Every now and then, I like to report on the best new discs that have come my way. Let's get started!
Amy Winehouse: "At the BBC" (CD/DVD)
Fourteen stunning performances from 2004 to 2009 showcase aspects of her talent that the studio recordings gloss over. The DVD, "The Day She Came to Dingle," is a documentary featuring Winehouse at the height of her powers in December 2006 in a tiny church in Ireland. She's backed up with just guitar and bass, so her voice, in all its glory, is upfront and clear. Awesome!
The Doors: "Live at the Bowl '68" (Blu-ray)
Newly remixed and mastered from the original multitrack tapes by The Doors' engineer and co-producer Bruce Botnick, this Blu-ray is the best looking and sounding Doors concert on disc. The band does a lot of tunes rarely performed live, including "Light My Fire," "Spanish Caravan," "Hello, I Love You," "Moonlight Drive," and "Horse Latitudes." Botnick made a better-than-decent-sounding 5.1-channel surround mix from the 44-year-old tapes.
Patti Smith: "Live at Montreux 2005" (Blu-ray)
Watching this Blu-ray, you might get the feeling Smith is a Doors fan. There's something about the way she gets into the zone that recalls the Doors' Jim Morrison at his most theatrical. Smith's band rocks pretty hard, and the video and audio are excellent.
The Rolling Stones: "Charlie is my Darling" (Blu-ray)
It's 1965, and the original -- and in my opinion, best -- Stones lineup is on tour in Ireland. This isn't a concert film, but there's a fair amount of music. The best part of seeing the young Stones is that they are a band of brothers. Jagger's not running the show, Keith is shy, and guitarist Brian Jones' presence changes the group dynamic in interesting ways. The nicely restored arty black-and-white film is a perfect time capsule. As far as I know, this is the first time the movie has been released on disc.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: "The 50th Anniversary Collection" (four CD box set)
I've always been a fan of their albums, but this 4-CD, 58-track collection that spans 1962 to 2010 is a great way to get acquainted with this iconic New Orleans band. The tracks aren't arranged chronologically, but the sound quality is consistent and the pin-you-back-to-your-seat dynamics are refreshing to hear. The 60-page booklet has detailed notes on each track -- nice!
Peter Frampton: "FCA 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton" (Blu-ray)
The original "Frampton Comes Alive" double-LP is the best-selling concert album of all time; this live set celebrates that event 35 years later in 2012. Frampton looks like he's having fun, and the fans are definitely in on the party. Video and audio quality are fine, but not great.
"Produced by George Martin" (Blu-ray)
This beautifully made 2012 documentary is a terrific portrait of the Beatles' producer, and covers a lot of ground before and after the eight-year Beatles era. The Blu-ray looks and sounds wonderful. Martin's approach to recording music and how he gave free reign to the Beatles' creativity is covered in depth.
Must to avoid: Led Zeppelin: "Celebration Day" (Blu-ray Audio)
This newly released Blu-ray's DTS Master Audio soundtrack from the 2007 reunion concert can't make a bad recording sound good. Dynamics are squashed to the max, and the sound is overly reverberant. The Blu-ray is audio-only; there's no video of the concert, so it's a total rip-off. Led Zeppelin's "BBC Sessions" CDs are the best live recorded performances of the band. The "How the West Was Won" DVD-Audio set, recorded in 1972, also sounds better than the new one.