· With more than a dozen titles in its "Classic Albums: The Making of" DVD series, Eagle Vision has created the ultimate behind-the-scenes experience with the musicians themselves, with producers and other flies on the studio wall dissecting, and illuminating, the journey that created iconic rock albums, from Lou Reed's Transformer to Cream's Disraeli Gears. This week the imprint released a new volume, peeling back the secrets of a five-star perfect pick - Queen's A Night At The Opera from 1975. Already a force with the success of "Killer Queen" the year before, the band's new sessions relished in the relaxed atmosphere of unlimited studio time and the dumping of a dishonest manager - deftly stabbing him in the heart with the first song on the album, "Death on Two Legs." With Freddie Mercury's death in 1991, and John Deacon MIA from the music industry in 1992, the story is told, song by song, by guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Mixed with rare video footage, other anecdotes and analysis come from Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, photographer Mick Rock, various music journalists, and visionary producer Roy Thomas Baker, who breaks down some of the album's most amazing vocal arrangements track-by-track at the mixing board with the original master tapes. A handful of star fans also appear, with Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, and Joe Perry of Aerosmith showing their love and admiration. Highlights include Taylor behind the kit for a drummer's explanation of "I'm in Love with My Car," and May sitting down with a variety of acoustic guitars and a vintage ukulele banjo to discuss the Dixieland jazz influence in "Good Company" and his science fiction folk fantasy of "'39." In a similarity with the Beatles Queen pushed recording technology of its time to its limits and used the studio as a creative instrument, all the while encouraging the songwriting contributions of each band member and his uniquely identifiable individual style, evident in Mercury's campy romanticism of "Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon" and Deacon's chart-topping "You're My Best Friend," flawlessly sung and played on a 12-string guitar by May. Better than any VH1 special, this rock documentary is a deeply satisfying look at when rock reached high-art heights, with the whole world stopping what it was doing to listen to "Bohemian Rhapsody" when it crossed their FM dial.

· Another in-depth DVD worth searching for was recently released by Chrome Dreams Media, in Syd Barrett Under Review: An Independent Critical Analysis. Not authorized by members of Barrett's family, Pink Floyd, or any of the record companies involved, the legendary tale of acid rock's original lost boy is told by a host of music writers from the early days of Melody Maker to the current staffs of Uncut and Mojo, mixed with rare black and white footage, live performances, and early interviews. From Pink Floyd's debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn (originally meant to be titled Projection) to his solo albums, Barrett's talent and psyche are examined by this host of storytellers, each reaching into the mystery of his collapse and eventual seclusion.

· This coming Tuesday, seven different record labels shake hands and salute Roy Orbison by authorizing 40 songs from the entire length of his career to create a new two-CD retrospective, The Essential Roy Orbison. Starting in 1956 with his "Ooby Dooby" debut on Sun Records, through his classic Monument Records years, and into his 1980s duets with Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris, even Def Jam Records contributes a nice selection in "Life Fades Away," from 1987's Less Than Zero soundtrack. Next month, Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will unveil an expansive Orbison exhibit, celebrating the 50-year milestone of that first single. And I'm all for the efforts of Roy's widow, Barbara Orbison, driving fans to sign an online petition to the United States Postal Service that they issue a commemorative stamp in his honor. If you're in the mood to cast your approval for other worthy postage-stamp candidates, the Web sites of Bobby Darin and Bill Monroe are also mounting campaigns for the prestige.

Television Alert:

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno welcomes Sarah McLachlan on Thursday and Neko Case on Friday; The Late Show with David Letterman hosts Willie Nelson on Tuesday; Late Night with Conan O'Brien boasts Nada Surf on Friday overnight, The Hold Steady on Monday overnight and Richard Ashcroft on Tuesday overnight; The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson features David Gray this evening overnight and The New Cars on Monday overnight; and Austin City Limits presents Damien Rice this weekend.

New Releases Coming Tuesday, March 28:

... and like the winds, young grasshopper, are subject to change.


Boy Sets Fire - The Misery Index: Notes From the Plague Years (Equal Vision)

Shawn Camp - Fireball (Skeeter Bit Records) guitar fireworks and runaway country boogie from this Nashville singer/songwriter who's supplied many stars with great songs

The Concretes - In Colour (Astralwerks)

J DiMenna - Awkward Building (Exotic Recordings) terrific debut from this talented, multi-instrumental songwriter

Disaster Strikes - Liberty Toast (Alternative Tentacles) political punk fronted by union organizer J.R. Geoff Farina - Already Told You (Southern) CD EP from the former Karate member

Fell - Fell (Camera Obscura) new side project of Phineas Gage's Josh Wambeke

Five Deez - Kommunicator (Rapster) spacey, earthy, and mad rolling, this collective hip-hop from Cincinnati is boom-bappin' under the production of MC Fat Jon, dripping a little Kraftwerk, MC 900 ft Jesus and Steely Dan vibe into his mental peanut butter

Franz Ferdinand - "The Fallen" (Domino) new double-seven inch and CD single

Guariro - "Lo Siento" (Achala) excellent five-track CD EP of aggressive bi-lingual anthem punk, bristling with old-school chops

Just a Fire - Spanish Time (Sick Room) featuring current and former members of June of 44, Hoover, and Sweep the Leg Johnny

Knights of the New Crusade - Knight Beat (Alternative Tentacles)

Ligeia - Your Ghost Is a Gift (Ferret Music) produced by Ken Susi of Unearth

Lokbra - Army of Soundwaves (Lucid) set up the light show - my pick of the week is this Haight-Ashbury sound from an Icelandic quartet - swirling in space-journey jams and spooky white boy soul like a spinning Grateful Dead dancer tripping to chipper British invasion melodies, the Stranglers, Jane's Addiction, and the Verve

Massive Attack - Collected (Virgin) import-only two-CD best of

The Police - Everybody Stares: The Police Inside Out (A&M) DVD of archival footage collected by drummer Stewart Copeland

Red Animal War - Seven Year War (End Songs) collection of rarities, out-of-print seven-inch singles, and new cinematic punk from Grand Prairie, Texas

Otis Rush - Otis Rush & Friends: Live at Montreaux 1986 (Eagle Rock) with guests Eric Clapton and Luther Allison; also available on DVD

Janis Siegel - A Thousand Beautiful Things (Telarc) known best as one quarter of the Manhattan Transfer, her new CD features her interpretations of Suzanne Vega's "Caramel," Bjork's "Hidden Place," and the Annie Lennox-penned title track

SoCalled - The SoCalled Seder (JDub) with guests Matisyahu and Killah Priest

Wizardzz - Hidden City of Taurmond (Load) new side project from Brian Gibson of Lightning Bolt

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones (Interscope) produced by Squeak E Clean, and featuring the single "Gold Lion"

Rob Zombie - Educated Horses (Geffen) with guest drummers Josh Freese and Tommy Lee

Support the River Cities' Reader

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!

 

"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993. Now we find our ability to continue providing all the features you love in serious jeopardy without the financial support of our readers.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher