Judge P.S. Colbert's favorite Rolling Stones song was written and sung by Bill Wyman.
"This DVD Set Is Not Authorised By Mick Jagger Or Keith Richards Nor Any Party Representing Them"
This phrase, invoked repeatedly throughout by assorted "experts" (i.e. music critics, business associates and personal acquaintances of varying degrees) more than any other, ultimately dooms Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case Of Jagger & Richards, by reducing the level of discourse from definitive biography to a bunch of talking heads, seemingly talking off the top of their heads.
First things first, there's a bit of deception going on here. Though the outer box liner notes claim that the two disc set "takes a unique and previously uncharted look at the relationship and body of work produced by Mick & Keith," they make no mention of the fact that Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case Of Jagger & Richards is actually just a no-frills repackaging of two previously released titles: The Roaring 20s: Mick Jagger's Glory Years and Keith Richards: Under Review.
The Jagger disc operates under the premise that the singer, songwriter and Rolling Stones front man hit his peak (both artistically and in terms of his societal influence) during the ten years leading up to his thirtieth birthday in 1973. It's an arguable statement, certainly, but there's a strong case to be made. Unfortunately, the point is repeatedly blunted by truncated clips of Jagger performing and being interviewed. A question for the producers: if you've got clearance to use a good performance or interview clip, why would you cut it?
Apparently so that veteran BBC presenter Paul Gambaccini can summarize Jagger's stage presence thus: "He saw what people responded to, and he became Mick Jagger, this creation which was more and more less and less like the real person." Kind of like every other successful and charismatic pop performer, eh, Paul?
Keith Richards: Under Review fares even worse. Partially due to the fact that the Stone's guitarist only really became a known quantity and sought-after interview subject during the group's second decade, most of which he spent in a fog of opiates.
But at least Richards had an excuse for some of his more rambling, incoherent observations. What can be said of the following statement from self-appointed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau: "I can't off-hand think of too many—if any—musicians who have gotten more out of the cornball building blocks of rock and roll than Keith Richards. I mean…he's somehow never cornball himself." Right—thanks for clearing that up, Bob!
You want scholarly appraisal of the man's work? Here's John Perry, once a guitarist for 'eighties new-wave group The Only Ones, critiquing 1977's "Some Girls" album: "I can't even remember a track on it, to be honest. Is 'Beast Of Burden' on it? O.K., that's not too bad…but I haven't played it in twenty years. It's not a record or an era of the Stones that I hold in any affection."
Never mind that "Some Girls" is historically regarded as the LP that restored the Stones, both critically and commercially, to the very top of the heap after years of treading water—everyone's entitled to their opinion, right? But, really—what kind of credence is lent by the "critical judgment" of someone who, by his own admission, doesn't have a cogent memory of what he's reviewing?!
Ultimately, Keith Richards: Under Review suffers from a complete lack of focus. Whereas the Jagger bio wisely limited its scope to one decade, the Richards documentary attempts to cover the man's entire life. That said, it's a pretty piss poor biographical examination that makes only passing references to an artist's solo works, and gives even less attention to life-affecting tragedies like the death of his child.
One can make a strong argument that Richards is best served not by scholarly appraisals, but rather by letting his music do the talking. But all we get here (besides the fractured song bits and video clips—many of the same you'll see in the Jagger retrospective) are demonstrations of Richards' playing style, courtesy of Wolf Marshall, author of "The Rolling Stones: Guitar Signature Licks." Rock on Dude—by proxy, that is.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, the pair that makes up Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case Of Jagger & Richards feature mixed bags, visually. Generally. the contemporary (interview) footage looks good enough for television, while the assorted clips and B-roll footage are sheer pot luck. Same goes for the 2.0 stereo mixes. No subtitles have been provided, so prepare to read some lips in the case of strong regional dialects. Fortunately, both discs do offer true bonus features. The Jagger documentary features a short, contemporary interview with Christine O'Dell (the inspiration for George Harrison's killer B-side "Miss O'Dell"), who provides an interesting thumbnail sketch of goings-on behind the scenes during the Rolling Stones U.S. tour of 1972, where she worked as a personal assistant for the band. The Richards disc features an interactive "Keith quiz," and a fun, anecdotal interview with magazine editor Kris Needs. Both discs are further equipped with ho-hum contributor bios.
Frankly, I can't figure out who these discs are best suited for. Die-hard Stones fans are sure to chafe at the teasing approach of the audio and visual clips, not to mention that completely bogus promise of "a unique and previously uncharted look" at the lives and careers of Jagger & Richard. On the other hand, newbies hoping to learn what all the fuss has been about, are bound to learn a whole lot more about the problems of bringing in an over-abundance of outside analytical parties and letting them drone on, ad nauseum. So, again, who is the ideal target audience here? The unsuspecting, is my best guess.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Keith Richards: Under Review
Perp Profile, Keith Richards: Under Review
Studio: MVD Visual
Distinguishing Marks, Keith Richards: Under Review
Scales of Justice, The Roaring 20s: Mick Jagger's Glory Years
Perp Profile, The Roaring 20s: Mick Jagger's Glory Years
Studio: MVD Visual
Distinguishing Marks, The Roaring 20s: Mick Jagger's Glory Years
Review content copyright © 2013 P.S. Colbert; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.