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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Blu-ray)
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Blu-ray)
Criterion // Unrated // December 12, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $69.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted December 7, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival gathers together D.A. Pennebarker's Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis At Monterey films and presents them together in a massive, sprawling package.

Documenting the music festival that took place June 16 through June 18 in 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California Monterey Pop, which was released in 1968, was a fairy massive undertaking. Shot on 16mm with synch sound using multiple cameras, after the film's opening credits we kick off with Scott McKenzie performing San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair), though technically that's a studio version being played over footage of the crowd and others preparing for the show. It starts properly when The Mamas & the Papas take the stage to perform Creeque Alley and their classic California Dreamin'. After that? The mighty Canned Heat do Rollin' And Tumblin' before Simon & Garfunkel run through a rendition of The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy).

From there, Hugh Masekela plays Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song), Jefferson Airplane work their way through High Flyin' Bird and Today and then Janis Joplin, with Big Brother And The Holding Company crank through Ball 'n' Chain. Eric Burdon & The Animals are up next with Paint It Black and then, in a true highlight, The Who perform My Generation in their inimitable style before things mellow down a bit with Country Joe And The Fish doing Section 43. Things get pretty soulful after that when Otis Redding does Shake and I've Been Loving You Too Long and then, in another highlight and a true cultural milestone, The Jimi Hendrix Experience blows up the world with their version of Wild Thing, culminating in the infamous footage where Jimi lights his guitar on fire and throws the neck into the crowd. The poor souls who have to follow that? Well, The Mamas & the Papas come back to do Got a Feelin' and then none other than Ravi Shankar performs Dhun to close out the feature.

Obviously the documentary doesn't cover everything, this was a three-day festival after all, and there are some omissions here (The Grateful Dead don't appear at all and there's no sign of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Moby Grape, Steve Miller Band or a few others) but as it stands this is an excellent time capsule. It not only captures a bunch of very influential artists over a wide variety of different musical styles at the peak of their performing abilities (many of whom are no longer with us), but it also serves as a cultural time capsule documenting not just the music, but the movement that surrounded it. We get almost as much footage of the audience as we do of the performers, allowing us to take in all the late sixties styles and fashions and also to gauge their reactions to some of the music that they're seeing play out in front of them.

Not only historically significant for predating Woodstock by two years, the festival almost marked the first major U.S. appearance by The Who, an early major appearance by Joplin and, of course, the legendary Hendrix performance that exposed him to a whole new legion of fans in his homeland after experiencing a fair bit of success over in the U.K..

Jimi Plays Monterey

Speaking of Hendrix, also included in the set is the Jimi Plays Monterey, which was released in 1986, documents the entirety of that blisteringly great performance. Played here in their entirety are:

Killing Floor / Foxy Lady / Like A Rolling Stone / Rock Me Baby / Hey Joe / Can You See Me / The Wind Cries Mary / Purple Haze / Wild Thing

Interspersed with the footage of the band are some quick artist interviews. As Can You See Me wasn't filmed, only recorded, when that song plays we get footage of infamous ‘speed painter' Denny Dent working on a piece of art. You can argue that the band are sloppy in spots and that Hendrix seems to move ahead faster than the rest of the band at times, but the energy and wild playing style captured on film is undeniably awesome. Jimi Plays Monterey runs approximately fifty-minutes in length.

Shake! Otis At Monterey

Also captured on film is the nineteen-minute set that Redding did at the festival, presented in its entirety as Shake! Otis At Monterey. This was filmed when Redding went on stage at one in the morning when the skies were opening up and it was starting to rain, but his performance is about as good as it gets. The set list includes:

Shake / Respect / I've Been Loving You Too Long / Satisfaction / Try A Little Tenderness

The last song is the highlight of the set and during this final number from Redding Pennebaker and company show off the various audience members that their cameras captured during parts of the shoot. It's a nice tribute to the band but also to the people who showed up to make all of this matter in the first place.

The Blu-ray

Video:

Monterey Pop is presented on Blu-ray framed at 1.33.1 fullframe in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in a transfer taken from a new ‘4K digital restoration, supervised by director D. A. Pennebaker.' As this was originally shot on 16mm film stock, expect a fair amount of natural film grain but it resolves beautifully on this transfers thanks to good authoring and a strong bit rate. Colors look great and the image is virtually pristine, showing very little print damage at all. Also worth talking about are the ‘restored high-definition digital transfers of Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis At Monterey. These also look very good and show nice color, depth and detail.

Sound:

Criterion provides uncompressed audio in 2.0 Stereo and in a newly remixed 5.1 option (supervised by by recording engineer Eddie Kramer) in DTS-HD for all three features. Purists will opt for the stereo option and won't be disappointed by the excellent clarity and depth, while those who appreciate a good remix will enjoy the wider dynamic range of the 5.1 track (which does a damn good job of filling out all points in your home theater setup).

