Friday, March 12, 2010

DVD Reviews: The T.A.M.I. Show (Shout! Factory) & The British Invasion Box Set (Reelin’ In The Years/Voyage Digital Media)

Before MTV played music videos (remember what they did play music videos?), music still made it to TV and the big screen through a number of ways. Two new DVDs that I have been enjoying lately offer a great look into Sixties rock ‘n’ roll.
The T.A.M.I. Show (Shout! Factory) is something of an elusive legend in the annals of rock. The T.A.M.I. Show, which stands for (at least in this incarnation) “Teenage Awards Music International, was a high-wattage, low-budget film that was came out in 1964. A quickie release, the “concert” was recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in October and was in the theaters by November. While it has been floating around for years in the pop culture consciousness - it probably is best known from the Police lyric: “James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show” – this actually is its first full length, official version.
The show’s lineup combines a Motown package tour (Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles) with a British Invasion tour group (Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas), plus some additional acts (the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Leslie Gore, the Barbarians, Jan & Dean and, of course, James Brown and the Flames). It all makes for a fantastic time capsule of rock’s past.
The movie looks mostly like a Sixties variety show with nominal sets, go-go dances (including a very young Terri Garr) and comical hosts (the blond and genial Jan & Dean). However, the performances run from good to superb. The standouts include the electric James Brown, the Rolling Stones (their biggest hit here is “Time Is On My Side”), Marvin Gaye (particularly “Can I Get A Witness”) and the Beach Boys.
It’s also interesting to see Chuck Berry and Gerry And The Pacemakers square off with versions of “Maybellene,” Or how Lesley Gore was featured as a big star then with several acts coming out to form a chorus on her set closer, “Judy’s Turn To Cry.” However, the show’s big finale was even cooler, with everyone joining the Stones for “Let’s Get Together” (not the Youngbloods’ tune). There’s a fun, spontaneous quality to this low-budget film that - combined with the treasury of performers - makes it such a landmark work. In fact, the movie was selected in the Library of Congress’ Film Registry in 2006.
The other look at rock’s past comes in the terrific new set of DVDs from Reelin’ In The Years and Voyage Digital Media. The four discs in this “British Invasion” series cover Dusty Springfield, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry & The Pacemakers and the Small Faces. The DVD creators have done a great job of putting together old TV performances with archival footage and newer interviews. These aren’t critical documentaries but well-crafted appreciations of the various artists. Among this foursome, I was drawn particularly to the Dusty Springfield and Small Faces discs.
The Dusty DVD covers the years 1964-69 and is stocked with performances of her classic tunes like “I Only Want To Be With You, “ Wishin’ And Hopin’,” “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” and “The Look Of Love.” It’s interesting to compare her 1965 Ed Sullivan Show appearance in classic, button-up Springfield fashion with her “groovier” outfit on a 1968 appearance. While the TV spots offer somewhat canned performances, it also features several live performances from NME Concerts that reveal her even more loose and soulful live vocals. This disc contains some old Springfield interview clips along with recent ones conducted with longtime background singers Simon Bell and Madeline Bell as well as the songwriter legend, and frequent collaborator Burt Bacharach.
In America, the Small Faces are more of a legend than legendary band - better known as the launching pad for Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones into the Faces, Humble Pie and beyond. Their one true hit here was “Itchycoo Park,” so this DVD provides a welcome close-up look at the band, starting from their early Mod-influenced days to their latter more psychedelic phase. The band’s sound suggests a unique intersection of the Animals, the Who and the Move. It showcases Steve Marriott’s wonderfully soulful rock vocals and the band’s ambitious, if sometimes drug-influenced, musical ambitions
The disc features recent interviews with Jones and McLagan along well as older ones of the now-deceased Marriott and Lane (in fact, the bonus features hold all of Lane’s last filmed interview). While no one song really knocked me out, the 20 plus tunes here demonstrate what a dynamic band they were. The highlight here being a splendid 7-song set, from their landmark Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake album, that the band did on a 1968 BBC program Colour Me Pop. It’s not often that a band gets to do a full-blown theme set on TV like this.
Both of these discs are colored with sadness, along with nostalgia. In Springfield’s case, it is with how her career languished after her Sixties success, although her legacy is extremely large. Similarly, the deaths of Marriott and Lane hover over the Small Faces’ story. Combined with the stories of their drug use, the deaths of the band’s leaders suggest an unfulfilled potential of this band and these musicians.
These DVDs – the T.A.M.I. and the British Invasion set – all come with excellent liner note, and the British Invasion box-set also contains a fifth disc filled with extra interview footage and additional performances from Herman’s Hermits and Dusty Springfield. The Hermits and the Pacemakers might not be rank as members of the British Invasion pantheon but there is no denying the terrific job the filmmakers did in putting these discs together. Similarly, kudos to Shout! Factory for putting the magnificent T.A.M.I. Show back into circulation.
- Michael Berick

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