DVD & Blu-ray

Live in Tokyo

13 Dec 2014
Jeff Beck
DVD & Blu-ray
Eagle Vision

I’ve seen Jeff Beck a couple of times over the last 15 years but on neither ocassion did he play as well as he does here. He says he likes Tokyo because they listen, well he certainly gave them something to listen to in April, 2014. A spectacular set with a mix of his own worksand those of his contemporaries, McLaughlin’s You Know You Know being particularly fine as is Stratus, the Billy Cobham masterpiece originally featuring the live fast, die young talents of Tommy Bolin. A hard act to follow. Inevitably it’s Beck’s own work that reveals the breadth of his talent, that thatch may seem unfeasible on a man who could claim state pension if he needed it but it hides a steely, even wiry mind that never stops pushing the envelope of guitar rock. Even the heavier of the more recent works seems to work without turning to bludgeon as it often seems to.
This can’t be unrelated to the line-up providing the backing, for whom this is the first release. They consist of Jonathan Joseph on drums, Nicolas Meier on guitar and Rhonda “she’s my anchor” Smith on bass. A clearly talented and well honed band over which Beck has the freedom to unleash his considerable skills. Highlights include the aforementioned titles as well as Where Were You, Little Wing, Angel (Footsteps) and A Day in the Life. The sound is good for Blu-ray, thus it’s compressed by CD standards but very clean, wideband and powerful. The fact that it’s Beck’s finest release in over a decade is another point in its favour.

Jason Kennedy

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Woman of Heart & Mind/Painting With Words and Music

12 Apr 2014
Joni Mitchell
DVD & Blu-ray
Eagle Vision

This Blu-ray combines two previously released titles for the first time in HD although this treatment really only benefits the live performance Painting With Words and Music which is presented in widescreen for the first time.

Woman of Heart & Mind is a biopic of an artist, a musician and painter who grew up in a small to town in Saskatchewan, Canada in a house by the highway with a picture window that she claims inspired her escape to the wider world. Feeling that painting was her true vocation she started out in music by mimicking Joan Baez and Judy Collins and didn’t really start to find her own voice until getting pregnant at college, marrying another man, Chuck Mitchell, and eventually leaving him. As she puts it: “Every bit of trouble I went though I’m grateful for”, this because it provided the emotional turmoil that fuelled her song writing. In 1967 Mitchell went to New York and joined the folk scene ignited by  Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs et al. There she met and profoundly impressed David Crosby and James Taylor among others and was inspired by the personal narrative of Dylan which she said personalised her work. Mitchell however, wanted to hold onto the melodies, and developed a hybrid that allowed melodic and harmonic movement as well as narrative.

In ‘69 she moved to California and Laurel Canyon, playing Crosby and others before going on to record her debut Ladies of the Canyon and forming a relationship with Graham Nash. When he asked her to marry she took the tough decision to put her art first and went into a depression that resulted in the aptly named Blue in 1970, this inevitably proved a major hit, of which Mitchell says “I was so vulnerable, so naked in my work”. A state that Dylan also went through prior to ‘going electric’, and likewise one which Mitchell reacted to by playing with LA Express, so that as someone in the documentary put it she could be one of the boys. This resulted in more confident music and lead into Court and Spark, an album fuelled by a romance with drummer John Guerin that heralded a new sound for Mitchell and a beginning of the ‘jazz period’. The next album covered here is a personal favourite, Hejira, made with another alleged love with bassist Jaco Pastorius. This film however concentrates on the influence of engineer Henry  Lewy who she says was one of the few technical types who understood what she was trying to achieve. Both partnerships (?) resulted in three remarkable albums including the work she did with Charles Mingus, something encouraged by the jazz legend when he heard Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.

The next creative phase was sparked by her relationship with Larry Klein in the eighties, one that produced Wild Things Run Fast and at 10 years stands out as her longest partnership. The documentary goes up to the recording of Both Sides Now with orchestra that she did in the late nineties but also covers the reunion with her daughter, the child that she had given up in her late teens and hadn’t seen for forty years.

The documentary includes a lot live and TV footage as well as extensive contributions from Mitchell, Nash, Crosby and other key figures. It paints a portrait of an emotionally intelligent, musically gifted genuine individual. A woman that followed her heart and her mind, constructing her own chords and her own rules about how and where she performed. She gave up large scale concerts because of the difficulty in communicating with so many people. Painting With Words and Music, the accompanying live performance from 1998 finds her in a relatively intimate Warner lot setting playing in the round. A situation she clearly thrives in, the fact that she’s accompanied by great musicians, including Larry Klein on bass helps to produce a very slick yet strong event, during which we get a short political rant preceding Sex Kills as well as some superb fretless bass from her ex amour.

The sound does not quite match the sumptuous presentation but in the absence of a decent processor and multiple channels in my system is probably the reason,  it’s good enough to make me wonder if there’s a way of getting the PCM stereo onto my hard drive. It’s also a more enjoyable, upbeat recording than Both Sides Now which likewise found Mitchell revisiting old favourites, these ones however are largely from the post folk era, Court and Spark onwards.

It’s Woman of Heart & Mind that makes its mark however, as a result of the exposure she felt on Blue Mitchell has always been an enigmatic fgure, rarely giving interviews and letting her work speak for her. So it’s intrigueing to hear what she has to say about the music that has inspired so many, and this I suspect makes it good viewing for both fans and newcomers alike.

Audio formats: DTS HD Master & LPCM stereo
Length: 204 mins total

Let the Music Play – The Story of the Doobie Brothers

5 Dec 2012
The Doobie Brothers
DVD & Blu-ray
Eagle Vision

The Doobie Brothers are usually written off as just another MOR band, perhaps even the definitive example of the genre but as this documentary reveals they were a hard working, talented and extremely adaptable band that happened to be very successful. The Doobie's story starts with them getting the name on account of their enthusiasm for marijuana and works its way from a false start where they were encouraged to trade their ‘meat ‘n’ potatoes’ rock sound for something more acoustic on their eponymous debut. Things got back on track for Toulouse Street, an early Ted Templeman production and the first of many with the band and it's to his credit that they found such a successful sound, the first single from the album was Listen to the Music which proved an auspicious debut. By this point they had expanded to include not only a second drummer but a congo player as well, the band was also joined by ex Steely Dan guitar player Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter who would prove pivotal when it came to a change of frontman in 1975. Up until that point Tom Johnston had written and sung most of the songs (albeit often in harmony with two other singers) but when he was taken ill and replaced with another Dan alumni, Mike McDonald, the Doobies found both an incredible singer and a fine song writer. The McDonald era proved the most commercially and arguably artistically successful thanks to tunes like Takin’ it to The Street and It Keeps You Runnin’ (it would seem that Gs were in short supply back then!).

This second incarnation of the Doobies split in 1982 but the original band got back together five years later and have been going in one form or another ever since. This Blu-ray includes nine live tracks from the various versions of the band and includes some of their finest work. What it also does is inspire you to hear the original cuts again, if this is MOR you’ll find me by the cat’s eyes.

Blu-ray formats available: DTS-HD Master, PCM stereo

Jason Kennedy



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