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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Politics > Music > Rock N Roll > Pop > Industry > Racism > Comedy > Journalism > TV Special > S > La Bamba (1987/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Lucky Them (2013/MPI/IFC DVD)/Motown 25: Yesterday Today Forever (1983/Time Life/Star Vista 3-DVD Set Version)/Yes 35th Anniversary

La Bamba (1987/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Lucky Them (2013/MPI/IFC DVD)/Motown 25: Yesterday Today Forever (1983/Time Life/Star Vista 3-DVD Set Version)/Yes 35th Anniversary Concert: Songs From Tsongas (2004/Eagle Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The La Bamba Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies, while the Motown set (and its variant versions) are now only available from Star Vista. Both can be ordered from the links below.

Here's more interesting music titles you should know about or will eventually hear about...

Luis Valdez's La Bamba (1987) is the film that put Lou Diamond Philips on the map early on playing early Rock Music legend Richie Valens in this decent biopic that has some issues escaping the formula of such films, but has some amazing performances, is a fine-looking film, has an exceptional cast of actors we still do not see enough and never gets the respect it deserves. After a strange vision as a child (the writers should have cut back on this one), we see Valens growing up, becoming interested in music, dealing with poverty, dealing with racism and how music changed his life.

The casting is particularly inspired including Esai Morales as his brother, Rosanna DeSoto as mother Connie Valenzuela (the real life lady appears uncredited), Rick Dees as the local DJ who likes his music, Joe Pantoliano as the man who cuts his first hits, Stephen Lee as The Big Bopper, Howard Huntsberry as Jackie Wilson, Marshall Crenshaw as Buddy Holly, Brian Setzer (The Stray Cats were about to disband) as Eddie Cochran, Elizabeth Pena as Richie's sister Rosie, Danielle von Zerneck as his love interest Donna and the underrated Los Lobos playing a band of the time. They re-recorded all the Valens music for the film. Carlos Santana and Miles Goodman did the rest of the music score.

Between bad hair bands and the major labels starting to ignore their pasts, legacies, talent development and looking for the next format, the film was a moderate hit, yet could and should have done much better than it did. There for it is nice to see Twilight Time issue such a surprisingly strong Limited Edition Blu-ray of the film. It has aged very well, it strongest parts are more ahead of their time than most would have considered at the time and its documentation of a priceless piece of music history is top rate. That makes it at last a minor classic and one you should see or see again.

Extras include another fine, illustrated booklet on the film including informative text by Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds two feature-length audio commentary tracks (one with Luis Valdez, Diamond Philips, Morales & Producer Stuart Benjamin, the other with Producers Taylor Hackford and Daniel Valdez), an Original Theatrical Trailer and Isolated Music Score.

Megan Griffith's Lucky Them (2013) wants to be a satire of the indie side of the music business and they got the cast for it with Tony Colette as a music writer trying to keep her career going while having a private life. Oliver Platt plays her editor and things get more bizarre in her life when she allows a documentary filmmaker (Thomas Hayden Church) shoot a piece on her and the indie music scene. The tone makes sense and there is some chemistry here, but in never gels into anything believable, no matter how much the actors try or how good they are.

The music, amusing as it can get, is not very memorable and we also don't see or get much we have not seen before, resulting in 96 minutes that don't go anywhere much. Too bad, because I wanted this one to work.

Extras include a trailer and two featurettes.

Motown 25: Yesterday Today Forever (1983) is the famous TV special that celebrated the first quarter century of one of the most important record labels ever. It made for a memorable night as the company had lost many of its hit-makers, named The Jacksons and Diana Ross, but still had others in mainstays Smokie Robinson and Stevie Wonder. Gladys Knight & The Pips, who did not start at the label, were long gone and do not turn up sadly, but just about everyone else does. Richard Pryor becomes the de facto host, though others add comments throughout. All the music performances are solid, with The Four Tops (who had left for ABC Records before returning) of a battle of the bands with The Temptations, who never left. Marvin Gaye returns for an amazing performance having just made a huge comeback at Columbia Records with his Midnight Love album and its megahit, Sexual Healing, but he sticks to the classics. It was his first time to deal with the label since his bitter divorce in the later 1970s from the label, Berry Gordy's sister and would be one of his last major public performances before his father shot him to death a year later.

Though Gordy reportedly initially bulked, Michael Jackson refused to go on unless he could perform Billie Jean, a hit from his newly released Thriller album at Epic/Columbia Records which was on its way to becoming the biggest selling studio album of all time. Bitterness in hidden bits continued until Diana Ross wrapped up things talking to Gordy and saying that everyone (Rick James was stuck somewhere apparently) came back. In this version, she makes a fist, but the cross shot of Gordy making two fists and raising them in the air has been removed from this copy. Ross had signed a deal with RCA records to cut five albums at a then record $20 Million, especially after Gordy reportedly told her he owned all her recordings. They reconciled years later when that contract ran out, bringing her Ross Records to the company and reportedly getting part ownership of her many recording at Motown.

Otherwise, this was a classic show with great music, unforgettable moments (Jackson's seamlessly backward walk, later dubbed (rightly or not) a moonwalk stole the show) was also a quiet triumph as the Reagan Years began and the Civil Rights so hard won by the black Community including that of Motown were being rolled back. In a few years, Gordy would sell the label, but keep the publishing and the company would no longer dominate soul or pop as new labels surfaced and Rap/Hip Hop took hold running up to its year 2000 peak and beyond. However, it was a night for some of the most important justice ever made and there was more.

