Like everyone says, see this for The Who. As a live band they were untouchable at this time in their career and this film proves it! They are absolutely on fire, functioning as a perfect communal organism rather than four individuals. Greater than the sum of their parts. Really breathtaking stuff, and a must-have for every Who fan.
The Rollings Stones aren't too shabby, though, especially on Sympathy For The Devil, where Mick gets into character and uses all his charm and sensuality to draw the viewer in. He's looking mighty fine here!
The rest of the show is less memorable for me, but not terrible. Some of the "interview" portions are rather entertaining, with John Lennon being his surreal self, and Lennon and Jagger flirting outrageously with each other. John is generally in a hilarious mood through the show, hamming it up in the audience and assisting Yoko with her trolling attempts via bag and screaming.
Marianne Faithfull is stunning here, an angelic moment amongst the rough-and-tumble of the lads.
A good watch all-around, but I usually skip directly to The Who and The Stones. Five stars for The Who's sheer brilliance.
A Past Life
Richard R. Carlton | Ada, MI United States | 11/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus was released Oct 15, 1996. It is the long suppressed made-for-TV special recorded 28 years earlier on Dec 11-12, 1968 with The Who, John Lennon, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, Marianne Faithful, and Eric Clapton. The packaging is beautiful with a great 42 page glossy color booklet that has all the rare behind the scenes photos and a full account of things leading up to the event. The Who were red hot at the time and easily upstaged the Stones who were still struggling through their first major crisis after the removal of Brian (and his subsequent death) and attempting to figure out how to hold on to their status as the premier band. The Stones refused to release the recordings because their performances were not spectacular. Most reviewers agreed when they finally got to see the film themselves. However, what the film lacks in production (which was obviously amateurish) it makes up for in history. The Stones lackluster set of Jumpin' Jack Flash, Parachute Woman, No Expectations, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Sympathy For the Devil, and Salt Of The Earth are easily compensated by The Who's mini opera A Quick One While He's Away and Lennon and Clapton's Yer Blues. There are also dated period piece interviews with Mick and John and very amateurish introductions by the individual Stones, which when combined with the extremely amateurish set, acting, and cinematography amply demonstrate why this is one for Stones and rock history collectors. The Stones were right, it didn't work for them, and it is good that the release was delayed until it appealed to collectors and would not reflect on the reputation of the band.Most people know the music, so in my reviews I try to give you data on the sessions and interesting facts connected with the songs and the album. Here we go:Interesting notes include:
.....this CD and the companion DVD and VHS releases were the last time Brian Jones performed with the Stones
.....Brigitte Bardot was Mick's original choice for the ringmaster, when she declined, he did it himself
.....Keith wanted Johnny Cash, but he declined too
.....Mick refused to consider Jimmy Page's new band "The New Yardbirds" without hearing their tapes (which were released on their first album "Led Zeppelin")
.....Ivry Gitlis was a great classical violin virtuoso.....he accepted an invitation to perform because he respected Brian Jones
.....John Lennon's temporary supergroup (Clapton, Mitch Mitchel, and Keith) was named Dirty Mac in response to the hottest band of the day....Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
.....the taping started around noon on Dec 11 and ran for 18 hours...when the specially chosen fan audience left at 6AM, Mick and Keith shook hands with most of them and thanked them for comingOther songs from the same show that were recorded for the Circus but which have not yet been released are:
.....Confessin' The Blues
Flawed but Beautiful
Brian J Hay | Sarnia, Ontario Canada | 11/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The performance the Stones gave here is stronger than history gives it credit for being. It didn't measure up to the standard they set a year later when they went on tour in North America though. Jagger, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were in good form. Keith Richards was strong but doesn't show the sure touch that characterized his work over the year that followed. Brian Jones gave some decent slide work during their performance of "No Expectations" but his presence here was really erratic. His rhythm guitar work on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is strong, but only after he blows a cue badly. In their performance of "Sympathy for the Devil" he seems as if he's barely even involved.
"Jumpin' Jack Flash" gets a good (if restrained) reading. "Parachute Woman" and "No Expectations" are songs that shine in an intimate setting such as what was created here. They don't disappoint. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Sympathy for the Devil" are two of their most enduring numbers. With the exception of the aforementioned cue missed by Jones both numbers get strong readings. "Salt of the Earth" is one of their great anthems. Strong melody, strong arrangement and powerful lyrics: this one has it it all. They appear to have sung it live alongside a backing tape that supplied the instrumental arrangement. It was a long day for everyone involved and Jagger's voice was showing the strain. His voice is really rough through a few of the verses. It doesn't hurt anything though. It adds to the intimacy of the moment and reflects an honesty that's often lacking now.
The best performances come from the Who and Taj Mahal. The Who's reading of "A Quick One While He's Away" is legendary. This footage has been available since the release of "The Kids are Alright" back in 1979 and it lives up to its reputation. Taj Mahal's performance of "Ain't That a Lot of Love" is the tightest musically from any of the performers. The song is a good one. Anyone listening closely will hear forms that dominated much of popular music about ten years later. This bit would be worth a look for that alone. The presence of Jesse Ed Davis should make it a must have. His playing was a model of taste, restraint and technique that has stood the test of time.
