Classic Rock Documentaries!
By Kristin Battestella
Are you displeased with modern tunes? Then let's relive the sounds of decades yore with these classic groups and music heavyweights!
Classic Albums: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – This 1997 hour from the Eagle Rock and VH1 series focuses on the behind the scenes turmoil, relationships, and technicalities invigorating Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie in making the famed 1977 Rumours album – the second from the group’s revitalized incarnation. The genesis and creation of hits such as “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Don’t Stop,” and more are dissected from the initial writing to changes in the recording sessions and album finalization. While the before and after samplings of the tunes and the conversations on the ups and downs are interesting, the tone sometimes wavers between being overly tender or laid on heavy in some spots. Perhaps the band members aren’t exactly orators in discussing their musical thought processes either, and their accents may confuse some viewers, too. However, classic rock fans will enjoy the nostalgic behind the scenes, and music students interested in the mechanical aspects or songwriters relating to the emotional translations involved can definitely learn plenty here. This is a fun, informative, introduction to the saga that is Fleetwood Mac, and perhaps most importantly, it gives you an itch for a complete Rumours listen.
Fleetwood Mac: The Dance – After a hiatus, Christine McVie returned to the lineup for this 1997 concert video chock full with “The Chain,” “Dreams,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Gypsy,” “Rhiannon,” “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way,” and many more. It’s nice to hear lesser-performed compositions – those that depend on McVie’s appearance such as “Everywhere,” “You Make Lovin’ Fun,” and “Over My Head” as well as then-newer tunes like “Temporary One” and “Bleed to Love Her.” Stevie Nicks sounds slightly different of course, but McVie sounds the same, everyone looks good, and its great to hear the entire incarnation together with a fun moment for John McVie on “Say You Love Me.” The subtitles are also helpful with the sometimes cryptic, poet lyrics, and Nicks, McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham give some information on several songs. Though well edited, entertaining, and swiftly filmed, this concert isn’t a big spectacle production like more recent shows. Technical music audiences may even find this under produced despite the subdued nineties norm and intimate, small session feeling – which is as it should be with essentials like “Landslide” and the intense “Silver Springs.” However, Buckingham provides the rock outs and guitar genius with “I’m So Afraid,” “Big Love,” “Go Insane,” and “My Little Demon,” and Mick Fleetwood makes his usual crazy extreme drumming faces, too. Granted, this 90-minute performance has some confused vision – is this a comeback tour of past hits or a new release of special material with some classics for good measure? The companion CD has a different track listing and I could do without the USC Marching Band finale, but “Songbird” is a lovely coda for the piece. Fans of the band can certainly delight, and younger audiences newly discovering Fleetwood Mac can take the next step with this complete lineup and unique performance.
Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender – This full-length 2012 retrospective focuses on the lead singer of Queen and his more unusual successes, missteps, and solo projects apart from rock groupdom including early ballet concerts, musical performances, and operatic tours in his final years. From the decadence of the seventies club scene, career heights, and questionable associates to frank discussion on criticism of Mercury, his generally closeted media approach, and reaction to his untimely AIDS related death; new interviews from friends, fellow musicians, and industry alums help paint an intriguing picture. Rare archive footage, music videos, and interview segments both shed light on Mercury’s shyness regarding his private life and contribute to the alluring dichotomy of his flamboyant stage persona. It’s interesting to hear his own thoughts on living it up in comparison to his admitted difficulty in trusting people or talking with others, “The more I open up, the more I get hurt.” How could Freddie Mercury think he was boring and be terrified of being alone? The accents may be tough to understand for some, but live renditions of songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Somebody to Love,” and “Barcelona” are simply delightful along with unreleased demos; home recordings; samples featuring Michael Jackson, Luciano Pavarotti, and Montserrat Caballe; and more lesser seen or heard solo compositions from Mercury’s Mr. Bad Guy album. Longtime rock fans or budding Queen enthusiasts seeking an astute peek at Mercury’s musical legacy will love this.
In Dreams: The Roy Orbison Story – Take a lesson 21st century whippersnappers! I’ve finally been able to see this complete hour and a half 1999 special focusing on the man to whom even The Bee Gees, Bono, and Bruce Springsteen bow. It’s simply glorious to see vintage footage and interviews and hear the late too soon Orbison speak of early Sun Records anecdotes, his childhood musical inspirations, devastating family tragedies, and his final resurgent success. And let’s not forget all those awesome, quintessential tunes such as “Pretty Woman,” “Only the Lonely”, “Running Scared,” my favorite “Crying,” and more concert scenery amid conversations with contemporaries like Johnny Cash, George Harrison, Chet Atkins, Tom Petty, and next generation stars like Elvis Costello and Chris Isaak. If one wants to learn how music should sound, one must digest as much Orbison as possible. It’s that simple, and this set is a great place to begin. I could go on and on and on – some of the first CDs I ever had were Orbison albums – but I’ll stop now. I mean, Barry Gibb calls Orbison “The Voice of God.” Yeah, that about says it.