Various Artists

Deeply Vale Festival 40th Anniversary [Video]

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With close to four hours of footage spread over three discs, Deeply Vale Festivals ranks among the most unwieldy DVD documentaries of recent years, all the more so since the event it celebrates -- a handful of free festivals staged in the north of England at the end of the 1970s -- are scarcely rated among the open-air legends normally associated with such largesse. But place your reservations behind you and you will discover such a wealth of treasures here that you will kick yourself for not having been there. Skip the interview material; interesting for one viewing, it doesn't really add much that the music cannot say for itself, and even the lineup of participants will have your mouth watering: Here & Now, reggae heroes Misty in Roots, Willful Damage, the Fall (a dramatic "Bingo Masters Break Out"), Tractor, Dire Straits alumnus George Borowski, Nik Turner, the Ruts (a jarring "Jah Wars"), folkie Pete Farrow, Steve Hillage, Fast Cars, Spizzenergi, and more. Combining old and new waves without a care, and entrancing the audience as they did so, the festivals featured here were the last true gasp of the old U.K. underground, and the music made paid fitting tribute to all that had gone before. The sound and picture quality aren't always the best, but that is beside the point. Like the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre documentary, this captures a world that vanished so long ago it's amazing there were even cameras on-site. Disc two presents Truly Madly Deeply Vale, a 49-minute documentary history of the festival; disc three rounds up more interview material. Both entertain, and the documentary is certainly worth several serious studies. But it's the first disc that will cement you to your sofa, and hopefully send you out in search of the audio documents of the festival as well. Entire sets by Hillage, the Ruts, and the Fall are all available separately.