George Harrison & Friends: The Concert For Bangladesh Warner Music/Rhino/Apple SRP $29.98US, $48.99CDN (Standard Edition) $49.98US, $70.99CDN (Limited Deluxe Edition) A groundbreaking event in music history, organized by ex-Beatle George Harrison at the suggestion of mentor Ravi Shankar, concerned over the plight of millions of East Pakistani refugees fleeing political unrest into India and inevitably facing hunger and disease in 1971. Harrison was able to get as many friends as he could to help try to use his fame as an ex-Beatle (influenced by the best, John Lennon) to raise awareness and funds to help. The performers who agreed did it in the name of charity, and were not paid for their efforts. Among the “supergroup” created for the event at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 1, 1971 were Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Badfinger, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Jesse Ed Davis (recruited in case Clapton was a no-show), Jim Keltner, Klaus Voorman and Bob Dylan (Dylan would come out, perform his own mini-set with members of the ensemble, and disappear afterwards). The performances were recorded and padded with performers in true “Wall Of Sound” fashion by wunderkind Phil Spector (brass section, backup singers, 2 drummers, and, including Badfinger, 7 guitarists). Opening the concerts (one afternoon show and one evening show) was Ravi Shankar with an Indian music quartet performance to help set the mood for the event, and give it purpose before the main attraction took the stage. The shows were filmed in 16mm format, and a (then outrageous) 48 microphones recorded to 24-track, and theatrically presented blown up to 70mm 6-track stereo (that’s how it was advertised, by the way). The event was the first of its kind, an effort by a group of musicians to positively affect change for others in unfortunate circumstances (some other notable events to follow were No Nukes, The Concerts For Kampuchea, Live Aid, and Farm Aid), at a time when the 60’s optimism in the rock world had ended with events such as the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and the aftermath of The Rolling Stones’ Altamont concert, let alone the breakup of The Beatles. While the concert itself raised approx $250,000, the impact was immediate, and revenues from the subsequent film and triple-LP provided further assistance (although legal concerns and distribution negotiations kept the record from the public until just in time for Christmas 1971), and the album would go on to win the Grammy for Album Of The Year, beating out such contenders as Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Stage Cast), Don McLean’s “American Pie”, and Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Scmilsson” (not half bad for the ex-Beatle who was denied more album time and released two triple-LP sets for his first real post-Beatle commercial solo albums). For the third time, The Concert For Bangladesh has been released on home video (first by Thorn-EMI, then by Paramount in the 1990’s), and now for the first time on DVD, and considering the 16mm source material, the film has never looked better. The film is presented full-frame 1.33:1, and new 5.1 (DD and DTS) and stereo mixes by Paul Hicks and Allan Rouse at Abbey Road Studios pick up the slack where the 16mm elements fail. Music is kept in the front and the audience noise is well balanced front-to-back. The MTV generation may have a hard time watching the film because there are no quick-cut edits here, and that suits me fine, because long edits give me time to look around the picture, as if I were focusing on different players on the live stage with all the time in the world. To be honest, I never watched the film very much in previous forms, (I still have the Paramount VHS re-release but watched it only once), but I did spend a lot of time listening to the album over the years, and when I brought the new DVD home, the first thing I did was to watch the supplement-loaded 2nd disc, and I can say I’m glad I did. The disc includes 1 documentary on the event (at about 48 minutes), and has a lot of original unused footage that looks very good (although some of the new interview footage looks very noisy), plus 2 mini-documentaries that focus on the subsequent film and album, and a ‘recollections’ featurette, all with several new interviews with performers Starr, Clapton, Preston, Keltner, Russell and Shankar, and people like Apple’s guardian angel Neil Aspinall, and former Capitol Records president Bhaskar Menon (who gave George Martin the 3-track tapes of the Beatles’ Hollywood Bowl shows Capitol made resulting in the first #1 post-Beatle group album, 7 years after the breakup). These documentaries really get to the heart of the concert, and, more than ‘feel good’ fluff, enhanced the concert experience for me as I watched the film with ‘new eyes’. Standouts continue to be Leon Russell’s and Billy Preston’s performances, and Harrison is understandably nervous as MC and ringmaster – this was, after all, the first time he ever fronted a group for a major concert. Additional footage includes 2 rehearsal numbers plus 1 segment from the afternoon concert featuring Dylan. The deluxe package includes a 60-page color booklet, 10 postcards, an Apple sticker and a copy of Harrison’s handwritten lyrics for Bangla Desh. Available separately is a new re-issue CD, tightened to remove some dead spots and extraneous chatter/applause, and significantly remixed, and includes Dylan’s additional performances from the afternoon concert as seen in the supplements on the second DVD. Proceeds from the sales of these discs continue to go to aid UNICEF.