After the success of A Hard Day’s Night, it would have been easy for The Beatles to try to recreate the faux documentary style that made that film such a delight. Instead, for their second foray into the big-screen world they went a totally different direction. While it isn’t the grand slam that Night was, Help! qualifies as a solid RBI double.
In this surrealistic outing, the lads find themselves trotting around the globe while being pursued by an Indian priest played by the great Leo McKern. Yes, he’s a middle-aged white Brit, but just go with it. Seems Ringo has acquired a ring that’s supposed to be used in a sacrificial ceremony, and only the wearer of the ring can be the one offered up. Along the way, Vincent Spinelli from A Hard Day’s Night joins the chase.
The one thing that Help! has over A Hard Day’s Night is better songs. From the title track to “Ticket To Ride” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” we start to get a look at the stunning run of creativity that would soon follow. Along the way, director Richard Lester would also manage to create the music video.
The two-disc set comes packed with special features. Lester and others talk about the filming and include behind-the-scenes footage with the band. An in-depth feature on the restoration shows how badly the original negative had deteriorated, and 42 years after the fact, actress Wendy Richard gets her moment in the sun as the scene she shot for the film, cut from the final print, gets restored . . . in a way. Still photos and commentary by the actress and Lester lay out what the scene would have been, if it had made the final cut. Also, look for the “easter eggs” that take you to some original radio commercials for the film.
It was a long time coming, but Help! finally gets the DVD release that it should. Now, lets see what we can do about Let It Be.
Film: *** Features: ****
Eric Clapton: Crossroads Festival 2007
This past July, Eric Clapton brought his successful Crossroads Guitar Festival to Toyota Park in Bridgeview. With the proceeds going to his Crossroads Center in Antigua, Slowhand enlisted the aid of such legendary guitar wranglers as Jeff Beck, Robbie Robertson, and Buddy Guy to join him for a celebration of all things six-stringed. The joint sold out, the weather held, and guitar noodling of all shapes and sizes was in effect.
Now Rhino has whittled down the 11-hour show into a four-hour, two-disc set. I would like to say they only plucked the highlights for the disc, but I can’t. It’s admirable that they wanted to include something from everyone on the bill, but the set really doesn’t need two songs from Sonny Landreth and Doyle Bramhall II, and four songs from Steve Winwood. Also, how they could leave out Beck’s amazing instrumental working of “A Day In The Life” is beyond me.
However, most of the set lives up to its pedigree. Good sets by Willie Nelson and B.B. King are well represented, and Clapton lights up the stage with Robertson for a run through of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Of course, almost everyone involved hops back on the stage to end the night with “Sweet Home, Chicago.” I believe it’s a city ordinance that every blues-related concert or festival has to include at least one rambling version of “Sweet Home.” We don’t make the rules, kids, we just follow ‘em.
The set has only one special feature — a brief look at some of the acts on the Crossroads side stage — but the disc’s 5.1 sound is impressive.
At 11 hours, the day got to be a little more than repetitious — c’mon, how much guitar wankery do you need in one sitting? — but Rhino does a passable job of creating a keepsake for those who were there, and a decent glimpse for those who weren’t.
Film: *** Features **
Also Available . . . If you still need your fix of classic jams, then you might want to check out Asia: Fantasia Live In Tokyo and Foreigner: Alive And Rockin’, both from Eagle Vision. Of the two, the Asia disc is the one to go to first, since it features all four original members. The foursome of Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, and John Wetton not only run through their Asia catalog, but dip back into their previous individual bandwork with songs such as “Roundabout” and “Video Killed The Radio Star.” The band is also interviewed. Foreigner: Alive And Rockin’ will hold the interest of rabid Mick Jones fans, but for others it’s a stretch since he’s the only original member in attendance. Kelly Hansen does his best to cover Lou Gramm’s vocals, and Jason Bonham is a worthy drummer, but somewhere along the lines Foreigner became The Pretenders, with Jones in the Chrissy Hynde roll, casting whomever happens to be around as side players.
– Timothy Hiatt
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