DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Reviews Part 1 of 3


Published on March 1, 2005

March 2005 Part 1 of 3 [Pt. 2] [Pt. 3]

***All Music Videos***


Karajan - Beethoven 3rd Karajan cond. Pictures Rosyln Tureck TV appearances Concerto Italiano - Tribute to Tebaldi
Maria Tallchief doc. Carmen ballet - Plitsetskaya Nureyev doc. - Dancers Dream Billie Holiday documentary
Guitarist Al Di Meola Jean Luc Ponty, violin


Karajan cond. Beethoven Third Sym.BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”

Herbert von Karajan conducts Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Studio: Sony DVD SVD 48434
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: PCM Stereo, Dolby Stereo
Extras: Illus. booklet in English/German/French
Length: 55:07
Rating: ****:

Originally recorded at the Philharmonie Berlin on April 30, 1982, the performance of the Beethoven Eroica under Karajan was part of the Orchestra’s Jubilee 100 Years, 1882-1982 celebration, featuring the very work Hans von Bulow programmed for his first concert with the ensemble 21 October 1887. Sony has bought the rights (from Karajan’s own Telemondial S.A.M.) to The Karajan Legacy for Home Video, lavishly mounted video concerts that Karajan himself choreographed and supervised with director of photography Ernst Wild, paying strict attention to the dramatics of the score, along with the bravura communication between conductor and orchestra, like the effective crosscutting from just the tip of the tympani drumsticks to the resplendent trumpets&Mac226; announcing the triumph of the E-flat theme at the end of the first movement.

Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) inherited the mantle of the BPO from Wilhelm Furtwaengler, replacing that conductor’s humanistic tradition with a more virtuoso sensibility that strove for absolute perfection in all parts, a seamless sound that the Wagner aesthetic may have engendered. Both dynamically sensitive and mobile, the Karajan Beethoven has an impetus straight out of Toscanini’s example, highly charged but almost impatient in its momentum. Conducting with his eyes closed only accentuates Karajan’s reliance on strict rehearsal methods that somewhat obviated the spontaneity of his conceptions in favor of pure homogeneity of sound. This is not to deny the essential power and sweep he achieves, say, in the mighty fugue section of the Marche funebre. Extremely fast cutting between Karajan, strings, brass, bassi, and full orchestra enhances the liquid motion as the drama unfolds, with occasional double exposure shots of an enthralled audience or rather votaries in the musical temple. The Scherzo is Herculean in mold and forward motion, with a long, lean line that has elasticity and breadth. Karajan applies the Roman emperor outlook for his Finale: Allegro molto, with lingering camerawork on his slow, sculptor’s stance, cross cutting to a violinist and then the tympani, the full strings and brass marking Beethoven’s Prometheus ballet theme. Karajan’s head is bent down, rarely making anything but facial contact–mostly grimaces and uplifted eyebrows– but the titanic effect is not lost on the audience, and Karajan does open his eyes at the end to smile and accept the laurels he has long anticipated. [The preponderance of closeups and absence of long shots dates the visual presentation to a time when video screens were only 17 or 21 inches, and the shot selections are so obsessively perfect as to seem almost anal in nature. Compare to the natural and appropriate visuals for the recent SF Symphony/MTT Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony DVD...Ed.]

–Gary Lemco

Karajan cond. Pictures at an Ex.MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)

Herbert von Karajan conducts Berlin Philharmonic
Studio: Sony Classical DVD SVD 53480
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital stereo
Extras: Illus note booklet in 3 languages
Length: 36:39
Rating: ****

One of some nine installments of the Herbert von Karajan: His Recorded Legacy for Home Video collection, this Sony visual document of the concert of 22 February 1986, from the Philharmonie in Berlin, three years prior to Karajan’s death in 1989. I was present in Salzburg in late March 1989 when an ailing Karajan led concerts with Evgeny Kissin (Tchaikovsky concerto in B-flat Minor) and the Verdi Requiem. Karajan, who had already explored the video possibilities of his own concerts, worked with executive producer and director of photography Ernst Wild in choreographing the camera movements according to the dictates of each score. For the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, we have some close-up-and-personal shots of the Berlin Philharmonic brass and wind players, especially the French horn, and later the basses and tympani.

