Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Everly Brothers - Reunion Concert: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Written by Hombre Divertido

Good music, poor presentation

After an incredibly successful career, Phil and Don Everly split up in 1973 and according to many reports, did not speak to each other for ten years. In 1983 this legendary duo reunited at London’s Royal Albert Hall. On September 14th, Eagle Records re-released the concert on DVD. Though the concert has been released in many formats over the years, this release includes the documentary Rock and Roll Odyssey.

The Everly Brothers had an amazing career that included 26 Billboard Top 40 Singles. They were among the first ten artists inducted into the Rock and toll Hall of Fame, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. Many artists of the fifties and sixties credit Phil and Don with being an influence on their music including The Bee Gees, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles.

For a duo with this much talent to go silent for ten years, a reunion was a huge event, and it certainly was in 1983. Twenty-seven years after the fact; the event has lost a bit of its cache. Sure, this is an enjoyable way to spend some time if you have not already seen it, but most people already have. These two men are amazing, and they sound great here, but there is not a lot going on to watch as the two stand side by side with their acoustic guitars and sing the classics. There is little banter, much less movement, and the stage lighting is somewhat annoying, and so it makes a better show to listen to than to watch.

The production seems to have missed some obvious opportunities. As the show opens with the two men entering the performance area through the audience, one cannot help but wonder where the behind-the-scenes shots are. Pre-show performer and audience interviews are fairly standard on concert films as are performer arrivals, accelerated shots of the auditorium filling up, etc. What you get here is the concert. Not a bad product, but one that certainly fails to capture the excitement of the event.

The draw here should be Rock and Roll Odyssey the documentary which is touted on the packaging as telling “the whole story of the Everly Brothers rise, fall, and renaissance.” Unfortunately the documentary fails to live up to the hype. Rock and Roll Odyssey is nothing more than a collection of poorly recorded segments that lack continuity and provides little information or entertainment.

Recommendation: If there are Everly Brothers fans out there that do not own this concert, this will be a great purchase. Don and Phil look and sound great on this DVD and the sound quality is excellent. Those looking for more insight into the career of one of the greatest musical duos of all time by owning the documentary Rock and Roll Odyssey are sure to be disappointed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Barclay James Harvest - Berlin: A Concert For The People

Written by Dos Cervezas

They were called “The poor man’s Moody Blues” by some critics back in the early seventies, an appellation not without merit at the time. But Barclay James Harvest managed to tough it out through various lineup changes, label changes, and musical changes over the course of the decade. In doing so they managed to become a big enough deal to headline this massive open-air Berlin festival in 1980.

They never really caught on in the United States, which is why the appearance of this DVD is such a treat for some of us. BJH were what you might call an “acquired taste,” for many, as their music was never played on radio, and the magazines had very little to say about them. I actually bought my first BJH album in the local cut-out bin, knowing nothing about them except that I liked the cover.

Based on the nine songs performed here, the group were at a real high point in 1980. While their music is considered prog, by this time they had tightened things up considerably. In fact it is a little surprising that they were unable to pull off any crossover success in this period.. Their music reminds me a lot of what contemporaries such as The Alan Parsons Project and Genesis were charting with that year.

Besides the nine songs recorded live in concert, there is also an interesting item included from 1975 titled “Time Honored Ghosts.” This five-song sequence of promotional clips (early videos) is from the album of the same name, and has never been previously released. There is plenty to chuckle at regarding to the band’s fashion sense, and the dated effects don‘t help. But this was arguably their best album, and getting to see these vintage clips is something fans like myself will certainly appreciate. The five songs are: “Jonathan,” “Titles,” “Moongirl,” “One Night,” and “Beyond The Grave.”

The video quality is average, reflecting the state of the technology at the time, but it is acceptable. There is a very nice booklet included, which illuminates the events that led up to this appearance, along with photos of the huge crowd. The show captured on Berlin: A Concert For The People turned out to be their biggest ever, so it is nice that the cameras were there that day.

Including “Time Honored Ghosts” the DVD runs 79 minutes. While Berlin is clearly meant for BJH fans, I think it could appeal to anyone who enjoyed the mellower prog sounds of the era. And the outfits they sport really are to die for.

Classic Albums: Rush - 2112 & Moving Pictures

Written by Dos Cervezas

2010 is turning out to be a very good year for Rush fans. So far we have been treated to the first in-depth documentary film about the band, Beyond The Lighted Stage, and a sold-out tour that is receiving rave reviews. And now the great VH1 series Classic Albums has stepped in to honor them. I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with the two albums spotlighted here, because 2112 and Moving Pictures are two undeniable classics.

When it came time to record album number four, Rush were really feeling the pressure from their label. In fact, they were almost dropped, until the managers stepped in and promised that the new music would be much more commercial this time around. One of the things Rush fans like so much about the band was their response to all of this. Since they knew there was no way they could compete for Fleetwood Mac or Doobie Bros. listeners, they went all the way the other way, with the side-long suite “2112.”

During the new interviews that were conducted for the program, it is fun to watch the three of them talk about the time. Neil Peart in particular mentions how angry the whole commercialization business made them, and how they were able to channel that into what became 2112.

was a huge turning point for Rush, they went from perennial openers to headliners, and started selling records in large quantities for the first time. But their 1981 LP Moving Pictures was the one that broke them wide open. It remains their biggest seller to date, and contains their anthem “Tom Sawyer.“ They even played the album in its entirety on this year's tour. As long time manager Ray Daniels put it, “After Moving Pictures, we knew we were never going back to where we came from.“

Released just five years after 2112, Moving Pictures was a quantum leap forward for the band. Now they were writing songs that were being played (and still being played) on radio. In fact, it is almost wall-to-wall hits, including the aforementioned “Tom Sawyer,” plus others such as “Limelight,” “Red Barchetta,” and the show-stopping “YYZ.”

The extras on the DVD add up to an additional 54 minutes of interviews with the band that were not included in the broadcast. In these segments, the three talk about a variety of subjects including discussions of their influences, Neil’s reasons for writing “Red Barchetta,” and how the “2112 Overture” came about.

While Classic Albums: 2112 & Moving Pictures is nowhere near as ambitious as Beyond The Lighted Stage, it provides some fascinating insights into how each of the records came together. It goes without saying that the hardcore fans will want it, but I think the DVD will appeal to the casual listener as well. The Classic Albums people have done another superlative job with this one.