The Beatles: Yellow Submarine (1968/Apple/Capitol EMI DVD)/Chappo: Moonwater (2012/Majordomo CD)/Chicago In Chicago (Image Blu-ray)/John Mellencamp: It’s About You (2010/MPI Blu-ray)/No Room For Rockstars: The Vans Warped Tour
(Shout! Factory DVD w/CD)/Rags To Riches: The Complete Series (1986/Image DVD Set)/Diana Ross: Live In Central
Park (1983/Shout! Factory DVD)
B-/X/B-/B-/C+/C+/C+ Sound: B/B/B/B-/B-
& B/C+/C+ Extras: B/C-/C+/C-/B-/D/B- Main Programs: B/C+/B-/C+/B-/C/B
Here is a
nice group of recent music releases to look into.
issued a disappointing, letterboxed DVD many years ago, Apple Records and
Capitol EMI have totally taken over The
Beatles: Yellow Submarine (1968, directed by George Dunning) and issued it
in a stunning restoration on Blu-ray and on an anamorphically enhanced DVD,
which is what we are covering here.
animated film from the U.K.
at the time since the C.I.A.-funded version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1955), it has become a
classic and actually was made by many of the participants of the band’s
animated TV series that the band reportedly was not happy with. King Features Syndicate (part of Hearst,
behind characters like Flash Gordon, Popeye and The Phantom) helped make that
show possible and ked by Al Brodax, made this groundbreaking film.
the abstract style of U.P.A. and other new animated forms that played against
standard animation, this would be a departure from the TV series in its use of
color, styles and what became the psychedelic look in animation that become
much imitated over the next few years (including in advertising) and resulted
in a film like no one had ever seen before.
It was a hit and played against every narrative convention and
expectation that one would expect from an animated feature, which it still does
to this day.
has Captain Fred racing to find The Beatles (voiced by voice actors instead of
the band) in the title vehicle as The Blue Meanies have declared war on music,
joy, freedom, happiness and peace, hoping the band can find a way to fight
back. The idea is simple and so many
interesting and abstract things happen in between (including the music moments,
that makes this a musical of sorts) that the urgency to save the future is
mixed with the urgency to come up with very different ways to add animation to
different Beatles songs we now all know as classics.
scene has Ringo (Paul Angelis) vetoing the idea at Fred’s suggestion that they
get help from the various characters (in the form of simple pop art statues)
that include most of the famous King Features comic strip heroes, but animators
(wanting to add the British equivalent) also have Ringo passing on the help of
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Tara King (Linda Thorson) from the British TV
spy classic The Avengers (then in
its final seasons, oddly following the band into its final years; both
unknowingly so) which was often (especially at that point) as surreal and
groundbreaking as this film and the band itself.
there, the film becomes “head trippy” but not so abstract that it does not
work. Of course, some of the animation
is simple, but that is the point. The
mix of repurposed still images, rotoscoping, live-action footage optically
printed on various stills and animated pieces and much more had never really
been done like this or in this way before.
Some of it came out of budget restrictions, but much of it was about
doing animation in a different way and finding new space for the artform. The result turned out to be often brilliant
and its own self-contained world beyond anything even The Beatles had done
before or after. This includes the band
being doubled as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band even as they pretend to
be that band.
if the narrative disappoints if you need one, the music is the top reason to
see this liberally using songs from Sgt.
Pepper’s, plus Eleanor Rigby and
the title song (ironically originally a single from their Revolver album) and four new songs for the film: Just A Northern Song, It’s All Too Much, All Together Now and Hey
Bulldog, which was not originally issued in the U.S. version of the film’s
release but has been available since the 1999 MGM reissue.
not ruin anything more, especially if you never saw the film, but it is a must
see and I just wish there was a way they could have made it longer. Extras include the Original Theatrical
Trailer, Mod Odyssey featurette, Behind The Scenes photos & stills, six
cast/crew interviews, three storyboarded sequences including two that did not
make the final film, original pencil drawings and a terrific feature length
audio commentary track by Production Supervisor John Coatez with Art Director
Heinz Edelman to be heard after seeing the film.
plenty of coverage on the band, including on their many solo efforts and that
lost keeps growing. Besides using our
search engine, you can try these links for more:
Can’t Buy Me Love book
Chappo: Moonwater (2012) is one of the few regular
CDs of any kind we have covered of late, but it is a professionally recorded
11-track Pop/Rock work that is ambitiously performed and one of millions that
are a descendant of what The Beatles did all these decades later, but not much
of it stuck with me after finishing it.
Alex Chappo, Zac Colwell, Dave Feddock and Chris Olson make up this
quartet and they have some talent, but this album just did not do much for me. A booklet with lyrics (not so well
handwritten) is also included.
for many decades since their debut in the late 1960s, the band Chicago has stabilized, but still keeps
changing just a little bit and their new Blu-ray concert release Chicago In Chicago (recorded in 2010)
has them adding yet more vocalists and not necessarily for the better. Most disorienting is having an audience
member sing If You Leave Me Now,
struggling to read the lyrics from a piece of paper. Since Peter Cetera left, they have been
trying to do this song in different ways (like letting Philip Bailey of Earth,
Wind & Fire sing it in a co-tour Blu-ray; see below) instead of cutting it
from the shows.
absolutely still play the instrumental parts of the songs and seem to be having
fun doping it, but the concert was a somewhat mixed bag for me, especially with
such variation over the 24 songs, the last three of which members of The Doobie
Brothers join them. Still a viable show
worth a look, this is simply the state of the band now and big fans will love
it. Others might not always be as happy.
interview featurette is the only extra. For
more Chicago in
High Definition on Blu-ray, try these links:
Chicago Live In
Concert/Soundstage 2008 Blu-ray
Chicago & Earth, Wind &
Fire – Live At The Greek Theater Blu-ray
this time, we are finally covering something from the singer once known as John
Cougar. But John Mellencamp: It’s About You (filmed in 2010) is more a tour
documentary than a concert show or Rockumentary, though we do hear Mellencamp
perform his songs starting with his Pink Houses album where he started to do
“respectable” music that challenged the listener about life and politics versus
his silly Johnny Cougar days or pop howlers like Hurts So Good and Jack &
Diane, though he has also abandoned (Somewhat? Totally?) early successes like I Need A Lover, who the likes of Pat
Benatar helped make popular.
director is also the narrator, Kurt Marcus, who lenses and co-directs the film
in professional Super 8mm film with his son Ian, talks about the decline of America and its
small towns more than Mellencamp’s music or music in general, despite Willie
Nelson and Bob Dylan also being on this tour.
This can be depressing and sometimes true, though it also has some
points that could be debated or others that are not explored enough, but I
liked the idea that something different was attempted here and the film creates
a look that makes it much more interesting than any HD shoot I have seen in a
long while. Even if you disagree with
Marcus or don’t like much of the music, It’s
About You is worth a good look. A
trailer is the only extra.
No Room For Rockstars: The Vans
Warped Tour is
our third time covering a release centered around the very successful multiple
music act tour. Instead of a concert
disc like the 2007 DVD we covered
outright political documentary like Wake
Up Screaming that we covered here:
We get a
look at the various music acts that make up a latest tour (2011) and the title
suggests a certain kind of populism, but it is also sad to watch these bands
trying to gain and audience, sell product, even CDs and not get much of
anywhere through immaturity, inexperience or no support, making this a
microcosm of the music industry in trouble for its inability to find, grow and
support new talent.
become a time capsule as the title may also refer to the idea that this tour
might not know how to produce big acts versus some great concerts and tours of
the past. You’ll have to see and judge
for yourself, but Director Parris Patton holds back showing little in the way
of what is going on behind the scenes.
It is just not as political as Wake
Up Screaming for better and worse.
include a Greatest Hits bonus CD and an illustrated booklet inside the
paperboard foldout packaging, while the DVD adds 90 minutes of bonus footage
including with the one inarguable star, Andrew W.K., which is unexpected in
showing his unusual side.
of a 1980s mentality, Rags To Riches:
The Complete Series (1986) was an attempt to do a musical comedy series
with older songs and several shows had tried to do similar things (Cop Rock tried this with new songs, but
had many ideological issues) and the pilot telefilm actually had a young Bill
Maher in a role as the assistant of the wealthy protagonist Joseph Bologna) who
was mistakenly dropped when the show kicked into a series. They even had Tisha Campbell (soon of Spike
Lee’s controversial School Daze)
outsinging her co-stars, but the mix of retro music numbers, old songs remade
and safe minority characters smacks of an implicit racism as if The Civil
Rights movement never happened or mattered.
also a “whitewashing” of music and music history, which has been a project of
too many Hollywood releases since the early 1980s (inspired by often superior
music videos) and this tale of a rich man who helps poor orphan girls (besides
shamelessly ripping off the musical classic Annie) is never convincing and oddly never really tries to be. Of course, the reason to issue this now is
because of the commercial success of the highly overrated Glee, which does some revisioning of its own, but that is a
separate essay. Now this is a curio and
time capsule of a would-be vibrant hit that was not, now looking more dated
than ever. There are no extras, but
Danny Bonaduce, Richard Grieco, Robert Pine and Dick Van Patten are among the
famous faces who show up 21 episodes that got made.
not least is Diana Ross: Live In Central
Park, a long overdue DVD of the singer’s legendary concert that was
originally rained out due to an unexpected electrical storm. Taped in 1983, Ross was undeterred in what is
one of the great glory moments in music and the record business. At this point, she was on her way to being
the most successful female singer of all time (combined with her Supremes work,
The Guinness Book Of World Records confirms this), had just left Motown a few
years ago for a record money contract with RCA and was seeing her mentoring of
her beloved Michael Jackson take off like never before with Thriller.
