Reviews in this issue:
Pink Floyd - Live at Pompeii
Tracklist : Director's Cut (92 min) [Echoes (part 1), Careful With That Axe Eugene, A Saucerful of Secrets, Us and Them (studio), One of These Days, Mademoiselle Nobs, Brain Damage (studio), Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun, Echoes (part 2)]
Bonus Material : Interview with Adrain Maben (24 min), Original Concert (62 min), Photo Gallery, Odds 'N' Sods [Posters, Press/Reviews, Bootlegs, Roughs, Previous Covers], Album Graphics, Pompeii Map/History, Lyrics, Credits
It's October 1971. Shortly after recording the soundtrack for La Vallee (released as Obscured by Clouds) Pink Floyd set off for the ghost town of lost Pompeii in Italy. Here they were to film a concert in a Roman amphitheatre to an enormous audience of .... none. An interesting idea by director Adrian Maben who wanted to do something different than the standard concert movies of those days. The result was a marvellous live rendition of pre-Dark Side Floyd playing some of their old time favourites, alternated with atmospheric pictures of the dead city and volcanic surroundings. Tracks played were Echoes, Careful With That Axe Eugene, A Saucerful of Secrets, One of These Days and Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun, plus an instrumental version of Seamus, complete with howling dog.
There are three versions of this concert film. The first version was just the performances in Pompeii and Paris. The second (1973) version, released a couple of years later, added interviews and footage filmed during the recording sessions of the Dark Side of the Moon. This was highly interesting because it showed the band working on On the Run, Us and Them and Brain Damage. The new third version, the so-called director's cut, uses the second version as a basis and expands and changes it. The good thing: it includes additional interviews filmed during the Pompeii sessions in Paris. Quite interesting, even though the band does little more than act silly and try to piss of the director. The bad thing: some of the original concert footage is replaced by new material - no remaining footage from the original filming survived unto this day - which ranges from interesting to awful. Some of the new footage of the Pompeii surroundings is nice but the computer generated images of the Roman city are awful and make you feel like you're inside a cheap computer game. Also, director Maben had the idea of aliens hearing the Pompeii concert and taking of by rocket past many far away planets to go and watch, resulting in footage of spaceships and computer generated images of planets and such. You gotta be kidding. Not only is it absolutely lame, it also replaces the original images. Blasphemy I say ! Sacrilege !
Fortunately the Features menu includes the full original concert film (without the Dark Side sessions) so this DVD is still a good replacement for my old VHS copy.
The interview with Director Adrian Maben is interesting, especially since not all that much is known about the background of the Pompeii movie. For instance, the excellent Floyd biography Saucerful of Secrets by Nicholas Schaffner only has 1,5 page about it. It's also interesting because it offers us a peek into the psyche of the man that made the work of madness that is the Director's Cut. Seriously, it includes lots of interesting and funny anecdotes. Also, this is the first time I learned that part of the filming took place in Paris, explaining the very different set-up and spacing between the musicians in certain scenes I had been wondering about for years.
The other extra's are a mixed bag of bits and pieces. The obligatory Photo Gallery consists of 23 stills from the movie & promo pictures. The album graphics contain sleeve artwork short for A Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma, Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon. Nothing we haven't seen before. Lyrics contains the lyrics for the two songs in the setlist that have lyrics. They might however be hard to read on a TV's resolution. The same goes for the history of Pompeii, the Credits and some of the press reviews included in the 'Odds 'n' Sods' sub-menu. The latter also contains some interesting bits, like promo posters for the movie, rough sketches of ideas (among which the piece of cloth blown away by the wind, that would eventually be used for the inside sleeve of Wish You Were Here), covers of previous releases of the Pompeii film and even some covers of bootlegs that were made using the movies soundtrack !
The animated menu's resembling the bubbling lava or mud are nice and even include a strange hidden button which first shows a rather silly image of the dog before jumping to a random part of the DVD with a random language. Why ?
The movie comes with subtitles for the Director's Cut and documentary in 8 languages. Judging from the Dutch one, these are far from 100% correct.
