Material on two of the three discs has already been widely available. Monterey Pop, D.A. Pennebaker's 79-minute, 1968 film, effectively sets the scene for the festival, which took place during the fabled "Summer of Love," when the hippie ethos was in its fullest flower, especially on the West Coast. And while not all the featured performances are thrilling, those that are--principally by the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and the amazing Ravi Shankar--are worth the price of admission, especially in the high-definition digital transfer and new 5.1 mix seen and heard here. The same can be said for Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey, which appear in the boxed set on a separate disc and provide a much fuller look at Hendrix's and Otis Redding's incendiary sets (literally, in the former case).
Those two discs are also loaded with bonus features, including audio commentary by Pennebaker, festival producer Lou Adler (on Monterey Pop), and author Peter Guralnick (Shake!); audio-only remarks by some of the performers; photos; trailers; and other material. There's also a substantial booklet, filled with essays and photos. But it's the third disc, "The Outtake Performances," comprising some two hours of music that didn't make the final film edit, that will be of most interest to many viewers. The disc supplies a taste of some of the artists who didn't appear in Monterey Pop at all (the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Quicksilver Messenger Service), and a more complete look at some who did (the Who, Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas). A nice addition to an already very impressive DVD collection. --Sam Graham
"Monterey Pop" should be required viewing--far more than "Woodstock", that's for sure--for anyone interested in what the 60s was really all about. It is more than just an incredible rock festival, the first and still the best of its kind. It is a historical document of the hippie era at its euphoric peak. DA Pennebaker truly earned his credentials here as his camera focuses with incredible grace and sensitivity on each face, be it from audience member or performer. There is one shot during Ravi Shankar's performance where his camera walks down a lengthy aisle and the quasi-religious looks and gypsy-like fashions on the dozens of people he meets along the way is simply breathtaking. That singular mood--which captures a long-lost communal paradise of gentle smiles and laughter, incredibly colorful clothing and painted faces, mind-blowing psychedelic light shows, gods-eye weaves, beads, flowers and of course Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Otis Redding, Country Joe & The Fish, Simon And Garfunkel and many more giving performances more akin to spiritual visions than entertainment--will hypnotize and delight the viewer from beginning to end, and even though there are four hours of entertainment here you will be left wanting more (and usually wishing for a time machine).
With the audience almost as dazzling a sight as the performers, and the light show competing with and complementing the music for one's attention, the film feels like one singular artistic statement which came together like magic, fuelled by the acid-soaked climate of the time. Much interesting historical info is given in the booklet and audio commentaries, although the
real highlight of this re-release are the two extra DVDs featuring all the available outtake footage. Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, of course, gave two of the greatest performances of all time at Monterey; nothing need be said of Hendrix's now-iconic US breakthrough, which upped the ante on The Who's stunning set. Much more of The Who's set makes the outtakes disc as well, along with many artists unfortunately cut out of the original film such as The Byrds, Laura Nyro, The Electric Flag, The Blues Project and Buffalo Springfield. The Blues Project give a particularly fine, unexpected performance featuring an inspired flute solo. Other highlights include Big Brother doing "Combination Of The Two" (which crackles with excitement), Simon And Garfunkel dishing out a mesmerizing "Sound Of Silence", Country Joe & The Fish rocking on "Martha Lorraine" (with more classic audience shots), Jefferson Airplane storming their way through "Somebody To Love" (which should have made the official film over "High Flying Bird"), Laura Nyro's dramatic rendition of "Poverty Train", and Crosby and Stills together on stage for the first time while the Springfield do "For What It's Worth".
Films like this need to be preserved and cherished as time capsules of a bygone era that becomes more and more distorted through hazy recollection and warped media images over the years (for starters, not a *single* person in "Monterey Pop" can be seen wearing a tie-dye shirt!). It is my favorite concert film and one of the most enjoyable and even spiritual films I have ever seen, which at times brings a tear to the eye. If you've already seen the original film, the DVD will be "like Easter and Christmas and New Years and your birthday all in one"; if you haven't, and particularly if you are of today's under-21 generation for who the 60s are a distant grandparents' memory, "Monterey Pop" may change your life.
So, if you're interested in finding out what was happening see the original film. But if, like me, you already have it, or if you're just more curious, then this expanded 3 disc DVD edition is just about all you could ask for, and probably all you're ever going to get. Sure, the film quality on several of the additional sequences is poor but hey, you get a further two hours of performances - including Al Kooper, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield (with David Crosby & without Neil Young), the Association, Laura Nyro and Electric Flag, none of who were included in the original film, and... additional numbers from artists who made it into the original, including Country Joe & the Fish, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkle, Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Who and the Mamas & Papas. Plus... a further hour featuring the full sets from Jimi Hendrix (simply electric!) and Otis Redding.
In amongst what totals over four hours of music, you get much good and some bad - this was 1967 and many of these groups were still finding their way - but as a comprehensive insight into both the festival and the mid 60's "underground" scene it's unbeatable. And... to top it all, the comprehensive booklet included in this boxed set includes several lengthy reviews of the event, and the background to it, that put it all into context. Wonderful stuff...
Eric Burdon and the Animals
The Mamas and The Papas
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