This is the third of six reviews of DVD releases selected from the Quantum Leap series of "Rock 'n Roll Legends" 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.
In the world of popular music, the Shirelles are both important and influential. The first all girl group to ever score a number one record, the Shirelles are touted as the first ever girl-group, defining the genre and becoming the template for all who followed. For a while, they had as powerful an influence on my generation as The Beatles had later. I can remember in my mid-teens sitting with a group of friends in the cafe of the main bus depot in downtown Calgary as we played "Soldier Boy" over and over on the jukebox, all of us singing along at the top of our lungs. Needless to say, we were finally thrown out of the place. There you have it, the ultimate girl-group as an incentive for rebellion.
This release features "Soldier Boy" and six other Shirelles’ hits performed live at Little Darlin's, The Rock 'n Roll Palace in Orlando, Florida. The sound is true to the original hit recordings, but with the energy that only a live concert can bring to the music. These are solid, well-written pop songs penned by some of the best songwriters of their era and they stand up very well to the test of time. This is a fun concert to watch and may even inspire you to get up and dance to the music. Who knows, you may even want to sing along, over and over again.
The four bonus tracks feature two more of the great girl groups of the Sixties, The Angels and The Dixie Cups. The quality of the performances by these two groups is also outstanding and well worth the time spent watching. I was especially taken by The Dixie Cups' version of "Iko Iko" with its blend of African and Caribbean sounds and rousing rhythms.
The "Fanzone" On this release features a extensive history of the Shirelles along with a very comprehensive discography of their releases throughout their career. Even though the visual quality is far less than ideal, these sections do make interesting and informative reading.
Here, as on all of these releases "Quantum Leap Propaganda" is an eccentric mix of archival footage, rough edits and promotional material. It includes three quirky, clip-packed video presentations plus a brief commercial for the Quantum Leap website. The visual quality is often less than desirable and the editing is rough and amateurish, but the viewing experience is interesting and sometimes even educational. Rather than finished productions, these short videos seem more like samplers pieced together from diverse sources. The viewer never knows what will come next. The purpose of "Quantum Leap Propaganda" appears to be to sell other Quantum Leap releases. At the left side of each title bar in these segments is what appears to be a release number indicating the release on which that clip may be found.
"Cool Soul" is a bit of a misnomer. Over its running time of more than 12 minutes, this musical section contains nothing that could properly be called soul music. Rather, it's an eclectic sampler of a variety of musical genres, featuring clips of live performance and documentary footage. The clips include everything from solid funk through peaceful acoustic Spanish guitar, rousing big band swing, parts of three songs by Willie Nelson, and a segment from a documentary on the life of reggae master Jimmy Cliff. Misnamed or not, this segment is interesting and entertaining to watch.
At just over fourteen minutes long, "Sport" includes documentaries featuring archival soccer footage with voice-over commentary in Italian, surfers talking about a giant wave alternated with surfing footage in black and white and color, a biography of soccer player Diego Maradona, a segment of a documentary about Formula One race drivers, a Sensei demonstrating the various stances in Shotokan Karate, brief footage of several Ultimate Kickboxing matches, and an excerpt from the movie Joe Louis Story Interesting? Yes. Educational? Probably not. The clips are just too short and clearly meant as a tease so that those interested will be tempted to buy the DVD release.
A feature that appears on a number of Quantum Leap releases, "W.P.M.A." is a seven minute plug for the World Peace Music Awards, a large televised concert event featuring hundreds of well-known musicians and broadcast worldwide. This promotional piece appears to have been pieced together from two earlier pieces advertising the concerts in San Francisco, California (2002) and Nagasaki, Japan (2005) plus other materials. While now out of date, this short video is still interesting to watch.
With eleven vintage hits and featuring live performances by three of the seminal girl-groups, this release is definitely a worthwhile addition to anyone's collection of Sixties popular music. This is one that I'd definitely recommend, not just for fans in my generation but for younger listeners who'd like to discover some of their music's roots.
Find a treasure trove of information on the Shirelles at the Official Homepage of The Shirelles and find even more at Wikipedia. You can learn more about The Angels at The Official Website of The Angels. You can find out about The Dixie Cups at The Dixie Cups Official Website or at Wikipedia. Also check out the Quantum Leap Online Catalogue.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Quantum Leap Group Ltd.
Running Time: 45 minutes