Monterey Pop appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A new 4K transfer, the Blu-ray managed to create a fairly effective version of the film.
One must always keep in mind the source material, since Pop clearly was shot under rough conditions with less than stellar equipment. However, the footage still held up quite well and looked better than I expected given those limitations.
Sharpness generally seemed positive. Most of the moments that came across as ill defined did so due to the source material.
Clearly a fair number of shots suffered from poor focus that came with the “on the fly” nature of the photography. Nonetheless, most of the movie looked solid, as the image usually appeared reasonably crisp and accurate.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. “Print flaws” mainly stemmed from the source and consisted solely of unavoidable gate hairs. Other defects remained absent most of the time, though I saw some vertical lines around 40 minutes and more during Hendrix’s set.
Another area affected by the cheapness of the film stock utilized, the colors varied. Much of the time they worked quite well, and they often seemed fairly lively.
For example, Hendrix’s yellow shirt looked nicely vibrant and vivid. Other hues could be spottier, but they usually looked decent and reflected the original photography.
Black levels also suffered slightly from film stock concerns. Those tones came across as acceptably deep much of the time, but they occasionally seemed a bit inky.
Shadow detail looked appropriately clear during most of the movie. Low-light shots displayed modest thickness, but I experienced no significant issues in that regard.
Ultimately, Criterion created a nice transfer for Monterey Pop. It replicated the source about as well as I could hope.
Monterey Pop boasted a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack in addition to both original and remixed versions of the stereo mix.
As one might expect from a concert presentation, the 5.1 Pop featured an emphasis on the forward channels, and an emphasis on vocals made the soundfield seem fairly centered much of the time.
Nonetheless, the track offered reasonably good spread across the front speakers. Instruments seemed appropriately delineated and they blended together well.
The surrounds contributed some general reinforcement and ambient elements, but the front definitely dominated the proceedings. Essentially, Pop offered a stereo mix along with some crowd noise in the rears and general music.
Audio quality varied from track to track but usually sounded positive. Vocals came across as quite natural and distinct much of the time. Singing occasionally betrayed some edginess, but for the most part, those elements appeared warm and crisp.
Instrumentation generally appeared accurate and well defined. Highs seemed bright and lively, and bass response usually came across as nicely deep and rich. The movie started well in this regard, but “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song)” seemed somewhat thin and distant to a degree.
However, the audio rebounded with the Airplane’s songs, and the mix usually remained solid after that. The audio held up well and made the music sound very good.
How did this 2017 Blu-ray compare to the original Criterion BD from 2009? Audio seemed identical, but visuals showed greater clarity and range, and the image also looked a bit cleaner. Due to the nature of the source, this didn’t become a huge upgrade, but it worked a bit better than its predecessor.
This 2017 release includes old and new extras, and on Disc One, we start with an audio commentary from director D.A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler. Both of them sit together for this terrific running, screen-specific track during which they go over a nice mix of subjects.
We learn of specific film-related issues as well as lots of notes about the performers, the era, and the festival itself. They fill the time well; a few spaces occur during Ravi Shankar’s extended song, but otherwise we need to endure few blank bits. Pennebaker and Adler give us a very entertaining and informative piece that definitely merits a listen.
For more information from that pair, we move to a 2001 Adler and Pennebaker Interview. Though this 29-minute, 22-second program probably should seem redundant after their commentary, happily, it consists mostly of new material.
Unlike the audio commentary, Adler dominates this program. We learn more nuts and bolts about the creation and execution of the festival as well as issues related to the acts and the film itself. The interview provides more engaging notes that should interest fans.
New to the remastered Blu-ray, we get two 2017 interviews with Adler (11:48) and Pennebaker (14:50). Both appear at retrospectives related to Monterey Pop and give us general notes about the events and their experiences. We get some decent notes, though the interviews lack a lot of fresh material after all the prior chats.
Next we find a collection of Audio Interviews. Recorded on various occasions in the years after the festival, we hear from John Phillips (16:02), Cass Elliott (12:19), David Crosby (9:26), and festival publicist Derek Taylor (29:23). Most of the interviews seem to come from the mid-Eighties, though clearly Elliott’s were recorded much earlier since she died in 1974.
All four offer some good notes, and they usually follow somewhat similar topics. We hear about each person’s involvement in the festival, and they also go over general impressions of Monterey Pop as well as some specific comments about a few different acts.
Only Taylor’s segment starts to get a little tiresome; it’s the longest, and he’s the most tedious speaker. Nonetheless, these clips generally work well, especially when Elliot and Phillips offer their not-so-pleasant thoughts about Woodstock.
Elaine Mayes Photographs offers a quick “Bio” of the photographer as well as a “Photo Gallery”. This divides into the three different days of the festival to show the performers, and it also includes a collection of audience shots. The stillframe section includes a total of 153 photos.
