Here's a quickie review in lieu of a longer essay while I recover from an unexpectedly strong antibiotic.  Tip: there are 100 trillion microorganisms living in your body.  Don't kill them all because most perform very useful functions.

Mr. Postman dropped off yesterday, among the usual pile of bills and junk, three* rented DVDs from Netflix.  Among them was Too Much Too Young, a new DVD compilation about The Specials from Image Entertainment.

The DVD gathers all their promo videos plus some live footage shot during their 1980 US tour.

The Good

It's hard to believe that all sorts of throwaway bands have gotten lavish DVD compilations and retrospectives, whereas the Specials have been completely neglected up to this point.  This DVD somewhat rectifies that sad state of affairs, but not in a completely satisfactory way (see below).

The new 1980 live footage is nice to have, but unfortunately there are no complete tracks, with mostly very short segments and constant gaps and jumps.  Too bad, because the performances themselves seem killer.

The Bad

The compilation feels very low-budget and opportunistic.  The audio was not remastered and seems to be untouched from the original VHS release.  There is a very noticeable skip in Enjoy Yourself (29:47, not present in the VHS version), as well as occasional video dropouts.

In fact, since the video is not a significant improvement over the VHS version, all evidence points to a VHS source.  The sloppiness extends to the physical disc itself—the title is not part of the printed label and is instead a sticker on the inner rim.  It almost feels like a bootleg that found some copyright loophole in the USA in order to get to market as a commercial product.

In terms of added material, the release is very US-centric and aimed at a casual buyer, so 99% of people reading this will find the pseudo-documentary and narration rather superfluous (thankfully, he keeps quiet during the music videos).  If you're expecting a thorough and professional compilation like the outstanding Complete Jam, you will be hugely disappointed.

Perhaps a future official release specifically directed at the UK market will address some of these issues.

The Bottom Line

Buyer beware.

If you live in the USA and don't already own any Specials video material, this DVD is a reasonable start in terms of coverage.

If you live outside the USA, or already own a bootleg VHS rip, stay away.  If you're a completist and need to satisfy your curiosity, rent it.  The origin is dubious and the technical quality is not significantly better than what was previously available.  Keep your bootleg and wait for an official UK product.

Either way, although the Specials' promo videos are historically important, my opinion is that the 1979 Colchester concert and their Saturday Night Live appearance do a better job of conveying the talent and raw energy of the band at their peak.  Let's hope that some of that live footage gets an official release at some point.

*The other two discs were 1998's Detention/Learning Curve and 2002's Lost in La Mancha.  Both films were above average and I can recommend renting them.

Posted on Wednesday, March 12, 2008
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