Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ron Howard, The Beatles • Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years [Blu-ray/DVD]

In 1995 The Beatles created or at least oversaw Anthology, a three part, six hour documentary that aired on television to edify the world on the band’s story. The three surviving members of the band were interviewed specifically for the project, except John Lennon, who had passed away in 1980. Sure, since the documentary was funded and curated by the band, there were probably some subjects that were cleansed or completely avoided in order to show the band in a better light, but over three nights you got a very good examination of their story without any obvious revisionism. When it came out on DVD, VHS and Laserdisc, there was an additional chapter included that didn’t make the final cut. That’s not to mention the three volumes of Anthology on CD and LP that came out, loaded with unreleased outtakes, live versions and more, and a coffee table book with tons of photos. It was a Beatles bonanza.

Eight Days a Week BD/DVDFast forward twenty years to 2016 and Ron Howard‘s Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years. Here we get a 105 minute documentary that covers only three to four years of the band’s history and uncovers hardly anything new or revelatory. (There’s both a standard one disc version and a “Special Edition,” both on Blu-ray or DVD, with an extra disc of bonus material.) The fact that the project started out as a highly publicized idea to examine the band as a live act is interesting. Either Howard and his pals were unable to come up with a good story (hard to believe, given: The Beatles!), even enlisting the public to share their stories and/or audio or video, or for some other reason they changed horses midstream and scrubbed the original plot. Well, you may have guessed that I think they botched it up, big time.

In order to keep this short, I’m just going to bullet-point what I didn’t like here:

  • The subtitle to this documentary shows that the filmmakers were hedging their bets after changing the concept for the film – they end up telling a very disjointed story with no clear mandate or viewpoint;
  • Only the two remaining Beatles were able to contribute, and those contributions don’t really add anything that existing interviews already covered;
  • Consistency! Howard covers the subject from a very U.S.-centric standpoint, yet uses The Beatles’ U.K. album releases as timestamps throughout;
  • Audio and video don’t sync up properly. At the beginning it seemed like the live footage was synced but the talking-head footage wasn’t; by the end it seemed like nothing was synced (not sure if this may in part be due to problems with Blu-ray vs. DVD, as I’ve encountered in the past);
  • Colorization of some of the footage looked unnatural. The Beatles were the most photographed, filmed pop group of all time. People know what they’re supposed to look like! So if you’re going to colorize these guys, don’t make them look like Donald Trumps in nehru jackets.

I’ve already reviewed the “accompanying” reissue of The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl and how that was riddled with problems, so it’s real disheartening to see that Imagine Entertainment, White Horse Pictures and Apple Corps itself let things get so out of hand. I seem to remember some words to live by uttered to me as a kid and over the years to the tune of if you’re gonna do something, do it right. That tune apparently wasn’t in Ron Howard and Company’s hit parade, and that’s too bad. They had a great opportunity to bring something unique to the story of The Beatles and they blew it.

At least you can still pick up a copy of Anthology on DVD to try and put this one out of its misery and out of your mind.

2/5 (UMe/Capitol)

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The Kinks • Sleepwalker [LP]; 3 EPs [7″]

418457742734-800Record Store Day, Black Friday 2016 brought a kuartet of records by The Kinks to my local vinyl emporium – and yours. This time we got a black and white marbled vinyl reissue of the band’s 1977 LP, Sleepwalker, plus three more EPs in the kontinuing series of 7″ releases kourtesy of Sanctuary Records. But first, the long player.

Sleepwalker was the initial release in the ’77 resurgence of The Kinks as a world-class rock ’n’ roll band. Issued worldwide by Arista Records thanks to mogul Clive Davis’s belief in Ray Davies & Ko., it told the world that these Brits had gotten a second wind and were back with a vengeance. As it turned out, the band made a handful of great records between then and the mid ’80s that were every bit as meaningful as the great singles they made in the mid ’60s. It just so happens that Sleepwalker isn’t as great as the later Low Budget or the live One from the Road, but it wasn’t a bad restart. The title track is quite good, as is “Life on the Road” and a few others. Totally worth your trouble if you can still find a copy. Friday Music pressed it on a colorful 180 gram piece of wax so that’s a plus. (It’s priced a little high but is limited to 1500 copies, so that and the marbled vinyl are probably why.)

Kinks EP Till Death Us Do Part Kinks EP David Watts Sanctuary Records, who handles The Kinks ’60s output, brought out three EPs for Black Friday ’16. This time we get two vintage titles, Till Death Us Do Part and David Watts from 1967, and the newly created God’s Children, made up of songs from the band’s soundtrack to the 1971 film, Percy. There’s nothing new here – all of these tracks, 12 across the three records, have been released before (though a couple aren’t the easiest to find) – but if you’re already kollecting the EPs then there’s no reason to stop now. The pressings are nice, the sleeves are kool looking, and the music is, of kourse, top notch.

Kinks EP God's ChildrenI’m hoping the powers that be keep putting out new Kinks kollectibles, but that they’ll get an infusion of kreativity and kome up with some titles or kompilations that haven’t been done before. Phew! I kan’t keep up with all of these k’s. God Save The Kinks!

3.5/5 (Friday Music [Sleepwalker], Sanctuary)

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