[20 November 2007]
Detroit Free Press (MCT)
Among other accomplishments, it’s often claimed that the Beatles made the first music videos. Even before the band stopped performing live, it was filmed lip-synching and clowning around to the two-sided hit “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper.”
But even if the Beatles got beaten to the punch by the jukebox soundies made by Duke Ellington and other jazz and swing bands in the 1930s - not to mention those “Mickey Mouse Club” films promoting singles by Annette and other Mousketeers - Paul McCartney was one of the first artists to embrace the video as an artistic outlet as well as a marketing tool.
“The McCartney Years” (3 stars, Rhino, $34.99; look for discounts in the $25 range) is a three-disc set whose first two discs are a compilation of nearly all the music videos McCartney has made since 1970, the year he announced the end of the Beatles with his first solo album, “McCartney.” (He put together a compilation of still photos to illustrate his newfound family-man happiness in “Maybe I’m Amazed,” the most popular song on the album.)
The set takes us up to the 2005 “Chaos and Creation” single “Fine Line,” presented here in two versions. In between are some of the most creative music videos produced in the late `70s and 1980s, the years when a record had next to no chance of being a hit without steady MTV rotation.
The videos made for McCartney’s disco hit “Goodnight Tonight” - in which he plays all the musicians (save his late spouse, Linda) of an orchestra whose members constitute a history of pop music - and “Say, Say, Say” (his duet with Michael Jackson) turn a pair of otherwise forgettable songs into something worth watching.
The third disc is made up of footage culled from longer films and concert appearances, including the version of “Let It Be” performed as the Live Aid finale. It includes seven songs from the little-seen Wings tour film “Rock Show,” some songs first seen on (and a couple cut from) the MTV “Unplugged” special, and the documentary “Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road,” shown in the United States on PBS.
McCartney’s most ardent fans will complain that some of the videos (most notably the nostalgic swoon through “Baby’s Request”) have been excluded, while others appear to have been cropped.
But the visual quality is superb, as is the audio, and some of the songs have been remixed for 5.1 Surround. It’s unfortunate that the booklet doesn’t provide more information about what has been done to enhance videos and clips.
By contrast, Led Zeppelin fans will be relieved to know that “The Song Remains The Same” (3 stars, Warner, $20.07), a new two-disc “Special Edition” of the 1976 theatrical film in which a Madison Square Garden concert from 1973 was controversially tarted up with cutaway fantasy sequences, has benefited greatly from its new upgrade.
The fictionalized footage remains, but the concert is now complete (which means you can fast forward through the contrived inserts) and the music has been remixed nicely for DTS Surround.
Bill Murray is the host for “Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007” (3 stars, Rhino, $29.99), a distillation of a July concert that showcases some of Slowhand’s favorite pickers, including Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Johnny Winter and Robbie Robertson.
The highlight is Clapton reuniting with Blind Faith collaborator Steve Winwood for memorable revivals of “In The Presence of the Lord” and “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
Also new this week:
The utterly pointless resurrection of the “Die Hard” franchise, “Live Free or Die Hard” (1 star, Fox), which has Bruce Willis’ John McClane forced to team with a tech geek to thwart a crazy-eyed terrorist, is released in multiple versions. Choose from Unrated (more blood), full-screen and wide-screen (each $29.99); the two-disc “Special Edition” ($34.98); BluRay ($39.98) or a boxed-set collection of all four films ($129.98). If you own the first film, an action classic, you’re all set.
Also getting the multiple-edition treatment is “Hairspray” (3 stars, New Line), released in full-screen and wide-screen ($28.98) and a two-disc, extras-packed “Shake and Shimmy Edition” ($34.98).
TV on DVD:
If you’re a Trekkie who has upgraded to HD DVD or want to make someone who has upgraded happy for the holidays, “Star Trek: The Complete First Season” (3 stars, Paramount, $194.99), a 10-disc set containing all 29 episodes, is essential.
Also new this week:
“Teen Titans: The Complete Fourth Season” (Warner, $19.98).
“CSI: The Complete Seventh Season” (Paramount, $89.99).
“The Universe - The Complete Season One” (History Channel, $44.95).