Not all of the performers featured had one their "best ever" moments here though. Jethro Tull was a new band at the time and were still finding their form. Marianne Faithfull gets off to a great start but only sings for a minute and a half. After that the instrumental track fades out while she sits there looking angelically blasted. The lady always could sing though. That big minute and a half is well worth watching (even if the way it finishes is strange). John Lennon and his side band the Dirty Mac gave a strong rendition of "Yer Blues" but they look as if they could have used a bit more time to really pull things together. They all read each other's musical cues well enough but the bond that could have been formed by (drummer) Mitch Mitchell and Eric Clapton hadn't really cemented to the point where they could take a thread and run a race with it. Yoko Ono (who crawled into a bag for the first number) ruins what could have been a great jam between the Dirty Mac and (violinist) Ivry Gitlis.
There are other areas where the show fell short. The entry scene is amateurish. Jagger, Richards and the rest are better as musicians than as Masters of Ceremonies. The introductions they provide for the various performers range between poor, lame and completely crippled. The comedy bit between Lennon and Jagger is even worse. Lennon's introduction of the Stones is beyond sad. The sections featuring the circus acts should have been left on the cutting room floor. The quality of the sound is also not as good as it could be. It's clear enough but doesn't ascend to the standard the people who re-mastered the print of "The Kids are Alright" hit when they restored that segment of the footage.
The special features added for the DVD reveal the scope of the ambition that lay behind this project. And they were grand ambitions. It wasn't common to bring classical music to a pop audience but the Stones (probably at the urging of Brian Jones) did it. His enthusiasm for this segment is clear. Katchen plays the Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla and the first movement of the Sonata in C (K. 545) by Mozart. There are three additional tracks from Taj Mahal as well. The interview with Pete Townshend is Townshend giving the type of overview that's unique to Pete Townshend. He really is one of a kind.
This is more of a time capsule than a concert video. It was filmed for television and the variables surrounding the production reflect that. The stage area is small as was the norm for television. The set around the stage was small as well. The lighting is bright and vivid. The print itself is filled with rich and vibrant pastoral hues. Dialogue between "hosts" and guests is typical of the period as well. The show itself was an intimate one that reflects the pop culture of the era accurately. It's erratic at times but has an honesty about it that's rare in the industry now. There's no lip-synching. The warts were allowed to show. Most of the people who worked together on this show were friends who grew into the industry together. The final moments of the show have a communal feel about them because they capture a sense of that.
Is this show perfect? No. Is it beautiful? Yes."
The only thing missing is Gunther Gabel-Williams
tcbnyc | New York, NY USA | 08/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why is classic rock considered classic? Pop in this video. See John Lennon and Mick Jagger have tea together and philosophize. See John play the blues with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Mitch Mitchell and rock so hard that even the musicless shrieks of his bizarre new girlfriend Yoko can't ruin it. See Marianne Faithfull sing an incredibly dated Dylanesque ditty. See Jethro Tull & Taj Mahal before anyone knew who they were. See the Who blow the roof off the tent. And see the Beggar's Banquet-era Stones wrap it up with 5 or 6 tunes and a big sing-along. This concert was recorded in 1968 when Mick was about 24 or so, Lennon was about 28 and it was finally released by the Stones camp a few years back. (Thank you, gentlemen.) Even if you could get the leading musicians of today together - Beck, R.E.M., Eddie Vedder, Pumpkins, etc. for a similar hootenany, it would still fall way, way short. Essential viewing for anyone interested in the glory of rock & roll."
Worth seeing just for The Who
Adam Risch | Silver Spring, Md. | 05/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This tape is worth buying just for The Who's performance of "A Quick One While He's Away", which has got to be one of the greatest live performances of a single rock song ever. Unfortunately, it's followed by Yoko Ono's impersonation of a rusty fence gate as well as a subpar performance by the Stones. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" sounds like it's being played in slow motion, and on "Sympathy for the Devil", an obviously full-of-himself Mick Jagger seems to be more interested in mugging for the cameras then he does in actually performing the song. I've always thought that the Stones were one of the most overrated live acts in rock; and after watching them follow the Who here, it's easy to see why Jagger did not want to release the tapes.
Anyway, besides The Who, there are also some good performances by Jethro Tull (although I've read that their performance of "A Song for Jeffrey" is not entirely live?) and The Dirty Mac (John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards & Mitch Mitchell deliver a fine performance of "Yer Blues" before being joined by Yoko Ono and violin player Ivry Gitlis; it's amusing to watch Gitlis smirk as Yoko screeches over the top of their jamming). Marianne Faithful and Taj Mahal also perform, but to be honest I found them both to be forgettable.
Aside from the performances, I think this tape is interesting as a snapshot of the time (December, 1968). You get to see a number of rock legends in their prime, and even though not all of them deliver great performances, it's still fascinating to watch."