A DVD which gives me mixed feelings. The Director's Cut is silly and a pain to watch for those who know the original version. It's only value on this DVD is the footage of the Dark Side and Paris sessions. For the actual concert, make sure you watch the version in the Features menu, which in Dutch is incorrectly but aptly translated as 'Hoogtepunten' (Highlights) since it does contain the real highlights of this DVD.
Sound buffs will also be disappointed that there is no 5.1 or DTS mix available. Makes you wonder how much Pink Floyd themselves had to do with this release. Come to think of it, there's no interview with any of them, like there were for some other DVD releases. Add to this that this DVD for some reason seems to be higher priced than other comparable DVDs and I come to the overall conclusion that as a package this product is rather disappointing. They could have skipped the director's cut, included the 1973 version, put in the additional Paris interviews as extra's, added interviews with the band (like on the Dark Side DVD) and priced it more reasonably.
Still, if you are a Floyd fan (especially of the pre-Dark Side material) the inclusion of the original concert movie and some of the extra's is a good reason to buy it. As Maben said about the original response to the movie: "People who liked Pink Floyd music loved it, people who didn't like Pink Floyd music hated it."
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Pink Floyd - Classic Albums:
The Making of Dark Side of the Moon
Bonus Material: Bonus interviews (35 min): Brain Damage, Money, Us and Them, Water's World View, Breathe, Time, Waters on Rock 'n' Roll, Chris Thomas, Gilmour's Guitars: Breathe, Gilmour's Guitars: The Great Gig in the Sky, Gilmour's Guitars: Us and Them, Gerry Has The Last Word
For those of you who think music should be played and not talked about, skip this review and proceed to the next one. This DVD is not for you. For those of you who, like me, love to dig into the deeper backgrounds of musical creativity and have an unquenchable thirst for trivia this is definitely a wonderful release. If you're a Floyd fan, that is.
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was without a doubt one of the most - if not the most - important rock album of the last century. It was also one of the first progressive rock albums I bought, back in the early eighties. I first heard it when
I listened to a radio show on Alan Parsons' career. And here I am now, proud owner of a full Floyd CD catalogue and many bootlegs, among which several pre-and post-1973 live renditions of that same album that sparked my musical interests. For those who never heard the album (are there any ?), you can listen to the full CD on-line at www.pinkfloyd.co.uk.
Dark Side of the Moon was also the turning point in the band's career, transforming them from experimentalists performing to audiences of several thousands to multi-million superstars selling out football stadiums. The latter of course would later result in the writing of The Wall and Roger Waters return to arena sized concert venues. But that's a whole different story ....
This DVD includes a 49 minute 'rockumentary' which explores the origins of the album that stayed in the charts for 14 years. After shortly touching on the band's background of psychedelia (Set the Controls) and development of long epics (Echoes) it discusses all of the individual tracks one by one (although for some vague reason Any Colour You Like is missing). Some of the footage which is being used is taken from the Pompeii video, showing the band working on Dark Side in the studio, while other footage shows the projection films that the band used on stage on the big round screen (Time, Great Gig, Money, Us and Them, Brain Damage, Eclipse). Most of the documentary however consists of interviews with the four individual band members (David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright) plus several others who were involved in the album, like engineer Alan Parsons, sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson, mixing supervisor Chris Thomas and Bhaskar Menon (former Chairman Capitol Records). A couple of music journalists put the release of Dark Side into the perspective of the early seventies and emphasize its importance to the musical scene.
Besides explaining the origins of the music, the meaning of the concept and lyrics and the still existing level of co-operation within the band, all band members besides Nick demonstrate pieces of the album on their instruments. Another personal highlight for me, since I always wanted to be a recording engineer when I was a teenager, is the scenes in which Alan Parsons and David Gilmour work behind their mixing desks, demonstrating the various tracks and components that make up the songs. Another moment of joy was hearing some of the demo versions and early 1972 live renditions of the material. The latter, by the way, sounded better than any of my bootleg versions. Could there be a full recording lying around somewhere .... just waiting to be released ?
