The CD may be on its way out, but music and concert DVDs are doing just fine, thank you very much! Late last year I wrote a feature for Home Entertainment magazine running down some of my favorite music DVDs of all time. They were all "live" recordings--there wasn't a single MTV style "music video" in the bunch. This is an abridged version of the article, check the Home Entertainment website to check out the complete article. Oh, and I've added a few DVDs that didn't make the article.
With a combined running time of five plus hours over this two-disc set, with shows ranging from Royal Albert Hall, 1970 to Knebworth, 1979, it's the mother lode of filmed 'Zeppelin concerts. Jimmy Page presided over the film transfers and audio mixes, and considering most of them are more than 30 years old the Dolby and DTS sound is truly awesome. Led Zeppelin is also one the rare DVDs I've seen that starts to play as soon as it's loaded! You don't have to slog through FBI warning, coming attractions or menus. Why can't all DVDs and Blu-rays work like that?
The Rolling Stones: Four Flicks
I haven't seen the new Martin Scorsese 'Stone film, Shine a Light, but this four-disc set features three complete concerts from the 2002/2003 tour. My favorite is my hometown show at New York City's Madison Square Garden. The band is in great shape and Jagger's vocals sound stronger than they had in decades. The DVD looks and sounds great.
Bruce Springsteen: Live in Dublin
These shows from late 2006 when Springsteen was touring to support his Seeger Sessions CD are a hoot! The Boss is clearly having a ball and his large band, fleshed out with strings and horns sound fabulous. Fans will be happy to hear the song list features a large helping of tunes from Springsteen's back catalog, and includes "Highway Patrolman," "Atlantic City," and "Growin Up."
The White Stripes: Under Blackpool Lights
If the 'Zep isn't your bag, maybe this White Stripes DVD will rock your world. Recorded in the Empress Ballroom in England in 2004 with 8mm cameras, the look perfectly mirrors the Stripes aesthetic. The duo's live sound is even more stripped down than their records, and the sound of this DVD captures the Jack and Meg's onstage synergy. The energy is astounding. Clearly, Jack White has studied at the feet of 'Zeppelin and learned his lessons well.
My Morning Jacket: Okonokos
If you dig their records, you love the DVD from 2006. Lead singer Jim James' vocals are outstanding. To me the guy sounds halfway between Neil Young and Roger Daltrey, which makes him the best of his generation. The band rocks plenty hard, and the extended jams have a nice jazzy feel. The sound is extremely dynamic, so on a great home theater it can approach the sound of a live concert.
James Brown: Live at Montreux 1981
If the sound of the Live at Montreux 1981 DVD doesn't get your mojo working, the sheer spectacle of a sweat soaked James Brown and his 14 piece funk band will. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 tracks' sound absolutely nails the music's "live" energy. The horns' sound is brassy and the rhythm section's heavyweight grooves will keep your subwoofer busy. I'm not sure why, but this one only sounds best fully cranked up. It's a remarkably punchy, powerful sounding recording, so if your system is lacking in the oomph department you're going to miss half the fun. The band is staggeringly tight and impeccably arranged, but it's Brown's vocal pleading on "Try Me" that elicits gasps from the audience. The DVD is packaged with a CD of the same show.
Larry Coryell: A Retrospective
Larry Coryell first grabbed my attention almost 40 years ago when he was the first jazz guitarist to use distortion and feedback like a rock musician. Coryall was clearly inspired my Miles Davis' In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, but possibly because Coryell's music was guitar based it was more accessible to rock audiences. The Jimi Hendrix comparisons are also obvious, and there were times watching this DVD where I imagined this is what Hendrix would have sounded like if he lived. On "Spaces" Larry's son Julian plays guitarist John McLaughlin part from the original 1970 Coryell recording.