News Column

Rock Films Still Entertain

June 15, 2013


June 15--With their wide-screen imagery and inviting, assertive sounds, rock-music films are far from extinct.

Those who treasure their rock music but feel the need to see some of their favorite artists are in luck via the DVD debut of three in-concert documents and a slightly rebooted fourth title. Fans of The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Wings, Judas Priest and the late Ronnie James Dio will be in guitar-covered luck when they turn on their TV stereo systems and pop in these long-awaited titles.

50 Years And Counting

Possessing one of rock's most impressive -- and lengthy -- catalogs, The Rolling Stones also have one of the more interesting behind-the-scenes stories.

In director Brett Morgen's acclaimed documentary, honest, often-revealing commentary from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor is sprinkled among some stunning footage of the Stones. Thankfully, there's a truckload of footage that features guitarist Brian Jones, the band's embattled co-founder who would die in a strange drowning accident in 1969.

"Crossfire Hurricane" also displays two of the most shocking incidents that ever happened to the band. Footage from the Stones' cursed Altamont show from 1969, where a young man apparently waved a gun near the stage before being stabbed to death by Hell's Angels. Another eerie incident is captured from stage right, circa 1965, with the relatively clean-cut Stones beginning the evening's first song. Barely two verses in, the rabid crowd storms the stage and yanks the band's guitars from their hands, forcing the music to collapse into an aural storm of feedback and clanging sounds. One audience member jumps piggyback-style onto the back of a terrified Jones as the group frantically runs for shelter.

Some followers might feel swindled that the film ends with shots of the Stones' 1981 tour to support "Tattoo You," but what is included -- great footage from the band's heralded 1972 tour is one of several prizes -- is golden. Sure, The Who will always be the better live band, but The Rolling Stones' significance can't be ignored. Like the Glimmer Twins' best songs, "Crossfire Hurricane" demands attention and, more importantly, commands respect for the ages.

McCartney Can Rock

The out-of-touch myth that Paul McCartney is a musical wimp and the late John Lennon was the only talent in The Beatles dies during the first few seconds of the new DVD release, "Paul McCartney and Wings -- Rockshow."

Finally available (legally) on DVD, this 1976 concert film showcases a Rickenbacker-wearing McCartney at his edgy best, fronting Wings' strongest lineup. With the late Linda McCartney on keyboards and the late Jimmy McCulloch on lead guitar, Wings present a set list to end all set lists. Favorites like "Band on the Run," "Live and Let Die," "Venus and Mars," "Listen to What the Man Said," "Let 'Em In," "Silly Love Songs" and "Hi Hi Hi" exist comfortably next to Beatles' tracks "Blackbird," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Lady Madonna" and "Yesterday."

Looking and sounding better than it ever did on Betamax tape and laserdisc, "Rockshow" also includes the best version of "Maybe I'm Amazed," which just might be Sir Paul's greatest solo composition ever. The tour's accompanying triple-live album, "Wings Over America," also is a new, remastered release and retains much of the warmth of the original 1976 vinyl version; McCartney's acrobatic bass lines and Joe English's underrated drumming mercifully are kept at the forefront of the mix.

Sans "Medicine Jar," The Moody Blues' "Go Now" and Paul Simon's "Richard Cory," all of the songs on "Rockshow" and "Wings Over America" were penned by McCartney. It's impressive that most of those songs are still loved today. It's absolutely stunning that McCartney created those songs in just 11 short years.

Heavy Metal Heavyweights

Heavy metal always will have its haters, but those who love the genre almost always place Judas Priest and Dio as two of the most pioneering forces. The new DVDs, "Judas Priest -- Epitaph" and "Dio -- Finding the Sacred Heart: Live in Philly 86," demonstrate the worthiness of music's most misunderstood genre.

On "Epitaph," Judas Priest members are seen and heard firing on all pistons in May 2012 at London's Hammersmith Apollo, despite the absence of a retired K.K. Downing. Singer Rob Halford, guitarist Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis are flanked by new guitarist Richie Faulkner for 140 minutes' worth of adrenalized anthems. The group billed the tour as its final world trek, making the DVD's versions of "Heading Out to the Highway," "You've Got Another Thing Coming," "Diamonds and Rust" and "Victims of Changes" a triumphant, goosebump-inducing curtain call.

Although he lost his battle to cancer in 2010, Ronnie James Dio remains immortalized in the music he created with Black Sabbath, Rainbow and his solo band, Dio. "Finding the Sacred Heart" finds the Dio band in a harmonious state. Drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain, keyboardist Claude Schnell and then-new guitarist Craig Goldy lock together for a wonderfully menacing foundation for Dio's fierce, castle-sized voice.


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