Holiday Gift Guide: Music DVDs
Rock's most influential guitarists – Townshend, Clapton, Page, Beck, and, yes, Cobain – captured in their six-string glory in concert films on DVD.
Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same ($44.98)
At its best, "The Song Remains the Same" reaffirms why the faces of John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant should be carved into rock 'n' roll's version of Mt. Rushmore. At its worst, this concert film and album of a 1973 performance reminds one where "This Is Spinal Tap" came from. The reissue of the DVD and CD (available separately or as a box set) completely overhauls the two-dimensional sound of the original recording with rich new detail and depth. It also restores songs that were inexplicably omitted, such as "Over the Hills and Far Away" (boasting a Page solo that's pure Acapulco gold) and "The Ocean." What the film can't erase is the daft fantasy sequences that each band member filmed as mini-music videos – it's safe to assume that Plant's turn as a Tolkien- esque knight who storms a castle to save a damsel in distress wasn't an influence on director Peter Jackson. But the songs remain magnificent.
David Gilmour – Remember That Night – Live at the Royal Albert Hall ($24.98)
Prior to his 2006 concert in St. Mark's Square in Venice, David Gilmour comes across a street musician whose sorcerer's fingers are conjuring a symphony from a table of partially filled wine glasses. Before long, the Italian is on stage playing "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" with the Pink Floyd guitarist. The scene, from a documentary on the two-disc DVD, encapsulates the informality of Gilmour's tour. And, much like the music, the concert footage attains an intimate grandeur: At times, the camera swoops past the Royal Albert Hall ceiling chandeliers; at others, it peeks inside the bass drum to observe the metronomic thump of the foot pedal. Gilmour plays the "On an Island" album with six fellow castaways and he invites David Crosby, Graham Nash, and David Bowie on stage, too. The numerous Pink Floyd numbers – including a canonical version of the epic "Echoes" – have never sounded better.
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who ($29.98)
Any band that manages to still be touring in its fourth decade is an amazing story in itself. This two-disc documentary follows four young Brits, all born during the waning days of World War II, determined to bust out of England's postwar malaise. Their ticket? American style rock 'n' roll, and a lifelong passion to prove themselves. Many early performances, glimpses into recording sessions, and extensive interviews paint an intimate portrait of a troubled, but ultimately triumphant band. Their showstopping performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again" at the post-9/11 benefit concert in NYC is a testament to their enduring appeal. A second DVD delves into even more detail, featuring extended interviews with surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.
Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 ($29.99)
Any person even remotely interested in guitar will find great inspiration in host Eric Clapton's second festival, beautifully filmed with powerful, detailed sound. The lineup is a who's who of guitar greats, mostly plying the deep waters of blues and roots rock. Standout performances by young Derek Trucks (son of Allman Bros. drummer Butch Trucks) on searing slide guitar, country picker Vince Gill, pop heartthrob John Mayer, and the incomparable Jeff Beck set the bar very high, indeed. But guitar heaven is truly reached when Clapton is reunited with ex-bandmate Stevie Winwood for a rousing set of Blind Faith chestnuts and Winwood's own "Dear Mr. Fantasy," where he brings the house down with some jaw-dropping guitar prowess of his own. DVD sales benefit Clapton's Crossroads Centre, an addiction-treatment facility in Antigua.
Nirvana: Unplugged in New York ($19.98)
It's easy to forget how positively vital Nirvana was to the evolution of modern rock. Today, indie stars are a dime a dozen; until his death, Kurt Cobain, a bedraggled rocker from the Northwest, was the outsider. This performance, captured on DVD for the first time, vindicates that reputation: a shrieking, soaring performance, free of gloss. And occasionally free of coherence. Nirvana classics such as "Pennyroyal Tea" and "All Apologies" are stripped down, and some songs teeter on the edge of disaster. But the point of MTV's "Unplugged" series was to reveal the heart of a band, and in that way, this DVD is a resounding success.