One happy note is that we do see Karajan with his eyes open, thus avoiding the typical image of a gifted somnambulist leading a pre-rehearsed band of musical marionettes. The segue from Karajan’s upbeat to the entry of the brass contingent for the Catacombs section is quite dramatic, with resplendent playing worthy of the Wagnerian sound Karajan cultivated. Occasionally, we have double exposure shots of orchestra members and Karajan’s steady unwavering pulse. Cues from strings to bassoons and back to Karajan lead us to a vivid and wild ride from Baba-Yaga. The whole conception is lustrous and over-refined in the typical silken patina Karajan favored – that avoids and rough edges and came to symbolize a kind of orchestral perfection. “A megalomaniac but a genius” Boris Goldovsky called Karajan. The stately Promenade and its thematic transformations that culminate in a vision of the Kingdom of Heaven may well be a metaphor for Karajan himself, master of all he surveys.

–Gary Lemco

Rosalyn Tureck TV appearancesRosalyn Tureck: The Historic Television Appearances: The Bach Programs for “Camera Three”

Rosalyn Tureck, harpsichord/clavichord/piano
Studio: VAI DVD 4281
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: 4:3 Black&White and Color
Length: 82 minutes
Rating: ****

I met the late Rosalyn Tureck (1914-2003) only once, in Atlanta, where I proffered up to her a British LP version of her Bach Overture in B Minor, to which she immediately responded with, “Oh, you have a rare one there, young man.” Considered by many as the world’s leading authority on Bach and Bach performance, Tureck had been a virtuoso pianist in the romantic tradition (after the manner o her idol, Anton Rubinstein) as well as a promoter of the avant-garde. She wrote in one of her many essays of the artist’s achieving a synthesis of imaginative and cognitive energies, a merger of “aesthetic identity and intellectual conviction.” Her primary conception of Bach is as an “abstract” composer, a man not confined to any specific instrument as a vehicle for his ideas, but only with the organization of musical ideas in relation to each other. Thus, in her presentation for “Camera Three” 3 January 1980, Tureck is able to demonstrate Bach’s cutting-edge musicianship on the Moog Synthesizer, while the Chopin E Major Nocturne only sounds like a poor man’s sugar plum for a merry-go-round.

Rosalyn Tureck’s three appearances from 1961, 1962 and 1980 are architecturally grouped so that the Gigue from the B-flat Partita begins and ends the entire video. In the opening broadcast, Tureck plays the same Gigue both on the harpsichord and the piano in order to demonstrate how successfully Bach’s music translates from one sonority to another. Her major work is the Italian Concerto, in a thoughtful and ripe performance to which Tureck provides a brief but pointed verbal introduction. The telecast of 7 October 1962 lets Tureck present some miniature Bach gems, like the Applicatio in C Major, the Musette in D, the Minuet in G Minor, and the March in E-flat Major, each in the context of Bach’s managing intellectual exercises and learned yet playful figures at the same time. Tureck remarks earlier that while Bach scholarship has its rewards, the listener “must be free to enjoy Bach on a spontaneous level, free from the changing attitudes of scholars.” She culminates her brief survey of the Bach keyboard oeuvre with the Aria and seven variations from the Goldberg Variations, again having prefaced her lucid, strong reading with a verbal introduction.

The 31 January 1980 most closely resembles an advanced master class, here from a former pupil of the 20th Century apostle of formalism, Arnold Schoenberg, with whom Tureck studied when Schoenberg taught in California. Tureck presents Bach’s B Minor Prelude from Book I of the WTC as “the first real example of 12-tone music,” and she presents formal sketch of the music’s melodic sequence on a chart, one of several Tureck prepared especially for her broadcast. She plays Bach on the harpsichord and the clavichord, carefully illuminating the viewer as to the historical and auditory properties of each. She plays Goldberg Variation 29 on the harpsichord and the piano to reveal what each sonority conveys to the listener. “Without Bach, there would be no Schoenberg, no Stravinsky,” Tureck claims. The universality of the conceptual organization of music Tureck calls “perfection,” and she feels that while Mozart of all other composers came close, none equals Bach for his perfection.

