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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Fantasy > Music > Comedy > Psychedelic > Rock > Pop > Surrealism > Pop Art > Concert > Jazz > Punk > A > 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 Rocks

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)


Picture: 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.



After MGM 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.


The first 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.


Following 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.

The story 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.


An early 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.


From 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.


But even 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.


I will 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.


We have 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:


Help! DVD



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.



Surviving 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.


They can 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.


An 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




After all 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.


The 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 here:




Or an 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.


It may 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.


Extras 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.



A product 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.


It is 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.



Last but 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.


The 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.


Extras 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 a professional!

For more on Ross, try this link to Diana Ross (1976), the expanded album CD set which includes more Ross links:






The 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.


The 1080i 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 cannot reproduce.


The 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.



The DTS 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.


The PCM 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.


The DTS-HD 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 for that?


-   Nicholas Sheffo


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