The Old Grey Whistle Test (1971) (2001)

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Released 28-Mar-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Menu Animation & Audio
Interviews-Cast-Show's key presenters
Interviews-Character-Interviews with 6 major stars
Audio Commentary-Michael Appleton - show's founding producer
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
On-Screen Information Track-Links to artist notes from performances
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 236:23 (Case: 292)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (84:00)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jill Sinclair
Mark Hagen
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Williams
Annie Nightingale
Mark Ellen
David Hepworth
Andy Kershaw
Bob Harris
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Interviews Keith Richards & Robert Plant
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Old Grey Whistle Test, latterly known as just Whistle Test, ran from 1971 for 16 years as a weekly music magazine show on British television during what was probably the most dynamic and productive era for popular music. Before the personal computer, CD-ripping and the games console evolved (not to mention cable TV and DVD), a large portion of one's free time was spent listening to music. A correspondingly large proportion of earnings were spent feeding that habit, through the purchase of  funny black vinyl discs with holes in the middle that spun around between 33 and 45 times a minute. The coffers of the music industry were replete with funds, and new bands were struggling to achieve that crucial air-play essential for the big break. The 'opium for the masses' was catered to by the singles-oriented Top of The Pops programme whilst Whistle Test catered for the more 'discerning' (dare I say rock-snobs) who took their music seriously. As such, it exclusively played tracks off albums and without exception (almost) the bands were expected to actually perform their music on the show. Some of the bands weren't available to perform and so the pop-video was born by film archivist Philip Jenkinson stringing together a visual accompaniment to the soundtrack.

    A key feature of the show, and reflected on this DVD, was the eclectic nature of the featured musicians. There could hardly be any greater contrast than Focus and New York Dolls or Meatloaf and Emmylou Harris, Bill Withers and Talking Heads - all of whom feature on this DVD. At the onset of Whistle Test, bands such as the 'Stones and 'Zeppelin were already huge whilst other such as Elton John and U2 were yet to achieve mega-stardom. Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Blondie and Lynryd Skynryd were introduced to the European market by Whistle Test whilst others such as Queen received their first air-play. Surviving the anti-album, anti-establishment new wave onslaught in the early eighties Whistle Test finally decided to throw in the towel in the late '80s, when club and disco music became pre-eminent and its crowning glory - the 'Live-Aid' concert had been such a spectacular success.

    This 2-disc DVD release presents a staggering 4 hours of music featuring 45 artists over the span of the show's run. In addition, there are six interviews with artists and introductions to most of the artists by six of the show's key presenters. Notes on each performance are available by browsing through the extras or selecting an 'enhanced feature' whereby clicking on a microphone icon skips straight to the notes feature. In addition, a fascinating commentary by the show's founding producer, Michael Appleton, runs for nearly two hours and provides plenty of anecdotes and insights into the artists and show. Some of the performances are extremely rare eg Bob Marley with the original Wailers (before Peter Tosh left), some of them poignant - Lynryrd Skynrd's Freebird (most of the band was wiped out in a plane crash not long after this recording) and one of them nearly killed the show (Meatloaf's use of the 'eff word during a gutsy rendition of Paradise .. ).

    There is not a single bad performance featured - they are all classics. Nobody will enjoy all the music but then again it's hard to imagine anyone who won't find something of interest. For me, just hitting the teen years at the start of the show and sitting mesmerised every week during the star-kicker cartoon introduction and Charlie McCoy's Stone Fox Chase (played by Area Code 615),  this archival release falls nothing short of hog heaven!

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Track Listing

1. Alice Cooper
2. Elton John
3. Curtis Mayfield
4. Randy Newman
5. Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge
6. Bill Withers
7. Focus
8. Rory Gallagher
9. John Martyn
10. The Wailers
11. Roxy Music
12. The Edgar Winter Group
13. New York Dolls
14. Tim Buckley
15. Captain Beefheart
16. Little Feat
17. Dr Feelgood
18. John Lennon
19. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
20. Lynyrd Skynyrd
21. Emmylou Harris
22. Bonnie Raitt
23. Tom Waits
24. Otway & Barrett
25. Talking Heads
26. XTC
27. Blondie
28. Val Doonican & Charlie McCoy
29. Meatloaf
30. +12 other tracks - see blurb

Transfer Quality

Video

    The vast majority of the video footage on this DVD comes from video recordings of studio sessions captured with the expertise expected of the BBC. Intended for small domestic TV, the overall quality is good although screening on larger devices inevitably shows up some of the limitations of the technique.

    The transfer is presented in full frame 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer has a certain amount of graininess, especially when magnified. Otherwise, there is good rendition of shadow detail and minimal low level noise.

    Colours were rendered well and accurately and BBC expertise meant a welcome change and variety from the usual blue/red saturation of many live performances.

    This was a good transfer and the twin dual layer discs enabled a high transfer rate (9.8Mbps) for most of the video. There was mild aliasing in the usual areas (mike stands & cymbal edges) but this didn't prove distracting. There was mild edge enhancement around the face of Tom Waits and Randy Newman which proved mildly irritating and mild posterization on some of the close up facial flesh tones on the same singers. As the majority of the feature was filmed on video (apart from some snatches of outside broadcast interviews), film artefacts were absent.

    There are no subtitles.

    Both discs are RSDL formatted and the transition point on the first disc is between scenes at 84:00.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality was good.

    There are two audio tracks, the feature soundtrack and Mike Appleton's commentary (on the first disc only) in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

    The quality of dialogue from both presenters and performers was very clear and expertly rendered.

   Audio and lip sync was spot on.

    The music came across very well in stereo although it sounded a little on the thin side. The sample rate of 448 kbps certainly helped with the quality of the rendition. Some AV processing on the sound with THX or DTS:Neo processing certainly helped round out the sound and I guess it would suit Dolby Prologic II processing well also.

    The surround speakers were not utilised in the original coding.

    There was no subwoofer output unless hard-wired in or ported out via your A-V processor. Both these latter options certainly helped round out the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras were plentiful and of great interest.

Menu

    The menu was an innovative, cartoon studio mixer-board design in 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound accompaniment.

Presenter's choice

    Short vignettes from Richard Williams, Bob Harris, Annie Nightingale, Mark Ellen, David Hepworth and Andy Kershaw with their individual top five pick of the DVD tracks.

Archive interviews

    Interviews with Keith Richards (3:20), Mick Jagger (6:88), Elton John & Bernie Taupin (3:21), Robert Plant (6:22), John Lennon (17:11) and the Boss - Bruce Springsteen (7:35).

Audio commentary

    113 minutes of non-stop stories about the artists, the show and the music industry - very interesting.

Artist's gallery

    Short notes on the artist with the ability to play their performance. Could be also be selected from the music video clip by clicking a mike icon if the enhanced feature was selected from the extras menu.

Random choice

As the name suggests - random playing of music videos sans introductions.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Currently there is no R1 version of this DVD.

Summary

    Probably a unique opportunity to own copies of priceless footage of the world's seminal musicians of the seventies and early eighties.

    The video quality is satisfactory.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are fabulous and provide many valuable facts and insider stories to enhance the feature. Also an impressive illustration of what the ravages of time do to artists and presenters (that reminds me - must check out the mirror sometime ..)

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Thursday, April 25, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon ACV-A1SE. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

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