The bonus track derives from 17 February 1955, when Tureck appears with the Radio-Canada Orchestra under Jean Baudet in the Allegro movement from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. Baudet is a bit of a plodder, and the camera does not evoke anything of his individual personality, but there is the young Tureck, exploding in the octave passages and lulling us quietly through the meditative episodes with focused energy. One occasional touch by the filmmakers is to superimpose images of the piano’s interior strings and hammers with Tureck and the accompanying instrument, like the French horn. What the video does is communicate the thorough, well-rounded personality Tureck brought to music, her rigorous discipline and catholic, intellectual tastes, buttressed by a massive, powerful technique that she refined according to her own lights.

–Gary Lemco

Tebaldi & Quilico - Concerto ItalianoConcerto Italiano = Renata Tebaldi and Louis Quilico: PUCCINI: O mio babino caro from Gianni Schiccchi; Nadia! Silenzio from Il Tabarro; Act II Finale from Tosca; TOSTI: L’Ultima canzone; MASCAGNI: Overture to Le Maschere; ROSSINI: La Regata Veneziana; BONUS = PUCCINI: Two Arias from Madama Butterfly; Vissi d’arte from Tosca; CILEA: Io son l’umile ancella from Adriana Lecouvreur

Renata Tebaldi, soprano; Louis Quilico, baritone; Richard Braun (in Tosca); Ermanno Mauro, tenor (Il Tabarro); Lillian Sukis, soprano (Il Tabarro); Ernesto Barbini conducts CBC Festival Orchestra/Donald Vorhees conducts Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra (bonus tracks)
Studio: VAI DVD 425
Video Format 4:3, B&W and Color
Audio: PCM mono
Subtitles: English (for the CBC broadcast)
Length: 53 minutes
Rating: ****

The death of veteran soprano Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004) quite ended a special era of Italian opera singing. I had the privilege of hearing Tebaldi in concert only once, in 1962, in New York’s Town Hall, when an older gentleman addressed me as “quite lucky” to be in attendance. Despite her amazing durability as a singer and recitalist, Tebaldi really mastered only Italian roles and art-songs, although she could modulate to Venetian and Neapolitan dialects. Her art was essentially lyric, but she could project a resilient chest-tone for more spinto excursions in Verdi and Mascagni. The evenness of her delivery, the careful ascension of her scales, the excellent projection of diction and dramatic force, made Tebaldi a consistently pleasing and accurate performer, if not always spectacular and sporadically brilliant as her contemporary Callas.

Tebaldi and Louis Quilico appear in a 1965 broadcast of “Festival,” a program hosted by Sir Boyd Neel, who comments upon and illuminates each selection. Tebaldi shows her elegant poise in O mio babbino caro; then, Quilico follows suit with the romantic lament, The Last Song, by Tosti, in which a lover sadly recalls his ardor for a woman about to marry another. Conductor Barbini has seven minutes to himself for an infrequent, happily Mozartean overture by Mascagni, in which woodwinds bubble and cellos have at least one legato melody of note. Rossini’s three-part serenade The Venetian Regatta has an ardent Angelina vividly describing the progress of her lover, the gondolier Momolo, as her competes for the red flag to win himself and her local glory. Quilico returns in excellent form in Puccini’s rather lurid Il Tabarro, where a pipe-smoking husband watches his wife’s tryst on the docks with an unknown lover, and the husband contemplates his revenge by squeezing a sailor’s knot.

The extended excerpt from Tosca is the perennial favorite, with a lustful Scarpia’s assault on Floria Tosca’s honor, and her delayed but inexorable answer with a dagger, “Here is Tosca’s kiss!” The chemistry between Tebaldi and Quilico is strong, with his using a goblet or a piece of paper to insinuate his carnality. Tebaldi is rather staid and monochromatic as an actress, but her gestures and movements are well coordinated with her seamless vocalism. The two Bell Telephone appearances, 1959-1961, are glorious color, with Tebaldi’s Butterfly delivering a truly virile farewell to her child prior to her ritual suicide. The Vissi d’arte on Bell precedes the CBC performance by four years, and it gives us a slightly more wistful character to its paean to love and art – a tender surrender to Fate. For an elevated hour of bel canto and honed, dramatic, Italian lyricism, you will want to savor this video. Goodbye, Renata caro.

