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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2004
4 DVD's packed with classic rock music history from the extensive archives of the BBC, 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' was (and still is) unsurpassed in its range of artists, and boasts a dazzling array of live performances by the best musicians the world has to offer. This boxset represents a significant saving over buying the whole set individually, although some of the content on Volumes 2 and 3 may be surplus to requirements, there is still plenty of quality throughout this extensive collection of material.
Volume 1, (a double DVD set), contains some 5 hours of material, including Elton John, John Lennon, Tom Petty and Bob Marley in the studio, and a rare live performance of Lynyrd Skynyrd performing their magnum opus, 'Free Bird'. Any self-respecting aficionado of 1970's rock music would consider ownership of these 2 discs as utterly essential.
Volume 2 is slightly less essential, albeit still an intriguing selection of performances, but this time more from the late 70's, early 80's (moving into the punk ear) with artists such as The Who, Roy Harper, The Adverts, The Undertones, Patti Smith and Siouxie and the Banshees. Volume 2 is considerably more concise than 1, at under 2 hours worth of material.
The new Volume 3, however, has more material, at about 3 hours long. Performances from David Bowie (with 'Oh You Pretty Things' from 1972), Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild', Al Stewart, BB King, The Jam ('A Bomb In Wardour Street'), King Crimson and, more recently, The Jesus & Mary Chain. There is also interviews with Bob Harris, Roger Daltrey, Roddy Frame, Rick Wakeman, Nick Lowe, Edwyn Collins, Jools Holland and Bob Geldof.
Ultimately, the Old Grey Whistle Test was really about showcasing the art of performance above all else, and this boxset is an important document of a generation of wonderful performance artists. The big question is, will we ever see the likes again? Just incase we don't, I recommend buying this boxset for posterity, not to mention the best part of 10 hours solid musical entertainment to cherish for a lifetime.
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on 16 March 2009
The Old Grey Whistle Test began its 16-year televisual run in 1971, largely as a vehicle for assorted singer-songwriters and groups of hairy men with guitars. After Annie Nightingale replaced Bob Harris as presenter in 1978, the music of the prevailing post-punk/new wave era began to take centre stage, and during the 1980's Whistle Test then shifted its focus further towards 'chart' music.

This box set brings together the three previously-released DVD volumes into one complete collection. The first volume was itself released on two discs; disc one concentrates on the period from 1971-78 and disc two on 1978-87. The remaining two volumes were single disc affairs that each covered Whistle Test's entire lifespan. If, like me, you were born in the 1970's or earlier, there's a fair chance you'll remember the programme to some degree, and if you're a fan of music from across the Whistle Test era, then there's an even greater chance you'll find a wealth of material here that's of interest to you.

Of the aforementioned singer-songwriters, the late, great John Martyn (twice) and a very sweaty Bill Withers are standouts, while Dr Feelgood's appearance from '75 hints at the seismic musical shift that was soon to follow. The new era is ushered in by the likes of Talking Heads and Siouxsie And The Banshees, peaking with a performance from PiL which is so astonishing it practically defies description. Tubeway Army's arty electropop and The Specials' ska provide a segway of sorts to the more commercially-orientated Whistle Test of the 1980's, though The Jesus And Mary Chain's incendiary In A Hole from '85 proves that the programme continued to dip its toes into more alternative and outré waters on occasion.

There's a lot more good stuff besides; in fact, pleasingly little is unwatchable, and some performances surprise. I've never been a fan of The Police or Supertramp, but until I watched this DVD I never appreciated that Can't Stand Losing You and Dreamer are actually...well...decent songs. And how tight (musically speaking) were the '73 vintage Fairport Convention? The extras aren't hugely bountiful, although the interviews have a curiosity value, and some of the chat from presenters and performers is interesting and insightful, if a little long-winded at times.

