- Published on Amazon.com
Marriages, boyfriends and girlfriends may come and go, but at least when it comes to The Rolling Stones, band mates appear to be forever. Singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards are arguably the best creative duo in rock history and have known each other for six decades now. Sometimes they have gotten along swimmingly. And other times less so, particularly when Richards' past of drug abuse and Jagger's aspirations of a solo career increased tension among the two. The Jagger-Richards history is explored in the appropriately titled Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case of Jagger & Richards, a look at their respective histories.
To save any confusion this is a packaged set of two previous documentaries, rel3ased a number of years ago, on the two musicians, specifically The Roaring 20s, which examines Jagger's influences and work during that period in his life (i.e. his 20s), and Keith Richards Under Review, which looks at Richards from his youth to present day on a much longer arc.
There are two keys when it comes to unauthorized documentaries like this, the first is that the lack of participation by the subjects themselves may be cause for concern, but don't forget many great music docs are made about performers and musicians who have passed on, when only archive interviews and footage is available. This is the case here, Jagger and Richards are represented only by archive material but for me this doesn't cause any loss of enjoyment, and, having an independent palette, at least the producers are free to have whoever they wish included and not to have to worry about 'final cuts' (often a by word for censorship) by the management.
But the other more important key is how familiar one may be with the subject is likely how entertaining that may find said documentaries. As one who knows the broad strokes of the Jagger-Richards collaboration and of the Stones history in general, I personally found the documentaries enjoyable for the various aspects they cover. For instance, the Jagger feature in covering the period from 1962-1972, examines his work during the era past the studios and concerts, with his film work and (albeit limited)solo material to be more specific. The Richards documentary perhaps unknowingly uses this time on one of the things that led to the Mick and Keith problems of the '70s and '80s, as Richards thought doing solo material was a betrayal of sorts to the band. These moments of synergy between both films are subtle yet nice to call back to.
With the Richards feature, looking at more of his life and work with Jagger, combined with Richards' personal problems, the film also looks at the music critically and structurally. Richards' own foray into solo work late in his career is also delved into, and the overall feeling that the pendulum of charisma has swung from Jagger to Richards is touched upon too. Both films use a mix of interview footage from their subjects along with interviews from writers like Anthony DeCurtis of "Rolling Stone," Chris Welch of "Melody Maker" and other journalists, biographers and music historians who do their best to fill in the blanks that Jagger and Richards were unable or unwilling to provide.
The lasting memory of this Mick vs. Keith set, running at over 4 hours in total, is the time time spent looking at the on again, off again partnership and friendship of the two, and the reasons behind it, which going by the title is surely the ultimate aim of the set. This therefore is my one criticism - not enough time is dedicated to what one may believe is the real subject. That said this is a good entertaining set of films to perhaps be enjoyed over a few viewings and one that I would suggest stands up to repeat screenings.
Both features are presented in 4:3 full frame and juggle an armload of footage in the process. There are the films, whether they are Gimme Shelter or a variety of concert films, vintage interview footage with the subjects, or perhaps a slew of newsreel sprinkled in for good measure. The various friends/ colleagues/writer/acquaintances interviewed all look fine and naturally reproduced, without a hint of edge enhancement or haloing. The discs were pretty much what I thought they would look like.
Stereo sound across both discs. Honestly, I was not expecting to be blown away by the sonic quality of almost four hours of unauthorized documentary, and I was not. Dialogue sounds consistent through the many interviews conducted for both subjects, and the numerous clips of music - (much of which is Stones/Mick/Keef recordings, very unusual for unauthorized docs), whether it is recorded in studio or live, all sound clear as a bell. There are no prolonged bouts of chirping or hissing that may plague the features, and they both sound as good as they will likely be.
Not really all that much; the Jagger disc has an additional interviews with the band's onetime personal assistant and the Richards disc has one (5:30) with a friend of Keith's (Kris Needs. It also has a lengthy Needs/Richards conversation which although not great audio quality (apaprently recorded on the very first recordable walkmans in 1982) is very entertaining The Richards disc also has "The Hardest Interactive Keith Richards Quiz in the World Ever" which isn't all that interactive but is fairly hard, and both discs have biographical information on the contributors of each disc and any relevant links to their work.
Mick vs. Keith is a fascinating idea worth examining, and the interview subjects try to make it so. Technically, the discs look and sound about what you would expect them to look and sound like. It is worth checking out because it catches up on other aspects of the band nicely.
