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    Legends of Rock'n'Roll
    Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 59 mins . G . PAL


    When this DVD was first handed to me, my reaction was understandably cynical. Legends of Rock and Roll huh? - I think I'll be the judge of that. A quick scan of the performers revealed it features James Brown, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and B.B. King. Hmmm, impressive enough so far. Yeah, the song titles look pretty familiar, but could these guys still cut it?

    We all know the deal. Greedy promoter gathers up a number of has-beens, wanna-bes and never-wases, scrapes together a backing band that are half-way decent, and then drags them all over the country (usually the USA) to play in small to medium sized venues. First, he gives it a lame sounding title like "Freddy Putz's Travelling All-Star Revue" or something as equally appalling, then sits back and waits for the cash to roll in. Mr and Mrs Suburbia fork out the dough and get a pretty average show from a few overpaid fading stars. The greedy promoter gets rich, the 'stars' get forgotten and Mr and Mrs Suburbia are left wondering why they bothered. This time. at least, the artists had already proven themselves, but it had been a long time between drinks (and hits) for most of them.

    This release contains highlights from one of those very travelling shows called The Rock and Roll Legends Tour that did the rounds in 1989, featuring some of the genuine legends of rock and roll, soul and the blues. Whilst all of the performers were once truly brilliant, watching this there is the temptation to say that their 15 minutes was over years ago, keeping in mind this was filmed in 1989. If they were proposing the same tour in 2002 I would say, “No way.” There is no denying their talent (though personally I could never understand the appeal of James Brown), and their contributions to music are beyond question, but there is a small cringe factor when old and often overweight men try to rock out like they did decades ago. If you can see past this, then this is quite a rockin’ show.

    Of all the performers, only James Brown failed to get me rocking to any degree, and indeed the piano playing talents of Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Little Richard are still mighty impressive, though watching Ray Charles is a dizzying experience in more ways than one. The vocal performances are not as strong as they once were, but I guess this really was a show more about nostalgia – and bad hair. I really think it’s about time James Brown found a new stylist, I mean, that lady’s hairdo and those skin tight body suits were awful the first time we saw them.

    Oh, and for those of us that like to play “Mullet-watch”, check out the trumpet player and the lead guitarist, fine examples of how not to cut your hair – ever!

    This performance is a fine example of where rock and roll all began, and watching it late at night is not recommended, for there is a chance you’ll go to bed a little too hyped (this, from experience). So grab your air guitar, or my personal favourite, the coffee table piano, and join in the all star jam that is Legends Of Rock And Roll.


    Presented in non-anamorphic full frame, this looks as though it was originally broadcast on television, and released on VHS soon after. It has that TV look and feel. It was recorded on videotape in 1989 and is not a bad transfer all things considered. There is some slight grain, but this is well disguised by such things as stage lighting and dry ice. There is some evidence of chroma noise and macro-blocking.

    Colours are generally bold and accurate, but colour bleeding is occasionally detectable. Black levels are fair with no evidence of low-level noise, but shadow detail is not the best. There is quite frequent glare when a stage light shines directly at the camera, and picture clarity is affected by the blue stage lights. Generally though, the image is quite clear and sharp, especially the close ups. This is a very clean transfer with very few artefacts.

    The audio track is adequate, but the only option is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The mix is quite good with some obvious separation, and instruments and vocals are generally clear. Bass is not very prominent, but then again it was not a feature of these songs the first time around. There is no use of the surrounds or subwoofer, naturally, but the two-channel mix improves with volume. There is one noticeable instance of drop out in the right channel from 18:35 to 18:40. It is not severe, but is there nonetheless.

    This is a single layer disc with no layer change. The presentation lasts a little under one hour, and there are no extras other than Information Subtitles which flash on-screen at the start of each song and provide the barest of details such as writer, year released and album.

    The Legends of Rock and Roll release is unlikely to win any new fans, but is a great chance to see how much fun (and deceptively innocent) rock and roll once was before the politics, the gimmicks, big-hair, grunge, and MTV. The performers have all seen better days, but these guys can still rock. The young audience seemed to think so. Interestingly, at the time of writing The Rolling Stones have just announced a major tour for 2003 which has generated much interest, and they are already older than the performers were when this was filmed back in 1989. Perhaps we are on the verge of a whole new genre – geriatric rock?

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  •   And I quote...
    "For once, the term "Legends of Rock and Roll" is justified..."
    - Terry Kemp
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