The bonus material consists of footage that was not included at all or not included fully in the 49 minute documentary. Some of the best stuff on the DVD is within this additional material. It includes a beautiful acoustic rendition of Brain Damage by Roger, Alan Parsons demonstrating the actual loop for the intro of Money, David Gilmour and Alan Parsons demonstrating the mix of the same track, David Gilmour demonstrating the guitar parts of Money, Breathe, The Great Gig in the Sky and Us and Them, Roger playing the bass part of Money, Rick playing the piano part of Us and Them, projection footage for Us & Them and Time, David performing an acoustic version of Breathe, Roger's original demo for Time, plus more interviews.
The DVD comes with French, Dutch, Italian, German, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
All in all, a wonderful DVD full of secrets. Even for a long term fanatic Floyd trivia lover like me there's still a lot of new stuff to learn and enjoy.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Roger Waters - The Wall Live in Berlin
Tracklist: The Wall Live in Berlin (110 min) [In the Flesh, The Thin Ice, Another Brick in the Wall part 1, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Another Brick in the Wall part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, Young Lust, Oh My God--What a Fabulous Room, One of My Turns, Don't Leave Me Now, Another Brick in the Wall part 3, Goodbye Cruel World, Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, In the Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting for the Worms & Stop, The Trial, The Tide Is Turning]
Bonus Material: Documentary (29 min), Unseen footage (7 min), Animations (no audio) (5 min), Stills gallery
What would be the reason to buy this ? Well, a Pink Floyd fan probably needs to have it in his collection for the sake of completeness. And maybe there's a few interesting extra's to find in the extra's ? What other reason would there be ? I mean, watching this concert over and over again would be some form of sadomasochism, wouldn't it ? Let's face it. Performing The Wall again after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain was a great idea. However, at the time Roger Waters was still in legal struggles with his former mates of Pink Floyd and therefore he decided this should be an all-star performance. Now, considering that was the original intention there are two strange things about The Wall in Berlin. First of all, if this was supposed to be an all-star affair, why does Waters perform half of the songs himself ? Second, the casting was dodgy to say the least. Whereas The Scorpions and Brian Adams worked quite well, especially since they fitted the characters and the songs they performed - the surrogate band and the rock artist on tour - perfectly, some madman decided to get The Band, The Hooters, Jerry Hall, Van Morrison and ... the horror ! ..... Cindy Lauper in as well. Old men with beards and throw-away pop idols of the eighties. To what audience was this all-star line-up supposed to appeal ?
Some of these performances weren't all that bad and Joni Mitchell doing Goodbye Blue Sky, Sinead O'Connor doing Mother, Ute Lemper doing The Thin Ice and Paul Carrack doing Hey You were actually quite good. But this was alternated with Roger 'El Sunglasso' Waters being turned into a parody of himself and other artists raping songs from one of my favourite albums.
I remember watching the show when I was on vacation at the coast in Holland and although I was absolutely baffled by the scale of the show and the many effects, the whole thing still left a bit of a sour taste. I've done a lot of reading about Pink Floyd's original Wall show and I have seen 3 tribute bands perform versions of The Wall, which were more true to the original show. Looking back on The Wall Live in Berlin there's quite a few things to dislike. Why, for instance, were Gerald Scarfe's amazing animations screwed up by superimposing footage of the graffiti on the Berlin wall on it ? Nice idea, but why not after Scarfe's animations had ended ? Why are the puppet and animation of the girlfriend missing ? Too sexually extreme for the worldwide TV audience ? Why is Roger singing the songs of the 'fourth side' like he's taking a dump at the same time ? And why was he miming some of the songs ? As a matter of fact, the whole thing is a fake. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that what you are looking at isn't what you are listening to half of the time.
Of course I'm exaggerating a bit. The show does have it's moments. Highlights: Brian Adams doing What Shall We Do Now and Young Lust, Paul Carrack doing Hey You, watching the builders slowly closing up the wall, Snowy White and Rick Difonzo doing their guitar duel on top of the wall, The Pig and err .... Ute Lemper's tight white dress. The beautiful orchestration of some songs, etc. But they are overshadowed by the many things there are to dislike. And admit it, wouldn't we have preferred a Pink Floyd performance of The Wall instead ? By the way, the quality of the film, although digitally remastered, is a bit grainy and blurred, not to mention dark.
