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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Politics > Music > Rock N Roll > Industry > Racism > Concert > Opera > Comedy > Satire > Pop > So > The Buddy Holly Story (1978/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Live In Iceland: Thick As A Brick (2012 - 4/Eagle SD Blu-ray)/Justin Hayward Live At The Buc

The Buddy Holly Story (1978/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Live In Iceland: Thick As A Brick (2012 - 4/Eagle SD Blu-ray)/Justin Hayward Live At The Buckhead Theater, Atlanta: Spirits... Live (2013, 2014/Eagle Blu-ray)/Rossini's L'Italiana In Algeri (2013 aka An Italian In Algiers/Naxos/Opus Arte/Unitel Classica Blu-ray)/The Midnight Special: Special Edition (1972 - 79/Time Life/Star Vista 6-DVD Set)/Ernest Stuart: Love/Loss EP (3-track digital download)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Buddy Holly Story Blu-ray is limited to 3,000 copies and is available from our friends at Twilight Time, The Midnight Special DVD set is an exclusive release of Star Vista and both can be ordered from the links below. The Ernest Stuart EP is a three-track digital release with a link at the end of the text of its review.

With more music titles than usual, we are also seeing more diversity and this set of titles will show you what we mean, yet you should know about all of them.

Steve Rash's The Buddy Holly Story (1978) is the underseen and sometimes controversial biopic of the rise and early demise (accidental airplane crash) of the amazing rock innovator played here by Gary Busey in an early prime performance that would be his lead career peak before personal problems slowly ruined his career. The makers did not have license to cover all the music and people involved in the real story, but with what the makers had to work with, it is a very good film and Busey often becomes Holly in a film that honors a music giant we still do not see or hear enough about.

Helping the film is the great look, great music and a strong, easy to underestimate supporting cast that includes Conrad Janis (Mork & Mindy) as a sympathetic music executive, Charles Martin Smith (The Untouchables), Don Stroud, Fred Travalena, Neva Patterson, Amy Johnston, Arch Johnson, Paul Mooney, Freeman King and others who would have had bigger careers had this been a big hit. Columbia Pictures did promote it well enough, but Grease apparently stole its thunder too much and that's unfortunate. Overdue on Blu-ray, Twilight Time delivers a Limited Edition fans and the rest of us can really appreciate.

Extras include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and an essay by the terrific Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds a vintage feature length audio commentary track by Busey & Director Steve Rash, Original Theatrical Trailer and lossless Isolated Music Score track.

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Live In Iceland: Thick As A Brick (2012) offers a recent tour performance that was not filmed or shot on HD, but standard definition (or SD) video for some odd reason. As part of Eagle's series of upscaling SD video to HD, then taking advantage of the room Blu-ray has for better sound than DVD ever did, audiophiles and music fans get to enjoy higher quality versions of these programs than ever expected. Rock survivor Anderson gives a decent show with tracks from Thick As A Brick 2 and the legendary title song, showing that he is far from living in the past. Fans will love it and the rest will be at least intrigued, especially sonically.

Extras include a nicely illustrated paper foldout on the show with informative text, while the SD Blu-ray adds an Interview with Anderson, two bonus tracks from his Live In Montreux 2012 appearance and collaboration with Claude Nobs clip.

Justin Hayward Live At The Buckhead Theater, Atlanta: Spirits... Live (2013) has the great Moody Blues singer going solo; several Moody shows old and new have been highlight music Blu-ray releases, not to mention classic Moody albums on 5.1 SA-CD, all reviewed elsewhere on this site. Though he can play and pretty much still sing, I found this 17-song set to have some rough spots and be a bit inconsistent, with Tuesday Afternoon, Nights In White Satin and Question having different turns that do not always work. Still, at least fans will appreciate it.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the show including informative text, while the Blu-ray adds three bonus tracks and an hour-long Making Of featurette.

Rossini's Italiana In Algeri (2013 aka An Italian In Algers) is so unusual a classical opera release, that I wanted to include it here, with conductor Jose Ramon Enclair, Stage Director Davide Livermore and the Orchestra & Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna adding a 1960s groovy twist to the proceedings by making it look like a 1960s spy fashion bonanza with hilarious projected animation in between scenes to further the humor, though it never looks like Austin Powers or Carnaby Street, especially since it also applies Italian fashion of the period.

The result is a clever, fun, never-too-long version of the Rossini classic (153 minutes) that never fails to deliver. It is not easy to get away from the snob factor these releases tend to have for some (many?) no matter how good they are, but this one pulls it off and without compromising the original work. Cheers to Naxos, Opus Arte & Unitel Classica for releasing such a nice disc of it.

Extras include a multi-language booklet on the opera, while the Blu-ray adds a Cast Gallery and Making Of featurette.

