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Cold Chisel - Vision
Warner Music/Warner Music . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . E . PAL

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OK, got my cheap wine and... oh... umm... will a bit of leg stubble do?

Whether you love them or hate them, it’s probably safe to say that everybody in Australia has an opinion about Cold Chisel. And sadly the opinions of many seem to be, “oh yeah, that bogan band”, for the limited thinking is something along the lines of “how can you like ‘cool’ music and also dig Chisel?” This does them a great disservice, for after all any band who can boast so many great songwriters amongst their ranks – Ian Moss, Steve Prestwich, Don Walker and even Jimmy Barnes - and a back-catalogue of work as varied as theirs – for every storming, seemingly mindless rock out number they could then counter with a ballad of such beauty you’d sometimes wonder if this wasn’t another band named Cold Chisel - definitely deserves better. Still, musical snobbery will always abound, and I must admit I’ve been guilty on occasions, so perhaps I should just get on with it?

While on the surface it looks just like a promo clip compilation, Vision is actually a collection of live tracks as well. Never ones to slavishly follow the late ‘70s Countdown route to success, Cold Chisel often eschewed the promotional opportunities afforded by creating “film clips” (and, it must be said, the phenomenal expense), and pretty much did things their way, especially in their early days. As such, of their early recordings only the almost era-defining Khe Sanh appears here in simple, studio-performance clip form, with the next being Cheap Wine from their breakthrough third long-player East. Sandwiched between are examples of the band in full live flight with such tracks as Breakfast at Sweethearts and the rip-roaring Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye), and later the quite remarkable Bow River and the indescribably catchy album track Star Hotel. And yes, they all showcase Barnesy’s somewhat unique, but surprisingly effective, vocal shriek.

From hereon in it’s pretty much promo-clip city, with tracks from Circus Animals and Twentieth Century such as Forever Now, the Richard Lowenstien directed Kings Cross sleaze of Saturday Night, the fabulously rollicking No Sense and classic hits FM radio staple Flame Tress (without that annoying single edit “sentimental boofbble” line). Then the stuff from the reformation comes along – which is possibly best summed up by that famous quote “you can’t go home again”. Even if tracks such as Water into Wine and The Last Wave of Summer aren’t markedly different to their earlier stuff, it all seems to lack a certain something. Perhaps, like many, they were just rather perfectly of their time?

Track listing:

Khe Sanh
Breakfast at Sweethearts
Merry Go Round
Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)
Cheap Wine
Misfits
Star Hotel
You Got Nothing I Want
Forever Now
Bow River
Taipan
Hold Me Tight
No Sense
Saturday Night
Flame Trees
Hands Out of My Pocket
Nothing But You
The Things I Love in You
Water into Wine
Mr Crown Prosecutor
Water into Wine (Alternate version)
The Last Wave of Summer

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Old footage from varied sources before these things were valued as highly as they should have been – it’s obvious what comes next. Some of this stuff looks a bit dodgy when held under the sort of visual perfection microscope many seem to expect nowadays, with many examples of grain, film damage and all manner of speckles and blots on the landscape which weren’t actually intentional. Some of the live footage also exhibits tape dropouts and decidedly dodgy detail, but in the end when it comes down to releases such as this it’s a matter of this or nothing, so the “this” option is always preferable. As the years advance the quality improves markedly, especially with stuff from 1998’s The Last Wave of Summer, as you’d expect.

No amazing work has been done on the sound, with a simple Dolby Digital stereo mix all that’s on offer. It’s never stunning, and in fact much of the live stuff sounds a bit lame at times due to faults inherent in the recording (buzzes and the like), but some may say a certain rough and readiness to proceedings is decidedly apt for a band like Cold Chisel.

Possibly the biggest disappointment in this release is that no effort was made to come up with anything other than the featured clips – no gallery, no discography, no nothin’. You can access the various album covers on the main menu for very brief blurbs about the various songs, all of which are printed in the enclosed four-page booklet, but that’s pretty much it. The billing of the final three tracks as bonuses is rather shonky when they play through as a part of the main feature anyway.

When placed next to recent DVD releases of classic Antipodean bands such as Skyhooks and the almighty Split Enz, unfortunately Vision tends to pale somewhat, simply as it just plonks 22 clips on a disc and diddly-squat else. Surely more archival material must have been available? What about that killer, tanty-laden performance on the Countdown Awards just for starters? Still, for fans it is a great compile of a band which never seemed particularly rapt about being in front of cameras, despite some limitations in the source material which has been, erm, sourced.

Besides, if nothing else we get to relive those glorious days when Jimmy Barnes had seriously big hair, really meant it man and wouldn’t have dreamt of flogging artery-clogging fried chicken. That’s got to be worth the price of admission, right?


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