In addition, these pictures can be seen in a “Photo Essay”. This films the images and also provides commentary from photographer Mayes. The piece lasts 12 minutes, 15 seconds.
Mayes’ remarks cover the reasons she got into photography, her impressions of the festival and some of the participants, the technical choices she made, and her favorites from the show.
The photos reflect her comments and come appropriately timed that way. Mayes’ statements seem compelling and useful and they add to the experience.
We also get a replica of the Festival Program. This stillframe piece shows two pages per screen and also offers a “text” option. The latter enlarges the print when necessary. The program looks exactly like I expected – ie, dippy and silly – but this still seems like a cool extra.
New to the 2017 release, Chiefs provides a 19-minute, 52-second short film that accompanied the theatrical release of Pop. Shot at a police convention in Hawaii, it gets various law enforcement officials opinions on then-current topics.
Recorded in the aftermath of the 1968 Democratic convention riots, Chiefs seems more even-handed than expected. Sure, it veers in the expected right-wing direction, but the participants come across as less fascistic than I’d anticipate. Chiefs offers an interesting snapshot of its era.
In addition to the film’s very psychedelic theatrical trailer and a more restrained re-release trailer, Disc One includes five radio spots. These are organized via the music of different participants, so two promote Janis Joplin, while the others feature Jimi Hendrix, the Mamas and the Papas, and Otis Redding, respectively.
In addition, the first disc discusses The Remix. We find a “bio” for music remixer Eddie Kramer, and he also offers text that relates the work he performed for the new mixes. Finally, MIPFF gives us text about the festival’s purpose.
As we move to Disc Two, we find two main programs, and additional supplements relate to both of those. Jimi Plays Monterey lasts 49 minutes, two seconds and purports to offer Hendrix’s entire set from Monterey.
This seems slightly deceptive. While the program includes all of Hendrix’s music from the set, technical issues meant that film footage doesn’t exist for all of his songs. As such, we get audio-only for “Can You See Me?” and “Purple Haze”.
Jimi starts with some rough footage of Hendrix at a late 1967 concert in London, where he plays “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and a little of “Wild Thing”. We also hear some comments from John Phillips, as he tells us a little about Hendrix’s early career and a few other issues.
Eventually, this leads us to Hendrix’s Monterey performance. It starts with an introduction from Rolling Stone Brian Jones and then goes to the music at the 11-minute, 50-second marl. Hendrix plays “Killing Floor”, “Foxey Lady”, ‘Like a Rolling Stone”, ‘Rock Me Baby”, “Hey Joe”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, and “Wild Thing”.
Jimi presents its material well. The opening segments offer good perspective, and then we launch into uninterrupted music.
Audio and video quality appear good given the limitations of the source. Overall, Jimi offers a fine experience.
Jimi Plays Monterey includes an audio commentary from music critic and historian Charles Shaar Murray, who gives us a running, screen-specific piece. Murray provides an enthusiastic presence as he tells us about the particular songs performed by Hendrix as well as information about the guitarist’s career and other issues related to that topic.
Murray tosses in his two cents about Hendrix, which lets his fanboy side come out for us. The latter element appears a little too often; I appreciate Murray’s passion, but I’d rather hear more facts instead of just praise. Still, Murray offers a good basic chat about Hendrix.
Also found in the “Commentary” section of Disc Two, Additional Audio Excerpts includes more material from Murray. He provides about 45 minutes of information as he covers many different facets of Hendrix’ career.
Murray charts Jimi’s early days and his path to success as well as technical elements of his guitar playing, the role his race manifested, his interactions with other major artists – particularly the Who – and a few other topics. Murray seems polished and well-informed as he provides a lot of excellent notes about Hendrix.
In addition to the trailer for Jimi, we get Pete Townshend, a four-minute, 35-second interview with the Who leader. Conducted for VH1, Townshend covers his memories of Hendrix and the festival. As usual, Townshend proves frank and witty, which makes me wish the interview lasted longer.
Note that the disc claims this interview was shot in 1987, but based on Pete’s appearance, that’s clearly not accurate; I assume this is a typo and they meant 1997 instead, since Pete didn’t look nearly that old back in 1987. Both the original Criterion DVD and the prior Blu-ray made this mistake, too, and they never corrected it.
The other main component of Disc Two, Shake! Otis at Monterey features Redding’s complete set from Monterey. This lasts 19 minutes, nine seconds and includes five full songs: “Shake”, “Respect”, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, and “Try a Little Tenderness”.
Unlike the historical notes offered at the start of Jimi, Otis provides no extraneous material. It launches with an introduction from Tommy Smothers and then heads right into Redding’s set. Picture and sound again appear positive, and Otis offers a nice program.
