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Turn It Up! Movie Review: A Celebration of the Electric Guitar

A history of the electric guitar and the people who love them.
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I was sixteen years old, standing in a pawn / jewelry shop owned by family friends. I looked up at the wall and there it was, a beautiful mahogany wood grained Gibson SG Electric Guitar. I had always loved the look of that particular guitar, the double-cut design, the deep brown color, the Gibson logo on the headstock. Besides, a Gibson SG was what Pete Townshend played at Woodstock. Frank Zappa, Angus Young, Tony Iommi, and Frank Marino had all played similar guitars. I had to have it so $300 later it was mine. This wasn't when I started to

TV Review: American Masters: Carole King: Natural Woman

PBS salutes the legendary singer/songwriter with a fond look back at her career.
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Over the last few years, singer/songwriter Carole King has enjoyed a career resurgence. Her bestselling memoir, A Natural Woman, bowed to positive reviews in 2012 Beautiful, the musical based on King’s life, debuted on Broadway in 2014 and is still going strong. Last year, she was feted at the Kennedy Center Honors, with Aretha Franklin bringing King to tears with her passionate rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The celebration continues with the American Masters salute borrowed from that song title, a program which airs this week on PBS stations. Through King’s words, rare photos, archival

TV Review: American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley

The documentary examines the blues legend's life and music.
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The latest installment of the PBS series, American Masters, documents the life and music of blues maestro Riley “B.B.” King. A sharecropper’s son who first played guitar in church, he also worked as a DJ before becoming the undisputed king of American blues (and an inspiration to countless rock musicians). This documentary features interviews with Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, John Mayer, and other musicians. There are plenty of original and archival interviews with B.B., including one conducted on a trip back to his birthplace in Mississippi. It follows King’s story from his early life working in the cotton

About The Young Idea DVD Review: A Revealing, Reminiscent Look Back at The Jam's Rise

This thoughtful history of the evolution of The Jam is heavy on band anecdotes, fan praise and a chipper Paul Weller enjoying the stroll down Stanley Road.
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The late John Weller, Paul Weller’s father and perhaps The Jam’s biggest fan, would ring in shows by shouting, “Put your hands together for the greatest band in the f@%king world!” And to legions of fans in the late ’70s and early ’80s, they absolutely were. The band not only echoed youth’s frustrations with politically poetic lyrics and riffs drawing from earlier periods of unrest, but they also taught their peers on the floor a thing or two about literature, autonomy—being someone intelligent enough to form and express an opinion boldly. With a heavy emphasis on fan lore, About The

The Rolling Stones: From the Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990 Blu-ray Review

This entertaining performance proves all the naysayers wrong.
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The Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle stadium tour ran for nearly a year. The North American leg started in Philadelphia on Aug 31, 1989, and the European leg ended in London on Aug 25, 1990. The tour is notable for many reasons. The 10 nights they played at the Tokyo Dome in February 1990, from which the material on this live album comes, was the first time they ever performed in Japan. It was the band's first tour since their 1982 European Tour. It was their first tour without touring pianist Ian Stewart. It would be bassist Bill Wyman's last tour before

Jaco DVD Review: Tribute to a Jazz Legend

Jaco is a balanced and compassionate look at the legendary jazz bassist.
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“It’s not about bass playing, it’s about being a storyteller.” The documentary Jaco traces the life of iconic jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, from his childhood in Florida and first gigs as a teenager to his innovative style of bass playing, work with Weather Report, and his untimely death at age 35. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, the documentary’s producer, saw Weather Report in 1979, and the experience helped mould his own musical journey. Jaco compiles archival footage, home movies, personal photos and interviews to form a balanced and compassionate look at the groundbreaking musician’s life. Directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen

David Bowie: Station to Station (Special Edition) Album Review: A Great Piece of Work

Station to Station is special on its own, and the Special Edition is well worth owning for the live album.
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Station to Station is Bowie’s tenth album. Considered a transitional album as its title indicates, it blends his musical past and future as elements of funk and soul from Young Americans commingle with the synthesizers and electronic sounds that would soon appear on his Berlin Trilogy. In 2010, it was re-released in expanded formats. The album opens with a brief audio prologue as a train moves across the speakers on the title track. Bowie sings of “The return of the Thin White Duke/ Throwing darts in lovers’ eyes,” reflecting the coldness the persona would traffic in during its existence. The

David Bowie, The Heart's Filthy Lesson, Se7en, and Me

A creepy song on the end credits of a creepy movie created a lifetime fan.
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David Fincher led me to David Bowie. I doubt that was a typical path to the Thin White Duke, but it's how I got there. I went to watch Se7en because the review in the Daily News said it should have gotten an NC-17 for its grisly crime scenes, so that was something I had to see. This was back when it was easier for young and impressionable teens to get into R-rated movies (two years later I would be barred from seeing Lost Highway at the same theater, even though I was 17 - I just couldn't prove it.)