The Midnight Special: Special Edition (1972 - 79) is a new compilation collection of one of the most important music programs of all time, a 6-DVD set showing off landmark performances of some of the most important music artists of all time in a show that was the grown-up version of predecessors like Shindig, American Bandstand and Hullabaloo as Rock, Soul, eventually Disco and the counterculture arts came into their own. Like the original Soul Train, the show was taped in full color to give that live look no matter when you watched it and it was an immediate hit.

This set has Helen Reddy hosting as she came into a huge run of hits including the groundbreaking I am Woman and the artists in action (usually in their early prime) include Linda Ronstadt, Argent, John Denver, Harry Chapin, Crystal Gayle, Chuck Mangione, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton, Hall & Oates, Joan Baez, Billy Paul, Mac Davis, Jim Croce, The Bee Gees, Sly & The Family Stone, Electric Light Orchestra, Gary Wright, the early Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper, Rupert Holmes, Todd Rundgren, America, LaBelle, Golden Earring, Janis Ian, the wilder Aerosmith, Redbone, The Stylistics, Eddie Kendricks, Minnie Ripperton, Barry White, Olivia Newton-John (when everyone mistakenly thought she would stay country pop), Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Chic, The Village People, Blondie, Gordon Lightfoot, Peaches & Herb, War, early Robert Palmer, Bonnie Tyler, Loggins & Messina, The Miracles (after Smokie Robinson left), The Hollies, Frankie Valli, Orleans, Dobie Gray, Eddie Money, Neil Sedaka on his comeback trail, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Andrew Gold, Bread, Eddie Rabbit, very early Sammy Hagar, Marvin Gaye, The Kinks, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, The O'Jays, Billy Preston, Chuck Mangione, Edgar Winter Group, Curtis Mayfield, Charlie Rich and some very special event duets.

They include John Denver with Mama Cass Elliott singing Leaving On A Jet Plane, Captain & Tennille with Neil Sedaka singing Love Will Keep Us Together (which Sedaka wrote), Aretha Franklin & Ray Charles taking on Takes Two To Tango and Gladys Knight & B.B. King on his legendary hit The Thrill Is Gone. The artists were there just to deliver great performances on a great show, but no one could have imagined then what a landmark cultural event and priceless record of some of the most important music talent ever the series would represent. I thought it was a great idea to issue this set and I hope there is more in the vault to issue, because this is music TV at its best. With the massive success of the recent Guardians Of The Galaxy feature film and its huge hit #1 soundtrack album, the timing could not be better. My favorite of the many quality releases on this list, I highly recommend it!

Extras include a booklet listing all the shows and bonus clips with their respective dates, while the DVDs add Interviews newly recorded for the DVD series, Bonus Music performances from other select shows and new featurettes produced for these DVDs including Wolfman At Midnight, Star-Studded Stage Fashion, No Safety Net: Live On TV, I Am Woman: Helen Reddy as Host and The History of The Midnight Special.

Finally we have Ernest Stuart: Love/Loss EP, a rare time we are allowing digital downloads because we believe in physical product, but we heard goods things about this musician from Philadelphia and this 3-track EP offers 1) BMJ or Big Mama Jamma, 2) Okay, One More for Razzy & 3) Coldest Day of the Year. He mixes genres in each track, plays exceptionally well and all the instrumentals point to the possibilities of something more. Philadelphia has provided so much solid music that the proficiency and quality of these tracks continue that tradition. I just wish there were more. Find out more about them and the artist, including how to download and order his music at this link:


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Buddy is the best presentation here, shot well on 35mm film in another winning transfer by Sony and Twilight Time, doing a fine job of capturing the look Director of Photography Stevan Larner (Caddyshack) is impressive and always has the atmosphere of its time period. Fans will be very happy, especially since some prints and video copies have not been so great in recent years.

The 1080i upscaled 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Anderson SD Blu-ray is not bad, but the age and limits of the materials used are still obvious. I can't imagine the material looking any better though, but expect mixed results. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Hayward and Algeri Blu-rays have nice consistent color and looks, but expect some detail limits and minor issues.

The 1.33 X 1 image on all the Midnight shows are from the original 2-inch NTSC video masters and look pretty good throughout the set as they did as singles before.

All the Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, save 5.0 on Algeri, but they all tend to sound pretty good. Buddy is well derived from its original 4-track magnetic stereo master used on better 35mm film prints and presentations only showing its age in the dialogue and some sound elements, but the Anderson SD Blu is the sonic winner with exceptionally well-recorded and mixed music, more than justifying the upgrade. Falling in between are the solid presentations on the Hayward and Algeri Blu-rays, always sounding good, if not with overly surprising sonics. The Midnight DVDs only offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, mostly since that is the way the mostly live presentations were recorded, but they're still good for their age.

You can order The Buddy Holly Story limited edition Blu-ray while supplies last with other great limited editions at this link:


and to order The Midnight Special set, go to this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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