Extras:

The extras for this set are spread out across the three discs as follows:

Disc One: Monterey Pop:

Carried over from the older release is the commentary track featuring the Monterey Pop Festival's producer Lou Adler and director D. A. Pennebaker. As this track plays out they talk about the different artists that performed, what went into documenting the festival, various highlights captured in the footage, the importance of the cultural movement documented in the film and much more.

There are also some interviews here, the first of which is a new twelve-minute piece with Adler in which he talks the celebration that took place to celebrate the festival's fiftieth anniversary. A second new interview gets Pennebaker in front of the camera for fifteen minutes to look back on what it was like documenting the concert. An archival interview with Adler and Pennebaker from 2001 is also included here, running half an hour and covering the origins of the festival, securing the location, getting the roster of talent assembled and a fair bit more.

Also found on the disc is a short film called Chiefs that played with the feature presentation when it was originally released to theaters, a handful of radio spots, a theatrical trailer, a reissue trailer, and a pair of still galleries.

Disc Two: The Outtakes:

The second disc in the set contains a massive selection of over two hours' worth outtakes categorize by date of performance. First up is a selection shot on June 16. Here we find The Association doing Along Comes Mary and Simon & Garfunkel doing Homeward Bound and The Sound Of Silence. In the June 17 section we get Country Joe & The Fish doing Not-So-Sweet Martha Lorraine, Al Kooper performing I Heard Her Say Wake Me, Shake Me, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band doing Driftin' Blues, Quicksilver Messenger Service playing All I Ever Wanted To Do Was Love You, The Electric Flag tearing through Drinkin' Wine, The Byrds playing Chimes Of Freedom, He Was A Friend Of Mine and Hey Joe, Laura Nyro playing Wedding Bell Blues and Poverty Train and then the day closes out with Jefferson Airplane's seminal Somebody To Love. The June 18 performances include The Blues Project playing Flute Thing, Janis Joplin With Big Brother And The Holding Company playing Combination Of The Two (we get stereo and 5.1 options for this track), Buffalo Springfield performing For What It's Worth some great footage of The Who ripping up Substitute, Summertime Blues and A Quick One While He's Away (again, with stereo and 5.1 options and The Mamas And The Papas doing Straight Shooter, Somebody Groovy, I Call Your Name, Monday, Monday, San Francisco and last but not least Dancing In The Street.

Also included here is footage shot at The Hunt Club wherein Tiny Tim plays King For A Day, Laugh, Clown, Laugh, May God Be With Our Boys Tonight and My What A Funny Little World This Is. This material, which is about ten minutes in length, was lit using only a Zippo lighter so the quality is less than perfect but it's genuinely interesting to see.

Disc Three: Jimi Plays Monterey And Shake! Otis At Monterey:

The main extra for Jimi Plays Monterey is an audio commentary with music critic and historian Charles Shaar Murray originally recorded for the past DVD release from 2002. Murry's input is complemented nicely with various audio excerpts that help to expand on Hendrix's story and his performance here. As the track plays out we learn about how he got into music, the impact that his playing and his unique style had on audiences of the day, his influence on pop and rock music and his theatrical style.

There's also a five-minute interview with Pete Townsend that runs five minutes and was shot in 1987. Here Townsend tells a story about his experiences meeting Hendrix at the festival. A trailer for Jimi Plays Monterey is also included.

As for Shake! Otis At Monterey, we get two separate audio commentaries from music historian Peter Guralnick, also pulled over from the earlier release. Both of these tracks have quite a bit of merit. The first talk is essentially Guralnick giving a scene specific, song by song break down of Redding's work here, going into some detail about the songs themselves and the performance. The second commentary is more of a biographical talk that sees Guralnick going into a lot of background detail about Redding's life and times and his career leading up to his performance at the festival.

We also get a nineteen minute long interview with Phil Walden, who worked as Redding's manager during this period. He talks about the early part of their work together in the late fifties, Redding's rise to fame and influence on R&B, what he was like as a person, his popularity abroad and of course, the performance included here on this disc. This is also carried over from the DVD release.

All three discs in the set includes menus and chapter selection.

Criterion has also include a full color seventy-two page booklet that contains a few essays such as Pop: Ancient And Modern by Michael Chaiken, Monterey Pop: People In Motion by Armond White, Jimi Plays Monterey And Shake! Otis At Monterey: Bold, Beautiful And Black by David Frickle, The Meeting Of The Twain: Monterey And The Great California Divide by Barney Hoskyns and Monterey Pop: The First Rock Festival by Michael Lyndon. Alongside these essays are information on the different artists that played the festival as well as technical information and credits for the restoration and Blu-ray release.

Final Thoughts:

The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release of The Complete Monterey Pop Festival presents this important documentary of a cultural milestone in excellent shape, with fantastic sound quality and a strong array of supplements. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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