Remembering David Bowie and 'Under Pressure'

RIP to the Thin White Duke.
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Being an only child, but having some hip uncles who were more like older brothers, I got exposed to a lot of great musical artists at a very early age. One of those musicians was David Bowie. Not unlike Prince after him, Bowie was one of those performers who were so diverse, it was nearly impossible to like everything he did (You can’t please all of the people all of the time), but when he hit the mark, he hit it hard. Being a Queen fan as well, I was intrigued when I saw that the new track on the

David Bowie's 'Life on Mars?' Signified the Arrival of an Innovator

Bowie defied convention musically and visually, intertwining rock and film in a way no other artist will equal.
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Against a blindingly white background, a man stands alone. Clad in a sky-blue suit and sporting technicolor makeup, the figure appears as if he has stepped out of a watercolor painting. Occasionally swinging a leg back and forth, he stares into the camera, lip synching the words to a sparsely arranged song. In extreme closeups, the singer evokes the lyrics’ complex imagery through facial expressions. Is this short clip a viral video from 2016? No, it is David Bowie’s video for “Life on Mars?” released in 1973. Over four decades later, the song and clip seem timeless yet strikingly modern.

The Who: Live in Hyde Park DVD Review: The 50-Year Anniversary Show

A really great bookend to an amazing career by an amazing band.
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What else can be written about The Who that hasn't already been written over the course of their 50-year career? I mean, they are the quintessential Rock 'n' Roll band. They are a singles band, they are an album band, but most of all, they have always been the best live band in the business. From Live at Leeds, The Isle of Wight, Woodstock, and more, The Who have always been a force to be reckoned with on the stage. On June 26, 2015 the band celebrated their lengthy career with a 50th Anniversary show in London and documented the

JACO DVD Review: Portrait of a Tortured Genius

JACO presents a complicated yet fascinating portrait of a gifted musician who reinvented the bass.
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In 1976, an album was released that would revolutionize not only how the jazz bass is played, but the very concept of the instrument. Until Jaco Pastorius, few considered the bass as a lead instrument, one with as much dimension and virtuosity as the piano or guitar. The phenomenally gifted musician demonstrated the true meaning of fusion, melding together everything from Cuban to jazz to rock to R&B influences. His speedy yet tuneful style and use of harmonics changed the bass and inspired countless musicians after him. Mental illness and drug abuse cut his life and career horribly short, but

Sinatra: All or Nothing at All Blu-ray Review: That's His Life

A thorough documentary that still leaves the viewer curious to learn more about Sinatra and explore his work.
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Frank Sinatra was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling singers of all time, won an Academy Award as a supporting actor, and drew big audiences with his TV specials and his concerts. His life off the stage was even more compelling, and together they are presented in Alex Gibney's HBO documentary Sinatra: All or Nothing At All, available on Blu-ray and DVD. In 1971, Sinatra held a farewell concert to announce his (what would be short-lived) retirement at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theater. He picked 11 milestone songs from his career

Amy Blu-ray Review: The Permeability of Private and Public Footage

Asif Kapadia's documentary on Amy Winehouse transcends the typical with an unusually and uncomfortably intimate collage.
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The narrative beats of Asif Kapadia’s documentary on Amy Winehouse are eminently familiar, tracing a musician’s rise to fame and the subsequent downfall fueled by substance abuse. Like a number of showbiz stories, Amy is possessed by a heartbreaking sense of inevitability. Nonetheless, Kapadia — best known for 2010’s Formula 1 doc Senna — transcends the typical with an unusually and uncomfortably intimate collage of almost entirely pre-existing footage, structured around audio-only interviews with collaborators, friends, and romantic partners. Home video of Winehouse goofing around with childhood friends bleeds into on-air interviews promoting her 2003 debut album Frank, which gives

Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Glimpses into the Heart of the Artist

Come gather 'round people and watch one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
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By the time Bob Dylan toured England in the Spring of 1965, he’d released five albums (two of which went platinum), scored a couple of number one hits, been covered by such luminaries as Joan Baez and The Byrds, written some of the greatest songs in popular music, and became the voice of a generation. Critics loved him, fans mobbed him, and journalists followed him about, asking him an endless supply of inane questions. Though he started out writing protest songs and was heavily involved in causes such as the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, by this point

Black Stone Cherry: Thank You: Livin' Live, Birmingham, UK Review: An Enjoyable Performance in Spite of the Low Vocals