–Gary Lemco

Art of Maria TallchiefThe Art of Maria Tallchief = Mendelssohn: Scotch Symphony–Adagio/MINKUS: Grand pas from Don Quixote/HELSTED: Flower Festival in Genzano/TCHAIKOVSKY: Allegro brillante from Piano Concerto No. 3; Swan Lake–Act II Excerpts/PROKOFIEV: Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet/CHOPIN: Pas de Deux from Les Sylphides/GLAZOUNOV: Pas de dix from scenes de Ballet

Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Voorhees Radio-Symphony of Canada/Jean Desluriers
Studio: VAI DVD 4234
Video: 4:3 Black&White and Color
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 83 minutes
Rating:****:

A collection of performances by the American-born ballet phenomenon Maria Tallchief (b. 1925) spanning 1954-1966, where she appears with exemplary partners Erik Bruhn, Royes Fernandez, Nicholas Magallanes, Andre Eglevsky, Conrad Ludlow, and in his American debut, Rudolf Nureyev. Actress Shirley Jones introduces one of the sequences, the Tchaikovsky Allegro brillante. Several of the numbers have George Balanchine’s choreography, the Russian expatriate who happened to be Tallchief’s husband. In her autobiography, she admits to having had an affair with Nureyev. The 1962 staging of the Flower Festival is rather an effeminate vehicle for Nureyev’s colossal physique and technique, but he prances and spins effectively.

Andre Eglevsky makes a powerful, alternately graceful and muscular presence, appearing in the Scotch Symphony sequence and the extended pas from Swan Lake, where his final bow of mourning for the lost Odette is almost a paean to the passing of Tallchief’s art.Tallchief and Erik Bruhn (who also choreographed the Flower Festival) make a splendid pair for the Minkus grand pas, enjoying sensational leaps, turns and coordinated hand movements, virtues clearly lacking at the very end of the Nureyev sequence, where she and Nureyev do not quite know where they want to grip. Balanchine’s choreography for the Tchaikovsky Third Concerto (1964), with its extended solo piano trill, is as virtuosic and electric as its tempo designation, with another strong partner for Tallchief in Nicholas Magallanes. The Prokofiev (1966) allows Tallchief to project her vulnerable innocence as it pliantly transforms into womanhood, courtesy of Conrad Ludlow’s sensual Romeo.

The Radio-Canada ballets are in black and white, but what color they do achieve is through the dance. The Balanchine energy carries the latter two offerings, Glazounov’s Pas de dix (1957) and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (1954). Les Sylphides (1963) has Royes Fernandez working with Tallchief in choreography from Mikhail Fokine. The excerpt contains the A-flat Nocturne and the C-Sharp Minor Waltz, allowing the dancers to sigh in each other’s arms prior to their heroic pirouettes. When it comes to pirouettes, Nureyev’s left foot is unstoppable, and Eglevsky is no slouch. As for Tallchief herself, she has the same linear grace and diaphanous sleekness as Russia’s Plisetskaya, but even more demureness. Tallchief’s elegant figure and approach are entirely classical, and she can stand en point forever. Her rotations and filigree, her sense of form–with its insistence on all kinds of triangulation–is a true product of the Balanchine ethos. There may be a cold efficacy in her realizations, but it is not unlike the exactitude of Heifetz on the violin.

–Gary Lemco

Plisetskaya dances CarmenBIZET-SHCHEDRIN: Carmen Suite Ballet (1969)

Dancers: Maya Plisetskaya, Nikolai Fadeyechev, Sergei Radchenko
The Bolshoi Theater Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Studio: Corinth Films/VAI 4294
Video: 4:3 color, code free
Audio: PCM mono
Extras: Plisetskaya in The Dying Swan, Bach Prelude & excerpt from Raymonda
Length: 62:40
Rating: ***

By far the best-known work of the contemporary Russian composer, this is not the first ballet setting of the familiar Carmen novella. The first was in 1845 – 30 years before Bizet’s opera. Shchedrin created his arrangement for strings and percussion section after seeing his wife Plisetskaya working on some choreographic ideas for a Carmen ballet. The music is very witty and offers a fresh view of the familiar tunes – especially the version of the soldier’s march where he entirely dispenses with the tune, leaving only the accompaniment. Yet the typical unaware listener will insist they heard the tune!

