Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|All You Need Is Love |
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
Popular music is now an essential part of our lives - yet we know comparatively little about it - where it came from, how it developed, how it has influenced or been influenced by social change. Today, the popular music i... more »
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A Landmark Project- Essential for all libraries!
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 05/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
This is not my "final" review of this fascinating box set. I hope to do that after I return from vacation. But, it is such a landmark production that I wanted to at least post something. Having just finished all 17 hours (!) of material, there is so much to digest. I hope I can give you at least an idea of what to expect.
First, I don't think there has ever been a documentary project of this scope in documenting the "History of Popular Music". Director Tony Palmer literally traveled the world to film thousands of hours of performances and interviews with the "key players", who shed light on all aspects of the "popular music" business. These interviewees are singers, musicians, agents, critics, record producers and composers. And the quotes that Palmer - who seems to actually be doing the interviewers in most cases are gems. Phil Spector in the mid-70s discussing his music while playing a guitar! (Have you ever seen Spector playing an instrument?). Producer John Hammond on racism in the industry. Hoagy Carmichael on his hit "Stardust", Pete Seeger on "what is folk music?". David Bowie saying "I never wanted to be a rock star." It's gems like these that make this essential viewing for anyone, of any age, who cares about "Popular Music". And Palmer conducted interviews with Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee and Eubie Blake before they died.
Let me also point out that "Popular Music" as covered in the 17 chapters of this set means any music that is not "Classical". Presented mostly chronologically in the order that these musical styles occurred, there are Episodes devoted to Ragtime, Blues, Jazz Country, Vaudeville (and Music Hall, since this is a British production), Swing, Protest Songs and , finally - for the last four Episodes - Rock music. Actually the Rock sections are the weakest of the set as quite a few of these artists' careers went nowhere. And the set ends with Virgin Records founder saying, in 1980, that Mike Oldfield (whose "Tubular Beels" was a smash hit on Branson's label) is "the future of Popular Music".
It's also very important to know the background of the project. From 1976 to 1980 the 17 Episodes were broadcast on British TV and, to my knowledge, never aired in the US. So we are missing the last 27 years of pop music history. No Disco, no Punk, no Alternative and no Disney on Broadway. Younger viewers will be surprised to see all the long hair and sideburns, leisure suits and wide shirt collars. But this was the period when the interviews were done.. The series was recorded on film and, though the soundtrack has been remastered, the film stock was not restored. It looks dated. Palmer sometimes becomes quirky in his choices of visuals. The early "Vaudeville and Music Hall" Episode has some nice footage of Al Jolson and some British Music Hall performers but it also has a topless stripper from circa 1975. In the Episode on Protest Songs we hear a protest song while we watch some really violent footage of a Roller Derby! The authorities that Palmer enlisted to "write" the scripts are experts like Stephen Sondheim (show music), Paul Oliver (blues), Derek Taylor (the Beatles) and Ian Whitcomb and Rudi Blesh (Ragtime).
So, despite some missteps and a visual quality that looks like a 16mm print it's the interviews and the live performance footage that Palmer captured (mixed with lots of newsreel and TV footage) that make this set special. Knowing of the few moments of nudity and violence which is included, I feel that a copy of this belongs in every school and public library to act as a visual and aural history course on both American and British pop culture for at least the first ¾ of the 20th century.
It lost a "star", in my opinion, because of the film and sound quality but don't let that deter you from buying it. Nothing like this project will ever be attempted again, so this is the best we can hope for.
D. Frame | Missouri | 06/04/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is supposed to be the history of American popular music. The problem is, this is a British take on popular music in America and, for the most part, they got it wrong.
The set actually starts out rather promising as it traces the origins of American folk music from Europe and the birth of ragtime and jazz from Africa and later the blues. Tin Pan Alley days and Vaudeville were handled OK. For me, it began to fall apart after that because I got the feeling those involved in preparing this video musical history didn't truly understand American history.
While this set deserves credit for being extensive, they didn't go far enough in some areas but spent too much time on other things of little importance. For example, while the impact of African rhythms and instruments was interesting, the what seemed like endless footage of African tribal dancing was overdone. Ginger Baker on the drums was a plus but, again, it was too much emphasis on him and not others.
