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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documetary > Music Industry > Biography > Rock > History > Soul > R&B > Drama > Backstage Musical > Band Vs. Brand (2018/MVD/Cleopatra DVD)/Motown: The Sound Of Young America (2019/Thames & Hudson Books)/A Star Is Born (2018/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Band Vs. Brand (2018/MVD/Cleopatra DVD)/Motown: The Sound Of Young America (2019/Thames & Hudson Books)/A Star Is Born (2018/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C/B Sound: B/B+ & B Extras: C+ Book: B+ Main Programs: C+/B-

Now for some very interesting music releases for you to hear about...

Band Vs. Brand (2018) is an interesting documentary explores the marketing of a band and the creation of its brand. A variety of musicians and industry professionals talk about what makes a band and how a brand can potentially outlive the band. This is true when you think of so many iconic logos throughout the history of music, particularly the ultimate money makers. Highlighting the importance of marketing behind music, this doc is directed by Bob Nalbandian (director of Inside Metal series).

The doc features interviews with David Ellefson (Megadeth), Jack Russell (Jack Russell's Great White), Nik Turner and Nicky Garrett (Nik Turner's Hawkwind), Dave Lombardo (Suicidal Tendencies & Slayer), Marc Ferrari (MasterSource/Universal and Keel), Frank Dimino (Angel), Gus G. (Firewind/ex-Ozzy), Jean Beauvoir, David Tedds, Bjorn Englen, manager Adam Parsons (Uriah Heep, Saxon, Europe, Thin Lizzy/BSR) and Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records.

While the content is interesting, the transfer leaves much to be desired. Presented in standard definition, anamorphically enhanced DVD with a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a PCM 2.0 Stereo mix, the film utilizes a lot of amateurishly shot interviews and live concert footage. Many of the shots are a bit blown out and the quality differs from clip to clip... some not even in the proper aspect ratio. The editing isn't terrible and the audio doesn't have many glaring issues.

Special Features include...

Theatrical/Online Trailers

Conny Plank: The Potential Of Noise featurette

The Scorpions: Forever and a Day featurette

and The Damned: Don't You Wish We Were Dead featurette

There's some interesting things in this new doc on the subject, but feels at times like a homework assignment.

Like band identities, record labels can work the same way. You have your major labels, even in a shrinking industry (we've gone from 6 to 3 major labels in the last 20 years) and the business consolidation along with fragmentation and not the best of times for music innovation, the idea of a record label becoming a creative force has become lost in the shuffle. Of the thousands of labels that have come and gone, there are many just identified with a music genre and even a movement, artistic or otherwise. Motown started in the late 1950s and managed to be an important force all the way until the mid-1980s before things started shifting.

Motown: The Sound Of Young America (Thames & Hudson Books) was originally issued in 20-16, but now we have this new edition of the very large-sized book (out softcover has a coated cover on both sides) running 400 pages and loaded with text and great, even classic illustrations of promo photos, 45 rpm singles, album covers and much more. The text is extensive, though I warn you that to get the book to this size, the text is overall smaller than usual, but it does a pretty good job of covering the history of one of the most discussed and written-about record companies of all time. This one is written by Adam White with Barney Ales, a longtime insider who was with the company in two major periods and helped make it a success.

The book starts with the rise of The Civil Rights Movement as a backdrop to the rise of the company, though most of their songs were hardly political until the later 1960s, yet the very existence of the company doing more pop-oriented Soul in itself was more of a subversive act than it often gets credit for being. We see the miraculous way things came together with so much talent, so much classic work (even early on) and what became a great family (royalty payments aside) for much of its history (though that starts to crack a bit with the controversial loss of Florence Ballard of the Supremes) and some of the big acts who left (contracts expiring, artists and writers wants more of a share of the profits, like any other company) and how sometimes this even split acts (The Jackson 5 all left to be the Jacksons at Epic records save Jermaine, who was married to a Gordy and stayed behind for years, culminating in a decent solo career), but the book stays most focused on the rise of the label itself in the pages it actually has

As far as my longtime experience, knowledge and love of this music is concerned, the book is pretty accurate overall and I loved how the singles and album covers shown often are accompanied by the Pop (and not Soul as well, oddly) chart successes of each release to show how successful the crossover was and in showing how they became innovators of the entire industry, not just Pop or Soul. The label never even reported specific record sales until decades later which is why Gold and Platinum certifications for those many classic were so belated.