The ballet setting, however, is much darker and explores the sensual and symbolic aspects of the tragic story. Plisetskaya is almost like a Callas of ballet, showing convincing dramatic gifts that add much to the impact of the story. The conclusion is especially symbolic and effective, with Escamillo stabbing the dancer representing the bull at the same time as Don Jose stabs Carmen. The film suffers from the murky, foggy images and muted colors of most Soviet films of the period, but though mono the sound isn’t nearly as poor as on many older Russian films. This is an unusual and satisfying ballet classic which should appeal to a wide audience.

- John Sunier

Doc. on Romeo & Juliet ballet & NureyevDancer’s Dream – The Great Ballets of Rudolf Nureyev to Music of Prokofiev (1999)

Les Etoiles – Premier dancers of the Corps de Ballet of the National Opera Orchestra of Paris/Vello Pahn
Narration by Elisabeth Maurin
Studio: Europe Images/TDK
Video: Enhanced for 16:9, color
Audio: PCM stereo
Length: 89 minute
Rating: ****

More Russian ballet in this documentary dedicated to productions of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet ballet produced by Rudolf Nureyev at the Opera National de Paris. The narrator also dances the role of Juliet. There are many scenes of rehearsals of various sections of the ballet, often followed by both excerpts from films of Nureyev’s own performances and by videos of the final performances of this new version following his choreography. The interaction between the ballet masters and tutors and the dancers is interesting to follow. The dedicated work that goes into such a production is clearly observed. There is more of an emphasis on the acting in the various roles than I was expecting to see. My only disappointment was that this wasn’t a two-layer disc or two DVDs so that the documentary could be followed up by viewing the complete final onstage performance by these dancers we have now been privileged to get closer to.

- John Sunier

Billie Holiday documentaryThe Genius of Lady Day – Billie Holiday (Jazz Memories series)

Studio: EforFilms/MVD Music Video
Video: 4:3 B&W and color
Audio: PCM mono
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Extras: TV appearances, 4 sequences from film “New Orleans” with Louis Armstrong, short subject with Count Basie, complete lyrics to Strange Fruit, Discography, Bibliography
Length: 65 minutes
Rating: ****

The difficult life and career of one of the greatest jazz vocalists ever is covered in a workmanlike manner in this documentary, using occasionally way below acceptable-quality film and video sources. But Holiday’s story is so compelling and she was such a legendary artist that this doesn’t seem to matter greatly in viewing the production. Race prejudice and drug addiction were the two primary downers of her tumultuous life. We see her performing with many other jazz greats, including Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Count Basie and Armstrong. We learn that Artie Shaw was the first to hire her as a vocalist with his band, but the racial issue caused that to soon be abandoned. Some of the best examples of her art come from the singular early CBS-TV show The Sound of Jazz (also available on a MVD DVD) – although she was well past her prime by that time (1957). Some of the kinescope and other film examples in the bonus extras are so poor they are not really watchable, and what is more mysterious is that several of them are seen in better quality during the documentary. Why include them twice, and the second time looking like film that has been copied dozens of times? The DVD also lacks chapter headings – the first I’ve run into like this.

- John Henry

Al Di Meola guitar concertAl Di Meola – One Of These Nights (2004)

Studio: Inakustik GmbH
Video: Enhanced for 16:9, code free
Audio: Dolby Digital stereo or DD 4.1 surround
Menu & Bio in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian
Length: 116 minutes
Rating: ****

Joining Di Meola on his heavily synthesized guitar for this live concert in Ludwigsburg, Germany are pianist Mario Parmisano, who also doubles on synths, percussionist Gumbi Ortiz, drummer Ernie Adams, and on a number of the 11 tracks The Sturcz String Quartet. The stage setup is very carefully laid out (this being Germany after all) and I don’t believe I’ve seen before a complete set of tracks directly in front of the stage for smoothly moving the video camera. It means the very appreciative audience sits back quite a distance from the stage.