The concert was fun to watch but there were some issues listening to it.
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Recorded October 30, 2014 on their Magic Mountain tour, the four-man band from Kentucky brought their brand of hard southern rock to England. The concert featured 20 songs picked from each of their four studio albums. The show was high energy, featuring a straight-forward performance with a minimal amount of visual effects and stage decoration. There’s a giant drop cloth behind the band with mountain scenery sketched on it. The only other extras on the stage are two short tables that the guitarists used to stand on giving them a little more elevation for the audience to be able to
Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd had quite the homecoming this year. More than 50 years after Jacksonville teenagers Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, and Ronnie Van Zant formed their first band, My Backyard, Rossington brought the current incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd to Jacksonville’s Florida Theater. Over the course of two nights in April, they performed the band’s debut album and follow-up, (pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) and Second Helping, in their entirety for the first time. Although Rossington is the sole member to have played on those albums, the 2015 line-up does the music and former members proud with their faithful recreations. Playing both

Katy Perry: The Prismatic World Tour Live Blu-ray Review: Visually Impressive, Thematically Confusing

While the visual and the musical aspects of the concert were well done, there were a few things that were not so good.
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Capturing Katy Perry’s 2014/2015 concert tour recorded in Sydney, Australia last December, the show features seven different acts, nine costume changes, five hair changes, and a giant triangular stage that runs throughout the arena floor. Everything included is sixty tons of equipment requiring thirty trucks to transport. With everything needed to put on a show of this magnitude you would expect it to be an impressive performance, and visually it is. The giant triangle-shaped video screen behind the stage was crisp and clear as it projected various pictures and videos that went along with the different themes. During “Dark Horse”

Frank Zappa's Roxy: The Movie DVD Review: A Necessary Purchase for Any Zappa Fan

The Wait is Over: Frank Zappa and the Mothers legendary Roxy shows revisited.
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The concert film Roxy:The Movie starring Frank Zappa and the Mothers, filmed in 1973 during a three-night engagement at Sunset Strip’s 500-seat Roxy Theatre, captures Zappa at a pivotal point - post-hippiedom and pre-mainstream media attention for Valley Girl and the PMRC hearings. We’ve heard bits and pieces of these concerts before, in Roxy and Elsewhere and You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, but an entire concert film escaped release due to a technical glitch at the time of recording. Forty-two years later, Roxy: The Movie has been released by Eagle Rock Entertainment, after some intense film and audio

Just Let Go: Lenny Kravitz Live Blu-ray Review: A Giant Directorial Miscue

It's very difficult to enjoy the presentation as a whole, which is a shame because the music is so good.
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In support of his tenth studio album, Strut, Lenny Kravitz has released a live concert film that was recorded over a three-month period during the European leg of his 2014 tour. While there are twelve songs on the disk, it does come across more as a documentary than a concert performance. Between songs and sometimes right in the middle of them, there are interviews with Kravitz and the band. It’s a strange combination because just as the viewer is getting into the songs the entire vibe changes as you listen to philosophical explanations of what music is, and how the

Jeff Lynne's ELO: Live in Hyde Park Blu-ray Review: So Good You Won't Get It out of Your Head

Highly recommend for ELO fans and the greatest-hits setlist would make a good introduction to those new to the band.
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Founding member Jeff Lynne was such an essential component to the massive success of Electric Light Orchestra throughout the '70s and '80s as the band's sole writer, arranger, and producer after fellow founder Roy Wood left during the making of their second album, ELO 2, it seems a tad redundant for him to be leading a band called Jeff Lynne's ELO. But setting aside whatever legal and/or ego entanglements may have been involved in that decision, Jeff Lynne's ELO headlined BBC Radio 2’s Festival in a Day in Hyde Park on September 14, 2014. Joined by keyboardist Richard Tandy, an

Album Review: The String Cheese Incident: Rhythm of the Road: Volume 2, Live in Las Vegas

Three hours of rock and roll jam for your listening pleasure.
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Arguably the first live rock and roll record was Got Live If You Want It! by The Rolling Stones. Released in England in 1965, it contained just six songs (interestingly all covers, no originals). Its sound is raw and ragged (it is said to have been recorded from a microphone hanging from the balcony though some overdubs were apparently added at some unknown point). Live music had been recorded before this of course, most famously by John Lomax in the 1930s who roamed the countryside recording local musicians. Fans were secretly recording rock concerts from pretty much the beginning and

