Which side? The dark side
This is as good a time as any to discuss some resurrected relics. Let’s start with two of the best music DVDs to come out in months, the meticulously remastered 1979 Who hodgepodge “The Kids Are Alright” and a fascinating documentary on the making of Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece “Dark Side of the Moon,” both of which arrived last week.
“Kids,” as every Who addict is aware, has long suffered from horrible prints; the version available to midnight-movie fans for the past two decades looked about as crisp as a “Fantasy Island” rerun, and the sound was worse. For this new high-definition edition, a top-notch restoration crew was dispatched to hunt down the finest elements available, which were cleaned and color-corrected, while the audio — inexplicably accelerated in spots, leaving Roger Daltrey just shy of an Alvin Chipmunk clone — was put to right.
The result is eye-poppingly impressive, like seeing bronze sculpture sparkle anew after scouring off layers of heavy muck. Though there are other Who documentaries available, director Jeff Stein’s loving assortment still stands as the band’s primary visual legacy, an array of clips — from television programs to ballyhooed concert appearances, along with in-studio stuff created expressly for “Kids” — largely unhampered by chatter, save for illuminating interview segments and a few Keith Moon goofs.
Better still, the DVD enhances the experience with a 30-page booklet, a full-length commentary track, two forms of subtitles (one for spoken words and lyrics, another that details where each clip comes from) and thunderous 5.1 surround sound.
If you’ve got the cash to spare — and really care about this flick — I recommend the two-disc deluxe model over the single set. The bonuses include an hourlong explanation of how the film was rescued, including frame-by-frame comparisons, as well as a recent interview with Daltrey, a visual tour of London spots key to the Who’s formation and rise, and a nifty segment that isolates the late John Entwistle’s unreal bass parts for “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
In other words, detritus for the hard-core fan. I’m one.
The “Dark Side” documentary, however, is suggested for all rock fans, regardless of where you stand on the Floyd.
The latest and by far greatest in the ongoing “Classic Albums” series — the British one, not the VH1 knockoff — is a revelatory piece that examines every layer of this enduring masterpiece. Its groundbreaking advances in the field of loops and sequencers and multitracking effects are well-covered, as you might expect — it’s one of those rare achievements, like “Sgt. Pepper,” whose construction alone boggles the mind.
But more insightfully explored is the album’s oft-overlooked sociopolitical philosophy – how this was a healing balm born as a reaction to confused, grim, turbulent times, and how, because of that, it may resonate as deeply today with some listeners as it did 30 years ago.
And a word about Robert Palmer, who died on Sept. 26 of a heart attack: underrated.
Not that he deserved heaps of praise — as interpreters go, he easily could be outclassed, and as songwriters go, he was no great shakes, the groove-tastic “Looking for Clues” and the maddeningly infectious “Addicted to Love” aside.
But if you doubt that his slick style wasn’t backed by mighty pipes, pick up his bluesy swan song, “Drive.” Then assess what he does with Little Willie John, Keb’ Mo’, even ZZ Top — and hear how he’s almost as menacing as Tom Waits on “Hound Dog.” He deserves a measure of respect in death that he rarely got while he was alive.