The advance planning results in one of the smoothest-edited videos of a live jazz concert I’ve ever seen. The surround sound is also very clean and immersive, with plenty of low-frequency abilities to handle the exchanges of the two master drummers in the group, plus the subterranean notes Di Meola’s guitar is able to achieve with electronic help. All the tunes are Di Meola’s except for two by Astor Piazzolla, in which the string quartet participates dynamically. A Hungarian ensemble, their strong rhythmic accents are especially effective in the tango works. The tunes in the concert run from traditional South American music to lovely chamber music, to free jazz improvisations. Di Meola is a true virtuoso but doesn’t show off; he delves deeply into some of the music, and often has spirited solo exchanges with his fellow band members. The closeups show this guy is Very Cool, in spite of showing off his hairy shoulder/chest via the major décolletage of his shirt. When one of the cameras assumes enough altitude over the stage to see the big box of foot buttons in front of Di Meola, it finally becomes evident how he achieves those unearthly sounds coming from his guitar.

Selections: Innamorata, Misterio, Azzurra, Orient Blue, Rhapsody of Fire, This Way Before, One Night Last June, Fugatta, Libertango, Beyond the Mirage, Egyptian Danza.

- John Henry

Jean Luc Ponty in concertJean Luc Ponty in Concert (1999)

Studio: Navarre/J.L.P. Productions
Video: 4:3 full screen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Extras: Touring Memories film, Bios of JLP & musicians, Discography, Recent productions, Link to website
Length: 71 minutes
Rating: ****

Warsaw, Poland was the site of this live performance by the French 5-string electric violinist, assisted by William Lecomte, keyboards; Guy Nsangué, bass; Thierry Arpino, drums; and Moustapha Cissé, percussion. The stage is well lit but at a very low-key level; this video probably looks better on a CRT display than on most of the newer display options because there are a lot of very dark areas. The video presentation is excellent, keeping plenty of visual interest throughout the concert. The extended frequency response of the DTS tracks is immediately noticed in the higher notes of the violin and in the low end of the drums and percussion. While I was sorry the video wasn’t enhanced for widescreen, the image stretches well, and I’d much prefer the DTS option to improve the sonics which after all are the main focus of any such concert. The selections often have a similar feeling to the Di Meola concert reviewed above; pairing up these two onstage might be an interesting idea.

Tracks: Rhythms of Hope, Jig, No Absolute Time, Pastoral Harmony, Caracas, Memories of California, Mouna Bowa, Enigmatic Ocean Part II, Open Mind.

- John Henry

Bobby Darin DVD & CD Bobby Darin – Aces Back to Back!

Studio: Hyena Records TMF 9324 CD + DVD
Video: 4:3
Audio: PCM mono

Rating: ***1/2

Bobby Darin was a teen idol, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, singer/songwriter, Vegas entertainer, multi-instrumentalist, Grammy Award winner, comedian, Academy Award-nominated actor and television variety show host. So, why is he almost forgotten when people talk about the influential performers of the late ‘50s and ‘60s? Bobby first hit it big with “Splish Splash” and then came “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond The Sea.” This secured his place in history and the artist grew in popularity. His beginnings were most difficult—he had a bad heart at the ripe age of eight! His prognosis wasn’t good, and according to the powers that be, he shouldn’t have made it past 16 much less to 37. Doc Pomus describes him as “a great singer, songwriter and cool blues piano player and vibraphonist.” Others like Neil Young, Johnny Depp, Henry Mancini, Dion, and more hold Darin in high esteem and are quoted in the liner notes. The main text of the notes is penned by none other than Joel Dorn.

Darin’s interpretations of the cover songs he sings are solid whether he’s singing Neil Diamond, O’Sullivan, or Bob Dylan. A seductive version of “Dream” is sung as a duet with Petula Clark. “Jive” is from Darin’s Big Sur sessions in the late ‘60s that were from his own Direction record label. It’s different from some of the other material, but successful none the less. The restored documentary footage has an interview with George Burns, Darin talking about the success of “Mack The Knife,” footage from a recording session, and various clips of the young performer playing guitar, drums, singing, and more. The album does a enviable job of weaving together performances that exemplify the talents of this underrated artist.

