah organized with leading female performers of the day. This performance occurred a day after the artist’s 30th birthday, and the good feeling from being reunited with her parents and her surprise party is very evident in her disposition.

From her music, it is clear that she is inspired by many of the things that affect people on a daily basis. In addition, we hear her insight into the world and tales about the songs that came about from her own personal experiences as a struggling artist. Her musical influences as a younger woman include: Cat Stevens, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, and finally Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. She admits to having periods when these artists had a great deal of impact on her music, but in many ways she broke free from imitation, and developed her own musical style.

I remember picking up a copy of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy after hearing Possession on the radio. This is one of her earlier, more popular tunes and is included on this disc. Even after hearing the song many times, the meaning never really hit me until I heard Sarah explain. Apparently, she had received some disturbing letters from obsessed fans and wasn’t quite able to deal with it. Her answer was “Possession,” an attempt to get into the mind of these fans:

And I will be the one
to hold you down
kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
and after, I’d wipe away the tears
just close your eyes dear

Songs like Adia, Angel, and Sweet Surrender are more examples of her talent and why this singer/songwriter has left her mark. Vincent Jones joins her on keyboards, David Sinclair and Sean Ashby on guitars and background vocals, Brian Minato on bass, Camille Henderson on vocals, and her husband, Ash, on drums. Make sure you don’t forget to stay through the credits to hear the two bonus tracks. Songs are: Good Enough; Building A Mystery; Ice Cream; Sweet Surrender; Hold On; Elsewhere; Possession; Adia; Witness; Angel.

-Brian Bloom


World Tour 1966 – The Home Movies of Mickey Jones (1966)
Studio: 1966 Tour Home Movies
Video: 4:3 for interview, 1:1(?) from 8mm film
Audio: DD 5.1
Extras: Photo Gallery
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: *** 1/2

The big picture of Bob Dylan on the front of this DVD case is a bit misleading. Sure, the disc is comprised of home movies during his 1966 tour (and other footage as well), but most of the material is not necessarily of Dylan at all. Mickey Jones, Dylan’s drummer on the tour, filmed most of the material himself. Along with the footage, is constant commentary by Jones in an interview format where he talks not only about the tour, but his career. The title of this DVD should really be something like “The Life and Times of Mickey Jones.”

Jones got into music at an early age after being inspired by Chuck Berry—he just “got it.” He played in local bands in high school, but his break came when he hooked up with Trini Lopez with whom he played for 8 years. There is early footage showing the band playing in the same venue as the Beatles before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. He finally called it quits and moved out to the west coast away from his hometown in Texas. He tried his hand at some other work, but ended up back in the music business working with Johnny Rivers. His career was going well and he did some U.S.O.. shows in Vietnam, and then ended up in Los Angeles where he met Bob Dylan for the first time. Bob had an idea to play an electric tour, and was so impressed by Jones’ playing that he asked him on as the drummer. The footage of the tour starts off in Hawaii with mainly landscapes rather than much in the way of performance footage. (You have to keep in mind that Mickey couldn’t very well be recording himself while he was playing!)

Throughout the DVD, while mostly during the footage of concerts, music from a Bob Dylan tribute band (that Jones plays in) plays (at a low level) in the background. The tour was met with very mixed press. Many people thought that Dylan had “sold out” although Jones makes it clear that it was Bob who wanted to do the electric tour. One of the things that really make this DVD successful is Jones’ narration. He is a gifted talker and provides the glue that puts (what I would consider mostly uninteresting footage) all together in a sensible manner that ends up making it worthwhile from an historical viewpoint. Many have claimed that the 1966 electric tour really changed the face of music. Even after watching this entire video, I still wasn’t quite sure why, unless it was the fact that the artist had the freedom to do a show, even an unpopular one, the way he wanted to.

After Dylan, Jones went on to join Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. He played with them for 10 years until temporarily giving up music completely. His career shifted to movies and television where he played roles in Drop Zone, Total Recall, Tin Cup, Sling Blade, and had a long, 8-year stint as a character in the hit TV series Home Improvement. All told, Mickey Jones has 17 platinum and gold record albums to his credit–quite an impressive career all in all. Just be sure to realize that most of this disc is about Jones, and not specifically Bob Dylan. Video quality of the footage is typical semi-grainy 8mm color.

-Brian Bloom




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