Jimi Plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey

Part of a multi-title set | The Complete Monterey Pop Festival

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Synopsis

Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding arrived in California virtually unknown. Returning stateside from London, where he had moved to launch his musical career, Hendrix exploded at Monterey, flooring an unsuspecting audience with his maniacal six-string pyrotechnics. Redding, a venerable star of Memphis’s Stax record label, seduced the “love crowd” in one of his best—and last—performances. Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey, feature the entire sets of these legendary musicians, performances that have entered rock-and-roll mythology.

Picture 8/10

Available together on their own or as part of their box set for The Complete Monterey Pop Festvial, The Criterion Collection presents D. A. Pennebaker’s Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey both in their original aspect ratios of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p.

Again (like with their Blu-ray of Monterey Pop) it looks like the two come from the same high-definition transfers used for the original DVD edition, though not downscaled for DVD of course. The DVD transfers looked quite good themselves and on Blu-ray they still look stunning. Similar to my impression of the Blu-ray for Monterey Pop I can’t say there’s a substantial improvement. Colours, which were striking to begin with, look a little sharper here, reds looking incredible, and the sharper image does make the film’s inherent grain (the film was shot on 16mm) more evident and does look natural, but forgetting the more obvious film grain I didn’t feel the image presented that much more detail when compared to the DVD.

But the transfers were strong to begin with and on Blu-ray they certainly still look amazing, and do look more film-like here.

Audio 9/10

Both films present an uncompressed stereo track and a DTS-HD 5.1 surround track, compared to the DVD’s Dolby Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS tracks. The two tracks here are again significant improvements over the DVD’s tracks, which I was always quite fond of. Both are loud with excellent range, and are both crisp and clear. I preferred the DTS-HD track, which sounds the most natural and imitates the concert feel a little better. Bass is deeper, the track is clearer, dynamic range is incredible, and the surrounds present some fine details. The source for a couple of performances in Jimi Plays Monterey, specifically his take on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band”, are a little rough and sound hollow, but everything he did during his Monterey performance sounds absolutely wonderful.

The tracks are sharp improvements over the DVD’s and are the best I’ve heard the performances so far.

Extras 7/10

This Blu-ray ports everything over that was on the original DVD that was available on its own or in the DVD box set.

The pop-out menus for this Blu-ray recreate a similar menu structure the DVD presented. The main pop-out menu displays the two film titles and then the audio options. When you select a film another menu flies out listing all the options for that specific film, including the ability to play the film, the chapter list, all the features, and then the audio options again.

Supplements are all found under their respective film’s menu.

Unique to the Blu-ray is of course Criterion’s Timeline for both films. You can open it from the pop-up menu of the film you’re watching or by pressing the RED button on your remote. This is a timeline that shows your current position in the film and like pop-up menus for most Blu-ray releases it appears over the film as it plays. It lists the index chapters for the film and the commentary tracks, and you can also switch to the commentary track(s) from here. You also have the ability to “bookmark” scenes by pressing the GREEN button and return to them by selecting them on the timeline. You can also delete bookmarks by pressing the BLUE button. This is pretty common on Blu-ray so it’s nothing new but I’ve always liked Criterion’s presentation.

For Jimi Plays Monterey we get one of the best supplements on here, an audio commentary by music critic Charles Shaar Murray. The same as the one found on the DVD it’s an absolutely fantastic commentary track. He talks very little about the film itself, and only talks briefly about the actual Monterey festival, and instead spends most of the track talking about Hendrix himself and his career. He gives a brief bit of information about Hendrix’s career and early life (he saves more material for another section of the disc) but his main focus is to talk about Hendrix’s performance at Monterey. It’s a quick, often time’s humourous track helped by the fact Murray is obviously enamoured by the musician. He loves pointing out Hendrix’s techniques, loves talking about his guitars and his style, and just can’t stop praising his performance. It’s an absolutely wonderful track, a real treat.

