Various Artists

Swinging U.K. [DVD]

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If you don't mind your British Invasion (and, in many cases, pre-British Invasion) rock & roll mimed, then this is a jewel of a DVD. Swinging U.K. is actually the same jukebox featurette formerly titled Go Go Big Beat and issued on VHS tape by Rhino Records around 1984. The difference here, however, is that the producers have abandoned the redded-out 16mm source used by Rhino (courtesy of some place called Krypton Corporation) and gone to a 35mm British print (complete with a Board of Film Censors certificate) and ended up with a bright, sharp, crisp image, filled with a complete range of color and coupled with decent if not earth-shattering sound. There are still a few flaws in the material, but they're so minor as to hardly be worth the space required to enumerate them. Each song and each performer gets a chapter marker, and the menu opens automatically on start-up, offering a full selection of individual chapters as well as a "play all" function in the default position. The only bonus of any significance is a set of bios on each of the other acts represented in the movie, which is actually comprised of two 26-minute shorts, Swinging U.K. and U.K. Swings Again. The real treat, apart from some shots of some historically significant (and sometimes bizarre) instruments is the range of performers, which includes everything from such top Merseybeat acts as the Hollies (looking incredibly young -- Graham Nash looks like he's 12) -- the Swinging Blue Jeans and the Merseybeats, to the bluesier strains of the Animals and thumping wild men like the Cockneys and Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, to pioneering ska and bluebeat acts such as Millie Small and the Migil Five, with vocalists such as Lulu (with her original band, the Luvvers, doing hard rock & roll) sandwiched in between.

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