Okay, let's look at the other features. The menu's come with nice instrumental versions of some of the tracks (Another Brick 1, Comfy Numb, etc). The documentary is very good and includes interviews with Roger Waters, Jonathan Park (set designer), Gerald Scarfe (original animator), Tony Hollingsworth (producer & casting), Mark Norton (graphic designer), Nick Griffiths (music producer) and musical journalist Dieter Eilert. It covers the history of Berlin, the puppets, the projections, the casting the technical problems, and more. However, I was hoping for some backstage and 'making of' footage shot at the time of the actual show. I was also hoping for some interviews with the performing artists, to see how they experienced the whole circus themselves. None of that. It's just the show's designers.
The Unseen footage consists of some video clip-like material which was originally meant to be broadcasted during Mother and probably some other song(s). Not all that interesting really, since most of the footage is unedited, so still has the director giving directions.
The animations are even worse. These are the animations with the Berlin wall footage superimposed that were projected on the wall during the show. They don't have audio and although Scarfe's original unspoiled animations are included they are incomplete snippets. Useless.
The Stills Gallery includes pictures of design sketches and projections that can be viewed individually and as a slide show. Some of these include interesting ideas that were never used, like Roger on an enormous chair with an enormous lamp and TV during Nobody Home, or the projection of an enormous Eagle during the fascist sequences. The projections are the slides that were used during One of my Turns, Vera and In The Flesh. Nice but I feel they could have shown more. So overall, besides the documentary the extra's are a bit disappointing. The packaging does however contain a 12 page booklet with extensive liner notes by producer Hollingsworth.
Like I said, this is one of those things that a Floyd fan just has to have in his collection even if watching it makes him or her cringe from time to time. It is nice to watch every now and then to be amazed about the stage show for a good laugh about the artists, or to skip through and watch the good bits. Maybe Roger Waters' own words at the end of the documentary sum it up best: 'It's not something I'd ever try and do again'. Heaven forbid !
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff Live 1975
1975 : The Undercover Man (7:52), Arrow (9:05), Scorched Earth (10:14), Sleepwalkers (10:10)
1971 : Theme One (4:12), A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (23:09)
You wait 20 years for a Van Der Graaf Generator video/DVD to come out, then two come together. Typical. Especially when the content from the first is completely reproduced on the second. This DVD covers two periods from the band's short history; a live rendition of the complete Godbluff album recorded at Charleroi in 1975, and two tracks from an earlier Belgian TV show. The latter of these have already been featured in the Masters from the Vaults DVD, which will annoy anyone who already purchased it, but it does make this item more worthwhile. The earlier DVD has now been deleted to avoid confusion (and please collectors).
Before continuing, feel free to look at the conclusion below - this is a great DVD, and I have already watched it more than any other music DVD in my collection. The next paragraphs might suggest otherwise, so don't let them put you off.
After the obligatory copyright notice, the plain black menu allows you to select either the 1975 or 1971 material, or individual tracks. That's as far as DVD technology reaches - there are no special features at all - no biographies, galleries or commentaries.
Godbluff Live 1975
Picture quality is fairly poor, especially for the first set of material, and it appears that very little, if anything, has been done to tidy it up. Given the rarity value of the footage, this is excusable, but the camerawork and editing really are not. If you watch music DVDs to see what the musicians are doing, then this one will really disappoint. Peter Hammill sits for most of the concert, playing keyboard, but the camera is focused only on his face, so we don't see what his fingers are doing. The same happens to David Jackson, who might as well be sucking a lollipop for the concert, as his time on camera limited almost entirely to just his face and the mouthpiece of his sax or flute. There is hardly any footage at all of Hugh Banton, and only Guy Evans' drum kit gets any real screen time worthy of note. The straw on the camel's back is that one of the cameras is out of sync with audio - so that when PH sings "to carry on miming the song", it looks as though he's miming badly.
Thankfully, the audio does not suffer the same fate, and has been transferred quite cleanly, although some tape noise is still evident, and the mix lacks definition in the top end.