She was releasing her third RCA album Ross,
her first digital recording, but the album (with mixed-success hits like Pieces Of Ice, Love Or Loneliness and Up
Front, the last two by Ray Parker, Jr.) was not doing as well as Why Do Fools Fall In Love? or Silk Electric. However, the show was a one-woman music show
like few we have ever seen before or since and when the first day was ruined,
she came back the next day and did the whole show, including the first songs
all over again.
audience was having a good time, she was having a good time, she was fearless
and she even moved beyond old and new hits by daring to sing the liked of
Jackson’s Beat It and Michael
Sembello’s Maniac from Flashdance. Even when they did not quite work, she could
do no wrong and showed why she is one of the too few music superstars of all
time, what real talent is, how she is able to connect with a huge crowd and why
she is a legend decades before no-talents were being pitifully referred to as
divas. Donna Summer was in transition,
Madonna was just starting up and Whitney Houston had not arrived yet, so this
was a big moment for Ross. Sadly, though
it was not her swansong, it was the last hurrah of her time as a top name as
her mainstream success faded (the next album, Eaten Alive, would have more overseas success than in the U.S.) but
for a few days in Central Park, Ross was the #1 woman in music bar none and all
you have to do is watch this DVD and be amazed.
This is what pure talent is all about.
include a paper pullout with tech information in the DVD case, while the DVD
adds a too-short audio commentary track by Director Steve Binder on how the
show came to be and operated. This
program deserves a documentary and due to the limited DVD space, is missing the
amazing end of the first day as the rain fell.
Ross could have left the stage to save herself, but she was so scared
that someone might be hurt by lightning, she stayed at her own risks to see
everyone left the Park to be safe. They
were and returned the next day. Now that’s
on Ross, try this link to Diana Ross
(1976), the expanded album CD set which includes more Ross links:
anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image on Submarine
comes from a remarkable 4K restoration (I have already seen HD footage of it as
well) from original film elements restored by hand. The film was issued in DeLuxe color in the
U.S. and elsewhere, but some countries apparently issued dye-transfer,
three-strip Technicolor prints and along with Apple and EMI likely taking good
care of the original film elements, they might have had such a priceless print
to work with, but there is no restoration featurette to tell us. Even on this DVD, you can see how much better
it looks than the older MGM DVD and if you have a Blu-ray player, you’ll want
that version. Either way, I have never
seen the film look this great and it is as jaw-dropping as recent Disney
restoration of their classics, so serious money was spent to fix this up. It paid off.
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Chicago
does have some nice color to it, but it is no better than the older HD concert
shoots involving the band, yet plays just fine for what it is. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition
image on Mellencamp (as noted) was
shot on professional Super 8mm film and has some black and white footage, some
degraded footage, but the style is consistent and color footage has color the Chicago Blu-ray and other HD shoots
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Vans and 1.33 X 1 image on Rags and Ross are about even in their softness, despite being shot in three
different formats (Vans is HD, Rags film and Ross professional analog videotape), though the first two could see
Blu-ray release in the future if the demand warrants it, but Rags would need some restoration work.
5.1 mix on Submarine is superior to
the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 versions (including English) on the same DVD,
derived from four track masters for the film and the band, remixed originally
for the 1999 re-release. These tracks
have obviously been upgraded, though we do not know how at this time and the
results are superior to the Dolby Digital-only MGM DVD from years ago. The Blu-ray would even sound better, so get
that if you have a player.
16/44.1 2.0 Stereo on Chappo is well
recorded, rich and reproduces its music well, if with a very slight digital
edge and slight lack of warmth.
MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Chicago
(sounding as good as the previous band’s Blu-ray efforts) fares better than the
PCM 2.0 Stereo on the same disc or as the only sound option on Mellencamp, which is more
narrative-based and has location sound limits.
The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Vans
is often pushing it because it also has location audio issues, which is the
equal to the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (and sometimes Mono) on Rags and all Stereo on Ross, which I wish were in DTS
5.1. Wonder if the tracks still exist
- Nicholas Sheffo