Music DVDs are typically used as stopgaps between CD releases or to drum up support for some other project an artist is promoting. Most amount to little more than music-video compilations, hastily shot concert films, or the latest chapters in continuing sagas about horny midgets and one very crowded closet. Here is the best in music DVDs from the past couple months — perfect for gift-giving and all little-person-free.
Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who (Universal Studios): This feature-length documentary is not as fun as the Who's 1979 performance-clip extravaganza The Kids Are Alright, but it is more revealing. It's also more poignant, because only singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend are still alive. So there's much reflection. The famously feuding duo (Daltrey once knocked Townshend out cold backstage) is all hugs and kisses in the recent interview sections. You'll want to skip those and head straight to the searing live clips from the '60s and '70s, when the Who just may have been the best band on the planet.
Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt (Eagle Rock): Jay-Z's 1996 debut goes under the microscope for this incisive doc featuring recollections by Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, and Hov himself. Everyone goes out of the way to clarify that Reasonable Doubt isn't gangsta rap; rather, it's a slice-of-life portrait ripped straight from Jay's decaying 'hood — a ghetto opera, if you will. The star offers the most perspective, sitting down to reconstruct beats and rhymes on camera.
Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who|Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt|Flight of the Conchords|PopMart Live From Mexico City|Wild Style
Flight of the Conchords (HBO): This two-disc set features the first season of HBO's hilarious show about a pair of New Zealand musicians who try to make it big in New York. Like main influences Spinal Tap and Tenacious D, the Conchords' musical satire is sharp. The dozen episodes follow the duo's quest for gigs and girls. The stars break out in song whenever they feel the urge, leaving no genre unscathed: indie pop, hip-hop, Kraftwerk-inspired robofunk. It says a lot that the group's only fan is a crazy stalker whose husband drives her around town.
PopMart Live From Mexico City (Island/Interscope/UME): Yes, Pop remains one of U2's flabbiest albums. But this concert from 1997 finds Bono and the boys in fighting shape. They keep the set packed with classics like "New Year's Day," "With or Without You," and "One." The second disc is filled with live audio tracks, previously unseen video footage, and four different documentaries that follow the tour from its garish start in Las Vegas to a stop in war-torn Sarajevo.
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Wild Style (Rhino): The original b-boy flick (from 1982) looks a little wickety-wickety-wack these days, thanks to director Charlie Ahearn's amateur cast. Graffiti artist Lee Quinones pretty much plays himself in this streetwise story about South Bronx kids who spend their days and nights tagging railroad cars, vacant buildings, and pretty much everything else that doesn't move. This 25th-anniversary edition includes a documentary starring Fab 5 Freddy and others. But the real stars are the pioneering hip-hoppers — the Cold Crush Brothers, the Rock Steady Crew, and Grandmaster Flash, furiously cutting on the decks.