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RHINO / WEA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
- Unknown -
Cast:
The Velvet Underground
Writing Credits:
- Unknown -

Synopsis:
The Velvet Underground decided to call it quits in 1970, and the last thing anyone expected was to hear from them again. When the Velvets announced plans for a reunion tour in Europe, opening for U2 on select dates there, expectations of a U.S. tour rose to a fever pitch. Tragically the Velvets broke up once again before reaching the states. The Velvet Underground reunion may never have reached America, but as live DVDs go, Live MCMXCIII stands as a fitting tribute to both Morrison and the legacy of The Velvet Underground.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
Audio:
English PCM Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/24/2006

Bonus:
• None


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Velvet Underground: Velvet Redux (Live MCMXCIII) (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 2, 2006)

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen plenty of improbable reunions. We got The Eagles in 1994 and The Pixies in 2004. Eurythmics popped up briefly in 1999, and Simon and Garfunkel mended ways a couple of times. Heck, I’ve even heard rumors of a Genesis reunion that might involve both Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel!

Most of these reunions feature acts with a mass audience. The Pixies stand as the sole exception, for they were always much more influential than they were commercially successful. Another band with a similar legacy came back in 1993. The Velvet Underground became legendary in the years after their 1970 split, but they only briefly reunited 23 years later. They played a handful of dates as an opening act for U2 in the summer of 1993 and also headlined their own short tour of Europe. Before they could come to the States, they split up again.

Since founding member Sterling Morrison died in 1995, a Velvets reunion can’t happen again. At least some fans got to see them once more 13 years ago. Shot at L’Olympia in Paris during June 1993, Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII presents a snapshot of the reunion tour. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a full glimpse of the 1993 shows, as it cuts eight songs from the Paris shows. We lose “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”, “Guess I’m Falling in Love”, “Afterhours”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “The Gift”, “Velvet Nursery Rhyme”, “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and “I Can’t Stand It”.

Of the 15 songs that do make the cut, we get five from 1967’s debut The Velvet Underground and Nico: “I’m Waiting for the Man”, “Femme Fatale”, “Venus In Furs”, “Heroin” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”. 1968’s White Light/White Heat features the title song and “I Heard Her Call My Name”, while 1969’s The Velvet Underground presents “Some Kinda Love”, “Beginning to See the Light” and “Pale Blue Eyes”.

Off of 1970’s Loaded, we discover “Sweet Jane” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll”. “I’m Sticking With You” shows up on 1985’s VU, a compilation of unreleased material. “Hey Mr. Rain” comes from 1986’s Another View, a sequel to VU. Finally, “Coyote” is a then-new song exclusive to the 1993 concerts; I don’t believe the Velvet Underground ever put out a studio version of it.

Over the years, I’ve attempted to get into the VU but haven’t quite been able to do so. I can’t say I dislike their music, but I just can’t connect with it terribly well. For every song I like, there’s another that makes me want to jump off a bridge.

You’ll find both those sides represented in Redux. They often remain an inaccessible band, and that gets displayed more heavily in the program’s first half. A few listener-friendly tracks like “Femme Fatale” appear, but we get others like “Venus in Furs”, “I’m Sticking with You” and “Hey Mr. Rain” that more closely resemble the proverbial nails on the chalkboard. Even the pop-worthy “White Light” sounds rough.

Matters do pick up as the show progresses, at least. I definitely prefer the tracks found in the second half. We get winners like “I Heard Her Call My Name” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll” but the show doesn’t saddle us with as many clunkers. The occasional misfire still occurs, but after the painful and interminable “Hey Mr. Rain”, everything else comes as a relief.

Even during the bad songs, however, the band sounds good. I’m not wild about the speak-sing vocals Lou Reed uses, but otherwise everything’s tight. The program also features solid direction. It boasts smooth camerawork and a lack of distracting visual goofiness. This allows the show to appear simple and distinctive.

I don’t expect Velvet Redux will win over many new fans to the Velvet Underground, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile program. It marks a historically significant reunion that also fares pretty well musically. Personally, I find the material to be hit or miss, but I’m glad I gave it a look.


The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio B+/ Bonus F

The Velvet Underground: Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I can’t say I expected much from this video, and the visuals didn’t exceed what I anticipated.

Sharpness usually looked pretty mushy. Occasional shots seemed reasonably clear and distinctive, but those didn’t dominate. Instead, the program mostly came across as rather tentative and ill-defined. There’s a murky haziness to most of the project. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I also couldn’t detect any edge enhancement. Print flaws manifested themselves in the guise of a few spots and a small hair or two, but matters mainly looked clean.

Like the sharpness, colors were muddy. Granted, this wasn’t exactly a broad extravaganza of hues, but the various tones lacked bite. Colored lights were heavy, and other signs of hues seemed indistinct and pale. Blacks were a bit tighter, but shadows tended to be thick, as they failed to present good clarity. Again, I didn’t expect something like this to look especially good, but that didn’t change the fact Redux was a weak visual presentation.

At least the PCM Stereo soundtrack of Velvet Live Redux easily surpassed the visuals. Stereo imaging was quite good. The various instruments and vocals all received appropriate and accurate localization. They appeared in logical spots and meshed together very well. I couldn’t ask much more than that from this very satisfying stereo presentation.

Audio quality was also mostly good. I noticed a little distortion on a few occasions, primarily connected to Cale’s viola. Otherwise, matters were crisp and clean. Highs sounded tight and concise, while lows were deep and firm. All the instruments presented solid clarity and definition. Some might gripe that the music didn’t get a 5.1 remix, but I didn’t see the necessity, as the original stereo presentation represented the material well.

Unfortunately, Redux came with no supplements. Since the main program omits eight songs from the original shows, it’s too bad they don’t appear here.

Maybe a definitive DVD of the Velvet Underground’s 1993 reunion will show up someday. Until then, fans will have to make do with Velvet Redux. For someone with at best a moderate interest in the band, it represents a maddeningly inconsistent mixture of true highs and terrible lows. However, for better or worse, that’s what the Velvet Underground was like, so I can’t complain.

The DVD offers pretty lousy visuals and comes with no extras. At least it gives us strong audio. I can’t recommend Redux as a good intro to the Velvet Underground, as it’s just as likely to turn newbies off as it is to entice them. For already established fans, however, this acts as a fine souvenir of an improbable reunion.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8333 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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