Greg’s Grab Bag – Video Releases from Legendary Rock Bands
Over the last few years, some of the biggest bands in rock history have been celebrating milestone anniversaries. 2012 found The Rolling Stones celebrating 50 years as a band, while The Who followed suit in 2013. Finally, 2015 found the Grateful Dead marking its half-century anniversary in grand style with a series of five “Fare Thee Well” concerts in Santa Clara and Chicago. All three of these bands have recent video releases that allow fans to relive high points from these storied careers.
The Rolling Stones – From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live In 1971
The latest offering in the much-heralded From The Vault Series of archival releases from The Rolling Stones, is an all-too-brief but brilliant London club performance from 1971 that captures the band at its blues-rock best – a mere month prior to the release of the classic Sticky Fingers album.
For those used to seeing The Stones playing on large stadium stages in front of massive sellout crowds, the small-club setting here will come as a shock to the system. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman, the lineup at the time of this gig, along with special guest musicians Nicky Hopkins (keyboards), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Jim Price (horns) and Ian Stewart (piano), create such a full and masterful sound that it must have absolutely encompassed the small audience fortunate enough to be inside The Marquee Club that night. Luckily for everyone else, the performance was filmed for a U.S. TV special and so we can all now revel in its majesty.
Released by Eagle Rock Entertainment, this set looks and sounds amazing – much better than you expect from footage that was created in 1971 and then stored for decades. Both the audio and video components were meticulously restored for this release, but the audio is the clear star of the show. Bob Clearmountain’s mix conveys the power of the assembled musicians on the stage while also ensuring that each player’s individual contributions are still clearly identifiable. Of particular note is the clarity of Bill Wyman’s powerful bass lines throughout the show. Clearmountain’s mix allows Wyman to shine – a true standout performance.
In addition to the quality of the audio and video and the rarity of well-documented small club performances from this vital era in the band’s career, this set is also notable for the song selection. Not only do you get the first recorded performances of classics like the countrified rocker “Dead Flowers,” the ever-popular “Brown Sugar” and the sexy grittiness of the sax-driven “Bitch,” but you also get a powerful run through of the rarely-heard “I Got The Blues,” featuring horn accents that perfectly complement Jagger’s emotional vocal delivery.
Five bonus tracks, including two Marquee Club alternate takes of both “Bitch” and “I Got The Blues” and a 1971 performance of “Brown Sugar” from the Top Of The Pops television program, showcasing Jagger at his jangly-dancing finest, provide the icing on this delicious cake.
The Who – Live At Shea Stadium 1982
Eagle Rock Entertainment delivers another notable archival release with The Who’s Live At Shea Stadium 1982, which is available in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. This set includes a complete show from the band’s North American Tour, the last one to feature Kenney Jones on drums, a roll he held since replacing the late great Keith Moon following his 1978 death.
The Who, with its bombastic sound and propensity to create anthemic singles, was and continues to be the definition of a stadium rock band. That quality is on full display here as the powerful quartet fills the cavernous confines of the giant bowl that was the home of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets at the time of this concert.
Although the 1982 version of the band lacked the raw energy that defined earlier concerts, the overall musicianship and the expanded setlist, including selections from the hit Quadrophenia and gems from post-Moon era albums, made up for it.
As with The Rolling Stones set, Eagle Rock has done a nice job with the audio and video. Considering the source material is now 33-years old, the video transfer is sharp (despite the occasional shaky shots from far-away cameras in the stadium) and the audio nicely fills the room, especially when Jones, Pete Townshend. John Entwistle and Roger Daltry are locked in and rocking out during heavier sections like the momentum-building chorus to “See Me, Feel Me.”
Other highlights here include the always-entertaining cover of “Summertime Blues.” While it may lack the attitude and bite of the incomparable and definitive Live At Leeds version, the collective roar of the band charging full speed ahead is still something to behold. The same can be said for “Who Are You” and the rock stalwart “Baba O’Riley.”
While it is easy to focus on the songs here that are undisputed Who classics, this set also shines some light on lesser-known, but still worthy tracks from the band’s considerable catalog. Entwistle’s “Dangerous,” the dance-inducing and sometimes maligned “Sister Disco” and the radio-friendly title track from the It’s Hard album fit in nicely alongside the band’s bigger hits here. Also, the driving and muscular “Emminence Front,” a direct descendent of the keyboard-centric “Baba O’Riley” is a standout performance.
