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Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii (DVD)

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Genre: Music DVD / DVD Release Date: 20 Oct 2003

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      07.02.2012 18:48
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      Pink Floyd play some of their best early tracks in Pompeii

      Before Pink Floyd became one of the biggest Rock acts in the world filling huge stadiums for their pyrotechnic fuelled concerts they were an alternative art rock band at the forefront of the burgeoning psychedelic and progressive rock scene. In those days the only stadiums they played (as can be witnessed from this DVD) were ancient roman amphitheatres.

      A BIT OF BACKGROUND

      Filmed and recorded in 1972 before their million selling 'Dark Side of the Moon' album this DVD shows Pink Floyd at their psychedelic best. By this stage mercurial genius Syd Barrett had self destructed by a prodigious and ultimately damaging use of drugs. His musical vision was however continued by the rest of the band maybe in a slightly more restrained but nonetheless inventive and innovative manner. Pink Floyd's music at this time was as much an experimentation of the possibilities of record sound as much as it was about lyrics or melodies. For me this is their most interesting period encompassing some of their now less well known recording such as 'A Saucerful of Secrets' (1968), Ummagumma (1969) and Meddle (1971). Most of the music included in the original Pompeii concert is from these albums and the tracks chosen really suit the strange atmosphere of the deserted ancient Roman theatre in Pompeii and the location is in sharp contrast with the electronic instruments and recording equipment the band used and which is prominently on show.

      The performance include in the film were not simply live renditions of the songs, they were recorded using studio quality 24-track recorders so the sound is first rate. The footage was directed by documentary maker Adrian Maben.

      The first version of the film was supposed to be released in cinemas in November 1972 but due to certification problem the release date was put back. The eventual version released was 1 hour long and featured only the live performances but later versions included band interviews at Abbey Road Studios cafeteria and studio footage of the band recording some songs for 'Dark Side of The Moon'. This version I'm reviewing is the so called Director's cut released in 2003 is slightly longer at 92mins and includes the live footage and band interviews but also some added footage from the Apollo space program and computer-generated images of space and Pompeii as background to some of the musical sequences. Interestingly the original one hour recording with only live footage is included as an extra.

      THE MUSIC

      *2003 DIRECTOR'S CUT VERSION TRACK LISTING
      'Echoes, Part 1'/'On the Run' (from 'Meddle' 1971/ 'The Dark Side of the Moon' 1973)
      'Careful with That Axe, Eugene' (B-side of 'Point Me at the Sky' single, 1968)
      'A Saucerful of Secrets' (from 'A Saucerful of Secrets' 1968)
      'Us and Them' (Studio Footage from 'The Dark Side of the Moon' 1973)
      'One of These Days'(from Meddle, 1971)
      'Mademoiselle Nobs' (filmed in Paris)
      'Brain Damage' (Studio Footage from 'The Dark Side of the Moon' 1973)
      'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' (from 'A Saucerful of Secrets' 1968)
      'Echoes, Part 2' (from 'Meddle' 1971)

      *1972 ORIGINAL FILM TRACK LISTING
      'Intro Song'
      'Echoes, Part 1' (from Meddle, 1971)
      'Careful with That Axe, Eugene' (B-side of 'Point Me at the Sky' single, 1968)
      'A Saucerful of Secrets' (from A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968)
      'One of These Days' (from Meddle, 1971)
      'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' (from 'A Saucerful of Secrets' 1968)
      'Mademoiselle Nobs' (filmed in Paris)
      'Echoes, Part 2' (from Meddle, 1971)


      The first to say is that after you have put the DVD on and made your selection of the main title or the original concert in the special features section your screen will go black, don't worry, gradually you will hear the faint sound of a heartbeat but still black screen, don't worry even after 30 seconds don't worry there isn't a fault with the DVD it's just a Pink Floyd DVD.

      THE 1972 ORIGINAL

      Now I'm going to do a rather unconventional thing for a DVD review, I'm going to review one of the special features before the main title. Why? Because the special feature is the original concert footage from the original 1970's release and I feel we need to take a look at this first before talking about the later Director's cut. In fact if you buy this DVD I would urge you watch it this way round.

      Both versions begin with Echoes part 1 which in many ways is a track that serves as a musical link between what Pink Floyd were to become with DSOTM and later albums and what they were before this. You can hear in Echoes the more melodic and well constructed composition that was to become their trademark sound in the rest of the 70's, the sonic experimentation that had been their trademark has slowly given way to a more polished sound with Gilmour's guitar very much in the forefront. And yet this track is only a taste of what is yet to come since the rest of the music in the original recording is firmly grounded in an earlier more experimental sound. We get a feel of the more psychedelic sound of the Floyd on the next track 'Careful With That Axe Eugene' where the band use their instruments and vocals to create a rather disturbing but compelling rhythm. Things then get very weird with 'Saucerful Of Secrets' a cacophony of reverberating sounds and musical instruments all just about held together by a slight central percussion thread, if you were watching this DVD in an Amsterdam coffee shop and had partaken in some Hash brownies just before the start you'd been in stoner heaven by now! The strangest track on the DVD is 'Mademoiselle Nobs' a slow down and dirty Blues instrumental with 'vocal' by well trained Afghan Hound! This is the only track on the original version that is not based in Pompeii it was in fact filmed in Paris while the band was mixing the final recording.