Belgian TV 1971
The 1971 show is a TV studio recording and is almost a complete negative of the 1975 show. There is no audience, and some fairly severe lighting, but the cameras show everything the musicians are doing, with each one receiving equal screen time, and the editing follows the theme of each song as it is juggled between the members of the band. The tape noise is much more present here, but the sound is also clearer than the first part, so this bearable if a bit intrusive in the quieter sections. It's still significantly better quality than the live tracks from the VdGG box set.
The music and performances in both sections far outweigh the technical faults - the Godbluff material really shines in a live setting. The Undercover Man starts the concert off and is a good example of VdGG's dynamic range, switching from delicate, organ-backed verses driven gently along by Guy Evans' understated percussion to blazing sax solos. Similarly, Arrow is the vehicle for some beautifully subtle and melodic sax playing by Jackson, yet also features some of Hammill's most aggressive vocals as he wrenches lyrics near-screaming across the stage.
The studio material may not be in front of a live audience, but the performance is not compromised by this. To get warmed-up, Jackson, Banton & Evans kick off with a turbo-charged version of George Martin's Theme One, which transforms from a catchy pop tune to a full-blown improvised rock blow-out. Then follows the highlight of this section, if not the whole disc, as the whole band play the epic Plague of Lighthouse Keepers in full. Viewed by many as Hammill's finest writing, this showcases everything the band excelled at; gentle passages with lyrics layered in meanings, high-powered instrumental work-outs and reckless moments of near-madness.
The two sections of this disc highlight the musicianship and songwriting skills of one of the UK's most under-valued bands. There are no racks of keyboards for Hugh Banton, who produces every sound he needs from an electric organ (and is now a church organ builder by profession). Guy Evans has a unique drumming style which includes a lightness of touch absent in most rock drummers. David Jackson's sax playing runs from warm, flowing and dream-like to aggressive, squealing or heroic. Hammill's vocal style is unique, switching from gentle whispers to anguished wails mid-sentence as his multi-faceted lyrics demand. Together their talents fused to create a unique style of music, and this DVD is the best way to experience the live essence of VdGG - ideal as an introduction to the band (almost two albums in one) and essential for existing fans. It may be a flawed gem, but it's still a diamond.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Opeth - Lamentations :
Live at Shepherds Bush Empire 2003
Tracklist: Windowpane, In My Time Of Need, Death Whispered A Lullaby, Closure; Hope Leaves, To Rid the Disease, Ending Credits:
Harvest, Weakness, Master’s Apprentices, The Drapery Falls, Deliverance, The Leper Affinity, A Fair Judgement
Bonus Material: Documentary: The Making Of ‘Deliverance’ & ‘Damnation’
Swedish band Opeth have been around for a decade or so now, but it’s since the release of their fifth album, Blackwater Park, in 2001 that things have really snowballed for them. Its been particularly interesting to see their stature rise so quickly in the UK, not a country known for accepting bands who fall outside currently fashionable trends. Since playing their first gig here in aeons in the cramped confines of The Underworld - London in 2001 (a gig I was fortunate enough to witness), the band have been regular visitors to these shores; this, coupled with the fact that they are signed to a UK record label, must have influenced their decision to film their first DVD in London.
The Shepherds Bush Empire is one of the capital’s mid-sized theatres and although it doesn’t look like all the various areas of the theatre were open, the audience was still an impressive size, and venue-wise it is certainly a step up from the likes of The Underworld and The Mean Fiddler, where the band usually play. The Empire also has fine acoustics, certain to benefit the mellower material in Opeth’s canon in particular, which may have played a part in the decision to stage the gig here.
This concert was, as per the old footballing cliché, a game of two halves. The first half of the set is devoted to the recent, mellow (and fantastic) CD Damnation, whilst the second half majors on the heavier material from their previous two albums, Blackwater Park and Deliverance. I assume that the exclusion of anything from their first four albums is for contractual / legal reasons, as Opeth were signed to different record labels then. I’ve heard some fans moaning about the focus on the latter-day material, but I can’t honestly see what the problem is – the bands’ work throughout their history has been consistently good, and anyway the older songs are staples of their (usual) live sets anyway, so I don’t think anyone’s missing out. Besides, this format gives fans a rare chance to see Damnation played in full, something I’m sure won’t happen very often in the future.