Mary Wells sang My Guy, Martha Reeves did a solo Heatwave, Jr. Walker soloed on Shotgun, The Commodores delivered Brick House, Jose Feliciano covered Lonely Teardrops (a hit Gordy wrote before his breakup with Jackie Wilson to launch the company), DeBarge sang All This Love, Hi Inergy performed He's A Pretender, the latter two dueted on Can't Stop, Smokie sang Crusin' after a few duets with Linda Ronstadt, Billie Dee Williams hosted a clip of Motown's feature film ventures, Adam Ant (an influence on Michael Jackson, apparently signing on because he thought Prince would be there, unconfirmed) snag Where Did Our Love Go?, Ross sang Ain't No Mountain High Enough, she was joined by Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong (the second Supremes incarnation) singing Someday We'll Be Together (though the original hit was really Ross singing solo under the group name) and the finale Reach Out I'll Be There brought everyone back out.

The program is available in a 6-disc version and the 3-disc version we are covering here.

Extras in the glittery slipcase packaging over the regular keep case include an illustrated booklet on the special with including informative text, plus extras across the three DVDs. DVD 1 adds a "Yesterday · Today · Forever" Production Roundtable featuring Smokey Robinson and Duke Fakir (Four Tops), Otis Williams (The Temptations) and Executive Producer Suzanne de Passe, taped at the location of the original concert, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered - The Making of Motown 25", which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the making of the program, and offers new insights into the rise of Motown and its roster of super stars. DVD 2 REHERSAL offers "What's Going On: Marvin Gaye" rehearsal, the second part of the Motown 25 Performers Roundtable and DVD 3 THE REUNION adds a the final part of those roundtable interviews, the featurettes "Dancing In The Street: History of Motown" & "Reach Out I'll Be There: The Temptations & The Four Tops" and over 25 exclusive interviews with performers and crew, including Claudette Robinson (The Miracles), Martha Reeves (Martha & the Vandellas), Smokey Robinson, Nelson George, Gloria Jones, Adam Ant, Ashford and Simpson, Buz Kohan (Head Writer), David Goldberg (Executive in Charge of Production), Mickey Stevenson (Former Head of A&R/Songwriter), Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Songwriters/Producers) and many more. The 6-DVD set has even more extras you can find out more about at the link below.

Last but absolutely not least is Yes - 35th Anniversary Concert: Songs From Tsongas (2004) in yet another strong release (following the hotly debated Live At Montreux 2003 Blu-ray from Eagle reviewed elsewhere on this site) of the classic lineup of the band. With a great set built by legendary cover artist Roger Dean, this 2.5 hour show (with some songs changed for something different) includes performances of Firebird Suite, title track from Going For The One, Sweet Dreams, I've Seen All Good People/Your Move, Mind Drive (Parts 1 & 2), South Side Of The Sky, Turn Of The Century, My Eyes, Yours Is No Disgrace, The Meeting Room, Long Distance Runaround, Wonderous Stories, Time Is Time, Roundabout, Show Me, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Second Initial, Rhythm of Love, And You and I, Every Little Thing and Starship Trooper.

Jon Anderson (who has since somehow been fired from the band), Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White are in great form here throughout with a great audience and proving once again that they have one of the great band's in all of music history, surviving most of their progressive rock contemporaries (Emerson, Lake & Palmer being a rare exception) in any genre with some of the greatest songs ever written. I did not know what to expect from the show and though I have high expectations from them, they more than met them with an unbelievable show that is as amazing as anything they have on Blu-ray or DVD to date.

Extras include an illustrated paper pullout with tech details and song listings for both concerts, the second of which is a 70-minutes long Live In Lugano 2004 show that is very strong and a bonus track, Ritual. It lasts a half-hour!

For more Yes, try these links:

Symphonic Yes Blu-ray


Yes: Classic Artists DVD Set


Yes: Live At Montreux 2003 Blu-ray


Yessongs (1972) Region B Blu-ray import


Yesspeak DVD Set

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on La Bamba hardly shows the age of the materials used, is likely a new print and is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film with more than a few demo moments to the point this almost scored even higher. Shot better than you could imagine, color use is superior, production design remains authentic and the look of the period never fails to come through. The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Yes can some minot detail issues, but this is one of the best such HD shoots of its time with nice color range, even if colors and lights can cross in odd ways.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Lucky is slightly on the soft side to begin with, though some of that is the style, but it is more than it needed and makes it the poorest performer (could this look better in HD?) here despite the fact that the 1.33 X 1 on the main Motown program is from analog NTSC video that should not look as good all the time as it does. The masters were kept in nice shape.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Bamba is well mixed and presented, but is too quiet and refined at times to take total advantage of the multi-channel possibilities and was an analog Dolby A-type theatrical stereo release in its time. The sound is as upgraded as it ever will be, some some audio stills shows its age. However, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Yes is often stunning, superior to is passable PCM 2.0 Stereo counterpart and has some great sonics throughout. The Live In Lugano 2004 show only has PCM 2.0 Stereo itself, yet even that sounds great. Those fans who have picked up the 2-channel DSD Stereo Super Audio CD of Going For The One (recommended if you can get it!) will find this just as outstanding.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Lucky is not bad, but not great, laid back and at best when the music kicks in. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Motown has some good articulation, but a DTS version should have been included as it would have yielded more warmth and depth, something the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo version is lacking even more. Still, nice to hear there is more to the sound than one might have expected.

You can order the La Bamba limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and other exclusives while supplies last at this link:


and to order either of the Motown set in the 3-DVD version covered or any of its variants, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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