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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Music > Pop > Rock > Blues > Soul > Religion > Politics > Show Business > Drugs > Deat > George Harrison: Living In A Material World (2012/Universal Music Blu-ray)/Simply Red: Live at Montreux 2003 (Eagle Blu-ray)/Stony Island (1978/Cinema Libre DVD)

George Harrison: Living In A Material World (2012/Universal Music Blu-ray)/Simply Red: Live at Montreux 2003 (Eagle Blu-ray)/Stony Island (1978/Cinema Libre DVD)


Picture: B-/B-/C+     Sound: B-/B/C+     Extras: C/C+/B     Main Programs: B+/B-/C+



Note: We have included the image of the deluxe edition of George Harrison: Living In A Material World with additional discs (DVDs and CD with Blu-ray) and material plus a 96 page booklet, though we are only covering the Blu-ray.



Not to be confused with his classic 1973 album of the same title, George Harrison: Living In A Material World (2012) is Martin Scorsese’s extensive, impressive, even remarkable biography documentary mini-series on the life of the one-time Beatle from his early years, to music success, to personal spiritual/religious journey to his passing.  Here in two parts and running over 3.5 hours, a new set of interviews, rare video and film clips, rare audio inserts and some really great music are featured throughout as Scorsese traces Harrison from birth to his passing.


Yet it is more than just a linear history, but a character study of the man, his growth, how he eventually could no longer be marginalized as a member of the most successful band of all time and how his spiritual journey helped make the band better, as well as himself, his life, his family and all around him.  Scorsese is always interested in what makes up a person when they are making something exceptional and/or exceptional happen and this includes any faith they might have.  This goes beyond his own Catholicism as his underrated film Kundun reminds us.


Harrison was an early member of the band and a key part of it, but with John Lennon and Paul McCartney such a strong writing team, Harrison did not have to worry about supplying hits at first as their run was legendary.  This did not stop him from being himself or working with others, including friend Eric Clapton, who would have an affair with his wife (he fell in love with her) and create a classic in Layla, which Scorsese made popular all over again with its use in GoodFellas.


Besides filling in the spaces for viewers and even the biggest fans of all involved, the end result here is that Scorsese creates a journey in itself of the journey Harrison had in life and we also see just how groundbreaking he was after he left The Beatles.  It could be argued that it is in ways that rivaled any of the other members, and that says something.


Scorsese does not miss his backing Monty Python’s Life Of Brian or the successful launch of Handmade Films that followed and become one of the most important independent film producers from the U.K. and in recent film history.  There is much more, from great triumphant moments to his darkest hours, but I will stop here except to say that this is as great a documentary as Scorsese has ever made and this from a man who has made so many memorable ones.  It is also one of the most important music films in years, so put it on your must-see list.


Extras include five additional clips, including more from McCartney and George Martin with his son Giles and Harrison’s son Dhani listening to a multi-channel studio version of Here Comes The Sun and discussing how it was made.  I wish that went on for hours.


For more on Harrison’s early solo work, go to this link for his solo album of the same name as this documentary:





Another singer who is very heartfelt in his work is Mick Hucknall, who is also a bit underrated and should have had more hits.  I was reminded of this as he sang through two concerts in the new Simply Red: Live at Montreux 2003 Blu-ray release from Eagle.  The disc also includes a shorter, newer 2010 concert from the same annual event and both shows are impressive.  Some songs do not stick with me as much as others, but Hucknall is one of the better singers around and he can deliver.  The 2003 show has 18 songs including his cover of The Stylistics’ You Make Me Feel Brand New, Money’s Too Tight To Mention and his international hit Holding Back The Years, while the 2010 show has 7 songs and includes To Be With You, his remake of Harold Melvin’s If You Don’t Know Me By Now and Your Mirror which serves as this disc’s bonus song.


Oh, and he can write to as some of these songs and has even written for other artists, including Shine, a bizarre, wild, hilarious single for Diana Ross that should have also been a big hit and did not get picked up.  As a result, seeing Hucknall here reminds me a bit of George Harrison in that you are seeing a talent in peak form and in exceptional form you might have missed.

An illustrated paper pullout with brief text is the only other extra.  For more Simply Red, try these DVD links:


Home Live In Sicily



Classic Albums: Simply Red - Stars




Last but not least is yet another gem you might have missed, even if it has aged somewhat.  Andrew Davis is now known as a director of big commercial films like the Harrison Ford hit version of The Fugitive, but back in 1978, he managed to get an independent film off the ground that helped launch his career and now, Stony Island has been issued on DVD by Cinema Libre.  Set in Chicago, it is a raw drama about music lovers and musicians of all kinds trying to come together and make music in the shadow of poverty, adversity, racism, personal problems and situations that do not exactly inspire art.


Cast with musicians and people who could and could sort-of act, the film is essentially a backstage musical with better music, a raw look that shows off how great the Chicago even at that time was and has some very key musicians on camera and on the soundtrack including Edward “Stoney” Robinson and David Sanborn.  Director Tamar Hoffs worked on this film and her daughter Susanna is here years before the international success of her all-female band The Bangles (see our SA-CD review elsewhere on this site of their hits set) plus we also see early appearances by a somewhat known Dennis Franz (who had made The Fury with Brian De Palma the same year) and soon-to-be female action lead and dramatic actress Rae Dawn Chong.


The film is at its best with its music and the acting scenes with the most emotional impact, while the humor is always playing against the tensions of the narrative.  I wish the script were a bit strong, but this is easily one of Davis’ best films and a key time capsule of the time it was made in; a priceless one that also makes it a key pure music film.  That is why I am glad it has arrived on DVD, even with its limits.


Extras include an Alternate Ending that does not ring as authentic as the one chosen and might be considered the more commercial “Rocky” choice, especially since it makes the big mistake of not ending in Chicago and we get an excellent, must-see (when you finish the film, of course) Making Of documentary on the film entitled Music Makes Us One.  Nice to see yet another orphan film make a comeback.




The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on World and 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Red are about even in playback quality.  Though Scorsese has picked and chosen his film, audio and video clips as well as anyone could, the quality of some of them could not be totally cleaned up or restored due to age and wear, so despite some great footage old and new, this is still a documentary and the sum of the material is uneven.  The Red concerts are both HD shoots with some motion blur and detail issues, but color is good in both cases and very watchable.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Island originated on 35mm film and we get some nice shots throughout, but this is still a low-definition format and has Video Black and detail limits.  I know the film is older, but I bet it would look better on Blu-ray, especially since it was shot by no less than Tak Fujimoto (The Silence Of The Lambs).  We’ll see if one is issued.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Red concerts are the best here with fine recording and mixing into multi-channel soundfields that are thoroughly enjoyable and better than the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo versions also included.  Scorsese uses the same lossless mix for World and this has some great moments (especially when Beatles and Harrison classics are played, sounding better here than in just about any other commercially available versions) but there is also plenty of raw old monophonic audio that could only be fixed up so much and other audio is simple stereo.  Also, sound is sometimes more towards the front speakers than I would have liked.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Island is marginally better than the Dolby 2.0 Stereo version, but the low budget of the film shows its age and was originally an optical mono theatrical release.  I just wondered if a lossless presentation would bring out more in the music.


Otherwise, these are three fine, solid music releases worth going out of your way for.


-   Nicholas Sheffo


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