Some Rolling Stones concert films give way too much camera love to Mick Jagger, while other films, like the otherwise brilliant "The Band — The Last Waltz" and "The Who — Quadrophenia: Live in London," almost ignore key band members.
Then there's the stray on-stage document that gives equal amounts of attention to each musician on the stage. It's only fair that every instrumentalist and vocalist performing at that moment should get equal time in the camera's viewfinder, right?
The new, special-edition version of "The Winery Dogs — Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond 2013-2016" Bluray/EP set and the "Heart — Alive in Seattle" DVD are two such examples of giving respect to all of the players. And respect is something the members of The Winery Dogs and Heart deserve wholeheartedly.
Comprised of singer/guitarist Richie Kotzen, bassist/singer Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and drummer-singer Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Dream Theater), The Winery Dogs have the playing chops to run with Rush, King Crimson, Yes and other technically advanced rockers.
At times, the trio's playing seems superhuman in speed and strength, yet the three-piece also is fully aware of music's recurring need to be created in melodic, accessible form. The Winery Dogs' admirable balancing act that includes stunning playing and choruses virtually anyone can hum along with hits full flight on "Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond 2013-2016."
And the release's camera work is as wonderful as the instrumental efforts and Kotzen's smoky, lone-wolf vocals (which sound similar, but not identical, to the vocal work of the late Chris Cornell.) There's no ignoring the bassist or drummer here. Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy all are captured by the film crew, with plenty of closeups of the players hands. This in-depth visual aspect almost serves as a 101 crash course in great musicianship.
Last but never least, the songs of The Winery Dogs contain a lot of magical lightning in a bottle. The Bluray presents impeccable live takes of "We Are One," "Hot Streak," "Oblivion," "Think It Over," "Empire," "Regret," "Desire," the slightly sinister "Captain Love," the mellow, haunting "Fire" and the should-be-massive-hit-singles "Elevate," "Time Machine" and "I'm No Angel," as well as bonus material in the form of several promo music videos and a CD of extra live songs.
It's only partway through the concert where Kotzen's vocals dip a tad in volume — it's only for a few minutes — on the Bluray's stereo mix. It's the equivalent to, in Monty Python's words," a small flesh wound" on an otherwise outstanding music-based release.
Had The Winery Dogs emerged on the music scene, say, back in 1992, they would have been every bit as popular and critically acclaimed as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. Today's music market, thanks to the Internet, etc., allows the listener easier access to discover new artists, but at the same time, the market is just too fractured for most new bands to become huge — outside of future boy bands and a few solo singers, there most likely won't ever be another massively popular group like U2 ever again.
But in the grand scheme of things, all that matters is the greatness found within terrific artists like The Winery Dogs. When Kotzen sings "I'm on a hot streak" in "Hot Streak," he's also talking about his co-workers Portnoy and Sheehan. It'll be fun to see what creative hill The Winery Dogs will conquer next. With "Dog Years: Live in Santiago and Beyond," Kotzen, Portnoy and Sheehan have set the bar oh so high.
Dreams in the midst
One night back in 2011, Heart opened for Def Leppard's concert at the BOK Center in Tulsa, and Heart just about wiped the arena's floor with the members of Def Leppard.
Def Leppard didn't sound terrible at all. The band played well and lead singer Joe Elliott hit most of his notes, but Heart, particularly sisters Ann (lead vocals) and Nancy Wilson (guitar, vocals), sounded as if they were out for blood that evening. The set was stunning, concentrating on Heart's 1970s catalog and then-new material, with very little stage time given to Heart's '80s era; only "These Dreams" and "Alone" pushed their way into that particular set list to represent Reagan-era Heart.
Heart sound and look equally captivating on Eagle Vision's new DVD release, "Heart — Alive in Seattle," which was filmed in 2003 at Seattle's famous Paramount Theatre. "Crazy On You," "Straight On," "Dog and Butterfly," "Barracuda," "Dreamboat Annie," "Love Alive," "Sister Wild Rose" and the sometimes-omitted "Magic Man" all crack with undeniable energy for the hometown crowd. Ann's voice, without much effort, rotates between the sounds of a tender soul and a rock-and-roll warrior who doesn't believe in taking prisoners.
The covers of Elton John ("Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters") and Led Zeppelin ("Battle of Evermore" and "Black Dog") act as icing on an already tasty cake of sound. These readings reveal a versatile ability of Heart that some rock fans might have yet to learn.
People can say what they want about Heart's "big-hair" music videos that were release to MTV back in mid- and late-1980s, but the version of "Alone" on "Alive in Seattle" is a winner, and the DVD's version of "These Dreams," featuring, of course, Nancy Wilson on lead vocals, hands down is the best-ever version of the song.