Top positive review
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a real mixed bag
on 27 February 2005
I suppose this remains one of the highlights of the BBC's long association with quality live music programmes. This 2-disc first volume is by far the best of the OGWT DVD series. Disc 1 covers a lot of 70s acts, the second is ideal for those who loved punk rock and new wave. Highlights of disc 1 include Alice Cooper's "Under my Wheels", the Wailers (with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer) doing "Stir it Up", Roxy Music largely miming "Do the Strand" and the marvellous Capt Beefheart ("Upon the My O My"). True, Focus ARE terrible - guitarist Jan Akermann sounds like he's having a particularly off day - but Edgar Winter Group dish out some tight American prog-jazz-funk that's quite palatable, with Winter playing everything but the kitchen sink. Equally tight is the late, great Alex Harvey and his band, with "Give my Compliments to the Chef". He obviously knew how to work a room. The New York Dolls deliver some great pre-punk rock pantomime ("mock-rock" sniffs toothy presenter Bob Harris), Dr Feelgood reveal why they were one of the best pre-punk live attractions on the pub circuit ("Roxette") and you get the original Lynyrd Skynyrd line-up doing "Freebird". Disc 2 is the business as far as this reviewer's concerned. OK, so OGWT missed the Sex Pistols but they made up for it eventually. Before Radiohead's "Kid A" there was of course John Lydon's Public Image Limited, seen here doing a stonking "Careering" from the "Metal Box" LP. Buy it if only to see them in their prime. A young David Byrne fronts Talking Heads through "Psycho Killer", Blondie perform "Presence Dear", Iggy Pop rips his shirt off in the first 10 seconds of "Im Bored" to show off his scars and the Ramones show that the best songs dont have to go over 2 minutes. Elswhere there's Meatloaf in the studio ("paradise by the dashboard light"), Michael Stipe looking more like Michael Bolton leading REM through "Pretty Persuasion", and a young, shade-less Bono taking U2 through "I will Follow" from their first album. Look out for Ryuchi Sakamoto lending a helping hand to Japan as they deliver a stunning (but not very animated) "Ghosts" too.
What OGWT couldn't do, it seems, was to attract many of the big UK groups of the day to join them in the studio. So no Deep Purple, Stones, Led Zep, Pink Floyd from the 70s. And hence the famous animated sequences made to those artists' tunes (sadly, none included here). However, they could get them to agree to talk, so there's interviews here with Plant, Jagger, Springsteen and a glassy-eyed and very nervous Keith Richards. As other reviewers have commented, the menu is annoyingly difficult to navigate. That irritating theme tune pops up between each selection. Some of the presenters are clearly still fixated on the 70s and American roots-style music (one is particularly sniffy about early Roxy Music, who most would still judge today to have delivered two of the most original albums ever with their first two releases). Still, a highly watchable and enjoyable experience all round.