Most of the recordings on this two disc set are recorded live. The DVD has the video performances of eight of the songs that are included on the CD from “The Bobby Darin Show.” These songs are monaural, but on “Song Sung Blue” and “Alone Again Naturally” the sound is severely shifted into the right channel. This problem did not occur on the CD versions of these songs. “Up A Lazy River” and “Rainin’” are also monaural. The later songs seemed to be stereo and except “Mack the Knife” the fidelity borders on excellent—see “Moon River.” The exception to the live performances is a rare studio demo of “Dream Lover.” Taken as a whole, the sound of the recordings is very good.

Songs on CD included are: This Could Be The Start of Something Big; Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You; Song Sung Blue; All I Have To Do Is Dream; A Quarter to Nine; Alone Again Naturally; Beyond The Sea; I’ll Be Your baby Tonight; If I Were a Carpenter; Simple Song Of Freedom; Up a Lazy River; Jive; Rainin’; Long Time Movin’; Dream Lover; Blue Skies; Moon River; All The Way; Mack The Knife; The Curtain Falls.

Songs on DVD included are: This Could Be The Start of Something Big; Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You; Song Sung Blue; All I Have To Do Is Dream; A Quarter to Nine; Alone Again Naturally; Beyond The Sea; Mack The Knife.

-Brian Bloom

Rolling Stones Rock n' Roll CircusThe Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968)

Studio: Abkco Records
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DD 5.1, 2.0 Stereo
Extras: Pete Townshend Interview (18 min); Taj Mahal Videos (Checkin Up On My Baby; Leavin Trunk; Corrina); Julius Katchen Solo Piano (Ritual Fire Dance; Sonata in C 1st Movement); The Dirty Mac (Yer Blues TK 2 Quad Split); The Clowns; Close, But No Cigar (A little impromptu with John Lennon and Mick Jagger); Photo Gallery; Sympathy For The Devil (Fatboy Slim Remix Video), Audio Commentary (3)
Length: 63 minutes
Rating: ***1/2

This is not your typical concert video/movie by any means. As Pete Townshend explains, the original idea was to have a circus that could travel around America and perform. Mick Jagger found a theater designer who could get a tent and railway stock, and put the production together. The idea fell apart due to lack of high speed track capability throughout America. Originally, the group planned to film this experiment, but instead, a movie taken in 16mm was made. Considering this, the quality is very good although a bit grainy and soft. The movie covers two days in ’68 in swinging London and just about anything goes. Many of the artists are attired in circus clothes and the audience wore brightly colored smocks for the filming.

There are several people behind the event that ensured it would be as special as it came out. Michael Lindsay-Hogg is a pioneer in music video and directing. In one of the commentaries he talks at length about the production and gives countless bits of insight into the performers and the event as a whole. All the commentaries are a must listen for any serious fan—there is so much information about the Stones, the other bands, and the production you feel like an educated historian after listening to them.

As to the bands, most are familiar, though The Dirty Mac was a combination of top musicians from other bands–Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Richards. Mick Jagger does an exceptional job—performing like most will never see again—an intimate setting that allows him to capture the crowd. In fact, there isn’t a bad performance in the set although some may object to Yoko’s howling. Unlike other 30+ year old performance concerts, this one, although having a somewhat dated feel (due to the style of filming), still stands out as an impressive production worthy of attention.

Track list:
Song For Jeffrey- Jethro Tull
A Quick One While He’s Away- The Who
Ain’t That A Lot of Love- Taj Mahal
Sometimes Better- Marianne Faithfull
Yer Blues- The Dirty Mac
Whole Lotta Yoko- Yoko Ono with Ivry Gitlis and The Dirty Mac
Jumping Jack Flash; Parachute Woman; No Expectations; You Can’t Always Get What You Want; Sympathy For The Devil; Salt Of The Earth- The Rolling Stones

-Brian Bloom

*** Music Video Reviews continued in Part 2 ***




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