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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Art > Artist > Rock Music > Industry > Counterculture > Indie > Politics > Communi > Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story (2017/MVD Visual Blu-ray w/DVD)/Echotone (2010/IndiePix DVD)/Free To Rock (2017/MVD Visual DVD Set)/Diana Ross: Diamond Diana - The Legacy Collection (2017 compilat

Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story (2017/MVD Visual Blu-ray w/DVD)/Echotone (2010/IndiePix DVD)/Free To Rock (2017/MVD Visual DVD Set)/Diana Ross: Diamond Diana - The Legacy Collection (2017 compilation/Universal/Motown CD)/Frank Zappa Summer '82: When Zappa Came To Sicily (2013/MVD Visual Blu-ray)

Picture: B- (Bowie: C+) Sound: B- (Bowie: C+) Extras: B-/C+/B/C-/C- Main Programs: B/B/B/B/B-

Next up are several solid music documentaries and the latest hits compilation from one of the most successful female vocalists of all time...

We start with Jon Brewer's Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story (2017), a great look at the greatest, most distinct and influential guitarists of all time, one Bowie loved to work with and before he left us, Bowie did some of his last voiceover work here. With a wide-ranging career that included some solo work, Bowie work, including Bowie producing Lou Reed's Transformer album, work with Morrissey solo, Bob Dylan and of course, with Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople, as Bowie produced an album for them with Ronson that includes their all-time classic masterpiece hit, ''All The Young Dudes'' that is still played worldwide today, everyday, somewhere.

The program (running 104 minutes) is a rich informative one, though the issue becomes how Ronson was so talented, groundbreaking, in demand and yet, he never got his due as a separate artist and never made anywhere near the money he should have made, an all too familiar story in the music business that is especially hard to take here since it could be argued Ronson's sound helped shape what we think of as Rock Music in the 1970s. It is not the only major such tragedy, but a real big one and exposing it is long, long overdue.

As well, the documentary does a great job bringing back the era, showing just how vital Ronson was and this is a must-see work for anyone serious about history, music, this music and all these legendary artists. Director Brewer had previously delivered the well done B.B. King: The Life Of Riley (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and he proves once again that he knows ho to handle such important people and their important work, so I look forward to anything he does next. Ronson was a great loss and music even now would not be as good without him.

Save the DVD version included here for convenience, extras include a slew of bonus footage and bonus interviews, some parts of which should have been in the main film.

Nathan Christ's Echotone (2010, subtitled Austin, TX: The Quiet Fight For A Louder Future) is an interesting documentary that explores recent, present day Austin, TX (once known as the live musical capital of the world and home to several icons) and a musical protest known as Echotone that took place to protest the building's construction. Featuring several popular bands who all came together for a good cause, the documentary film has a lot of heart and is nicely shot and cut.

Musicians featured include Belaire, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, Dana Falconberry, Machine, UME, White White Lights, Sound Team, Octopus Project, The Apeshits, Modern Moonlight, Sunset, Bill Baird, Pity Party, Black Angels, Christopher Cox, Ghostland Observatory, Mark David Ashworth, The Strange Boys, and Trey Brown.

Special Features...


Alex Maas from the Black Angels

Joe Lewis from Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears

The White White Lights

Dana Falconberry


Ghostland Observatory

Trailers for the film.

Narrated by Kiefer Sutherland and directed by Emmy award winner Jim Brown, Free To Rock (2017) is a documentary that centers around Rock N Roll's contribution to ending the Cold War.

This ten year production features incredible interviews and performances including Presidents Carter, Gorbachev and Latvian President Vike-Freiberga, former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, along with Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Elton John, Billy Joel, Scorpions, Cyndi Lauper (The Wall -Live in Berlin), Metallica, Stas Namin, Pits 'Pete' Anderson, Boris Grebenshikov, Andrey Makarevich, Valery Saifudinov, Yuri Schevchuk, and more.

This two set set features a bonus DVD disc called 'Rockin' the Kremlin' with a 120 minutes of outtakes, interviews, songs, and original stories behind the scenes of the film.

This insightful documentary will appeal to both history buffs and music fans alike.

