Music DVDs can be a great gift idea for a music fan, particularly one who already has the newest album or an entire artist's catalog. They're a way to go behind the scenes, gain new insight or watch an artist performing at the height of their career. Check out 10 recent music DVD releases to consider giving this holiday.
The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night [Criterion]
Just one month after they exploded onto the U.S. scene with their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, The Beatles began working on a project that would bring their revolutionary talent to the big screen. A Hard Day’s Night, in which John, Paul, George, and Ringo play slapstick versions of themselves, captured the astonishing moment when they officially became the singular, irreverent idols of their generation and changed music forever. Directed with raucous, anything-goes verve by Richard Lester and featuring a slew of iconic pop anthems, including the title track, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Should Have Known Better,” and “If I Fell,” A Hard Day’s Night, which reconceived the movie musical and exerted an incalculable influence on the music video, is one of the most deliriously entertaining movies of all time.
As the last survivng member and co-founder of the '70s band Big Star, Jody Stephens has quite the rock & roll story. Big Star cut a record with producer and Ardent Studios founder John Fry, who also played the part of psuedo manager by default. Under Fry's direction, Big Star secured distribution and marketing with the legendary soul label, Stax. With rave reviews and backing by Ardent and Stax, Big Star was poised to be the biggest name in rock. However, Big Star's 1971 debut, #1 Record, failed to top the charts and was quickly dubbed a commercial flop. Many critics praised the band's work, but sources say Stax was unable to fully distribute and market the album for success. The band managed to release three albums between 1971 and 1974 before disbanding and falling into obscurity.
Fast forward three decades later, Big Star has amassed a cult following of fans and influenced many successful rock bands along the way. Groups like R.E.M and The Replacements have cited Big Star as major influences on their craft. Rolling Stone magazine listed all three Big Star albums as part of their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (published in 2003 & 2005). But the biggest push in the Big Star resurgence is due to the very well-produced documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. The film chronicles the band's history in a story that (if not already) will pull you into the fandom of Big Star. Jody Stephens, being the only living member, was at the center of the film's publicity and screening events, literally making him a rock star for the first time! Stephens also tours as Big Star backed by many well-known musician friends. When not on tour, Stephens manages Ardent Studios in Memphis. Over the course of his tenure at Ardent, the studio has seen everyone from Three 6 Mafia to the White Stripes to Bob Dylan book studio time.
Record Store Day 2013 takes place April 20, featuring new releases, reissues of out-of-print albums and other rarities. I’ve pulled out 10 titles or sets of releases that jumped out to me personally. If it’s anything like last year, you’ll have to get here early to get those in-demand releases (check out last year’s coverage here).
The Bats – By Night
The debut release by The Bats, part of the Flying Nun clan of New Zealand jangle-pop bands. The Bats are fronted by Robert Scott, sometime bassist of The Clean, a band whose cult infamy has helped lead to their brethren being rediscovered by a new generation. I haven’t heard By Night, but having quite enjoyed 1987’s Daddy’s Highway, I’m sure their debut is just as chockfull of jangly delights. Seriously, I want to just jump on an airplane slash time machine and live in New Zealand in the ’80s and listen to awesome bands like The Bats, though they’re still around making fine records today.
Redd Kross have been the quintessential underground band for the past three decades. The band has nearly always eschewed both pop and indie convention by staying true to its sound, likely angering as many pop fans with its snottiness and random references to Tatum O’Neil and Shonen Knife as they would indie purirsts with its insistence on lacing its acidic songs with undeniable pop hooks.
From Hawthorne, Calif. and based around the duo of brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, Redd Kross first released music in 1980 with a self-titled EP, after opening for Black Flag as teenagers for its first gig. Other musicians came and went as the band released records throughout the ’80s and ’90s, hitting their stride with 1987’s Neurotica and 1990's Third Eye. Following 1997’s Show World, the band all but disappeared, with its members occasionally surfacing for other projects — Steve McDonald famously added bass parts to The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells, redubbing it Redd Blood Cells, which saw thousands of downloads and press hubbub. The brothers McDonald separately produced albums by other artists as well.
The elusive band returned in 2006 to play a set at REDCAT in Los Angeles covering the band’s entire catalog, featuring the Neurotica-era lineup of the McDonalds, Robert Hecker and Roy McDonald. They toured and played a killer set of the entire Born Innocent album opening for Sonic Youth, who played all of Daydream Nation (I was there! Yessss.), at the Greek Theater in L.A. In 2008 they played Coachella, among numerous other festivals and appearances over the past few years. Now, finally, Redd Kross have released an album of new material, entitled Researching the Blues. The album has seen some of the band’s best reviews, garnering an 81% on reviews aggregator Metacritic, and it’s not hard to see why, hearing the enlivened swagger the band displays on songs like the title track (download free here), while maintaining the dynamism that has always set the band apart, also including shimmering power-pop ballads like “Dracula’s Daughter” and “Winter Blues.”