The Kings: Anatomy of a One-Hit Wonder

Strange that we would see two releases in the same year about Canadian rock bands that hit their commercial peak in the early ’80s but continue to soldier on, but the entertainment business is funny like that (see: “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon”). However, the Kings, who owned Friday afternoon drive time on rock radio for years thanks to their bouncy “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide” and its “Nothing matters but the weekend” battle cry, did not assemble “Anatomy of a One-Hit Wonder” to inspire sympathy; rather, this collection of the band’s music videos and live performances, combined with a 40-minute documentary of the band members describing the origins of “Beat/Switchin’,” is a sweet love letter to both its fans and even casual admirers of their big hit. Singer Dave Diamond, who at times recalls Martin Short, does most of the talking (though that is likely because guitarist John Picard, a.k.a. Mr. Zero, is shooting the interviews), and he’s refreshingly aware of the Kings’ place in the grand scheme of things; when he talks about working with mega-producer Bob Ezrin (just after he finished The Wall, no less) or appearing on “American Bandstand,” he’s not sticking his chest out as he does so, thank goodness. The interview footage is admittedly not professional quality (Zero financed the movie himself, shooting and editing it over a three-year period), but no one buying this video is looking for slick production. In fact, the DVD is worth purchasing for the opening clip alone, where Zero splices footage from dozens of performances of the band’s big hit and creates one monster performance video. Good for them for seeing this video through to its completion. Now, if you’ll politely oblige, your presence is requested by Diamond and Zero in the Mercedes. (Dizzy Records 2009)

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Depeche Mode: The Dark Progression

A definite step above the other unauthorized biographies in Sexy Intellectual’s catalog but not yet on par with the Classic Albums series, this look at the metamorphosis of Depeche Mode from cult electronic act to one of the biggest bands in the world makes one hell of an argument for the band as a worthy inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Featuring interviews with several of the band’s producers (Gareth Jones, Dave Bascombe, Daniel Miller) and electronic peers (Thomas Dolby, Gary Numan, OMD’s Andy McCluskey), the documentary focuses on the band’s rather gutsy decision to explore darker territory, beginning with 1986’s Black Celebration and ending with 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion, by which time the band was topping the US charts. The claim that the documentary features interviews with the band members is a tad dishonest, as they merely include clips from the short films that Mute assembled for the reissues of the band’s catalog in 2006 (and only one clip per member at that). They also gloss over the reasons behind Alan Wilder’s departure from the band, a move from which the band has only recently begun to recover. However, there is enough here that will thrill fans of the band in particular and of electronic music in general. Who knew that Andrew Fletcher was a fan of heavy metal? (Sexy Intellectual 2009)

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Return to Forever: Return to Forever Returns: Live at Montreux 2008

Of all the reunions pianist Chick Corea has participated in over the past few years, last year’s resurrection of the classic Return to Forever lineup – Corea, guitarist Al DiMeola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White – turned out to be the most musically rewarding. The guys play as if it were still 1976, and Corea even took a vintage Rhodes to the stage to keep it authentic. If anything, the group is even better now with age and wisdom – DiMeola’s guitar runs sparkle with soul, Clarke’s and White’s rhythms are even earthier now, and in spite of these musicians having so distinctly honed their identities over time, Chick is still the masterful glue that keeps it all together. Though known mostly for their electric work, RTF’s acoustic side is on display for almost half of Live at Montreux, with Chick’s solo improvisation before “The Romantic Warrior” (with Clarke and White as a straight-ahead trio) proving that RTF, for all their fusion tendencies, were always, deep down, a jazz band. (Eagle Rock Entertainment 2009)

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Dear Mr. Fantasy: A Celebration of Jim Capaldi

In January of 2007, a very distinguished set of musicians put on a concert celebrating the life and work of Jim Capaldi, a founding member of Traffic who died in January of 2005 of stomach cancer at the age of 60. The DVD capturing the event is pleasant enough and features performances and contributions from musicians who worked with and were inspired by Capaldi’s spirit, songwriting and musicianship. The list includes Steve Winwood, Capaldi’s Traffic bandmate, who delivers a solid version of the Traffic classic “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” and other luminaries such as Joe Walsh, Paul Weller, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) and Deep Purple alum and keyboard genius Jon Lord. The house band supporting these stars during the show included Bad Company alum Simon Kirke on the drums and multi-instrumentalist and band leader Mark Rivera (Foreigner, Ringo Starr, Billy Joel). The artists offer competent versions of Traffic and Capaldi solo material while adding a wrinkle or two of their own. Islam sneaks in a refrain of “Wild World” during “Man With No Country” and Walsh, ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and Jon Lord deliver a bluesy, soulful rendition of “Living on the Outside.” Solid, mellow and entertaining without a ton of bells and whistles, the concert delivers a fine tribute to a respected artist and his work from those who loved him the most. (Eagle Vision)

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Talk Talk: Live at Montreux 1986

Is it just us, or is Talk Talk one of the most underrated bands of all time? Seriously, is there another band on the planet that had the growth trajectory over its first five albums that Talk Talk exhibited? (Your results may vary over the course of Talk Talk’s last two albums, but you cannot deny that they refused to do the same thing twice, come hell or high water.) This video catches the band both at their commercial peak (their third album, 1986’s The Colour of Spring) and on their last tour, playing Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival and bringing a small but packed house to its knees. Singer Mark Hollis was not one for small talk with the audience, or even doing much more than walking between the mic and the drum riser (or taking off his sunglasses, indoors), but when he starts singing, he shakes like a man possessed by the Holy Ghost, and with perfect pitch to boot. Even the band’s earlier, more synthesized fare is fleshed out by the eight-piece band, giving some unlikely songs a little welcome breathing room (“Call in the Night Boy” in particular). The set list is near-bulletproof – all the big hits, from “Talk Talk” to “Living in Another World” and “Life’s What You Make It” are here, along with their It’s My Life album in its entirety, save one song – though we wished that they had made room for “Happiness Is Easy” in the 14-song set. Then again, the band did what every great band does: they left us wanting more. This is a must-have for any fan of a criminally unappreciated band. (Eagle Vision)

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