George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium DVD Review

What makes this concert stand out is that you can feel how truly special it is for all involved.
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Growing up, I always dreaded when my mom would put on her country music. She warned me that when I got older I would change my tune, and she couldn't have been more right. One of her favorites for as long as I can remember has been George Strait. When he announced his farewell tour, I hoped to go but his continued popularity denied me tickets. At least I was able to get the next best thing with the DVD release of his tour finale. The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium features a star-studded line-up including Vince Gill,

Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade DVD Review: For Dedicated Fans Only

An informative, yet rather dull documentary about an transitive period in his career.
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In the summer of 1973 after a grueling tour and an emotionally devastating divorce, Van Morrison took a several-weeks vacation to Ireland. Living in America for the better part of the preceding decade, he’d not been to his homeland in about six years. Due to the Troubles, he was not even able to go to his actual home in Northern Ireland during the visit. It was during this emotionally distraught time that he wrote Veedon Fleece, his eighth studio album. Though it was an intensely personal album, it was critically panned at the time and sold quite poorly. Afterwards he

Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 Blu-ray Review: The Band Keeps A-Rollin'

You won't want to miss a thing once Aerosmith hits the stage.
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The Blu-ray for Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 takes the viewer straight into the main feature rather than offering the menu. This is quite apropos because once this June 15 headlining performance from the Download Festival begins with a raucous cover of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" the band keeps a rollin', reeling off 20 songs comprised of classic-rock staples, crossover pop hits, and a few deep cuts from across their impressive 40-plus career. Watching this performance, it's easy to forget the band members (vocals Steven Tyler, lead guitarist Joe Perry, drummer Joey Kramer, bassist Tom Hamilton, and rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford) are

Music from Love & Mercy Review: An Auditory Journey into the Mind of a Troubled Genius

The soundtrack reveals the good and bad in the life of Brian Wilson.
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The word "genius" gets thrown around a lot when referring to various musicians, but in the case of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, it is genuinely appropriate. Of course, many musical geniuses tend to be troubled people and, in that regard, Wilson is no different. The movie Love & Mercy, which stars Paul Dano as the young Brian in his 1960s creative peak and John Cusack as the overmedicated, misdiagnosed “patient” of Dr. Eugene Landy, does an excellent job of showing both the highs and lows - and there are plenty of both - in Wilson’s life and career. Of

Heaven Adores You Blu-ray Review: As Personal as Elliot Smith's Music

The friends and family of Elliot Smith create a beautifully intimate film about his life and music.
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I wanted to watch and review Heaven Adores You, the new documentary about Elliot Smith, because I am a huge Elliot Smith fan. Though I cannot claim to have discovered Smith’s music off of a mixtape out of the Portland music scene, my connection to his music is still a deeply personal one. I believe that such a personal connection is a common thread among Elliot Smith fans, regardless how or when they discovered his music. When I heard the news that Elliot Smith had died, I was riding shotgun in my manager’s car. We were on our way to

Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police DVD Review: An Inside Look at a Legendary Band

Based on Andy Summers' memoir, the documentary reveals the rise and demise of the defining 1980s band.
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When the Police ceased recording in 1984, rumors swirled as to the cause. Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland became infamous for their constant fighting, sometimes ending up in fisticuffs (such as during a 1983 MTV interview with Martha Quinn). Summers and Copeland’s intense jealousy of Sting’s notoriety was cited as another factor. The new documentary Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police presents Summers’ side of the story, suggesting that the Police’s dissolution resulted from a multitude of complicated reasons. As hard on himself as on the other band members, Summers provides narration while archival footage as well as

Stray Cats: Live at Rockpalast DVD Review: A Great Live Concert DVD

Two amazing Stray Cats concerts from 1981 and 1983 recorded live in Germany.
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The American Rockabilly scene would not be what it is today without the influential music of the Stray Cats. Their rocking sound introduced a new generation to the sounds of the 1950s while helping change the 1980's music scene with their original sounds and songs. Stray Cats: Live at Rockpalast features two early Stray Cats concerts, both recorded in Germany in the early 1980s. The earlier concert footage is from Satrory-Sale Cologne on July 16th, 1981, and the later concert is from Open Air Loreley on August 20th,1983. This is the first time in over 30 years this concert footage

The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 Blu-ray Review: Long Live Rock

If this was the only concert of the band on record, there'd be no doubt why they are rock 'n' roll legends.
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Reading up on The Who, it appears what was intended to be a tour in support of It's Hard became a farewell tour because of Pete Townshend's personal issues and the friction they contributed to between he and his bandmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. Although they have reunited many times since, and Daltrey and Townshend, the last living original members, are currently touring in celebration of the band's 50th anniversary, it's fantastic to see this document of The Who still at the peak of their abilities. Taken from their October 13, 1982 performance, the second of a two-night stand

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