I won’t go into too much detail about the concert itself (there is a review in the Concert Archives), but will rather concentrate on how the Opeth live experience comes over on the DVD. In a nutshell, what you get on Lamentations is the whole concert, warts and all – no cuts, fade-outs, annoying clips of the band larking about interspersed with the footage (all staples of the usual live concert DVD), just the band playing their music.
As anyone who’s seen Opeth live know, they’re not the most, well, lively of bands on stage – the musicians are generally fairly static, save for the nodding of heads (or vigorously shaking of them during the heavy stuff!). However, what the band do have about them is an undeniable presence, and that is captured very well indeed – particularly during the first set. This is primarily thanks to some excellent camera work – the mix of close-ups and longer range shots is very effective, with most of the angles available to the film-makers utilised fully. The editors also clearly know when to cut away, when to go for a full band shot and when to keep the camera focussed on individuals. The crowd shots aren’t overdone either – the shots of the band exchanging somewhat awed smiles with each other at various points as the songs end, and the sound of the cheering that follows them is enough to clearly show that those present like what they’re seeing!
The sound is generally very good indeed, with the band making full use of the fine acoustics in the venue, especially during the first set. You could probably quibble the odd aspect, such as the fact that Akerfeldt’s guitar seems perculiarly low in the mix at times compared to second guitarist Peter Lindgren, but these are fairly minor gripes in the scheme of things. I should also state that, if it sounds great on my rather antiquated audio-visual equipment, it should sound even better on a more modern set-up, and there are several sound options to choose from (including Dolby Digital 5:1).
Musically, as you may realise from my review of it, I rate the Damnation album very highly, and the first set, which sees these tracks delivered as per their running order on the album, is in my eyes almost perfect. The interjection of Harvest, from Blackwater Park, makes perfect sense as it fits in seamlessly with the rest of the ‘mellow’ material, and is clearly a crowd favourite, given the cheers when its introduced and the gusto with which they sing along with every word. The band also take the occasional opportunity to stretch out and improvise, notably with an extended instrumental ending to Closure.
The only slightly negative comment I have about the first set are the long gaps between tracks – no doubt necessary for the musicians to retune, change instruments etc., but rather frustrating for the viewer – Mikael Akerfeldt’s obvious nervousness (something he admits early on), whilst understandable, doesn’t help, as he sounds rather forced and even apologetic in his stage banter. However once the music starts these quibbles are soon forgotten, and you can always use the menu option to move to the start of the next track.
For those who have only experienced the Opeth of Damnation, the second set may be a bit of a shock. Anyone whose dosed off during the sombre, bare keys and understated guitar-work of the melancholy Weakness will be jolted awake by the crushing riffs, pounding drums and growled vocals of second set opener Master’s Apprentices. This is likely to be the acid test for many – if you can take this, you’ll be fine as things don’t get any heavier. My advice would be to perservere – part of the beauty of Opeth’s music is the way they shift effortlessly from heavier sections to blissfully melodic ones, and these five tracks succeed admirably in showing the diversity of the band. In particular, check out the fantastic The Drapery Falls which has an almost symphonic sweep to it, and is probably the best example of how the band take the best elements from the extreme metal and progressive rock genres and fuse them into a captivating whole.