- Published on Amazon.com
This two disc box set provides almost four hours of very satisfying wallowing in reminiscence, criticism, adulation, and scandal.
First of all, the Rolling Stones LPs prior to Satanic Majesties' Request, as good as they were, were just warm-ups for the real flowering of the composers themselves. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Satisfaction, Little Red Rooster, and etc. were very good songs, and I have all the early slabs (in fact, the entire Stones catalogue, period; how could one do without them?), but Satanic, as much it tends to be cast into critical limbo, was where the ensemble finally caught up to itself, figuring out how to produce truly original work. Though Jagger pooh-poohs the release, the Brit crits presented in abundance here tend to dismiss his dismissals, as do I, and recognize the LP as a very good fish out of water that immediately led into the amazing Beggar's Banquet, arguably their finest hour...and there's plenty of dissent on that too.
Satanic was almost, if not in fact, progrock and a response to Sgt. Pepper's, the Moody Blues, and other farflung efforts of the time. Sure, the Stones weren't flower-power hippies, but they were remarkable rock and rollers, and, within their métier or not, the LP is undeniably powerful, fanciful, hypnotic, and compelling. Then the lads rolled up their sleeves and really got to work, thus the powerhouses: Beggar's, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., and so on, afterwards falling back down the ladder but still capable of far better fare than, say, The Who in their mostly horrid later pap, Face Dances and beyond. As these LPs are discussed, a wealth of history is trotted out handily explaining that which has confounded many fans for a long long time, the Jagger disc matter of fact, the Richards gig much darker, as would be expected.
I have to say that it's on the order of the hilarious to see and hear Keith, perhaps THE icon of drug abuse in all rock and roll history, refer to Brian Jones' intake as lamentable. He's right, of course, but also co-guilty, and the pronouncement is akin to Steven Tyler making those anti-drug commercials one can't help but cringe at. The Richards half of this twofer however, gives a needed detailing of his influences and begins to show why the man, whom no one in their right mind would ever refer to as a great technician, exerted such influence, affecting the rock and roll family tree so heavily: he understood the power of great simple riffs and didn't hesitate to employ them. If the hook is the selling point of most songs, then the riff is just as important, in fact often more so, at least once one gets beyond the giddyness purely of chart considerations.
The parade of critics in these DVDs - excepting the hyperthyroidal Robert Christgau, more fanboy than ever in his waning years, rock and roll's yenta (there's good reason his highly questionable "dean of American rock critics" epithet had to be self-applied, as Wikipedia notes) and a ceaseless exercise in on-screen mugging - give incisive and fair-minded remarks, praising here, sniping there, calling into question various otherwise accepted fallacies and dubieties. The Brits have always been more literate and aesthetically motivated than we Yanks, damn 'em!, and it clearly shows in productions like these... as well as in the fact that Brit mags, including Mojo, have forever outshone most if not all U.S. trash, Rolling Stone included (were that latter rag to apply the discretions to music that it lavishes on political writers - Matt Taibbi, William Greider, the late Hunter S. Thompson, etc. - the face of American music journalism would change forever; don't hold your breath waiting for that, though).
As ever, voice-over artist Thomas Arnold is an industry standard, and would someone please give Sexy Intellectual, MVD, and those too few other labels an award for just going straight into the documentaries instead of presenting 38 hours of prefatory hard-sell adverts like all the other imprints do? Lord, but that's an all too overdue relief!
Over the last couple years, I've postulated that music docs like this may very well replace critical writing, but I'm going to revise that now. Just as the synthesizer, once feared to take over the orchestra and players themselves, was proven to enrich the musical palette rather than replace elements of it, so too will videos, I'm pretty damned sure, show themselves to be gateway instruments to heighten interest in the fullest background, provoking serious audients to seek out chirographic fare in order to expand interests in both the Baby Boomers, who now, as they trudge to the tarpits, wax ever more nostalgic, and the XYZers, the later generations who are quite intelligent, very enthusiastic, and in whom I strongly suspect a true socio-cultural historic interest will accompany aesthetic fancies. No movement is ever fully appreciated in its own time, and, though I and my era will not be here to see it, the true renaissance the 60s spawned and its ongoing implications in the 80s and beyond will be a source of intense interest, a subject of endless dissertation-making, and much more fascinating then than it was in its own time or is now. Mark my words on that--and, hell, I'll never have to answer for 'em 'cause I'll be long gone (such things have a way of working out).