DVD of the Year

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival: 'This is the love crowd!'

2002 wasn’t quite The Year That Music DVDs Broke. There were some superb offerings, of course, from the special-edition version of Martin Scorsese’s concert documentary on The Band, The Last Waltz, and the digital debut of the Channel 4 TV (Britain) Miles Davis doc The Miles Davis Story, to the 5.1 sound transfer of Neil Young’s live-in-’78 film Rust Never Sleeps and the combined DVD-CD package chronicling the Cowboy Junkies’ 2001 tour, Open Road. Not to mention the ultimate treatment of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, which added an entire second disc of wonderful supplemental material.

But the DVD industry continues to overlook scores of classic concerts, docs and video anthologies, consigning them to VHS (or worse, Beta) limbo. Small wonder that the bootleggers have been transferring to DVD boatloads of rare material. Just two recent examples: Ladies And Gentlemen . . . The Rolling Stones, chronicling the Stones’ ’72 American trek; and Eat the Document, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker’s look at Dylan’s legendary ’66 tour.

Pennebaker was also behind the lens for the hippie rock festival film Monterey Pop. That documentary, from 1968, of the ’67 gathering-of-tribes is now out as a three-DVD box set. The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Criterion Collection) is pricey, around 75 bucks, but dig what you get: (1) the original film with a new digital transfer overseen by Pennebaker, plus a 5.1 audio mix courtesy noted engineer Eddie Kramer and assorted interviews, trailers, and bonus material; (2) both Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey, the complete sets (also in 5.1) from Hendrix and Redding; and (3) “The Outtake Performances,” a whopping two hours’ worth of film not seen in the original, tunes by the Who, the Mamas and The Papas, Byrds, Laura Nyro, Buffalo Springfield, Tiny Tim (1), and others. Just viewing the Hendrix set—burning guitar and all—is enough to set your neck hairs on end.

Sound across all three discs is outstanding, and the menus are cleanly designed for easy navigation. A 64-page booklet crammed with color photos plus three essays (by Barney Hoskyns, Michael Lydon, and Armond White) about the festival and the film round out the box set. Monterey Pop has always been a key festival film, holding its own against the likes of Woodstock and Message To Love: Isle of Wight Festival. In its new triple-DVD incarnation, it most likely stands as the definitive one.

You can practically smell the patchouli.