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T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show
The cans are running out"
I'm so tempted to simply slap this review with this little tidbit: DVD Talk Collector Series, because for any fan of modern music, that's what it is. Even if you're Sting, and this is the same tape you've had for years. (the singer famously name-checks James Brown's performance on The T.A.M.I. Show in the song 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around'.) Shout! Factory's Shout Select Series brings you the T.A.M.I Show and The Big TNT Show in this convenient two-disk Blu-ray set, (with a bulky 35-page liner notes insert) which, prior to Shout!'s 2010 DVD release, had never seen an official home video version. (Where'd you get that tape, Sting?) And now, here you go, on fabulous Blu-ray. If you'd like to learn more, read on.
T.A.M.I. Show (Teenage Awards Music International, and we're glad they went with the acronym) busted out of L-7 shortly after the Fab Four made their appearance on Ed Sullivan, and made the theatrical rounds for a year or two under various titles before only bootleggers like the former The Police front man were watching it obsessively on grotty cassettes. What it is, is a concert film lensed on 'Electronovision' cameras, edited live and later transferred to 35mm film. What it presents are live performances by the hottest artists of 1964, also known as the godfathers of Rock & Roll. The energy, artistry, bravado and sheer love of life on display are without parallel. Even if you've seen before one of the fuzzy, possibly incomplete versions floating around out there, or the 2010 DVD for that matter, this version is the one to beat.
A cheeky pre-show credits sequence finds a précis of a touring band's pre-show experience, before we hit the stage. Jan And Dean introduce the show. First up, Chuck Berry incongruously, but perfectly, trades songs with Gerry And The Pacemakers (they swap versions of Maybellene). Next, The Miracles (slightly before Smokey Robinson earned top-billing) absolutely kill it with soulful grooves, synchronized moves, and deadly vamping. Marvin Gaye then battles uphill a little bit before earning his place at the top with the rest. Meanwhile Leslie Gore (her song 'You Don't Own Me' is currently popularized in a Toyota advertisement) swings wildly from proto-feminism to crying about her lost boyfriend. She clearly rules the stage as one of the most popular acts of the time.
Jan And Dean goof with their surfer hits, recklessly skateboarding on stage, while indeed setting the stage for The Beach Boys transcendent surf pop, and one of Brian Wilson's last live performances before going Howard Hughes on us. Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas wow the girls with pop hits familiar now mostly to us 'oldies' fans, giving way to The Supremes smashing set (before Miss Ross earned her top-billing). The Barbarians knock out a bit of garage rock before ceding to James Brown And The Flames. If Smokey and the Miracles killed it, Brown completely destroys the stage, and in fact the theater, with moves, funk, and showmanship that frankly is still hard to comprehend. Now that Prince is gone, there is no one doing what Brown did 50 years ago. As if to let us down gently, the show is closed out by a little act of British R&B pretenders known as The Rolling Stones, who are great and all, but damn, that James Brown. Damn.
For music fans, or people with pulses, this is essential, addictive, compulsive viewing. I want to watch it again right now. The 'Electronovision' cameras may not have been perfect, (love those black haloes around shiny objects for instance) but the camera-work and editing are first rate, making you feel as if you're right there with the screaming teenage girls in cats-eye glasses. Or right on stage, with intense close-ups of performers (like really close up) overwhelming with immediacy, leading viewers to truly understand the euphoric, transcendent aspects of live music. It's just icing on the cake to note that performers, when needed, are backed by a horn section and The Wrecking Crew, with Glen Campbell and the late great Leon Russell, among others. You also get fantastic dancers, choreographed by David Winters, including a very young Teri Garr, who redefines sexy with her wildly enthusiastic moves. (If you needed just one more reason to buy this release, that is.)
There's another Blu-ray disk, with The Big T.N.T. Show on it, the 1966 follow-up, to T.A.M.I. Show. Hosted by David (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) McCallum; T.N.T. performances include Ray Charles, Petula Cark, and The Lovin' Spoonful who, to these ears, still sound pretty revolutionary. Bo Diddley proves what The Jesus & Mary Chain think; that he is actually Jesus. Dangerous, funky, and hypnotic, Bo opens with a song finding him chanting 'Hey Bo Diddley' over and over, before following with a song titled 'Bo Diddley'. Now that's confidence! Joan Baez then brings things down a bit with her plaintive folk songs, The Ronettes assay a wall of sound, Roger Miller shows it's hip to be square, The Byrds look uncomfortable with rock-stardom, and Donovan quietly rhapsodizes about love and loss. Lastly, The Ike & Tina Turner Revue demonstrates what an absolutely dangerous and pioneering powerhouse Tina Turner was and is. Although shorter and a bit more all-over-the-map than T.A.M.I., The Big T.N.T. Show is more essential viewing for music fans.
Shout Select's two-disk Blu-ray release of T.A.M.I. Show is absolutely required viewing for any music fan. In fact it will be on the test, so start studying now. It would make a great gift for the music lover in your life, but you need one as well, so buy two! DVD Talk Collector Series.
Both movies come in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in a 1.78:1 ratio. They look pretty good to me, though I don't have Shout!'s original DVD release to compare them to. The presentations here are a sort of cross between video and film, with grain that sometimes lends a film look to affairs, while otherwise seeming a bit noisy. Details aren't great, per the age, era, and production methods used, though, while more-or less soft, close-ups of the performers fare well. Occasional bits of dirt, speckling, and some scratches appear here and there, and contrast stays fairly well rooted in the middle gray spectrum. That said, this presentation is far better than an old VHS dupe, and at least incrementally better than DVD quality.
Your sonic selections are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono tracks, which also show their age and the deficiencies of the production technique, (live mixing from Four-Track to Mono) as well as the fact that the musicians were competing with a thousand screaming teens. Hiss and occasional distortion are evident, but they don't detract from the performances. As lovers of live music know, sometimes-subpar sound just comes with the territory. Overall, the dynamic range hits most marks, with decent high-end, lots of mid-range, and even some good bass response. This is nothing like reference quality audio, but all things considered, that level of fidelity simply isn't possible. However, to these ears, it sounds just fine.
T.A.M.I. Show comes with a Commentary Track from director Steve Binder, moderated by music historian Don Waller, that's as entertaining as the feature itself. Binder's track is quite informative, with tons of great stories about the artists, production work, '60s music and more. Like the feature itself, you'll probably want to listen to this track more than once. You also get an additional, contemporary 12-minute Interview With Steve Binder. The Original Trailer comes with a John Landis Commentary Track, and a number of Original Radio Spots are included, as well as an extensive, 35-page Liner Notes Booklet. The Big T.N.T. Show comes with about 30-minutes worth of New Interviews with Petula Clark, Henry Diltz, and John Sebastian, which are like catnip for oldies fans such as myself.
Shout Select 's two-disk Blu-ray release of T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show is absolutely required viewing for any music fan. In fact it will be on the test, so start studying now. Full of iconic performances from a wide array of hot 1960s acts, these movies capture a moment in time like few other music documentaries. The two-disk Blu-ray of T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show makes a great gift for the music lover in your life, but you need one as well, so buy two! DVD Talk Collector Series.
- Kurt Dahlke