About annually, we see another hits set from the still very active and popular Diana Ross, who can still sing, continues to tour and even without her daughter's amazing acting success, stays in the headlines as one of the greatest singers and divas in all of music history. Diana Ross: Diamond Diana - The Legacy Collection is a single CD compilation from her Motown years (including a later return to Motown after her RCA stint, though one hit here is her first for RCA, Why Do Fools Fall In Love?) and the songs this time are an interesting mix of hits with a couple of songs (including a remake of the 1969 hit 'More Today Than Yesterday' by Spiral Starecase) that I bet she felt should have been a bigger hit. The songs on this CD include...

I'm Coming Out

More Today Than Yesterday

The Boss

It's My House

Endless Love *

Upside Down

You Can't Hurry Love **

Touch Me In The Morning

Love Hangover

Take Me Higher

It's My Turn

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)

Ain't No Mountain High Enough - The ANMHE 'Diamond Diana' Remix

* with Lionel Richie

** with The Supremes

Well, its a good set and no doubt it is very listenable, most of the tracks coming from the 1970s, but some would say the list is 'too safe' and I felt the audio transfers on some of the hits could have used an upgrade. Still, it is not bad and will appeal to those who are more in a nostalgia mode for Ross and her peak time period, but it is not the best hits set out there of hers. Still, many have not heard these hits for a while and more than you think never have, so it cannot be heard enough. A paper foldout with some tech info is included and its fine for what it is. The remix of her Ain't No Mountain High Enough remake (the Ashford & Simpson-penned classic was originally a Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terell classic, one Ross made into a second classic, especially the longer album cut version) is OK, but it did not stick with me. Others might like it more.

Last but not least is Salvo Cuccia's Frank Zappa Summer '82: When Zappa Came To Sicily (2013) is a documentary that looks at the cutting-edge, groundbreaking musician then and now, starting with a concert event in what turns out to be his homeland and what a big, successful event it was. A big win and success for the still-controversial, daring, innovative and remarkable legend, his children (including Moon and Dweezil) revisit the land and locales, discovering how beloved he is there, the lasting impact the concert had and more about the real, authentic Franz Zappa, an artist who was always more real and authentic than most.

This runs just long enough at a tight 82 minutes and is a nice new addition to the many videos and video projects issued of Zappa's work and catalog since his passing. He remains as important and independent a singular artists as Prince, David Bowie or others considered single-handed geniuses and each release shows us the scope of his achievements. We only get some pictures in a stills section as extras, but this is a well conceived release worth your time, especially if you don't know enough about Zappa.

As for playback quality, the Ross release obviously has no video since it is a CD only (though there was a time the record labels added little video clips to some discs), so the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Ronson and Zappa Blu-rays look good for documentary presentations, but we do get older film footage that could use some restoration and new digital scans (at least 4K), plus other analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage. It a bit more of a problem on Ronson, though such flaws are to be expected for these kinds of releases. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image in the Ronson DVD is even softer and weaker, so the Blu-ray is preferred in that case.

Echotone is presented on standard definition DVD with an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspen ratio and either a lossy 5.1 or 2.0 Stereo tracks in Dolby Digital as an option to choose from.

Free To Rock is presented on standard definition DVD with an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, the presentation here is fine for DVD and includes archival footage, interviews, and Sutherland's voice pushing the story forward.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mixes on the Ronson and Zappa Blu-rays have audio fidelity that range from old monophonic sound to some very clear stereo sound with good surrounds (monophonic or not, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Ronson DVD is weaker than either), so they are as good as can be expected and we are lucky some of the footage survived at all.

That leaves the PCM 2.0 16/44.1 kHz Stereo on the Ross CD usually sounding fine, but some of the tracks could sound better, with the title track from The Boss album particularly showing its age. Like the rest of her catalog, a reissue program of all of Ross' work, especially solo album in 180-gram vinyl, new CDs and maybe even higher digital audio formats (blu-ray Audio, Super Audio CD) is long overdue because her work is more significant that it gets credit for beyond her still formidable commercial success.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Echotone, Free To Rock)



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