      The choice of songs in interesting spanning a lot of the early Floyd (post-Barrett) including some outstanding tracks my favourite being the dark and hypnotic meandering 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'. Whether by design or by accident the choices of song seem to allow each of the band members to take centre stage at different times. Thus Wright take the vocals on the first track Water is prominent in 'Careful with That Axe Eugene' playing the gong with great gusto, Nick mason's drums come to the fore during 'One Of These Days' and Gilmour shows off his guitar skills in more than one song.

      The Director uses many visual techniques some more innovative in 1972 than they are now, to fill in and expand on the music. So at different times we get images of Pompeii, close up of the wonderful mosaics and distant shots of distant shot of Mount Vesuvius looming menacingly in the distance above the amphitheatre all accompanying the music. Many of the images are used as ghostly overlays to footage of the band playing; some are used in split screen mode and slow motion close-ups. A couple of the tracks are filmed at night when the amphitheatre is decked with enormous lamps and bulb backlighting the band as they play. There are also images of steaming volcanic pool and larva flows interspersed through the tracks. There is also a film within a film aspect to it as we often see footage of the cameras filming the band performing. The look of the film is excellent; the picture quality is great and unusual due to the use of the October morning and evening lights when filming. The colours have deep blue/grey tones in the morning sessions and much richer red orange and brown tinges in the evening. The director did a fine job setting the recording up and using the unorthodox surrounding to best effect.

      THE 2003 DIRECTOR'S CUT

      The biggest change musically from the original release is the inclusion of the 'Dark Side of the Moon' (DSOTM) material which obviously had not been made when the live sessions in Pompeii were first recorded. I suppose in later years with the massive commercial success of DSOTM it was too tempting not to include anything from that album on a later release and possibly attract fans on Pink Floyd who might not be familiar with their music before that time. The band interviews mostly filmed in the Abbey Road studios and some I believe in Paris are interspersed in between the tracks. Although they are not in depth really no more than a few sound bites and some larking about by mainly Waters and the interviewer they do provide a hint of slight divisions in the band and how strongly the loss of Barrett was felt. Gilmour was still the new boy at this stage and you do feel that he's still even four years on he's still finding his feet in the dynamics of the band. There is also some more serious talk about the nature of the music and how it's developing and how the nature of the ever more complex sound they are trying to develop necessitates taking so much equipment on tour. All this is interesting but I feel it is an unwelcomed interruption to the flow of the music and does tend to breaks the spell that had been set up when you see the band playing in the inspiring surrounding of the ruined theatre. Possibly the interviews should have been relegated to the special features section too. In many ways while the DVD is still great to watch the changes are a little unnecessary and don't really improve on the original. The fact that the original is also included on the DVD goes some way to rectifying this. My other grumble is the inclusion of the DSOTM material, it really doesn't fit into the Pompeii recording and while it is fascinating to see the band in the studio developing some songs that were to feature on DSOTM it feels like an add on and not integral to the original recordings. Having said this tracks that are included 'Us and Them' and 'Brain Damage' are excellent.

      The director's cut also features some extra footage of the band messing about near the volcano, some computer generated recreations of the some of the buildings in Pompeii and their destruction by the volcanic eruption and some stock footage of the Apollo mission landing on the moon, strange to say that manned space exploration now seems a little dated.

      Overall the original film work better for me musically and visually but the later version does include some interesting things and presents the music is a slightly different way which is also worth seeing.


      OTHER SPECIAL FEATURES

      *INTERVIEW WITH ADRIAN MABEN- This is a 25 minute interview with the director done in 2003 explaining how the he first met the band and how the project got started. There are some good insights into the band's psyche at the time and some good anecdotes about the problems faced with making the film. Maben makes some interesting observations about how to film rock concerts in general and how he saw this as an anti Woodstock exercise where the audience was not present and the music rather than the audience reaction takes centre stage. He also talks about why Pompeii was such a good location for the project.

      *ALBUM GRAPHICS - A selection of artwork from some of the Floyd albums DSOTM, UMMAGAMMA, MEDDLE and SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS.

      *SONG LYRICS

      *MAP AND HISTORY OF POMPEII- A short potted history of Pompeii and the eruption.

      *ODDS AND SODS- Photos of Bootleg album covers and some of the original posters amongst other things.

      *PHOTO GALLERY -band photos and one of Nobs the dog!


      TECHNICAL DETAILS

      PINK FLOYD ARE: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason
      Director: Adrian Maben
      Producers: Alex Darbyshire, Mark Fenwick, Michèle Arnaud, Nick Ryle, Reiner Moritz
      Format: Anamorphic, Colour, Full Screen.
      Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
      Subtitles: English, Japanese, Georgian
      Region: All Regions
      Number of discs: 1
      Studio: Hip-O Records
      DVD Release Date: October 21, 2003
      Run Time: 92 minutes

      OVERALL

      This is an essential addition to any Pink Floyd fans collection more so if your interest in Floyd like me ends with 'The Wall' and tends to increase the further back I go. One thing that is striking about the original film even when presented as the distracting director's cut is how bold a project it was both technically and artistically. I can't think of many other live recordings that match up to it in terms of innovation. Maybe in today's music industry it would not be made. The package of extras is great and seeing you can pick it up for less than a fiver if you're a fan this is a no brainer.


      'Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii - Director's Cut' on DVD is available to buy from Amazon uk for £4.45 including free delivery at the time of writing this review.

      Highly recommended for all Pink Floyd fans!

      © Mauri 2012

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