The Concert For Bangladesh - An HTF Member Review

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Keith Paynter, Nov 3, 2005.

  1. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    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.
     
  2. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    This is a magnificent DVD, not only with a beautifully restored picture, but the SOUND was never better. I'm a Beatles fan first and foremost, but even I have to say that Dylan's set is the highlight of the show for me. I've never seen him better.
     
  3. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    As I have said in another thread, the deluxe edition is the single nicest DVD package I have ever seen. This is easily one of my favorite DVDs of the year.
     
  4. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    It's a nice touch that the deluxe packaging echoes the original LP box set, and the DVD artwork (both versions) uses the label artwork from the same LP.

    Joe, while I'm not a big Dylan fan (don't hate me for it), it is amazing that the reclusive singer (who had not had a significant record at that time for over two years) agreed to perform, and according to the documentary segments was questionable right up to showtime. Clapton, too, was emerging from a 2-year personal exile, and did a fabulous job with a minimum of rehearsal.
     
  5. Roy Van Nostrand

    Roy Van Nostrand Stunt Coordinator

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    Fantastic event and performance (including Shankar and company) brought to DVD! Great Phil Spector sound recording; the Bangladesh title soundtrack always sounded studio ...now I know why. Any imperfection in video is readily forgivable given the age of the film and for the sheer magnitude of the event. We did look kind of funny back in the seventies and this proves it ...everybody smoking cigarettes like it was sponsored by Phillip Morris or something.

    Nice review! Thanks.
     
  6. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    I'm about to order this as part of DDD's 20%-off sale (rumored to start tomorrow) but I'm not sure which edition. I don't care about the postcards and most of the stuff in the deluxe edition. Is the 60 page booklet worth over $10? What's in the booklet?
     
  7. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    In one of the extras, we are told that at the end of the album a backward loop was placed, but we are not told what it says. Does anyone know?
     
  8. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    I think it's worth it, even if just to have the nicest DVD package I've ever seen. The book is full of color photos from the show, and has a few essays and intros. Also, I don't think the deluxe version is $10 more; more like $5.
     
  9. AnthonyC

    AnthonyC Cinematographer

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    I was wondering the same thing George. They seem to play the LP after it but it's just pops to my ears.

    And as someone who bought the deluxe version only as a completist who had no interest in any of the bonuses other than the booklet--go for the deluxe edition. I was so glad I decided to get it; it's a very impressive package.
     
  10. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

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    Actually, checking the 3 e-tailers I order from the most (Amazon, DDD, Digital Eyes), it is between $12 and $14 more.
     
  11. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    It's possible that it was a first edition exclusive. I never heard it on my 3-LP set, and checked again today - nothing.

    I heard stories that the LP was initially released as a 2-record set. Can anyone verify this? This may explain the lack of such a loop on the 3-LP set...
     
  12. AnthonyC

    AnthonyC Cinematographer

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    Nope, all LP releases (at least in the U.S. and U.K.) have been 3-record sets.
     
  13. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well, the backward loop is defintely on my cd of the album, but I don't know how to play it backwards. [​IMG]
     
  14. AnthonyC

    AnthonyC Cinematographer

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    Upload it to your computer and use Goldwave, which will let you play and save a backwards audio file.
     
  15. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I can't figure out what the backward loop is. It sounds like overlapping voices, and even when I slow it down, I can't quite make it out. If anyone wants the file to try to figure it out, send me a pm.
     

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