Overall, an excellent package.
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on 30 December 2009
It's a concept that quite simply would not exist today-live band in studio with no audience no lighting, no stage show,just the band-but as an archive of how things were done so differently in terms of music and music programming,some of this is unmissable essential stuff.Take the Edgar winter clip for example.The brief was, turn up, plug in and the next ten minuites is yours-do what you will.So, he hung a huge keyboard around his neck, played that AND saxophone AND drums (even though he had a drummer)and created thejazz/rock/God alone knows monster that was "Frankenstein".Or Focus, who had hard rock and Finnish yodelling with seasonal wishes as a bonus.Every fan who watched marvelled at the prog rock madmen,everyone else who tuned in by default-parents mostly- stared in barely disguised bewilderment and asked what in the name of the Lord they were watching.It just wouldn't happen now in these days of corporate sponsored MTV rock, but then it was unique, a thing of beauty and occasional deliberate perversity,alienating and enthralling in equal measure. Live audiences,light shows even were added to the mix, but the sense of avant garde and risk taking continued.Highlights include magnificent performances of "Give my compliments to the chef" by the quite bonkers Sensational Alex Harvey band, Jesus and Mary Chain's "in the Hole" "Freebird (of course) and so many others. Top of the pile though, by a long long way-an absolutely incredible "Rosalita" by a young, hungry and not-quite-so -ego- bloated Bruce Springsteen and the E street band. What an unbelievably accomplished and fiery performance from a band on top of their -or anyone elses-game. I defy you not to be swept away by this.Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum is John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett redefining minimalist on "Really Free"Or PIL's searing "Careering".OGWT broke Meatloaf in this country-forgive them if you must-and of course the legendary New York Dolls "mock rock" appearance has rightly gone down in history.This DVD is a MUST for music fans of every stripe. It is wondrous.Oh, and Robert Wyatts "Shipbuilding",and the Undertones, and the Jam, and...and...oohhh just own it. Please.
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on 24 August 2011
There's some great music on this DVD set. Shame it has all been bulked out with far too much talking by the presenters who introduce the various tracks. The Old Grey Whistle Test was on for years so there couldn't have been a lack of material to fill the DVD's. I discovered that playing the discs on 'Random' cuts out all the drivel, though, and only plays the music.
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on 30 August 2004
It's a gem and a joy, that's all there is to it really.
However, the joy is tinged with sadness too. Why don't we have OGWT and the inventive, sophisticated and - yes, I'll use the word - progressive music the programme showcased today? I know people will cite 'Later... with Jools Holland' but it's really not the same thing. And as this DVD collection shows, even OGWT wasn't quite the same without Bob Harris. Have you noticed how as Bob's hair has got shorter the whisper has become louder? Anyway, if you want to see as well as hear real music, made by real people with real talent and not the product of a computer and a record company focus group session with some twelve year olds, then this is a must have. I'm not saying everybody got it right all of the time, but even the failures are a damn sight more interesting than today's mass market pulp-pop. You doubt me? then buy this DVD and watch 'The Sensational Alex Harvey Band' you'll see I'm right.
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on 6 March 2013
There are some wonderful, evocative and memorable performances on these discs, and if they had followed the format of using the original programme introductions or used optional on-screen captions, I could watch them again and again.

Unfortunately the BBC have a habit of employing presenters who prefer the sound of their own voices over the artists they are introducing, (as happens during every televised music festival). The result is a series of lengthy and tedious personal reminiscences that interrupt the flow and pace of the music, are extremely annoying on first viewing and make a second play unlikely except to people who like to keep one finger on the fast-forward button.

An excellent idea, a welcome trip down memory lane, but a flawed presentation. Interview the staff next time if you like, BBC, but put them in a section at the end so we don't have to listen to such interminable drivel, subjective views that are of no interest to anyone other than the person speaking.
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on 18 July 2004
My relationship with music is completely 'I know what I like' - and I like this - from Richard Thompson to Val Doonican, through 98% of everything in between.
At Seventeen? wonderful. Year of the Cat? yes please. Shipbuilding? Never knew I loved it until now.
The commentary is as good as the music, and adds a lot to it.
I keep settling in to watch just one track, and then waking up after seven more 'just one' tracks, each more unmissable than the last.
I actually bought it for my husband's birthday - it was right there on his wish-list, honest! - but it would have been on mine if I'd known it existed.
Can't praise it highly enough - I've had a couple of experiences lately when a sitcom or drama revisited didn't live up to the memories. This exceeded the memories.
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on 5 December 2013
As I was born and brought up in Japan, I didn't know anything about "The Old Grey Whistle Test" until about a month ago. A videoclip of my all-time favorite Terry Reid performing "Without Expression" at a certain website initiated me to the show. I recommend this set to anybody who are interested in the artists below. At least for me it was a good buy!

Here's the details of the set:

The Old Grey Whistle Test
Disc 1
01. Alice Cooper / Under My Wheels
02. Elton John / Tiny Dancer
03. Curtis Mayfield / We Gotta Have Peace
04. Randy Newman / Political Science
05. Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge / Help Me Make It Through The Night
06. Bill Withers / Ain't No Sunshine
07. Focus / Sylvia ~ Hocus Pocus
08. Rory Gallagher / Hands Off
09. John Martyn / May You Never
10. The Wailers / Stir It Up
11. Roxy Music / Do The Strand
12. The Edgar Winter Group / Frankenstein
13. New York Dolls / Jet Boy
14. Tim Buckley / Dolphins
15. Captain Beefheart / Upon The My O My
16. Little Feat / Rock `n' Roll Doctor"
17. Dr Feelgood / Roxette
18. John Lennon / Stand By Me
19. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band / Give My Compliments To The Chef
20. Lynyrd Skynyrd / Freebird
21. Emmylou Harris / Amarillo
22. Bonnie Raitt / Too Long At The Fair
23. Tom Waits / Tom Traubert's Blues
24. Otway & Barret / Really Free

Elton John and Bernie Taupin with Richard Williams
Mick Jagger with Richard Williams
Keith Richards with Bob Harris
Robert Plant with Bob Harris
John Lennon with Bob Harris