Rock and Roll In Its Element
A music fan | somewhere in Maryland | 11/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I already owned the Circus on CD when I saw the DVD on offer here. I didn't hesitate a second. I only saw the Stones live twice (they haven't been the Stones for a loooong time now), and as this film makes clear, they are anything but an arena rock band, something the last three decades have for the most part stuck them with being. The Rock and Roll Circus, if nothing else, shows by its example how bad an idea musically arena rock was, regardless its benefits to democratic plebeian rock fans who actually get to see shows thanks to the added seats. When one thinks of it, one wonders: if this had been released immediately, as was the original intent, might we all be watching rock shows under the big top today?
Don't know, but this may account for some of the things I've heard about the Stones' performance, particularly about Mick's. It appears to be Received Wisdom that The Who torched the Stones at this gig. I'd certainly never be one to denigrate the Who's diamond-hard rendition of "A Quick One," clearly superior in my mind to the one on the expanded "Live At Leeds." There may never have been a live band to match the Who, when they had it going as they clearly did here. The Who are the punk gods of White Middle-Class Outcast Rage. Daltrey punches up his lyrics --- literally, with his fists and the mic -- with a palpaple physical anger, which each of the other band members equals in his own way. The sterling quality of the music they managed to put out while emoting like this is one of rock's Seven Wonders, and it would be hard to come up with the other Six.
But in my humble, the Stones give them a major run for their money here. Mick's performance, often panned as over the top, is from my view classic Mick, all the way through. He has his awkward moments, for sure. The Stones were playing a new music now, demanding a different onstage group persona from the songs they'd played before screaming teens in the mid-sixties, and the Circus shows Mick trying it on for size. He pops a couple of stitches and loses a button or two (and, of course, pulls off his shirt), but he succeeds, in the end, grandly. As Pete Townshend puts it in his interview here, Jagger's the only Circus musician to be looking through the camera at an audience 30 years down the road. Watch him; Townshend's right. I've been a Stones fan for more than 30 years, and I think that if you want to see the Stones doing what only they can - could once - do, this DVD may be the best place. It's at least one of them. If you are a Mick Jagger connoisseur in particular, this performance is essential. (Same for The Who; same for John Lennon.) It shows much of the arena posturing Mick's been doing for the last 30 years for the hollow sendup of himself that it is. And remember that the Stones - including among their number the key organizer of the event as lead singer - came on at the scrag end of what college kids would call an all-nighter; the Who were not only fresh from the road but nowhere near normal bedtime when they went on.
Brian Jones? I was prepared from reviews I read here for a real zombie, but I have to give the man some credit. (Actually, lots, given his state at the time.) The CD credits him, but you have no idea from the sound alone what he's playing. His guitar does seem turned down to the point of inaudibility on "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want," to the extent that I originally thought that Keith was the only guitarist on those numbers. Now that we can see it, though, there's no question who's playing that delicious slide lead on "No Expectations." Brian still had enough to contribute, much more than the maracas he's handed for "Sympathy for the Devil," which makes what was going on in the band at the time, and what happened to him only months later, all the sadder.
Keith Richards holds that the band just expected more of their performance; they were disappointed, and as he puts it in his voice-over commentary, a bit harsh on themselves and ignorant of the significance of the event notwithstanding the performances. So, they shelved it. And Keith says they eventually were sorry they did.
Jethro Tull, so far as I can tell, was the only act (other than Marianne Faithfull) to perform over a backing track. This need arose, apparently, when the departure of Mick Abrahams shortly before the Circus forced Tull to press future Black Sabbath metalmeister Tony Iommi into service as the session guitarist. (Interestingly, the CD credits Abrahams and makes no mention of Iommi.) As Ian Anderson reveals, an "industrial accident" had forcibly removed a few of Iommi's fingertips, making him, apparently, unsuited for the more subtle filigrees of the evolving Tull guitar style. In addition, the close-on harmonica and flute parts Anderson had put on the record version were impossible to duplicate live; bassist Glen Cornick thus winds up wearing a Dylan-style harp holder while he "plays" over the harp track. That was, apparently, the only lip-synching; according to his own testimony, Anderson both sang and played his own way through the song. (And if he's lipping, he's doing one heckuva job.) It is significant that -- again other than Faithfull's -- Tull's song is the only one that sounds pretty much like the album version.
Performances (OK, Yoko, if you call that a performance and John agrees, so will we) aside, this is incredible fun, one heck of a period piece, and stuffed as well with great still photographs and voice-over comments from key participants. One word of warning: unless you are much more of a pro than I am at adapting your remote to the nuances of a particular DVD, getting at those nifty additions (and turning them off) will, well, give you some moments.
Suffer them. They are worth it in ways that rare experiences just are.
And one more note: if you don't have the CD, you might want it too. Not only is the music good enough to survive in your car; the deluxe booklet that comes with it features several photos (and two bangup articles by eyewitness David Dalton) that you can't get with the DVD."