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123 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five star kicker, 16 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: Old Grey Whistle Test - Volumes 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
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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