Academic journal article Notes

Inside Bowie and the Spiders, 1969-1972: An Independent Critical Review/Inside Deep Purple: The Independent Critical Guide, 1969-1973/inside Led Zeppelin: A Critical Review, 1968-1972

Academic journal article Notes

Inside Bowie and the Spiders, 1969-1972: An Independent Critical Review/Inside Deep Purple: The Independent Critical Guide, 1969-1973/inside Led Zeppelin: A Critical Review, 1968-1972

Article excerpt

Inside Bowie and the Spiders, 1969-1972: An Independent Critical Review. DVD. [UK]: Classic Rock Productions, 2004. CRL 1606. Inside Deep Purple: The Independent Critical Guide, 1969-1973. DVD. [UK]: Classic Rock Productions, 2004. CRL 1593. Inside Led Zeppelin: A Critical Review, 1968-1972. DiVD. [UK]: Classic Rock Productions, 2003. CRL 1581. $24.95 each.

Classic Rock Productions's Inside the Music series features looks at mostly British rock bands from the sixties and seventies. Most of the DVDs are a bit over or under an hour and feature early music videos, clips from concerts and television appearances, and commentary by British journalists, all members of the Association of Music Critics and Reviewers, recording producers, and musicians. Each title is as labeled as "the definitive critical review," but the commentary ranges widely in depth and quality. The DVDs are accompanied by supplementary books, but these were not seen for the reviewed tides.

The Bowie disc features performances of "Space Oddity," "Changes," "Oh! You Pretty Things," "Life on Mars," "Starman," "John, I'm Only Dancing," and "Jean Genie," clips from a 1973 BBC documentary about Bowie, and commentary by writers Bob Carruthers, Malcolm Dome, and Jonathan Wingate, producer Pip Williams, session guitarist John McKenzie, and two members of Bowie's Spiders: bass player Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey. All the songs are from the Hunky Dory album, which the commentators see as Bowie at his most inventive as songwriter and performer. As with other titles in the series, no songs are performed in their entirety.

Most of the commentary focuses on how this music represented Bowie's growth as an artist and how it differed from the other music of the time, with occasional references to similarities to T-Rex and the Velvet Underground. Although several songs feature the shifting tones and tempos associated with the Beatles, this obvious influence receives scant attention. One problem with all three titles is the failure of the commentators to say much about how these musicians arrived at this point. There is almost nothing about their earlier lives and work and too little about influences and similarities to other groups other than vague generalities. It is almost as if the music was created in a vacuum.

The commentators discuss how Bowie's experiences with drugs and mental illness affected his music and address the frequent homoerotic themes. Mick Ronson's guitar playing and arrangements are analyzed, as is Rick Wakeman's piano performances. The implication is that Bowie's later work missed these collaborators. Bolder and Woodmansey, the most entertaining of the speakers, explain how they created distinctive sounds. Williams is the only commentator to go into detail about musical techniques. He also explains the significance of Bowie's use of a stylophone in "Space Oddity." Bolder says that "Jean Genie" was written on a bus traveling to Memphis after Bowie was inspired by a band member's strumming some Chuck Berry chords. The consensus is that Bowie is important for his eagerness to experiment. Often dismissed as musically marginal, he is, the commentators say, often quite sophisticated at times.

Inside Deep Purple includes performances from of "Concerto for Group and Orchestra," "Mandrake Root," "Wring That Neck," "Black Night," "Speed King," "Child in Time," "Fireball," "The Mule," "No, No, No," "Strange Kind of Woman," "Smoke on the Water," "Highway Star," "Lazy," "Space Truckin'," and "Woman from Tokyo." Commenting again are Dome and McKenzie, along with writers Jerry Bloom and Hugh Fielder, producer Rob Corich, and musicians Bryan Josh, Neil Murray, Steve Whale, Doogie White, and Geoff Whitehorn. No one from Deep Purple participated in the DVD. …

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