The Complete Monterey Pop Festival [Criterion Collection] [3 Discs] [DVD]

The Criterion Collection's Complete Monterey Pop Festival set is one of the more prodigious archival live rock releases to appear on DVD, dwarfing Warner Bros.' Woodstock in terms of both quality and musical significance. Indeed, the three-disc set, which consists of three separate DVD sleeves in a slipcase, dwarfs any other live 1960s rock release on film that we're ever likely to see. The original 79-minute film Monterey Pop, which was available for years on television in dark, indifferently transferred prints, and during the late '80s in a somewhat better laserdisc edition, has been given a major upgrade here. The most obvious improvements come from a high-definition digital transfer made under the supervision of director D.A. Pennebaker that is so sharp that it's possible to read the medium-sized print on peoples' T-shirts in the wide shots, and see more detail than anyone who wasn't there ever saw before. The shorter features Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey are also included, on disc two, and look significantly better than the Japanese laserdiscs of either film. The third disc is entitled "Monterey Pop: The Outtake Performances," and features two hours of songs and various performers that never made it into the original movie, ranging from the Association and Laura Nyro to Tiny Tim. There are numerous surprises here, however, beyond the image quality. For starters, the audio has been remixed by Eddie Kramer from the original multi-track sources into Dolby Digital and DTS, which makes watching this release overall -- even the basic Monterey Pop movie -- the equivalent of taking it all in for the first time. One can hear nuances in the singing and playing, and feel a bracing immediacy and impact that was lacking even in the Rhino Records Monterey Pop Festival box from 1992. The revelations are to be found throughout these discs, and in some totally unexpected places -- the Byrds were one of the big disappointments at the original festival, for a lackluster set that had no real highlights, but viewed and heard here, their playing seems about as solid and impressive as any live gig of theirs that was ever recorded. Similarly, the Blues Project -- who were on their last legs, in the midst of disintegration, at the festival -- is enjoyable here, though ex-member Al Kooper, playing with a hastily assembled band, does play circles around them; and Buffalo Springfield (sans Neil Young, who was out of the lineup at the time), in their only extant live clip, show off some of the mixture of garage-punk instrumental attack and folk-based harmony that made them one of the most exciting rock acts in Los Angeles. The outtake performance clips by the Who and Big Brother & the Holding Company have been remixed into Dolby 5.1 surround, and those are even better. But even the tracks on which high-grade audio materials haven't survived, such as Hugh Masekela's section, are distinctly superior to their earlier incarnations. The original film and the Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding features have been enhanced with multiple commentary tracks, by rock historians Peter Guralnick and Charles Shaar Murray, festival producer Lou Adler, and director D.A. Pennebaker, and interviews with Phil Walden (Otis Redding's manager) and John Phillips, Derek Taylor, Cass Elliot, and David Crosby. Additionally, the set comes with a 60-page booklet filled with essays and production information on the festival and the film, which completes the picture on this total-immersion musical/cinematic experience. There are a few gaps, such as the absence of more of the Simon & Garfunkel or Jefferson Airplane sets, or of any Moby Grape or Paupers material, but this is still a bigger chunk of the festival than has ever been seen in one place since the actual event. Each disc opens to a well-delineated and easy-to-use menu, and runs circles around any other release from the festival.
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Overview

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfers of Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey, supervised by D.A. Pennebaker
  • New 5.1 mixes by legendary recording engineer Eddie Kramer, presented in Dolby Digital and DTS
  • Outtake performances by the Association, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Blues Project, Buffalo Springfield, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, the Electric Flag, Jefferson Airplane, Al Kooper, the Mamas and the Papas, Laura Nyro, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Simon & Garfunkel, Tiny Tim, and the Who
  • Audio commentaries: Festival producer Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker on Monterey Pop; music critic Charles Shaar Murray on Jimi Plays Monterey; music critic Peter Guralnick on Shake! Otis at Monterey
  • New video interview with Lou Adler and D.A. Pennebaker on the beginnings of the festival and the making of the film
  • New video interview with Phil Walden, manager of Otis Redding from 1959 to 1967
  • Audio interviews with festival producer John Phillips, festival publicist Derek Taylor, and performers Cass Elliott and David Crosby
  • Photo essay
  • Monterey Pop scrapbook
  • Theatrical trailers & radio spots

Synopsis

Shake! Otis at Monterey
Renowned documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker captures Otis Redding in his ascendancy, singing at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. Comedian Tom Smothers introduces Redding to a crowd that is leaving -- until Redding grabs them with his charged rendition of "Shake." Redding's performance also includes "Respect" (which he wrote), "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Satisfaction," and "Try a Little Tenderness." Tragically, Redding died in a plane crash six months later. An innovative filmmaker who started in the 1950s making experimental films, Pennebaker garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 1993 for The War Room, his behind-the-scenes look at Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. His other subjects have included Norman Mailer, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie. ~ Steve Blackburn, Rovi

Jimi Plays Monterey
Few people in the United States had any idea who Jimi Hendrix was when he and his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, came on-stage at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. By the time his relatively short set had been played, everyone present knew they had heard a guitar genius -- the performance was history-making. This HBO Home Video release contains most of the songs from the festival performance, which was the Jimi Hendrix Experience's U.S. concert debut. ~ Steve Blackburn, Rovi

Monterey Pop
The first concert film of the rock & roll era, Monterey Pop is an invaluable record of some of the major musical figures of the late 1960s. The organizers of the Monterey International Pop Festival, held June 16-18, 1967, wisely chose to record the proceedings on film for commercial distribution. Even if some of the festival's big acts -- the Byrds, the Grateful Dead, and Buffalo Springfield -- didn't make the final cut for various reasons, the roster of performers who did reads like a who's who of the era: Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin), Simon & Garfunkel, and the Mamas & the Papas (that group's leader, John Phillips, was one of the festival's principal organizers). The festival's "international" tag is well-earned by one performer in the film: Ravi Shankar, whose final-day performance was one of the festival's highlights and closes the movie on an exuberant note. Though the festival seemed to be anticipating nearby San Francisco's Summer of Love, the film chooses to concentrate on the musical performers, with only brief intimations of the burgeoning counterculture. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi

Cast & Crew

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