To be honest, this two hour gig presented on its own would be enough reason to recommend this disc, but as an added bonus there is an hour-long documentary covering the making of the Damnation and Deliverance albums. This is hardly a groundbreaking concept, mixing interviews with all four band members and producer Steven Wilson with clips from the studio, but its done well and gives a good insight into what makes Opeth tick. Particularly interesting is the almost ‘student-teacher’ relationship that Opeth seem to have with Wilson, with Akerfeldt admitting that the band spent the last day or so before he arrived to work on the album frantically finishing the basic tracks, and were then nervous wrecks during the playback, scared that Wilson would tell them what they had come up with was rubbish! Of course no such thing happened…
Overall then this is a fine DVD, which accurately captures the experience of the band in a live environment. Its also a good introduction for those who only have Damnation but are undecided as to whether to dip their toe in to the band’s heavier back catalogue. Packaging and menus are up to the usual high standard I expect from the band, and whilst some might query the lack of ‘extras’, I can do without them, and anyway the well-made documentary is enough for me. Highly recommended!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Fates Warning - The View From Here
DVD 1: Silent Cries (3:17), Anarchy Divine (3:50), Through Different Eyes [video] (4:21), Nothing Left To Say [Live] (7:52), Point Of View (4:48), Eye To Eye (4:04), The Making Of Parallels (4:32), Monument (4:36), A Pleasant Shade Of Gray [Parts X, XI, XII] (11:39), At Fates Hands [Live] (6:52), Prelude To Ruin [Live] (4:31), The Eleventh Hour [Live from Dynamo] (8:37), Point Of View [Live from Dynamo] (4:30), The Making Of Disconnected (20:22), The Eleventh Hour [Live in Greece] (8:41)
DVD 2: Live At Dynamo 1998: Pleasant Shade Of Gray [Parts II, III, V, VI, VII] (22:40), The Eleventh Hour (8:37), Point Of View (4:30), Monument (6:07), We Only Say Goodbye (4:11)
Of all the ProgMetal bands on the scene today, Fates Warning must be one of those most commonly quoted as an ‘influence’. It’s been 20 years since Jim Matheos and his crew from Connecticut arrived like a rush of adrenaline into the metal scene. The seminal progressive metal stalwarts virtually created the genre by combining elements of pure metal, classically inspired interludes with bits of jazz, blues and…well anything they fancied. Through the release of nine albums they’ve constantly re-invented themselves, building a fanatical following across the world. To mark their label's 20th birthday those good chaps at Metal Blade compiled what really amounts to a ‘Best of../Singles’ collection in a value for money double DVD. It clocks in at a generous two-and-a-half hours.
The first is made up of seven promo MTV videos for Silent Cries, Anarchy Divine, Through Different Eyes, Point Of View, Eye To Eye, Monument and A Pleasant Shade of Grey. There’s also five live tracks – two from Dynamo, two (At Fates Hands and Prelude To Ruin) from an unnamed club show in 1998 and Nothing Left to Say from another unnamed club show in 1989. The time is extended by a docu-promo The Making of Parallelsand a cobbled-together series of fairly dull video clips from Disconnected. The home video footage of the band in the studio features rare shots of producer Terry behind the board with interesting footage of Jim Matheos laying down his guitar riffs on a Gibson ES hollowbody, Ray Alder trying to get his vocal technique right, and throwing fits when he gets stressed out.
The second disc is the remainder of the band’s live set from Dynamo in 1998. For me this is actually the weakest part. It took place in broad daylight and a mingling festival crowd is several security fences away. It’s not helped by some fairly static and repetitive camera angles. To be honest it has the excitement and energy of a Women's Institute meeting. It’s worth a look but doesn’t really capture the band in their best setting. Far more interesting, is a rare bootleg taken from a gig in Greece where the whole hall is packed, quite literally to the rafters, with rabid fans singing every word.
I must say however that a bit more thought could’ve gone into the production of this – maybe a booklet giving the casual fan a bit of history or a few rare photos? Also the sound levels vary enormously through the first disc – meaning you constantly have to turn up/down the volume. Even so, this is a good value, all-in-one-place collection. For me, it has certainly brought home an appreciation of how well the band shifts gears from each album and develops as a unit.
Hardcore fans will probably have most of this already – especially the Dynamo gig which was released on DVD I think in 1998. However for anyone who’s always wondered what all the fuss was about, this is the ideal way to find out.
Finally we can enjoy the legendary Dynamo gig of one of my favourite prog rock bands ever. Sadly it only lasts for about 48 minutes, but every minute is a marvellous minute, which you should cherish. The five parts of their best album A Pleasant Shade Of Gray are just magical and I cannot understand why these guys did not play that complete album that time….
On the first DVD there are some "oldies" like Silent Cries and Anarchy Divine, these songs are taken from the album No Exit which was recorded in 1988 and here we hear the new singer Ray Alder for the first time. The other tracks are from their excellent albums like Perfect Symmetry, Parallels and Inside Out. Besides the magical music it is also interesting to take a look into the Fates Warning "kitchen", especially the extended video of the making of their latest album Disconnected is very interesting.
