Bilzen Jazz and Pop Festival 1969 [no label 1DVD PAL tradersden 37297]
Live at Bilzen, Belgium, 21-24 Aug, 1969.

A startling record of one of those semi-legendary festivals that grabs a passing mention in most '60s history books, but rarely garners more than that, this 153-minute disc nevertheless wipes the floor with every other filmed festival of the year - and if that tramples upon your own favorite sacred cows, then it’s their own fault for being so bloated.

It was a decidedly European affair, trimmed for television to an almost exclusively British gathering, with some breathtaking live performances interspersed with some often entertaining interview material. For the sake of repeat viewings, it would definitely have been preferable to cut the chat and let the music speak louder - a typically anarchic Bonzos’ performance of "Big Shot" infuriatingly cuts in with the song halfway over, although the remainder of their eight song set is preserved in its delicious entirety. Besides, one deft finger on the remote control can easily skip past the boring bits, and what’s left is astonishing.

Blossom Toes ("Stargazer"), Soft Machine ("Moon In June"), and the Brian Auger Trinity ("Pavane" and "I Just Got Some") headline the performing contingent that take the festival’s Jazz billing firmly to heart, while Deep Purple, too, noodle along with avowed conviction, and that despite the lurking presence of a clearly raring-to-go Ian Gillan. Oh, the loneliness of the lead vocalist in the days of "Wring That Neck" and "Mandrake Root."

But Humble Pie turn in a spellbinding "Walk On Gilded Splinters," while Marsha Hunt delivers a shimmering "My World Is Empty Without You." Taste ("Blister On The Moon" and "Sugar Mama"), Life ("Baby Please Don’t Go"), the Moody Blues ("Tuesday Afternoon" and "Have You Heard") and Shocking Blue ("Venus," of course) all impress as well, while the bonus material (from the previous year’s event) includes the Move brutalizing Spooky Tooth’s "Sunshine Help Me."

Sound and vision alike are excellent (the occasional sequence is marginally marred by the presence of a small timing strip), and the cameras are up close enough to capture all the essential action. And there’s not a split screen gimmick in sight. - Dave Thompson

Click here for more reviews by Dave Thompson.

For more... email with the message, "Put me on your mailing list."

September 28, 2007