Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Velvet Redux on DVD -- when?

Velvet Redux - Live MCMXCIII is a currently out-of-print VHS title containing live footage of the Velvet Underground from three Paris shows performed during their 1993 reunion tour of Europe. I have always avoided buying the tape, until about six months ago. The reason was because I have never been an admirer of the 2-CD set Live MCMXCIII, the live album that resulted from that 1993 tour. I've always felt that three-fourths of the reunited VU (John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker) were in fine form on this album. But Lou Reed's vocals on the album are irritating. It sounded as though Reed was determined to destroy the great songs that he had created with his influential '60's band. (During one cut titled "Velvet Nursery Rhyme", Reed tells the audience that he thinks the songs are "pretentious s--t"). I felt that the album marred the Velvet Underground legend, and I didn't want to bother viewing the videotape that resulted from the same tour.

About six months ago, I spotted Velvet Redux in a $1.99 VHS clearance bin in a department store. So I figured, what the heck? I'll give it a chance for two bucks. I've only been able to watch the first half of the 90-minute tape, because it is defective. During the song "I'm Sticking With You" (the seventh song out of fifteen), my machine automatically stops playing the tape, and even ejects it automatically. I'm not about to try to force it to play more of it. In fact, I don't even want to talk about the sound the machine makes when I try to rewind it. The tape is not going back in that machine. It's a shame, because (based on the seven performances I was able to view) the tape is quite good. Lou Reed comes off better in this medium than he did on the CD, although his vocals on "Beginning To See The Light" do strain my patience a bit. I very much enjoyed a long instrumental segment during "Hey Mr. Rain" (which I usually regard as nothing but a throwaway from the Another View CD). I am therefore looking forward to purchasing Velvet Redux on DVD.

But that can't be done just yet. After I watched the tape in June, I noticed Amazon.com offered a pre-order option for the DVD but the release date was unknown. Now, Amazon is listing the release date as January 1st, 2010. What?!? Amazon's UK site says that it will be available January 24th, 2006 on that side of the pond, but the date has been pushed back a number of times, and it may be pushed back again. (Not that a UK release would do me any good, because DVDs manufactured in the UK are Region 2 encoded, and therefore will not work in an American player). If anyone has any better info on when Velvet Redux will be available in the U.S., please let me know.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Thoughts on Genesis

About the aforementioned rumors of a five-man Genesis reunion which would feature Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford...I've been informed that Peter Gabriel recently appeared on the TV show Extra to promote his upcoming DVD Still Growing Up: Live and Unwrapped, and he confirmed that there was a planned meeting to discuss a possible reunion, though he mentioned no date. Interesting news, but I think it's still too soon for anyone to get excited. It's my understanding that at least four of the five men are currently involved in their own activities, so it may take time for something, if anything, to come of this.

I've finished listening to the recently released 3-CD set The Platinum Collection, the first Genesis compilation to feature songs from both the Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel eras. (It only contains one song from the short-lived Ray Wilson era, which is all anyone needs. For what it's worth, a better song than "Calling All Stations" could have been used to represent the ill-fated album of the same name). I've always felt that a collection like this should exist, though I always imagined that it would take at least a 4-CD box set to do the trick. I think I've been proven right. The Platinum Collection falls a bit short of doing full justice to the band's history. But because it succeeds as well as it does, it's a good collection to have. One gripe I have is with the track sequencing, which is mostly done in reverse chronological order. This makes commercial sense, since it frontloads the Collins-era hits to please casual fans. But I would rather have had the tracks arranged in chronological order, as most multi-disc sets have in the past, in order to show the band's progression over the years. I guess if you're as fussy about this as I am, you can program your CD player to play the tracks backwards, and thumb through the CD booklet backwards as well.

The first disc-and-a-half mostly covers the Collins-era hits, starting with songs from the 1991 album We Can't Dance and going backwards from there. Most of the essentials are here, but there are a few unfortunate omissions, most notably "No Reply At All" and "Man On The Corner" from Abacab. The last six tracks on Disc II explore the two-album period when Steve Hackett was still in the band and Collins had just taken over lead vocal duties. Gripe: why was "Los Endos" from Trick Of The Tail included instead of "Squonk" or "Robbery, Assault, And Battery"?

Disc III offers a full disc of Gabriel-era material, still going in reverse chronological order. It contains three tracks from the epic The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway album (good), three from Selling England By The Pound (at least one too many; that album doesn't hold up well in my view) and one lengthy song apiece from Foxtrot (1972), Nursery Cryme (1971), and Trespass (1970). There's nothing at all from the 1969 debut album From Genesis To Revelation. Not that the album was any good, but they ought to have squeezed in at least one song from it for historical sake. There is also nothing at all from the band's five live albums (unless you count "Paperlate", a studio track from Three Sides Live and an EP called 3 X 3). This is fine; there was really no room for live cuts on this collection.

Bottom line: The Platinum Collection is not quite the comprehensive box set I've hoped for, but it's nice to finally have a career-spanning Genesis compilation.

A DVD titled The Video Show was released on the same day. It contains every single promo video that Genesis ever made, 32 in all, from 1976 to 1999. (They didn't make any such videos during the Gabriel era). It begins with the Collins-era videos, once again going mostly in reverse chronological order beginning with the early-'90's We Can't Dance videos. The videos alternate between performance videos and the more creative type, some serious ("No Son Of Mine", "Tell Me Why"), some satirical ("Jesus He Knows Me", "Illegal Alien") and some just silly ("I Can't Dance", "Invisible Touch"). Collins has experience as an actor, both as a child and an adult, and many of the band's videos allowed him to mug to his heart's content. The video for "Land Of Confusion" is the most visually engaging, featuring Spitting Image puppets of the band and various Reagan-era politicians and celebrities. One notably funny video is the one for "Anything She Does", which features the late Benny Hill as a bumbling backstage security guard. Three videos from the 1976 album Trick Of The Tail, the oldest ones in the bunch, are interesting to watch. Besides featuring Steve Hackett, the videos show Collins just beginning to assume the role of frontman, but still looking very much like a drummer; he clearly hadn't become image-conscious yet. Fun stuff.

After the Collins-era videos are done, we see three 1997 videos from the Calling All Stations album featuring Ray Wilson on vocals. The videos for "Congo" and "Shipwrecked" are amazingly cold and unappealing, adding nothing to those weak songs. "Not About Us" was a better song that made for a better video, but it clearly failed to generate any interest. Wilson didn't have much screen presence, and he didn't look like he fit in with Banks and Rutherford. The last video is for a 1999 re-recording of the 1974 song "The Carpet Crawlers" with vocals by Peter Gabriel. Gabriel doesn't appear in the arty video. For any fan of Genesis, the Video Show DVD is a treasure trove.