DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane, Blu-ray (2013)

Sex, Drugs, Rock And Roll, and a hearty dose of good music!

Published on June 11, 2013

Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane, Blu-ray (2013)

Featuring:  Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Mick Taylor
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment [5/21/13]
Director: Brett Morgen
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color and b&w
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1; PCM Stereo 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch
Extras:  NME Poll Winners Concert1964; NME Poll Winners Concert 1965; Live In Germany 1965; The Arthur Haynes Show 1964; Interview With Brett Morgen
Length: 147 minutes
Ratings:    Audio: ****         Video: ****

As the Rolling Stones continue their eternal farewell tour, fifty years of rock evolution are being dispensed to an adoring public. Re-issued albums, compilations, rare concert movies and Keith Richards’ no-holds-barred autobiography (Life) are refreshing the public’s memory. Eagle Rock Entertainment has added to the deluge with this encompassing, nostalgic documentary, Crossfire Hurricane. Shot in color and black & white, the movie utilizes a plethora of vintage interviews and concert footage to recount the story of “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band” from the perspective of the members themselves. Using audio commentary taken on the eve of their 50th reunion show, their insights are voiced over a somewhat visual history. Opening with a backstage interview by Dick Cavett (with Truman Capote and Lauren Bacall in the background), the viewer gets to witness the 1972 juggernaut tour. Jagger’s whirling, preening choreography is set against the explosive rock music.

From there, the narrative segues to the early ‘60s. This part of the story is fascinating. The Rolling Stones were compared to The Beatles at first, but they became the anti-group. They were reviled by the press for their unkempt reckless demeanor, and insisted on playing old blues tunes (There is even a clip of them playing “Route 66”). Nevertheless, they are besieged by a rabid fan base, and begin to write their own music. “Satisfaction” seemed to be a flashpoint. From there, their notorious bust at Redlands, and the unfortunate demise of Brian Jones are detailed. They do not minimize Jones’ effect on the group. But then the Jagger/Richards dynamic takes off. With replacement Mick Taylor in tow, Richards assumed musical control of the stage band, and they became a touring legend. Their star power eclipsed the fading Beatles, and their television documentary (Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus) features a scintillating cover of “Sympathy For The Devil”.

Generally, there are no big surprises. The ascension of the “supergroup’ is recounted in the contexts of Altamont (with chilling recollections of the “Festival of Horror”), Richards’ drug problems (which resulted in staggering interruptions during the recording of Exiles On Main Street)and the unflinching drive for success. But at the core is the music, with great performances of “Brown Sugar”, “Jumping Jack Flash” (which provided the movie title), “Salt Of The Earth”, “Tumbling Dice”, “Midnight Rambler” and “Miss You”, to name a few. Some musical insights (in one example, it is revealed that drummer Charlie Watts plays “behind” Richards’ guitar) are a good complement to the various TV clips. But with production control, The Stones are only letting everyone see what the group wants them to see. Richards’ cavalier attitude toward drugs and guns is brushed aside. Additionally, responsibility for the Altamont disaster is framed as a “what could we do?” moment.  It is never clear who these guys really are, but the music more than compensates for this.

The highlight of the bonus features are the earlier ‘60s British television performances. The sound is excellent (both 5.1 and PCM stereo). The dialogue is very lucid. Musically, Bob Clearmountain does a terrific job with the dense RS mixes. Jagger’s vocals are clear, and the distortion is minimal. The video quality and Blu-ray transfer is adept. There are no uneven colors or fuzziness. The editing (especially cuts between color and black & white) is superior.

—Robbie Gerson

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