For fans of late-'60s rock, and for fans of the Woodstock festival in particular, this unauthorized four-DVD set of footage from the event is in several respects a wonder to behold, though not without its imperfections. There are more than six hours of footage spread across the four discs, much of which has never made it onto the various versions of the movie and outtakes of same that have found official release. What's more, it's sorted into the actual order in which the performances were given, starting with Richie Havens and ending with Jimi Hendrix. To all appearances, most of the footage was actually filmed by the Woodstock filmmakers, and is of generally very good quality, though a few gremlins creep in with various slight image/sonic imperfections and gaps/incomplete performances. The highlights are numerous, including several songs by Jefferson Airplane at dawn that rank among the most interesting footage of the band ever taken. Too, a bunch of the acts here didn't make it into the 1970 Woodstock film, including some very noted ones (Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Johnny Winter, Ravi Shankar, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin) and a few very obscure ones (Bert Sommer and Quill, the latter of whom are only represented by a brief clip of them creating an on-stage rhythm).
Before getting too ga-ga over this set, a few features that might be viewed as shortcomings have to be noted. There are a bunch of multiple versions of songs that aren't actually different performances of the songs, but different in terms of the camera setups used, which might try the patience of more conventional listeners. A good deal of the footage was done in the dark, and when you see the clips of Joplin, Creedence, the Dead, BS&T, Winter, and the Band, you wonder if their failure to make the film might have been a simple matter of the images just not showing up well enough to look as good as the sets shot in daylight. A few of the songs are incomplete -- one guesses because complete versions don't exist -- most frustratingly in the case of the Incredible String Band, for whom just a snippet of one tune is featured. And for all its length, this doesn't include all the footage taken at the event -- some other sequences have shown up on bootleg DVDs of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, CCR, and the Who, for instance, as well as an official DVD of Hendrix's Woodstock performance -- or even all the performers (Melanie being a notable absentee). A few of the sequences, too, actually appear in the official 1970 Woodstock movie. Nevertheless, until such time as a mammoth official box of all Woodstock footage appears, this has plenty of unreleased material to enjoy, particularly outstanding clips including Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love"; Joe Cocker's "Let's Go Get Stoned"; and Janis Joplin's "Ball and Chain."