Music DVD Roundup: Some fine rock music DVDs have been released in the last few months. Included here are three of the best.
Pentagram – When The Screams Come (Metal Blade Records)
Cult figure Bobby Liebling’s doom metal outfit Pentagram recently celebrated its 40th year of existence, and much of that time was spent laboring in underground obscurity back before there were 1000 sub-genres of what was formerly known as just plain old “heavy metal.” This DVD is the first official filmic documentation of the band, shot at the Maryland Death Fest VIII in May, 2010, in front of a crowd mostly young enough to be Liebling’s own progeny.
When The Screams Come documents Liebling’s recent reunion with ace guitarist Victor Griffin, he of another fine cult metal act, Place of Skulls. Griffin, who visually speaking would fit right in with the gang on Sons of Anarchy, is one of the great, sadly underrated hard rock and metal guitar players, with old school chops that evoke hard rockers of the past like Black Sabbath and Steppenwolf while simultaneously sounding totally contemporary.
Liebling and Griffin make a great team, kind of a Jagger and Richards of doom, and sparks fly in this gig when they rip into Pentagram faves such as “Forever My Queen,” “Relentless,” and the band’s theme song, “Sign of the Wolf.” The final song of the set (from which this DVD takes its title) “When The Screams Come,” features some fine, bluesy soloing by Griffin that cuts most of what can be found in the too often one-dimensional “doom metal” ranks.
Singer and band leader Liebling is animated throughout, mugging and pulling faces, obviously glad to be alive and onstage after years of self-destruction–a point that he drives home in a frank interview included as a bonus feature.
Johnny Winter – Live at Rockpalast (MVD Visual)
This 1979 performance is taken from perhaps the finest music show ever, Germany’s long-running Rockpalast (Rock Palace). Winter, already a guitar hero and legend, at this point had jettisoned the duo of bassist Randy Jo Hobbs and drummer Richard Hughes, with whom he cut most of his 1970s rock-oriented material, including the decadent 1973 classic Still Alive and Well, and was now backed by bassist Jon Paris and drummer Bobby “T” Torello.
This personnel change coincided with a turn back toward the blues material Winter had started his career with, and during this sizzling show in support of his White, Hot and Blue album, Winter electrifies the German crowd with extended, spine-tingling takes on Willie Brown’s “Mississippi Blues” and a slide blues medley of Robert Johnson’s “Stones In My Passway,” Leadbelly’s “Leaving Blues,” and Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin.”
An added treat here is Winter’s hypnotic take on Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q” (made famous by Creedence Clearwater Revival), and of course no Winter show would be complete without a Rolling Stones cover–a raunchy “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” ends the show. But it is the electric blues numbers here which shine the brightest, and Live at Rockpalast is a must for any dedicated Winter fan for that reason alone. “You’ve gotta remember that if it wasn’t for the blues, there wouldn’t be no rock and roll,” Winter politely reminds the German fans, and this DVD lays that crucial connection bare.
Rory Gallagher – Irish Tour ’74 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
The film Irish Tour ’74 was one of the first “rockumentaries,” as filmmaker Tony Palmer followed ace Irish blues-rocker Rory Gallagher’s quartet on a tour of the Emerald Isle. Gallagher comes off as every bit as much a student of the blues as the more famous Johnny Winter: another devotee taking his rocked-up take on the blues to the masses.
This restored and remastered DVD showcases the late Gallagher’s musical diversity: “Tattoo’d Lady,” for example, is a fine rock song, showing that Rory Gallagher, perhaps more than many of his blues-rock contemporaries, was a talented tunesmith, a songwriter whose ability to craft an organic song, rather than a mere showcase for fancy guitar playing, would come to full fruition on later 1970s releases like the excellent Calling Card.
Not that there isn’t plenty of fiery fretwork here: Gallagher showcases some raunchy slide guitar work on “Who’s That Coming” and “Cradle Rock,” and slows things down to shiver-inducing effect on the wistful slow blues, “A Million Miles Away.” Gallagher even breaks out a vintage steel guitar for some virtuoso slide playing on a cover of Tony Joe White’s “As The Crow Flies.”
The “documentary” bits of Irish Tour ’74 are pleasant and unobtrusive, with an earnest Gallagher showing how to play bottleneck slide guitar and also discussing his homeland. An added bonus here is a 1972 performance of Gallagher, this time in power trio format, performing in Limerick, Ireland, highlighted by his acoustic cover of Blind Boy Fuller’s blues classic, “Pistol Slapper Blues.”
Altogether, this is a reissue which does the Rory Gallagher legacy proud.