Shake! provides two separate audio commentaries, both from music historian Peter Guralnick. On the first, he discusses the songs Redding performed, while during the second, he goes over Otis’ career and different aspects of it. Both tracks are running and screen-specific when appropriate.
Though Guralnick lacks the enthusiasm of Murray, he displays obvious affection for the music, and he gives us a nice sense of Redding and his work. Guralnick provides generally compelling and informative material that helps the viewer get a better understanding of Redding, so both commentaries warrant your attention.
In addition to these commentaries, the Shake! section of the disc includes an interview with former Redding manager Phil Walden. This program lasts 18 minutes, 45 seconds and goes over a number of topics.
Walden starts with his childhood interest in R&B and then covers how he got involved in the music business, how he met up with Redding, Otis’ recording career, how he was recruited for Monterey, his experiences at the festival, and Redding’s experiences after that. Walden proves lively and charming as he relates a lot of compelling information about Redding and his own life and career.
Originally on Disc One of the old Blu-ray, the 2017 release puts an extensive collection of Outtakes on Disc Three. This includes songs from The Association, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Blues Project, Buffalo Springfield, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, The Electric Flag, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Al Kooper, the Mamas and the Papas, the Steve Miller Blues Band, Moby Grape, Laura Nyro, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Who. If you watch these all together via the “Play All” option, you’ll find two hours, nine minutes and 42 seconds of footage.
As I checked out this material, I quickly realized why much of it failed to make the final cut of Pop: most of it seems pretty weak. Actually, a lot of the music simply comes across as mediocre, and I’m sure some of the tunes failed to show up in Pop simply because Pennebaker usually chose to use only one number per act.
This meant that the extra filmed numbers from Simon and Garfunkel, Big Brother, Country Joe and the Fish, and the Who hit the cutting room floor. (Both Jefferson Airplane and Mamas and Papas got two songs in the finished flick, but they still added more cut material here.)
Of all the material here, only the three tracks from the Who – “Substitute”, “Summertime Blues” and “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” – seem more than moderately interesting. Actually, even more so than the main film, the presentation of the outtakes demonstrates what an impact the Who must have made on the crowd.
After lots of fairly gentle and mild music, they erupted on stage with a tremendous aggressiveness absent from their predecessors. The band didn’t offer the greatest renditions of these three tracks – “A Quick One” appears particularly sloppy – but they still give us the easily the best material of the outtakes.
The competition for crummiest outtakes performance also is an easy choice. While quite a few bad numbers appear – such as mind-numbing tripe from Butterfield as well as a terrible Mamas and Papas take on the Beatles’ “I Call Your Name” – by far the worst track comes from the Blues Project.
The disc presents all 11-plus minutes of the meandering and indulgent “The Flute Thing”. If you ever want to show someone the worst aspects of Sixties rock, fire up “The Flute Thing” – it doesn’t get any worse than this.
Note that the 2017 release’s “Outtakes” differ from those on the original release. We lose material from Scott McKenzie but gain songs from the Steve Miller Blues Band, Moby Grape and the Grateful Dead.
It’s unclear why McKenzie got the boot – and why the other clips failed to appear on the prior release. Actually, I’d speculate the Miller tracks didn’t show previously because they’re incomplete snippets of songs, but the Grape and the Dead do complete versions of their tunes, so their prior absence befuddles me – I’d guess rights issues interfered.
Not a performer in the main festival, Tiny Tim played its “green room”, and Pennebaker captured 10 minutes, 39 seconds of his work. He wasted his film.
Most folks remember Tim as a novelty act, and you’ll find nothing to dispute that notion here. While the festival itself included some bad music, nothing can prepare you for the horrors of Tiny Tim. Was he the most annoying and untalented “musician” ever? Possibly.
If you check out the “Artists Index” area, you’ll find alternate presentations of some material. In addition to short text about all of the artists featured in the outtakes area, both Big Brother’s “Combination of the Two” and the Who’s “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” appear with 5.1 mixes. Paul Butterfield’s “Driftin’ Blues” also shows up in an audio-only version that lengthens the filmed edit.
The package finishes with a 72-page booklet. It mixes essays from critics Michael Chaiken, Armond White, David Fricke, Barney Hoskyns and Michael Lydon.
The booklet adds useful information, but note that it differs from the “scrapbook” that came with the prior release. The changes seem fairly minor, though, and the 2017 booklet probably works a bit better.
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival provided a terrific look at the legendary event. Despite my neutral or antagonistic stance toward most of the acts on the bill, I rather enjoyed the film and thought it nicely captured the event. The Blu-ray makes Monterey Pop look and sound better than ever, while the set includes a simply outstanding roster of extras. This doesn’t become a tremendous upgrade over the prior Blu-ray, but it does offer the best version of Pop yet released.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of COMPLETE MONTEREY POP