The section on 50s rock and roll was the worst and from that decade on, the set truly suffers. I believe the reason it suffers is because the British who put this set together (in the 70s and airing only there initially) were not living in America to truly understand the music here and what was going on socially and emotionally in America. It's as if they only covered the American music they knew, understood or listened to in England but not what we actually did in America. In other words, they just didn't get it! They certainly didn't get American musical theatre. As with other episodes, they got stuck on one artist or contributor and didn't mention others. If you never saw a musical, you would think musical theatre was nothing but "Oklahoma" and "Hair."
Some examples of absolute misses are showing footage of old British dance shows in the rock and roll episode but no mention of American Bandstand. Instead, they insult the American dance shows of the time. Remember, this is supposed to be the history of American music and not British television. Instead, we get more footage from England and our American way of life in that era is insulted. They (and Jerry Lee Lewis) also insult Elvis Presley (so Elvis fans beware if you buy this DVD set) as well as other artists of the 50s and 60s. Yet, they spend almost the entire episode paying tribute to the over-rated Jerry Lee Lewis. The British apparently thought he was cool. The film clips and interviews we see, however, show him to be arrogant and cocky, a bit on the creepy side and full of sour grapes. This entire episode was wasted on Jerry Lee Lewis instead of truly discussing the origins of rock and roll (being the blues and jazz) and highlighting other artists who left their mark in rock and roll history. 70s clips of Chubby Checker and Chuck Berry are shown instead of older footage and Little Richard gets a token nod. Tony Palmer must have thought Jerry Lee Lewis was more important to Americans (and to American music) than he really was. This episode was absolutely horrible!
Other areas covered only breifly or not at all are Motown (Berry Gordy), The Sound Of Philadelphia (Gamble & Huff), The West Coast Sound and Surf music (Mama's & the Papas, the Beach Boys), Psychedelic rock and the music of the 60s (although protest songs are covered well), Doo-Wop which led to the first real boy bands like the Four Seasons, Songs from the Brill Building (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Gerry Goffin), Teen Idols (Fabian, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka and, again, the importance of Dick Clark and many others who were inspirations to other later musicians. An obvious omission was Buddy Holly, for example.) This list could go on about how much they missed. For this to be a history of American music, it sure misses the boat once you get past the early 20th century, from around the 1940s on. Some artists like Frank Sinatra seem like an after-thought while others are not remembered at all but are, in actuality, so important to the fabric of American music. Tony Palmer must have thought Jerry Lee Lewis was a bigger influence on American music than Elvis. He does the Beatles episode well but nothing we haven't already seen or heard before.
I would like to see an American, not a Brit, who actually knows and understands American music take on the difficult task of doing a DVD history of American music. The British view of American music must be distorted as made obvious by "All You Need Is Love." This set may have been fine in the late 70s when it originally aired in England. However, now, it is very dated and very British-opinion slanted. British who watch this will not get a realistic (and in some cases, correct) view and history of American popular music. Americans who watch this (especially the younger ones) will either be confused or not get the full impact of the music of yesterday and it's influences on the music of today.
Save your money on this one. I wish I would have. Other than some interesting facts about early American music, I felt as if I already knew more about American music and it's many styles and origins than Tony Palmer. This is not the story of American popular music. This is the Palmer's limited knowledge and opinions on American popular music."
All You Need Is A Remote.
Tom Munroe | Chicago, IL United States | 06/12/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I found this set overrated at best. Although there is some interesting footage, much of it is woefully dated and, frankly, dull. Have your remote handy to move through the segments where the director spends wwaaayyyy too much time. You'll know 'em when you see 'em. I will be hard-pressed to watch most of this set a second time."
S. van Schagen | Haarlem Netherlands | 07/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD set is of course not a complete history of popular music. Tony Palmer, however put in great effort and came very close to creating an historical document. Not complete, but with moments of brilliance none the less. Especially the episodes dealing with the earlier years of popular music were very revelatory to me.
What makes it a true gem is that he interviewed many musical icons not long before they died. This makes it not only a historical document, but also a testament to some of the icons that were elemental in the early years of popular music.
Is it a must see for everybody? Well, no. The last episode of this documentary aired in 1980, so there is no music included made in the last 28 years. This might deter some youngster. On the other hand, it may also introduce to music made for the sake of the music and not just for the sake of making stars and bucks.
I gave it for stars, because there are imperfections. Nevertheless this will be the only document ever that contains many of the key players in the development of popular music."