The best music your TV could wish for
So when a new series of generic-looking titles bears the motto “an independent critical analysis,” eyebrows may lift. When the series’ first titles are devoted to Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground, an investigation is in order.
The new Under Review line, from an outfit called Sexy Intellectual, takes its mission seriously. Fans will appreciate the docs’ style from the start, but will only grow more appreciative from there: These films treat rock bands like serious subjects, progressing chronologically through their histories and offering vintage and new interviews — both with the musicians themselves and with heavy thinkers on the rock-crit scene. Under Review may be hard to find in stores, but it’s worth a little hunting.
Speaking of Blondie, the band’s new Greatest Hits: Sound & Vision (EMI) offers the obvious plus a full disc of their music videos. That’s enough for me, but budding TV Party fans will take additional interest in the “In the Flesh” video, which was surely inspired by the show. Along the same lines is Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing (Hip-O), which takes a comprehensive look at the soul icon’s best filmed performances, starting with the clean-cut fella singing “Can I Get A Witness” for a go-go crowd and stretching to a 1981 “Let’s Get It On,” sung by a substantially more laid-back man.
The titles above are all enticing, but in the department of film artistry the recent release to beat is Townes Van Zandt: Be Here To Love Me (Palm). Margaret Brown’s sensitive, beautifully put-together documentary got plenty of press but too little time in theaters; now, any Townes fan near a video store can see it, and should.
A tiny bit more lighthearted is Abba: The Movie, which deserves mention partly because fans suffered through a few release-date announcements and cancellations waiting for this day. Directed (believe it or not) by Lasse Hallström, it’s structured around a DJ following the band’s tour (hence, all the performance footage) trying to get an interview. Is there a story worth watching? If you have to ask, you should probably move along. Perhaps more conventional fare, like the so-so 50 Cent vehicle Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (Paramount) is more your speed?
All in all, it’s an uncommonly good time for folks to venture into their video store’s music section. And that’s not even mentioning the stream of actual movie musicals that keep appearing: A new box set from Warner called Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory boasts five, with songs penned by Jerome Kern, Harry Warren, and André Previn/Comden & Green. For just the song and no dance, there’s Rhino/TCM’s jam-packed That’s Entertainment!, a six-CD reissue of the popular show-tunes box, offering new remasters and a disc full of tunes that have never been on disc before. Nice time to connect with your inner Judy Garland before reconfirming your cred with a little Velvet Underground.