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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Legends of the past take to DVD

By Mike Snider
USA Today

The music DVD, a popular multimedia stocking stuffer, has taken a classic twist this holiday season, with many music legends getting the treatment.

Current acts including U2, Gwen Stefani and operatic boy group Il Divo dominate recently released music DVDs, but luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, Muddy Waters and The Supremes have joined the party.

"The record companies are finally really starting to mine their catalogs for DVD-release material that everyone wants," says Bill Hunt, editor of home entertainment site thedigitalbits.com. "In other words, they're finally getting to the good stuff."

And the immortals are getting first-class accoutrements, too:

  • "Jazz Icons" ($160-$180, or $20 each; www.jazzicons.com). Fitzgerald, Armstrong, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Chet Baker, Buddy Rich and Quincy Jones each get an individual DVD of rare, live performances in this nine-disc set.

  • "Elvis: The Ultimate Film Collection" ($120, sold only at http://dvd.elvis.com). This set created by The King's estate has nine movies including "Viva Las Vegas," "Harum Scarum," "Spinout" and "Speedway" plus two music DVDs (one a special edition of his 1968 comeback TV special) and a music CD of rarities and other extras such as posters, pictures and a "Jailhouse Rock" script.

  • "The Supremes: Reflections: The Definitive Performances" 1964-1969. The collection compiles concert and TV performances of 16 of the group's top-10 hits, more songs and alternate takes, too.

    The number of music DVDs released has blossomed from about 400 in 2000 to about 1,900 last year and about that many this year, according to The DVD Release Report.

    But some discs leave fans wanting, says David Peck of Reelin' in the Years, which produces "Jazz Icons." "They are just kind of thrown out there," he says.

    Each "Icons" DVD includes a historical booklet with biographical and critical notes, and the footage is from full-length performances filmed in Europe. "Our goal is to really celebrate the artists and their music and to give someone a feel of that artist," Peck says. "It's a window to the past."

    Reelin' in the Years hopes to continue the series with discs devoted to John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. The company has already collaborated on other classic artists: "Muddy Waters: Classic Concerts" ($20), "The Temptations: Get Ready: Definitive Performances 1965-1972" ($15) and "Smokey Robinson and The Miracles: The Definitive Performances" ($15).