Stop Making Sense
Perhaps the best concert film ever, and not just on performance alone. The visuals, the angles, the motions, the staging, the sequencing all were conceptualized and perfected by the band and director Jonathan Demme. There is always something new to look at, be it different lighting, projected words, funky shadows, or the wad of nervous energy that is David Byrne. DVD extras include commentary from Demme and all four members of the band, though obviously not recorded together. There is also a strange sequence with Byrne interviewing himself.
Recorded live at Oakland's magnificent art deco Paramount Theatre in 1995 but just now released on DVD, this concert includes Bonnie-penned classics such as "Longing in Their Hearts" and "Feeling of Falling" as well as Raitt-owned covers like John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" and Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the Day." She even slips in a rousing version of Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." Here's Jackson Browne guesting again, along with Charles Brown, Bryan Adams, and Bruce Hornsby, whom Bonnie is known to ridicule for ironing his jeans.
Set in London and Brighton in 1964, Quadrophenia is, on the surface, a film about the scooter-riding Mods and the motorcycle-riding Rockers set to a kick-ass soundtrack by The Who. Going a little deeper reveals a classic study of alienation and identity questioning with a kick-ass concept album soundtrack by you-know-who. Collectors of self-congratulatory Sting interviews should be thrilled, as the Dolby 5.1 Surround Audio engulfs you in the omni-talent that is Sting. While most DVD bonus interviews have actors praising the director and the director praising cast and crew, Sting ruminates on his "amazing success in one field, and then another!"
Documentaries are great for getting backstage looks at the making of some fantastic music, and they can be lent to friends when done. Billy Bragg and Wilco's Man in the Sand is a documentary of the process of writing and recording Vols. 1 and 2 of the Mermaid Avenue albums, wherein unearthed Woody Guthrie lyrics are put to music. But before you watch that, try the double DVD overview of American Roots Music for reference. The footage is culled from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Good stuff for fans of folk, bluegrass, and blues.
*Jim Jarmusch takes on La Honda resident Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse in Year of the Horse, but he doesn't get in the way. Instead, he lets the band do what they do best--jam. The bonus interviews have Neil expounding on his formula for "long-term preservation," something any young musician could benefit from.
The holidays offer the opportunity to purchase pleasurable things for people you don't really know, including secret Santa draws, clients, new family members, and sometimes, old family members. Music seems like a good idea, until you try to match your current tastes across an age gap. Giving your in-laws a home-burned CD of your latest Icelandic-Celt-hop-trancepop playlist will not endear you to them, and you can forget about being the cool uncle if you offer commercial cheese to your teenage nephew. The selections below maximize the chance of success in your giving endeavors.
Say it Loud -- A Celebration of Black Music in America
This 6-disc, 108-cut set is the collaboration of VH1, Quincy Jones, and the compilation wizards at Rhino Records. A companion to the thematic television documentary, this collection goes strictly chronologically, from Scott Joplin to Coolio, creating the ultimate rebuttal to white supremacy. The breadth is staggering, the selections seminal, the music uplifting and inspiring. It should be required listening for every human being and beamed into space on a continual loop. We like it.
Your grandparents might appreciate this young'un's song selection, and some virtuoso rag piano and smooth crooning might be a refreshing respite to you from the mandate of continual Christmas carols. Harry Connick Jr. so wishes he had been in the Rat Pack, that he's chosen songs even Frank and Dean were nostalgic about. This is his 30th birthday present to himself, and he clearly thinks enough of his truly to do a swell job on "Don't Fence Me In", "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and other standards.
Days of Wine and Roses
Henry Mancini has been called the greatest composer of music for film. From the late 50's throughout the 80's, Mancini scored over 80 films and released more than 50 albums. The Mancini formula fused the sensibility and light-heartedness of cool, West Coast jazz with orchestral emotional symbolism. This three-CD set covers his entire career, of which the instrumental pieces like "Theme from The Pink Panther" hold up best. Some tunes have an overdone chorus, the likes of which blight many a Ray Charles tune, but the cumulative effect of this 80-tune retrospective is impressive. After breaking through with the score to Orson Welles' noir Touch of Evil, Mancini wrote and reluctantly recorded the theme to a young Blake Edwards' TV show called Peter Gunn. It was the first jazz score for television and brought Mancini his first #1 LP, unheard-of for a TV score. Edwards' debut feature, Breakfast at Tiffanys, became the first of 28 films he and Mancini would do together. They collectively contain some of the best-known film songs, such as, "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Moon River." Don't recognize those tunes? Your family elders probably do, and that's why this would make a good gift. Let your grandparents know he used to play with the Glen Miller Band, tell your parents that Audrey Hepburn called him "the hippest of cats," and remind your bachelor uncle that he wrote the score to Mommie Dearest. Everybody's happy.