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DVD SAVANT
Savant PAL Region 2 Guest Reviews:

Mountain:
SEA OF FIRE
and
Ozzy Osbourne:
THE PRINCE OF F****** DARKNESS

Separate releases reviewed by Lee Broughton

This month two Heavy Metal heavy-weights go head to head courtesy of the Wienerworld DVD label. The Mountain disc captures Leslie West's power trio performing live on their 2002 world tour while the Ozzy Osbourne disc focuses on the singer's varied activities circa 1992.


Mountain: Sea of Fire
Wienerworld
2003 / Colour / 4:3 flat full frame / 77 min.
Starring Leslie West, Corky Laing, Richie Scarlet
Editors Dan Newitt and Steve Michelson
Original Music Mountain
Produced by Steve Michelson
Directed by Mark Wright

Like most Brits of a certain age, I was first introduced to Mountain's music via London Weekend Television's political talk show, Weekend World, which used the instrumental break from their classic Nantucket Sleighride as its theme tune. An inspired piece of music licensing, many mused that Nantucket Sleighride's use was either a conscious attempt to interest the nation's youth in current affairs or an adrenaline-boosting device employed to turn the show's genial host Brian Walden into a terrier who knew no fear when interviewing political big-shots.

I'm not familiar with all of Mountain's output and I know little about the band's history but their Nantucket Sleighride, Avalanche and Best Of sets all contain several favourite tracks. Rock history hacks usually write the band off as Cream copyists but I'd say that Mountain packed a mightier punch than Cream when it came to rocking hard. Admittedly Mountain did go in for lengthy jams when playing live, but on record Leslie West's solid riffing and well-placed lead licks, Felix Pappalardi's fluid bass lines and Corky Laing's Keith Moon-like polyrythmic drum attacks placed the group closer to The Who - but the presence of Steve Knight's Hammond organ and other keyboards served to give Mountain a sound of their own: heavy but melodic.

This disc sees West, Laing and bassist Richie Scarlet (Pappalardi died in 1983) performing live at the Mystic Theatre, Petaluma in August 2002. Steve Knight and the keyboard sound associated with Mountain appear to have been written out of the band's history for this release: there's no keyboard player in the 2002 live line-up and no specific mention of Knight in any of the disc's supplementary material although a keyboard player can be seen in some of the archive footage that is present. The trio do turn in a pretty good performance that fans of the band are bound to enjoy, and they are more than capable of whipping up a full enough sound between them, but part of the magic of tracks like Nantucket Sleighride lay in the way that Knight's spiralling keyboard runs added extra texture and emotional depth. That said, it's still good to behold this current trio performing the band's classic tracks, and a couple of new ones, live.

The performance here is a fairly intimate one, and the stage is quite small, so the event is more than adequately covered and captured by the seven cameras employed by the programme makers. Some of the framing on a couple of the angles is a little arbitrary but the show itself is reasonably well edited. The DVD features a second video track which presents a "quad split" multiple camera view where four of the seven cameras used can be seen on screen simultaneously and it's possible to flip seamlessly between the regular concert presentation and the "quad split" version.

The Hall of Fame featurette centres on the song Mississippi Queen and features interview snippets with Alice Cooper, Ritchie Blackmore and Sammy Hagar. The longer Scrapbook featurette is an interesting potted history of the band that features some good but all too brief clips of archive footage.


This release acts as a good document of Mountain's 2002 world tour. The picture quality is pretty much excellent and the "quad split" video variant is a welcome addition. The sound is also excellent. West likes to crank up the volume and he pushes several effects pedals into overdrive but the sound is nicely captured overall. It's presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1: I played it through a regular stereo set-up and it sounded fine. The songs performed are Blood of the Sun, Yasgur's Farm, Crossroads, The Sea, Never in My Life, Mutant X, Theme from an Imaginary Western, Nantucket Sleighride and Mississippi Queen.


Ozzy Osbourne: The Prince of F****** Darkness
Wienerworld
2003 / Colour / 4:3 flat full frame / 46 m.
Starring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward
Editors Bill Leach and Dennis Nail
Original Music Ozzy Osbourne
Produced by C. Stephen Eckles
Directed by Kevin G. Guest

I've got to admit that Ozzy's music has never really done a lot for me. Iron Man and the ubiquitous Paranoid from his time with Black Sabbath and the schlock horror of his solo smash, Bark at the Moon, (and maybe the Imagine-like Dreamer) are the only Oz tunes that have really hit the mark for me. But his extraordinary media presence over the years has been virtually impossible to ignore. He's best known these days as the patriarch of the reality TV crowd's favourite dysfunctional family, The Osbournes, and it's not unknown for him to receive invites to events hosted by the Queen of England and President George Bush.

Surprising as it may seem today, during the Eighties Osbourne was pretty much public enemy number one in the USA. His booze and drug-fuelled shenanigans and a succession of outrageous stunts kept him in the headlines for the best part of the decade. As the Nineties dawned, Osbourne received one wake-up call too many and set about cleaning up his act: the content of this unauthorized documentary finds him in 1992 - one year into an enforced period of sobriety. Although there were rumours of his imminent retirement during this period the documentary gives the impression that he was pretty much trying to keep himself as busy as possible.

It's a fairly haphazard affair in general but the programme is split into four or five distinct sections which are interspersed with video footage from various sources and interviews with the likes of Lita Ford, Rudy Sarzo and Ugly Kid Joe. The centre piece is a post-concert interview with Osbourne that is backed by clips from the show and its chaotic finale, which sees the entire audience trying to invade the stage and seemingly wrecking the venue in the process. "It's Rock 'n' Roll," is Ozzy's standard response to any question concerning the outrageous occurrences that seem to follow him wherever he goes.

Another section plays like a studio promo for Charles Martin Smith's rock-horror flick, Trick or Treat (which Osbourne appeared in). This features interviews with Smith, Gene Simmons and Tony Fields. This is preceded by a kind of extended news item about some of the US religious groups that campaigned against Osbourne during the Eighties. Next up are a couple of sections devoted to Black Sabbath. The first covers their 1992 re-union show and the second sees Rob Halford inducting the band into Hollywood's Rock Walk of Fame. Drummer Bill Ward misses the main ceremony because Ozzy inadvertently gave him the wrong directions to the venue.


This disc's title seems a little puerile at first glance but, given the liberal use of the 'f' word throughout Ozzy's ongoing reality TV series, I guess it's kind of appropriate. In terms of documentary making, this show isn't going to win any awards but its content might well be of interest to those who are only familiar with Osbourne's current media incarnation. There's little doubt that much of the footage present here will delight the singer's legions of devoted fans, though. Much of the disc's content appears to be sourced from the news and entertainment archives of local TV stations and, as such, the sound and picture quality is a little spotty in places.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Sea of Fire rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: second "quad split" video track, Hall of Fame featurette, Scrapbook featurette, The Fans Speak featurette and web links.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: November 5, 2003

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Ozzy Osbourne: The Prince of F****** Darkness
rates:
Movie: Fair
Video: Good/Very Good-
Sound: Good/Very Good-
Supplements:
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: November 5, 2003




DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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