The Rolling Stones

Also: Wire, Joni Mitchell

THE ROLLING STONES

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus

(ABKCO)

Spiffily restored and bursting at the seams with extra features, this admirable DVD also explains why its 1968 show by the Stones, the Who, and an ad hoc supergroup of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards got lost for decades in Stones pianist Ian Stewart's barn. Commentary tracks by Jagger and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg deny that the Stones' performance, mostly of Beggars Banquet tunes, was upstaged by the Who's proto-Tommy "A Quick One While He's Away." They claim it wasn't released until 1996 (when it first made it to VHS) due more to Brian Jones' sad, stoned state during what would be his last Stones appearance. Indeed, the nondoomed Stones are good, considering they were knackered after 16 hours of stage-managing other acts (including the then-obscure Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, and some lousy acrobats there to fulfill the Fellini-derived cheesy-circus concept). The never-before-seen takes by Taj and Lennon's band are solid. It's priceless to see Jagger and Lennon clown it up, with Jagger impersonating their soulless manager, Allen Klein. Jagger sings "You Can't Always Get What You Want" directly to Marianne Faithfull—he wrote the song to implore her not to die on heroin. She almost did soon after anyway; in fact, about one-third of the Circus performers were on junk, including Lennon, who looks near vomiting throughout. Heroin was the sympathetic devil in the Stones' song (inspired by the book Faithfull gave Jagger, Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita), well sung here. But as Faithfull explains, Jagger was never a devotee of Satan—"a devotee of satin, perhaps." TIM APPELO

WIRE

Wire on the Box: 1979

(Pink Flag)

The allegiance of most Wire fans is so tied to the band's first three records (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154) that it almost seems as though the Brits began and ended in the late '70s—and considering the mixed bag of mashy, dissonant jams that came afterward, you might even wish they had. At any rate, this release of Wire's 1979 performance for Rockpalast, a German television show, is as necessary as that holy trio of early albums if only because it represents the sole complete live audio/video, you-are-there recording of the band in its prime. But that's not the only reason; an audio-only live CD and an interview with Rockpalast host Alan Bangs accompanies the DVD, so Wire on the Box also gives fans—particularly those of us who, in '79, weren't exactly into punk yet—great opportunities to experience optimum Wire outside of their studied studio output. As it turns out, Colin Newman and Graham Lewis were every bit as angular and paranoid as songs like "Being Sucked in Again" sound. Maybe it was just the odd sensation of performing in front of a bunch of Kraut-rocking hippies, but during the "show," Lewis' super-serious posturing and hammy backups are downright embarrassing. And predictably, the camera gives too much time to the two frontmen. Still, even if you've seen a 10th-generation VHS copy of this stuff, the DVD's improved sound quality and longer-lasting format make it worthwhile. Just don't, you know, leave it out of the box for too long. LAURA CASSIDY

JONI MITCHELL

Refuge of the Roads

(Sony)

Aside from maybe Madonna and Prince, the early '80s didn't bring out the best in anybody. Exhibit A: Joni Mitchell's visual record of her 1983 world tour, which finds one of music's finest poets dangling a cigarette and bopping around in gauche pantsuits with chunky metal belts, like a contemplative Debbie Harry wearing something Bananarama left in Sheena Easton's closet. Never an artist to merely play human jukebox, director/co-editor Mitchell mostly bypasses early material in favor of electrically souped-up songs from her erratic mid-'70s output and the then-current release Wild Things Run Fast, which she juxtaposes with video footage that does absolutely nothing for them: "Wild Things Run Fast" is accompanied by shots of horses galloping through fire, "Refuge of the Roads" uses highway images, "Sweet Bird of Youth" cuts away to a seagull . . . you get the idea. The audience is never shown, and random home movie snippets featuring the band feel like in-jokes, though they certainly suggest Mitchell was at a loose, happy time in her life (she'd recently married bassist Larry Klein). She is in great voice. Jazz-inspired experiments, like 1979's Mingus,paid off dividends in her soulful phrasing—"God Must Be a Boogie Man"sounds particularly rich here, and there's a resonant "Real Good for Free" (music's most ingenuous I-feel-guilty-making-money-for-all-this reflection) at the piano. It's essential for completists only, however, and even they might have trouble choking down the sight of keyboardist Russell Ferrante in bow tie and newsboy cap. STEVE WIECKING

 
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