All the major acts gets some great sections and I was impressed overall despite some minor quips and the fact that so many more stories are out there to be told as well as some that have already been told so well. The label is now 60 years old, though many of the giants from it are no longer with us sadly (some gone too soon), others are and expect more celebrations.

The proof too is in the music being licensed and referenced all these decades later. Occasionally with a remake (most of which usually do not work), but against so many odds, all involved built music that has lasted, a legacy that is undeniable and especially in the face of some very ugly, horrid, awful revisionism that has happened in the last few years, one that cannot be erased, disrespected, mutilated or lied about. It reminds us all of the real America and one that was never any kind of myth, even if the stories meant to sell some of the music was designed that way.

Last but not least is a remake worth your time. Making a decent directorial debut, Bradley cooper has helmed a new version of A Star Is Born (2018) and against some naysayers, it has become one of the year's biggest hits and rightly so. The fifth hit version of the classic tale, that makes it the most successful single Hollywood story of any kind in cinema history, one that started as a music tale in 1932 (see below) set in Hollywood, then become about filmmaking, but the last two versions are set squarely in the world of big music success.

Mostly based on the big 1976 Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson hit version, Cooper plays the very successful, gruff singer/songwriter Jackson Maine, still selling out giant music venues with his brand of Country Rock that is Blues and sometimes Pop oriented. He is still a sort of sex symbol to his female fans (et al) times are good, but he has a drinking problem, depression problem and is starting to lose his hearing.

One night after a show, looking for more booze because enough is never enough, he picks just any bar at random and it turns out to be one for cross-dressers who sing and he could care less if it is a gay establishment, not judgmental to begin with. What he does not expect is one of the singers is not gay, but a great friend of the gang there and when she comes out on stage and starts to sing, he is stunned. Lady Gaga, one of the most important singers of her generation and already a national treasure, makes he big screen debut and to the massive shock of critics worldwide, proves she can act as well as she can sing, which says something. Suddenly, a film that could have ben a disastrous connect-to-dots update is transformed into something very real and palpable, with her presence more than a match for the big screen. She also has some great unexpected chemistry with Cooper.

Though there are a few flaws and minor issues with the narrative, I liked this a bit better than the Streisand version, a massive blockbuster that got 70mm engagements and produced the classic hit ''Evergreen'' as this film comes very close with its own gem in ''Shallow'' and the subtle updates (especially when compared to the 1976 film) shows how the music industry and world have changed. Sam Elliott is great as his manager/friend who knows he maybe should have left him years ago, Dave Chapelle shows up proving he can act as well and infamous comedian Andrew Dice Clay plays her father in a turn that is as authentic as it is convincing.

For being a backstage musical, there are some great silent moments, including transitions that harken back to the great American films of the late 1960s to 1970s that are a plus here. Cooper plays it like Eddie Vedder a decade before grunge and though it may be to close to Kristofferson's 1976 version of Maine in some ways, it fits.

Warner has issued this as a very solid 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with regular Blu-ray set that the film deserves (the other versions do too) and also makes for one of the nice early music-oriented 4K releases. Whether you have seen any of the earlier versions of it before, the new A Star Is Born works well and after so many match-ups for the lead (as well as other directors) fell through, nice to see them get it right again!

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10+; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image sacrifices some fidelity for realism in its shaky camerawork at times, but it does not play phony like so many Blair Witch Project wanna-bees do with pointless variances of that. Shot with an Arri Alexa and using Kowa anamorphic lenses, this is only the second version of the film to be in scope (the 1954 Judy Garland version used the old CinemaScope format), but Copper and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique, A.S.C., use the framing to get more intimate and find more naturalistic space despite going digital. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the regular Blu-ray is not bad, but cannot match the color range, some of the detail and better warmth the 4K disc has, showing off the acting better.

The Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) I great when it kicks in making it sonically worthy of its multi-channel predecessors (the 1954 version had 4-track magnetic stereo, the 1976 was an early Dolby 4.1 70mm film helping to launch the format), but it also has more than a few quiet moments when the track are not engaged. The film is better for it, but that costs it a bit in the letter grading. The Blu-ray has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that is also fine and both now have Gaga available with the best sound fidelity you can her of her singing anywhere in any digital medium.

Extras include Digital Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber-capable outlets, while the discs add some Songs & Performances not seen in theaters, Music Videos and The Road To Stardom: Making A Star Is Born featurette. For coverage of earlier versions of the film, try these links...

What Price Hollywood? (1932) DVD


A Star Is Born 1954 DVD (now on Blu-ray w/DVD)


A Star Is Born 1976 Blu-ray


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Band)



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