Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Review: "The Beach Boys - Doin' It Again" Blu-ray
"Doin' It Again" is the home video release of this year's hour-long PBS TV special (aired as part of the "Front Row Center" series). The program focuses on the group's 50th anniversary tour and new album "That's Why God Made the Radio", while also mixing in a truncated history of the band as well.
Because the film simultaneously attempts to serve as a brief band history, a "making of the album" documentary, and a partial concert film, all in the span of less than an hour, it never really completely hits the mark on any of these counts. This is the sort of project that would have made a good second disc for a "deluxe" version of the band's new album, or something along those lines. As a stand-alone release, it's a bit more tough to justify. It does carry a pretty low list price, however.
The two big draws for fans of the band here are: The first official release of footage from their 50th Anniversay tour (footage was shot at one of the very early shows on the tour, early May in St. Augustine, Florida), and some substantial bits of the recently-discovered 1966 "Good Vibrations" recording sessions footage.
The "Good Vibrations" footage is something I would call a long-sought-after "holy grail" for fans, but we didn't even know this stuff existed until the past year or so. The footage is stunning, regardless of the fact that it comes across as quick snippets shot as "b-roll" type footage, and even if the quality is speckly black and white 16mm footage (transferred in HD and still looking pretty good overall). The footage is succesfully set to the actual song, giving us a good mixture of footage that is enthralling even if it probably doesn't actually match the stuff we hear in the finished song.
The new concert footage is exciting to see, but it's chopped up too much. There just isn't enough to really get into enjoying the live performances. The camera work is a bit distracting, with a lot of weird slanted crane shots. The audio generally sounds okay, with the exception of a really wonky-sounding "live" peformance of "That's Why God Made the Radio." Let's delve into this in a very simple way: The title track from the new album is a very good, maybe not quite *great* Beach Boys song, a surprisingly strong track for the band to be able to put together in 2012. However, for whatever reason, they never once strung together a solid live performance of this song during their reunion. The fully live peformances on TV varied from slightly wonky to near-trainwreck status, and live in-concert peformances were similar. What they've done on this Blu-ray footage is sync elements of the studio recording to the live performance to flesh the wonky peformance out, resulting in an even more bizarre sound. Just give the audio to us unaltered, or cut it out and put a different song in instead!
The modern-day interviews and studio session footage look fantastic, as does the quality of the HD footage shot at the St. Augustine show. The entire documentary may not quite hit it out of the park, but the HD footage on display on this disc can't be faulted.
The audio is more than serviceable for what is simply a documentary. The mix on the concert footage is sometimes wonky, but the actual resolution of the audio is just dandy as would be expected with Blu-ray.
None! Obviously, this was just a quick little appetizer put out to quickly capitalize on the success of the tour. We allegedly/presumably have more substantial documentaries and/or concert films to follow. Nevertheless, some sort of additional footage, even interviews, would have been nice.