Audio commentary by Mike Appleton
Artists' gallery
Presenters' choice

Disc 2
01. Talking Heads / Psycho Killer
02. XTC / Statue Of Liberty
03. Blondie / (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear
04. Val Doonican & Charlie McCoy / Stone Fox Chase
05. Meatloaf / Paradise By The Dashboard Light
06. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / American Girl
07. The Police / Can't Stand Losing You
08. Bruce Springsterrn / Rosalita
09. Iggy Pop / I'm Bored
10. Tubeway Army / Are `Friends' Electric?
11. The Specials / Message To Your Rudi
12. The Damned / Smash It Up ~ I Jut Can't Be Happy Today
13. The Ramones / Rock `n' Roll High School
14. PIL / Careering
15. The Teardrop Explodes / Reward
16. U2 / I Will Follow
17. Nine Below Zero / Stone Fox Chase
18. Japan / Ghosts
19. Robert Wyatt / Shipbuilding
20. REM / Moon River ~ Pretty Persuation
21. Simply Red / Holding Back The Years

Bruce Springsteen with Bob Harris
Artists' gallery
Presenters' choice

Disc 3
01. Heads Hands and Feet / Warming Up The Band
02. Kevin Ayers and The Whole World / May I?
03. Roxy Music / Ladytron
04. Loggins and Messina / House At Pooh Corner
05. The Who / Relay
06. Judee Sill / The Kiss
07. Argent / God Gave Rock'n'Roll to You
08. The Average White Band / Put It Where You Want It
09. Montrose / Bad Motor Scooter
10. Bruce Johnston / Disney Girls
11. Be Bop Deluxe / Maid In Heaven
12. Nils Lofgren / Goin' Back
13. Daryl Hall and John Oates / She's Gone
14. John Armatrading / Love And Affection
15. Roy Harper / One of Those Days In England
16. The Adverts / Bored Teenagers
17. The Patti Smith Group / Because The Night
18. Siouxsie and the Banshees / Metal Postcard
19. Gary Moore and Friends / Don't Believe A Word
20. The Undertones / Jimmy Jimmy
21. Squeeze / Slap And Tickle
22. Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark / Dancing
23. Stanley Clarke / George Duke Project / Schooldays
24. Tom Verlaine / Days On The Mountain Part I
25. Aztec Camera / Walk Out To Winter
26. Thomas Dolby / Hyperactive
27. They Style Council / Walls Come Tumbling Down
28. Suzanne Vega / Marlene On The Wall
29. Andy Kershaw, John Walters, Ro Newton, John Peel / Skiffle Jam
30. Prefab Sprout / When Love Breaks Down
31. The Pet Shop Boys / Opportunities
32. The Pogues / Dirty Old Town

Commentary by Mark Ellen and David Hepworth

Disc 4
01. Lindisfarne / Meet Me On The Corner
02. David Bowie / Oh You Pretty Things
03. Jackson Brown / Jamaica Say You Will
04. Steppenwolf / Born To Be Wild
05. Stealers Wheel / I Get By
06. Roger Daltrey / Giving It All Away
07. Humble Pie / Black Coffee
08. Fairport Convention / Brilliancy Medley
09. Freddie King / Boogie Funk
10. Brinsley Schwarz / Surrender To The Rhythm
11. Robin Trower / A Little Bit Of Sympathy
12. Supertramp / Dreamer
13. Johnny Winter / Jumping Jack Flash
14. Richard & Linda Thompson / A Heart Needs A Home
15. Janis Ian / At Seventeen
16. Al Stewart / Year Of The Cat
17. John Martyn & Danny Thompson / Couldn't Love You More
18. Chris Read / Fires Of Sprig
19. The Jam / A Bomb In Wardour Street
20. B.B. King / When It All Comes Down ~ Hold On
21. John Cooper Clarke / I Don't Want To Be Nice
22. Joe Jackson / Sunday Papers
23. Simple Minds / Chelsea Girl
24. King Crimson / Frame By Frame
25. Orange Juice / Rip It Up
26. Howard Jones / No-one Is To Blame
27. Sade / Is It A Crime
28. Jesus & Mary Chain / In A Hole
29. Lone Justice / Sweet Sweet Baby (I'm Falling)
30. Half Man Half Biscuit / All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
31. The Bangles / Walk Like An Egyptian

Commentary with Mark Ellen, David Hepworth and Andy Kershaw
11 comment3 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 September 2011
Overall, a good retrospective on the OGWT years especially for the price. Some classic performances especially from Edgar Winter and Lynyrd Skynyrd (which appealed to me) as well as later stuff which I was not so enthusiastic about (it's an age thing, I guess). The set is basically earlier discs repackaged (i.e. it's the 30th anniversary set expanded) but that's not a real issue. The presenter interviews between tracks are a bit tedious - on some discs they are part of the video track so tricky to avoid. Discs 1 and 2 are particularly annoying as direct track access is not possible as with discs 3 and 4. These are minor points and, to reiterate, for about 9 quid, there's over 9 hours of great stuff here.
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on 22 November 2011
I used to watch Grey Whistle Test faithfully but had forgotten just what was aired and of course this music was the vogue although we didn't recognise it at the time. So it was very interesting to tap back into the popular music of the 1970's and over the last 30 years. Easy to be critical of the sound and camera work but this was the real thing at the time. Well worth being reminded of how we were.
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