Undoubtedly, more people prefer a younger version of The Who when all four members were pushing each other and firing on all cylinders, but that doesn’t mean the band was sub-par following Moon’s untimely death. Live At Shea Stadium 1982 clearly displays the power and command these legends had during that time period and it is enjoyable from start to finish.
Grateful Dead – All The Years Combine: The DVD Collection
Although this set was released a few years ago, the recent Fare Thee Well concerts and the hoopla surrounding the band’s 50th anniversary celebration shined new light on the wealth of archival audio and video recordings released by the band over the years, including this massive video collection.
All The Years Combine is a 14-DVD box set that serves as a virtual one-stop-shop for archival performance videos from the Grateful Dead and it is also the single best way to take in the complete sensory experience of a Grateful Dead concert now that Jerry Garcia is dead and the surviving members no longer plan to tour together. Although the exquisite Sunshine Daydream, a film documenting a legendary 1972 concert in Veneta, OR is not included because it was released after this set was completed, almost everything else of note in in here.
Compiled, packaged and released by the Shout! Factory label, this set includes the following previously-released videos:
- The Grateful Dead Movie (2-disc set) – 1977 theatrical film
- The Closing Of Winterland (2-disc set) – 1978 performance from the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, CA
- Dead Ahead – 1980 performance from Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY
- So Far – 1987 documentary directed by Jerry Garcia and Len Dell’Amico with collected performances from 1985
- Ticket To New Year’s – 1987 performance from the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, CA
- Truckin’ Up To Buffalo – 1989 performance from Rich Stadium in Buffalo, NY
- Downhill From Here – 1989 performance from Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI
- View From The Vault – 1990 performance from Three Rvers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
- View From The Vault II – 1991 performance from RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
- View From The Vault III – 1990 performance from Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA
- View From The Vault IV – 1987 performances from both Oakland Stadium in Oakland, CA and Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, CA
- Bonus Disc, featuring five previously-unreleased archival performances and the 1992 documentary, Backstage Pass
There is so much content here that it is really a struggle to try and accurately describe it. The single greatest highlight may be the earliest complete performance included in this box – The Closing Of Winterland. This 2-DVD set chronicles the final performance at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, a storied venue where bands like Cream, The Allman Brothers Band, Sex Pistols, Jimi Hendrix, KISS, The Band and Jefferson Airplane recorded concert films and albums.
Over the course of both discs, the band’s classic 1978 lineup impresses with tight musicianship, phenomenal improvisation and a setlist that features longtime favorites like “Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain,” “Terrapin Station” and an incredible third set stringing the following tunes together “Dark Star > The Other One > Dark Star > Wharf Rat > St. Stephen > Good Lovin’.” Fittingly, the band closes out the evening and the arena with the a cappella “And We Bid You Goodnight.”
Another highlight on this set is Dead Ahead, the most unique Grateful Dead video release to date. This DVD provides highlights from two late October 1980 performances at the famous Radio City Music Hall. The thing that makes this collection unique is that the band performed both acoustic and electric sets during these shows. Considering that Jerry Garcia was once a staple of the Bay Area bluegrass scene and the Grateful Dead’s earliest origins were as a jug band, this format makes a lot of sense. Acoustic renditions of “Bird Song” and “To Lay Me Down” are starkly beautiful and “On The Road Again” (not the Willie Nelson tune) is an energetic sendup that brings to mind some countryside back-porch pickin’.
The bulk of the sets in this collection are full-concert recordings from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and they are all worth checking out, especially for the contributions of keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Brent Mydland. Although he is beloved by the band’s fans, he is not as well-known as the other core members from that era. Brent, who died suddenly of a drug overdose in July 1990, is given a nice showcase in these concerts as his vocal contributions take the group’s harmonies to a new level and his knack for writing a catchy tune adds a nice straightforward rock touch to the band’s characteristic exploratory sounds. It is worth seeking out his song “I Will Take You Home” on Truckin’ Up To Buffalo. This lovely ballad, written for his daughters, is a simple, beautiful and aching reminder of all that was lost with Brent’s death.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the 14 discs in this massive assemblage and it really isn’t a stretch to say that this box set is the single greatest collection of archival video releases by any one band – a fitting tribute to one of the most enduring and beloved live acts in rock history.