Plenty of pop music's finest appear and perform here to pay tribute to Arista Records' founder and uncanny finder-of-hit-singles Clive Davis. This tribute was originally broadcast on NBC in 2000.
This DVD includes excellent solo performances by Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, Toni Braxton, and Patti Smith, as well as hits medleys by Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin (via satellite), and Whitney Houston. Whitney was particularly spectacular here. The show opened with Santana, who was red-hot as of 2000 with #1 hits "Smooth" and "Maria Maria." He performed both, the former without Rob Thomas but the latter with The Product G&B.
Mr. Santana exemplifies both of Clive Davis' major achievements in pop and rock history. At Arista, he brilliantly resurrected the careers of several artists who had slipped from pop prominence. Santana had not made the singles chart since 1985; other stars enjoying comebacks at Arista included Dionne Warwick and Franklin. At Columbia in the late sixties, he was responsible (all or in part) for bringing Santana, as well as Janis Joplin, Sly and The Family Stone, and Earth, Wind & Fire to the label. This helped free the label from Mitch Miller's rock-loathing stranglehold, a process begun by John Hammond with Bob Dylan's signing years before.
This show exclusively featured live performances from acts still signed to Arista at showtime. That means, disappointingly, that such former Arista heavyweights as the Bay City Rollers, Air Supply, Melissa Manchester, underrated goddess Lisa Stansfield, the Thompson Twins, Ray Parker, Jr., and Eric Carmen are relegated to taped snippets of old videos of some of their hits. (These are all presented as "#1 Hits" even though many of them fell somewhat short of the top of any actual charts. That's showbiz, kids.)
Among those not mentioned at all were the Alan Parsons Project, Taylor Dayne, or Al Stewart. The venerable Kinks, who also enjoyed a huge comeback with the label from roughly '77-'85, were relegated to one of those #1 snippets (for their #6 hit "Come Dancing").
There are four fine "bonus performances" not listed on the back of the disc. Dionne Warwick's performance of "I'll Never Love This Way Again," with Barry Manilow on the piano, is fantastic. She shows that she can sing with power, yet not be overpowering (hint, hint, "American Idol" finalists). Monica does a beautiful version of her (actual) #1 hit "For You I Will." The other bonus songs are an upbeat Santana instrumental, and Deborah Cox's dance anthem "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here."
There could have been even more bonus material included. As it was on TV, the finale "That's What Friends Are For" is picked up halfway through, then marred by the closing credits for its last 2 minutes. Songs from British boy band Westlife and hip hop wannabes LFO were reduced to brief clips. Fans of Kenny G will be annoyed to see the G-man's one big moment here ("Songbird") immediately reduced to background music for a(nother) film-clip tribute to Clive. Finally, it seems that Manilow (with and without Warwick) was on stage more than what appears here, and to deny us every second of that is just...so...wrong...
Speaking of showbiz, Clive Davis left Arista shortly after this broadcast. He was replaced by R&B kingpins L.A. Reid and Babyface. Then he went on to form J Records, now home to Alicia Keys, O-Town, and veterans Rod Stewart and Luther Vandross. In 2001, golden boy Manilow decided to leave Arista, which is presently having trouble getting you and me to buy the latest records from Whitney and Toni.
Overall, though, fans of any of the performers here should pick this baby up. Mr. Davis' 25-year run at Arista was a rare time of pop music excellence and it is commemorated nicely in this DVD.