Various Artists

Super Hits of the 70's: Have a Nice Day [DVD]

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Rhino Records' DVD of Have a Nice Day is more fun than its packaging would lead one to believe -- it has one of the dullest and least attractive covers of any legitimate music DVD this reviewer has seen, even if it does make use of the smiley-face emblem that identifies the series. But the inside is almost all music video gold, with something for fans of almost every white rock genre (and even for lovers of classical music -- see Jethro Tull's "With You There to Help Me"). The disc, comprised of two ten-song video volumes issued separately in 1998 on tape, is an attempt to extend the label's eminently successful Have a Nice Day CD series into video territory. In a sense, it's a natural extension, given that the 1970s were the decade in which even the most studio-bound artists felt compelled to make appearances on television promoting their work (or, at least, provide performance videos), and there were dozens of venues around the world for such appearances, ranging from renowned, venerable German media institutions such as Beat Club to long-forgotten syndicated American series such as Now Explosion, though most of what's here comes from the former and its similar German TV series, Musik Laden. One only wishes that the disc's producers could have made video volumes that paralleled the actual CD series song for song, but as that was probably impossible -- imagine tracking down some of those performers for clearances -- this disc still has considerable virtues on its more modest scale.

The conceptual clips of Bachman-Turner Overdrive ("You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet") and Free ("All Right Now"), in arty visual productions, are kind of expected, but there are also such jewels as Badfinger (from Beat Club) doing a live rendition of "Come and Get It," a live, fully miked, and totally uncensored clip of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, from Musik Laden, doing "The Cover of Rolling Stone," and Melanie (also on Musik Laden) doing a charmingly intimate rendition of "Brand New Key" with nothing but a second acoustic guitarist accompanying her. Johnny Rivers acquits himself well on "Rockin' Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu" and America -- still a trio -- turns in an exquisite "Ventura Highway," while Hall & Oates give a performance of "Rich Girl" with enough of an edge of involvement to breathe some excitement into a song that this reviewer long believed dead to him. And Jethro Tull, circa 1971, does an unexpectedly good-sounding job on "With You There to Help Me." On all of the material, the sound has been remastered from first-generation sources, so that elements such as Martin Barre's crunchy electric guitar are right out in front, every bit as exposed as Ian Anderson's voice and flute -- and on that particular clip, pianist John Evan, then new to the band, also gets showcased in an extended coda longer than the song itself, both solo and in a short pair of duets with Anderson on flute, joined briefly by Clive Bunker on drums.

The volume two material starts in a raw and exciting mode with "Eighteen" by Alice Cooper, in a performance designed to terrify parents and delight teenagers, but arty enough in its staging to hold anyone's attention -- "A Horse With No Name" gets a pleasantly informal acoustic performance by the trio version of America. But the real treat in this half of the program is a beautifully expressive version of "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma" by Melanie. The Doobie Brothers do a fairly perfunctory rendition of "China Grove" that's lacking some subtlety, while Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile" gets an excellent performance. Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat" gets a beautifully extended rendition that gives the members of his band a chance to stretch out on solos that are more interesting than the song itself. Van Morrison's "Warm Love," featuring Morrison on a saxophone break, is only marred by a few too many tight close-ups. Jethro Tull, circa 1970, again occupies the penultimate spot with "Nothing Is Easy," and the disc closes with the Ramones ripping their way through "Blitzkrieg Bop" -- talk about leaving audiences wanting more.... The disc opens automatically on a simple menu that includes "play" options for the two separate video programs and also access to the individual clip selections.