Thursday, November 15, 2007

Amazing Journey - Disc 1

For my next trick, I will provide a un-biased review of the recently released DVD Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who. Many of you know that I'm a huge Who fan. The Kids Are Alright, released in 1979, had a profound effect on me, and up until now has been the only definitive documentary on the band. The Kids was a labor of love by a true fan, Jeff Stein, who pulled together video footage and interviews into a racous story. We were led to believe that Stein had unearthed all of the decent footage of the band, and the long awaited DVD reissue a few years ago added almost no new material.

Along comes Murray Lerner, who scoured the Earth to find more, including the earliest known footage of the band from 1964 and actual video from the beloved Leeds show in 1970. The film was destined for a theatrical release this fall, but apparently the decision was made to go the 'direct-to-video' route. It's a two disc package, with a limited edition third bonus disc of the December 1979 performance in Chicago. More on that later. Here are my thoughts on Disc 1:

In many ways, this film does a better job of explaining the birth and evolution of the band than The Kids. Wheareas Kids contains more musical performances (and complete songs in some cases), Amazing Journey is a true documentary, done in chronological format with more inteviews and historical context. Beginning with wartime London and childhood experiences, the film does a great job of explaining the early years, how the boys met, and the transformation from dance hall band to singles band to international rock stars. It is a little frustrating that the live footage is cut so short, but overall it's a much more informative story. The film spends a lot of time on the 1964-1969 period (through Tommy), but I was disappointed in the brief, glossed over coverage of Who's Next and Quadrophenia, the band's best work, and arguably the best rock albums of the 1970s.

The band members, family and close confidants are interviewed separately, and their comments are woven throughout the story. Pete's comments are characteristically flippant at times, but insightful. John's brief bits are obviously older, don't shed much light and are a little depressing, as it is clear that he was in failing health at the time. It's Roger's interview that cements the entire film together. You really learn it all from his interview bits. If the DVD had a feature to watch his interview in it's entirety, it would be riveting. It is clear that the Who was, and is, everything for Roger, and he candidly recalls the high points and low points with complete honesty. It's heartbreaking when he talks about being kicked out of the band, or when he discusses his inability to approach Pete during the increasingly difficult periods of writing new material. As the film progresses, the complex friendship between Pete and Roger, always a source of wonder, is slowly revealed.

Overall, Amazing Journey is a must for all Who fans, and will satisfy anyone curious about the history of this great band. The Kids are Alright is great entertainment. Amazing Journey is enlightenment. I'll review Disc 2 in the next post.

I'm The Face - The High Numbers (The Who, 1964)

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Anonymous Paul said...

Thanks for the link to my site. We have something in common: The Who was the band that first made me love music. I remember always going to see The Kids Are Alright and Quadrophenia whenever they were the late movies at our local second-run theatre. Great review!

6:27 AM  

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