Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With its mix of materials, I figured Journey would present erratic visuals, and I was right.
When I look at a documentary like this, I mainly base my picture quality grade on the new elements – in this case, the interviews. Those usually looked fine, but they weren’t as strong as expected. The main offender came from many of the Townshend shots. Those tended to seem a bit muddy and blurry, and they also suffered from a lot of video noise.
Most of the other interviews seemed superior, but they weren’t quite as dynamic as anticipated. Sharpness was decent to good, as the clips usually appeared reasonably concise. Some softness continued to interfere, though those Townshend shots were the least appealing. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Video noise also cropped up in some of the other shots, though again, not to the level seen in the Townshend clips. Colors were reasonably positive, while blacks showed decent depth.
Of course, the archival elements were all over the place in terms of quality. Some looked pretty clean and accurate, but many suffered from softness, various source flaws and other concerns. I didn’t think these were worse than anticipated, as the clips looked about the way you’d expect. Overall, the visuals seemed acceptable.
Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Amazing Journey. Music and dialogue dominated the piece, as effects were such a minor consideration that I didn’t even factor them into the mix. Speech sounded pretty good across the board. The interviews showed nice clarity and natural qualities throughout the piece. Archival bits could be a little rough, but the dialogue was usually quite good.
Music depended on the source material but generally seemed fine. Although one might expect the songs to play a prominent role in the proceedings, they tended to be more of a background force. Sure, we heard music on a constant basis, but the dialogue stayed in the forefront. This meant that audio quality wasn’t as important as it might otherwise be. The songs offered decent clarity and range but weren’t particularly impressive.
As for the soundfield, the forward channels heavily dominated. Speech consistently emanated from the front center, while music spread across the forward speakers. This usually meant pretty good stereo separation, though some early material came to us via “broad mono”. I’d have preferred actual mono, but the spread of the tunes across the front wasn’t too much of a distraction. The surrounds played a minor role and only were noticeable elements on rare occasions. For instance, the introduction of Moon brought out a barrage from the back. Ultimately, the audio was fine for a documentary, though anyone who expects an active musical experience won’t get it here.
All of the set’s extras appear on DVD Two. Actually, the main extra is less a supplement and more of a companion film; I simply considered it a “bonus” for the sake of convenience. Amazing Journey: Six Quick Ones indeed offers another feature-length look at the Who. Here we get six featurettes that collectively fill one hour, 28 minutes and 14 seconds. These include “Roger” (16:01), “John” (7:38), “Pete” (18:27), “Keith” (9:51), “Who Art You?” (9:23) and “Who’s Back” (26:53).
We hear from a mix of participants across these featurettes. They include band members Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, and John Entwistle,
Co-manager (1964-1975) Chris Stamp, engineer/producer Glyn Johns, engineer Bob Pridden, manager (1973-present) Bill Curbishley, Entwistle’s first wife Joan Wise, producer Shel Talmy, guitar technician Alan Rogan, Pete’s college roommate Richard Barnes, Keith Moon’s assistant Dougal Butler, Keith’s mother Kathleen, and musicians Eddie Vedder, Rick Wakeman, Sting, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Pino Palladino, Bill Sheehan, Noel Gallagher, the Edge, Simon Townshend, Rob Ladd, Frank Simes and Steve Jones.
The first four components look at the band members, their impact on the Who and their musical styles. “Art” looks at the impact of art schools on the British rock scene of the Sixties as well as topics about the Mods and other styles of the era. Finally, “Back” examines the return of the Who to the studio in November 2003 to record “Real Good Looking Boy”.
Through the pieces that focus on the band members, we get more of the kind of info that showed up in the main documentary. Matters take a more musical bent, actually, as those components dig into what the guys brought to the band musically; they concentrate less on biography and more on the playing. That makes them pretty interesting, especially when we dig into the specifics.
“Art” is a decent look at the London scene of the Sixties. It never proves terribly illuminating, but it’s intriguing. “Back” offers a surprisingly dull look at the studio. Normally I love this kind of stuff, but this piece leaves me cold. Some of that comes from the fact that “Boy” doesn’t do a lot for me; after all the classic Who we’ve heard, it’s tough to get into this fairly mediocre song and care about its recording. It’s not a bad piece, but it’s not particularly fascinating.
Five more components show up under the 21 minutes and 12 seconds of the Scrapbook. This features “Dinner with Moon” (4:35), “A Legal Matter” (4:33), “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (2:35), “Cincinnati: The Whole Story” (7:04), and “Royal Albert Hall 2000” (2:24). Through these wer hear from Curbishley, Townshend, Talmy, Johns, Stamp, and Gallagher. These offer more interview odds and ends that didn’t quite fit into the main documentary. Some good moments pop up here, especially in terms of the Cincinnati discussion. I also like Gallagher’s funny story about his guest appearance at the 2000 concert.
DVD Two finishes with The High Numbers at the Railway Hotel 1964, a seven-minute and 52-second clip. From an aborted “mod” film planned by the band’s then-managers, this piece shows what is apparently the earliest footage of the Who – or the High Numbers, as they were then known. Some notes from Barnes set up the material, and we then get to watch this surprisingly good-looking reel. No one will mistake this for vintage Who as they rip through some lackluster R&B covers, but it’s great to see for historical value. Too bad the DVD doesn’t include more of this kind of stuff.
Finally, the set offers a 12-page Booklet. This text includes an introduction from Richard Barnes as well as some info about the various components on DVD Two. It provides a nice overview of the package.
As a general documentary about the band, Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who proves effective. It gives us an honest look at the group as it goes through their many ups and downs across the decades. The main negative I associate with the film stems from the lack of full performance clips; it teases us with lots of great footage but never provides entire segments.
Picture and sound quality seem average for this sort of project, whereas we get a good set of extras with many more interview snippets and some excellent footage of a very early version of the Who. If Journey included more material of this sort, I could heartily recommend it. As it stands, I like the film but find too many frustrations attached to it to throw out a strong recommendation. It’s a good overall take on the band, though, and worth a look if you’re curious to get a general history of the Who.