However it is a shame that a couple of songs are featured more than once on this album, e.g. Point Of View and The Eleventh Hour are on DVD 1 and DVD 2; even the same recording!! Point Of View is on this album for the third time, but this time as a video clip, but still…..
But as I said before the music is amazing and therefore this album is worth buying; Fates Warning fans should not miss this excellent release.
Arena - Caught In The Act
Tracklisting: Witch Hunt, An Angel Falls, Painted Man, This Way Madness Lies, Spectre At The Feast, Skin Game, Salamander, Bitter Harvest, City Of Lanterns, Riding The Tide, Cutting The Cards, Ascension, Serenity, Chosen, Double Vision, The Hanging Tree, (Don't Forget To) Breathe, The Butterfly Man, Enemy Without, Solomon, Jericho, Crying For Help VII
Caught In The Act is the first Arena DVD release and is a recording of one of the Contagion gigs the band played earlier last year. The band had the opportunity to play in a Polish TV-studio in Krakow, which provided an ideal chance to get everything on camera.
The thing that really caught me out is how heavy the band is in a live setting, with the guitars of John Mitchell fully to the fore. Singer Rob Sowdon’s stage presentation works well on film – he has clearly worked hard to give himself an eye-catching profile. Good job too, as the rest of the band barely registers – was that the real Ian Salmon or a cardboard cut out? Drummer Mick Pointer comes across as very relaxed but keyboard player Clive Nolan is visually, fairly restrained as well.
Clocking in with 22 tracks spread over 90 minutes, the disc contains almost a full version of the Contagion album - some of the softer tracks apparently weren’t played to keep the tempo high. The ten remaining songs can be best described as the best of Arena. Highlights are Hanging Tree, The Butterfly Man and of course Solomon. And as well as the customary extras, this DVD contains a worthwhile interview with Pointer and Nolan.
The show was recorded by no less than ten camera’s and with an excellent lighting rig it looks very professional. The cameras don’t capture the band with the sharpness of say the recent Pallas DVD and the fact that it’s a TV crew doing the job does spoil it somewhat. Think of Top Of The Pops and the way the camera changes every few seconds throughout every song and you’ll know what watching this DVD is like.
It’s a technique that works fine when used occasionally on the up-tempo songs but the director uses it throughout. After a few tracks you just feel a bit seasick. Every time Mitchell strikes up a solo you just want a camera to linger while you concentrate on the melody. But by the time he’s into the second segment you’ve seen the whole band in action from all ten cameras….twice!!! The artwork too – normally such an integral part of the Arena packaging - isn’t really anything like up to standard.
I can only view DVDs on my laptop, so won’t comment on sound and vision quality - only to say that if there was an ambience microphone, the crowd was very quiet. However on the music alone this is a release that comes recommended both for existing fans and the casually interested.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Jadis - View From Above
Track list: The Great Outside(6:44), Where In The World (5:38), Alive Inside (5:31), Take These Words (4:18), Yourself Alone (5:51), Daylight Fades (5:28), More Than Meets The Eye (3:03), In Isolation (6:15), The Beginning And The End (5:49), Sleepwalk (8:11), Holding Your Breath live 1994 (9:06)
The first DVD of British prog rockers Jadis is a success. Recorded in Krakow in 2003 this album has it all. Typical English symphonic rock with dominant guitar solos of Gary Chandler and the sound is superb and crystal clear. What else do you need as a prog rock lover?
Most of the songs are “oldies” of course, but they still sound very “fresh” and up-to-date. More Than Meets The Eye is without any doubt one of my favourite Jadis songs; the flute passage always reminds me of another legendary English symphonic rock band, namely Camel. It is a bit of a shame that the Polish audience is a bit too quiet, and therefore the live atmosphere is perhaps not that good, but the music is wonderful. Sleepwalk is a guitar driven song with amazing solos and the concert could not have ended better. Also check out the bonus video, which features the instrumental Holding Your Breath, recorded in 1994. There are also a lot of extras on this DVD, like e.g. band biography, an interview with Gary and Martin, discography, a photo gallery, desktop images and weblinks. So there is enough to enjoy here; a must for Jadis fans!!!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10