Judge Victor Valdivia was inducted into the DVD Reviewers' Hall of Fame, but disqualified after his scabrous acceptance speech.
"I'm supposed to be proud, but I'm not. They kicked me out of the band,
so f—-- them."
When confronted with a collection of this magnitude, how does one react? Is it enough to be delighted with the absolute treasure trove presented here for music fans? Is it too churlish to complain about how the material is presented and organized? This is a collection that many music fans have waited a long time to see, so why isn't it a slam-dunk?
Here's what this set does right: present excerpts from the last twenty-four years of induction ceremonies for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Performances, speeches, and backstage footage are compiled on eight discs. The ninth disc is a compilation of performances from the 1995 concert that Cleveland hosted when the Hall of Fame finally opened. Here are the artists who appear, in various configurations, performing and speaking on each disc of this set:
Disc One: Light My Fire:
Disc Two: Sweet Emotion:
Disc Three: Start Me Up:
Disc Four: Feelin' Alright:
Disc Five: Whole Lotta Shakin':
Disc Six: I'll Take You There:
Disc Seven: Come Together
Disc Eight: Message of Love
Disc Nine: The Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
On a set this massive, there's no shortage of highlights. Santana performs "Black Magic Woman" with the man who originally wrote the song, brilliant but reclusive guitar legend Peter Green. AC/DC and Metallica deliver forceful performances that show they haven't lost any of their potency. Traffic, reunited with original guitarist Dave Mason, demonstrate that they may be one of the most underrated bands of their day. Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck trade licks in classic Yardbirds style. The Staple Singers turn the induction crowd into a giant revival meeting through sheer energy. Those are just a handful of the great performances scattered throughout. It's also entertaining to see the sloppy and spontaneous jams from the shows in the '80s, when everything was much less rehearsed and choreographed. Musically, this set is simply too good to pass up.
There are also the lowlights, and those aren't any less enthralling. The Beach Boys' Mike Love spends most of his acceptance speech talking smack about the Beatles and Stones, pausing only to give a Muslim salute to Muhammad Ali, and thus proving that the only thing whiter than the Beach Boys is the Beach Boys trying to be black. The members of Blondie have an awkward spat onstage when Debbie Harry is uncomfortably forced to admit, in the middle of her induction speech, that not all of the band's original members will get to perform that night. The ever-quotable Jeff Beck sums up his thoughts about Rod Stewart bluntly: "He and I have a love-hate relationship: He loves me and I hate him." The Sex Pistols respond to the news of their induction by sending an incoherent, obscenity-laden fax that is duly read aloud during the ceremonies. You won't see that at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies, and you shouldn't be surprised. There's no shortage of gloriously offensive behavior and foul language here, so don't clutch the pearls. It's only rock & roll, right?
So what's the problem? In a word: organization. As in, there isn't any. There doesn't seem to be any logic or reason to how this material was compiled on this set. It's not chronological; performances jump around from year to year without any order. It's not stylistic; one disc has a selection of R&B artists, others more early rock, but none are organized in a way that makes any stylistic sense. The disc labeled "Sweet Emotion," for instance, has a lot of hard rock acts like Metallica, AC/DC, and Aerosmith, but it also has James Taylor and there's no possible way to rock out to James Taylor (many have died trying). What's more, even the individual segments aren't complete on each disc. Both Cream's acceptance speech and their performance are chopped up into pieces and spread out over various discs. Black Sabbath's acceptance speech is repeated on two discs. The ninth disc only clocks in at a meager 53 minutes, but other performances from this concert are scattered throughout other discs. What's the point of this chaotic arrangement? Nothing flows or coheres in any way, and fans of one artist will be infuriated that they will have to skip over another one to watch more of their favorite.
Technically, the presentation is also disappointing. The video is mostly full-screen, with some of the later ceremonies presented on non-anamorphic widescreen. The older video footage doesn't look so great, since it was mostly shot on the fly and never really intended for release, but the more recent shows, shot on DV, look as sparkling as any episode of American Idol. The sound mixes are the real letdown. The 5.1 mixes are not very loud and don't really make much use of the surrounds. The 2.0 mixes are even quieter. It's inexcusable that the sound is so soft considering that another music DVD company, Eagle Rock Entertainment, has been able to make spectacularly thunderous mixes from older and less well-preserved material.
Each disc (except for the concert one) comes with additional footage, including complete induction and acceptance speeches for artists who don't necessarily perform, and some backstage and rehearsal footage. Some of the additional induction speeches are worth watching, especially to get to see artists like Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, and Neil Young, who don't really appear that much anywhere else on the set. The backstage footage is also enjoyable. Where else are you going to see Keith Richards and Kid Rock bumming smokes from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, or Stephen Stills posing for pictures with members of Parliament/Funkadelic?
So yes, there's plenty to like here. If you're any kind of music buff, you'll love the content. It's the presentation that's exasperating. The haphazard sequencing and second-rate sound mixes makes this package much less exciting than it could have been. Get it because of the sheer volume and quality of artists and performances, but be warned that the way that TimeLife has put it together leaves a lot to be desired.
Not guilty, but just barely.
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Scales of Justice
• Bonus Footage
• IMDb: Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
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