And I can only assume Murray couldn’t contain his enthusiasm during his commentary because Criterion has also included an additional 44-minutes worth of material from the man under Additional Audio Excerpts, which plays in an audio only presentation (over an still of Hendrix) apart from the film. The film itself is only 49-minutes so I’m guessing this is material that was edited out to fit the timeframe of the film. I’m glad Criterion decided not to dispose of this material as it’s all golden, with Murray further getting into Hendrix’s personal life, his life in the military, his political views, how he would string his guitar to play left hand, and Hendrix’s obvious love the for guitar. It’s a great expansion on the commentary track and is definitely worth listening to.

Interview presents a short 4 and a half minute interview with Pete Townshend recorded for VH1 in 1987. On Murray’s commentary found on this disc and then elsewhere in the Monterey Pop Blu-ray features there’s mention of an apparent fight that occurred between Hendrix and Townshend on who would perform first. There was suspicion it had to do with the fact both wanted to be the first to destroy their instruments on stage, though here Townshend says he wanted The Who to go first because he feared following Hendrix. Most of the interview excerpt pertains to this with a little about Monterey as a whole. It’s a shame more of the interview wasn’t included but I guess Criterion figured it only made sense to include material that had to do with Monterey and Hendrix’s performance.

The supplements for this film then conclude with a trailer.

Shake! Otis at Monterey is the shorter film, running only 19-minutes, and only gets a few supplements.

This film gets two audio commentaries, both by music critic Peter Guralnick. The first track talks specifically about Otis’ performance at Monterey while the second is a brief, quick, 19-minute bit about Otis’ early life and career. Unfortunately it pales in comparison to Murray’s energetic and excited commentary track, and at times it sounds like Guralnick may be reading from notes. It actually moves at a leaden pace, stunning for a film that’s only 19-minutes, and offers little in the way of insight I found.

Better is the interview with Redding’s manager Phil Walden. Running 18-minutes he gives a better account of the man with some wonderful anecdotes (such as how Redding helped Walden raise his tuition for school,) Stax Records, and how a European tour led to Monterey. He also recalls freaking out about the psychedelic effects used during other performances and worried how the crowd would react to Otis, but Otis didn’t seem concerned and just went out and did his thing. With text notes thrown into expand on certain subjects it’s an excellent interview and far better than the two commentary tracks for the film.

The release then comes with a slim booklet containing an essay by David Fricke, senior editor at Rolling Stone, who writes about the two performers, their impact, and their untimely deaths. This essay is included with the individual DVD release of the film but oddly is not part of the large booklet that came with the DVD box set of The Complete Monterey Pop Festival. It’s short but makes for a decent read.

Not as lavish as the Blu-ray edition of Monterey Pop (which comes with a couple of hours worth of outtakes) but the commentary and two interviews are strong. Plus at the lower price of $29.95 makes it certainly worth it.

Closing

Similar to how I felt about the Monterey Pop Blu-ray I didn’t feel there was a significant improvement over the image found on the DVD, limited to the 16mm source I’m sure. The more obvious grain and slightly better colours are the only real differences I noticed. The supplements, while strong, are still the same as what was found on the previous DVD editions. Where the Blu-ray does excel, though, is in the audio department. The lossless audio tracks present the best presentation I’ve yet heard for either performance. It sounds incredible. At the cheaper price of $29.95 it’s easy to recommend this disc on its own if it’s all you care about, but I would still steer everyone interested in this Blu-ray or Monterey Pop to pick up the box set, The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, which actually runs cheaper than the DVD set ($69.95 on Blu-ray compared to $79.95 on DVD.)

Part of a multi-title set | The Complete Monterey Pop Festival

BUY AT: Amazon.com Amazon.ca

 
 
Directed by: D.A. Pennebaker
Year: 1986 | 1989
Time: 49 | 19 min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 169
Licensor: The Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation
Release Date: September 22 2009
MSRP: $29.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.33:1 ratio
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Audio commentary by music critic and historian Charles Shaar Murray   Theatrical trailer for Jimi Plays Monterey   Video excerpt of Pete Townshend discussing Jimi Hendrix   Two audio commentaries by music critic and historian Peter Guralnick: the first on Otis Redding's Monterey performance, song by song, and on Redding before and after Monterey   Interview with Phil Walden, Redding's manager   A booklet featuring a new essay by music critic David Fricke