This is the first of six reviews of DVD releases selected from the Quantum Leap "Rock 'n Roll Legends" series featuring stars of the late-Fifties and early-Sixties. This DVD series is quirky and uneven, yet manages to be both interesting and entertaining.
These nostalgic releases feature live performances by popular stars, often years after they were in their prime, mostly at Little Darlin's, a nostalgia club in Florida, but also at other locations. Some performances are taken from television or movies, including a documentary from Canada's National Film Board. A horde of other popular stars, and some not so well known, make guest appearances. The visuals, on clips often apparently dubbed from old film stock, range from disconcertingly blurry to quite good but never flawless. Usually, the music makes up for the lack of visual clarity.
There's a "Fanzone" that includes biography, discography and other background information. As well, the "Quantum Leap Propaganda" section features a variety of interesting, sometimes documentary plugs for events and products as well as web links.
While this "Rock 'n Roll Legends" series includes other DVD releases, in these six alone, you can see performances by some 25 vintage artists, singing not only their own hits but other popular songs of the era. Any one of these releases provides an interesting, if eccentric, window on this past time. Together they present a fascinating pastiche of popular music as it was a half-century ago.
Rock 'n Roll Legends: Bobby Vee features five of Bobby Vee's biggest hits performed live at Little Darlin's, The Rock 'n Roll Palace in Orlando, Florida. The music is energetic and well-performed and the songs retain the sound of the original hit recordings. The audience is lively, filling the dance floor throughout the performance, and Vee is clearly having a ball interacting with them. There's something a little off-centre about doing the bunny hop to "Walking With My Angel" or asking the dancers to twist to "Rubber Ball" but Vee and his audience carry it off. The track-listing on the package does not match the actual order of songs as performed.
Guest artists on this release are Danny and the Juniors, here called The Original Juniors, featuring three original members without the late Danny Rapp (1941-1983). Also performing at Little Darlin's, The Original Juniors do a respectable job performing this music, sounding slicker and more "Vegas" than the original recordings I remember. Even so, this is good Rock and Roll, performed with sincerity and energy.
On this release, "Fanzone" features an extensive biography of Bobby Vee along with a comprehensive discography of his releases over the decades. These sections make interesting reading but, once again the visual quality is far less than ideal.
"Quantum Leap Propaganda" is more than just that. It includes three interesting, if rough in many aspects, clip-packed video presentations plus a brief commercial for the Quantum Leap website. Imagine the movie That's Entertainment produced not by a professional but by a YouTube amateur and you'll have a good idea what to expect in these video presentations.
Running almost seventeen minutes, "Pure Pop" is a pastiche of interesting clips that comes across as a chaotic attempted documentary film. It features a half-dozen or more popular stars in commentary and in performance. The purpose appears to be to sell other DVD selections. At the left side of each title bar is what appears to be a release number. Some of the clips you can see include part of a documentary on New York songwriters featuring Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield; a performance from The Frank Sinatra Timex Show featuring Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr. and others; a segment on Dusty Springfield featuring commentary from Petula Clark and others and a performance by Springfield of her signature song, "I Only Want To Be With You;" John Sebastien joking with his audience and then singing "What a Day for a Daydream;" performances by Bonnie Koloc, Arturo Sandoval, and Billy Joel (in a long lost music video); and a segment from the movie "The Fabulous Dorseys." Here as well, the visual quality leaves a lot to be desired but is more than made up for in historical interest.
At about seventeen minutes, "World Music" is set up along the same lines as "Pure Pop", including the embedded release numbers, but features concert and interview clips of a variety of contemporary artists from around the world. Also included are clips of a children's entertainer (a character garbed as a large indefinable animal) and documentary clips of dance teachers at work. Because of the music, the visuals, and the tight, fast pacing, this selection maintains a high interest level. For the most part, this section flows better and seems more unified that "Pure Pop" until near the end, where, for no apparent reason, there's a short documentary clip on the rise and fall of communism.
"W.P.M.A." is a seven minute plug for the World Peace Music Awards concerts, a large event featuring hundreds of well-known musicians and broadcast worldwide. While this promotional piece seems more unified than some of the other material on this release, it also seems to be pieced together from two separate pieces advertising the concerts in San Francisco, California (2002) and in Nagasaki, Japan (2005). This now outdated advertisement is mostly of interest for the documentary content included to support its cause.
Combining the pop rock of Bobby Vee with sanitized versions of Danny and the Juniors' rock and roll, this release is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in this vintage music. The additional video segments, while clearly advertisements and not that well produced, are just plain fun. I'd definitely recommend this DVD to anyone seeking a couple of hours light entertainment.
You'll find more information on Bobby Vee at the Bobby Vee Home Page or at Wikipedia. You can look up Danny and the Juniors at the Official Danny and The Juniors Site or at Wikipedia. Also check out the Quantum Leap Online Catalogue.
Rock 'n Roll Legends: Bobby Vee
Quantum Leap Group Ltd.
Running Time: 45 minutes