Lynyrd Skynyrd's complete 1976 Knebworth concert has been released.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's complete 1976 Knebworth concert has been released.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Live at Knebworth ’76 (Eagle Rock, Blu-ray + CD or DVD + CD or limited edition 2LP + DVD, NR, 165 min.). On Aug. 21, 1976, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the pride of Jacksonville, Florida, performed this day concert as part of the annual Knebworth Park concert in England. Fourteen months later, almost to the day, a plane crash would claim the lives of two band members, a backup singer and three other members of their entourage, while seriously injuring the rest. This release covers both, as it includes the complete 68-minute concert, extracted from the 1996 film “Freebird … The Movie,” which included interviews and other performance footage, plus the 97-minute, 2018 documentary “If I Leave Here Tomorrow.”

The concert is a tight, sweet set of 11 songs that features the classic lineup of singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Steve Gaines (also backing vocals), bassist/backing vocals Leon Wilkeson, drummer Artimus Pyle and keyboardist Billy Powell. The Honkettes backing vocal trio are Cassie Gaines (Steve’s sister), JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins. Steve Gaines had only been with the band for about a year.

Highlights include the opening “Working for MCA,” “Saturday Night Special,” “Gimme Three Steps” (the latter two both dealing with guns), “Sweet Home Alabama” (with its poke at Neil Young, who had written and recorded “Southern Man” and “Alabama”) and an almost 13-minute version of “Free Bird.” On “Free Bird,” Van Zant and the three guitarists wander out, as far as they could go in one case, onto the “tongue” stage extension. The documentary reveals that headliners The Rolling Stones had specifically asked them not to go out on the tongue.

The concert also includes “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller,” with The Honkettes joining in, and ”Travelin’ Man,” with its mellower middle. The two covers are Jimmie Rodgers’ rousing “T for Texas,” with its long instrumental section, and J.J. Cale’s “Call Me Breeze.”

Despite it being August, the band and most of the mostly young white male crowd have long hair. The crowd was estimated at 150,000. Also on the day-long bill were Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and 10cc.

The documentary, directed by Stephen Kijak, originally was shown on Showtime. It starts and ends with the crash of the band’s chartered airplane, a crash that killed singers Van Zant and Gaines and guitarist Gaines, as well as pilot Walter McCreary, co-pilot William Gray and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. There were 20 survivors, but other band members were seriously injured. To that point, the highly successful band had recorded five studio albums and a live album. It would be 10 years before the band reformed with Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie’s brother, taking over lead vocals.

In the documentary, band members Rossington and Johnny Van Zant revisit several Jacksonville locations associated with band, as well as the grave sites towards the film’s end. Historic photos and footage show the band members in school and performing as The One Percent. By the way, the more familiar band name was a combination of a name used in Allan Sherman’s 1963 novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)” and the name of the high school gym teacher, both being Leonard Skinner.

Among those interviewed are Judy Seymour, Ronnie’s widow, and Al Kooper, who signed the band to his then-new Sounds of the South record label, distributed by MCA, and produced their first three albums. There is a discussion of the band’s use of the Confederate flag and two band members and one of the local rescuers recall details of the plane crash.

In addition to the three who died in the plane crash, Collins died in 1990, Wilkeson in 2001, Powell in 2009, Billingsley in 2010 and original drummer Bob Burns in 2015. Grade: concert A; documentary B+

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (Magnolia, DVD, NR, 83 min.). This highly entertaining film covers the life of Irish singer-songwriter MacGowan, who came to fame as leader of The Pogues and later had a band called The Popes. The Pogues wonderfully combined the sounds of traditional Irish music with the visceral energy of punk rock.

The documentary, which covers up to MacGowan’s 60th birthday all-star celebration concert, is directed by Julien Temple (“The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” on the Sex Pistols, “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball,” “Absolute Beginners”) and produced by actor Johnny Depp, who has known MacGowan some 30 years. MacGowan, now mostly wheelchair-bound due to walking problems, drinks a lot throughout – and tells how he learned to drink stout beer as a very young child; he says 3 at one point and 6 at another—and sometimes the drinking is done while listening to tape recordings of him talking about his life, rather than always on-camera interviews. Both Temple and Depp appear in the film at times, talking with MacGowan.

The film features unseen archival footage from The Pogues and MacGowan’s family, as well as fun animated scenes from legendary illustrator Ralph Steadman. There is some footage of MacGowan attending Clash concerts, pre-Pogues, including when a girl he was with bit his ear and a photo of him all-bloody made the newspapers.

MacGowan says that he was 6 when his family moved to London, which he hated, and he immediately had a nervous breakdown. Later, he said he began playing guitar while in a mental hospital to ween off drugs. When he got out, the first thing he went to was a 15-minte Clash show. MacGowan briefly was in a band called The Nips. When he formed The Pogues with old friends Jem Finer (banjo) and Peter “Spider” Stacy (tin whistle), their first name was Pogue Mahone, Gaelic for “kiss my arse,” but BBC censorship forced a change. The band formed in 1982 with the addition of James Fearnley (accordion), who had played guitar with The Nips. The next additions were Cait O’Riordan on bass and Andrew Ranken on drums. They opened for The Clash on their 1984 tour, drawing the attention of Stiff Records.

The film highlights the often-poetic nature of MacGowan’s lyrics, especially in such songs as “The Dunes” (about the Great Hunger in Ireland, commonly referred to as the Potato Famine). MacGowan says The Pogues usually performed drunk and later talks about his heroin addiction when he didn’t like the newer music the band was playing anymore.

Among those interviewed are MacGowan’s parents and his sister. A bonus feature is a discussion between Temple and Depp about MacGowan (18:40). Grade: A

White Riot (UK, Film Movement, DVD, NR, 83 min.). In describing the political atmosphere of Great Britain during the late 1970s, when the grassroots movement Rock Against Racism began and then blossomed, there are many troubling parallels to what is going on in the United States today. The white power movement then was the National Front, a far-right and fascist political party that was against immigrants and advocated shipping them all back to their homelands. Ethnic minorities, including Asians, were being beaten up and their businesses targeted.

Much of the film, directed by Rubika Shah, is told by Red Saunders, who founded RAR (Rock Against Racism) in 1976 and its fanzine/newspaper, TempoRARy Hoarding, using pages from various issues to illustrate events he is talking about. The film is an expansion of Shah’s short film, “White Riot: London.” The creation of RAR was sparked by remarks by rock guitarist Eric Clapton in support of racist MP Enoch Powell during a Birmingham appearance.

RAR put on multicultural punk and reggae gigs as a resistance to neo-Nazis recruitment of British youth. The film shows the rioting that ensued along one large National Front march. It all leads towards the 1978 RAR concert in Victoria Park that drew more than 100,000 instead of the anticipated 5,000. On stage at the concert were Steel Pulse, the Tom Robinson Band, The Clash and Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex (known for “Oh Bondage”). The film concludes with Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 joining The Clash on stage to sing “White Riot.” Earlier, Pursey, as well as Robinson and members of The Clash, are briefly interviewed. Grade: B+

Radio Moscow: Live at Rockpalast 2015 (MIG, DVD + 2 CDs, 100 min.). Radio Moscow has unearthed this live concert at the Crossroads Festival in Germany for release to showcase its high ability as a power trio, with blues and psychedelic influences, from Jimi Hendrix to Peter Green’s early Fleetwood Mac, the MC5 and Blue Cheer. There are 17 numbers and two bonus solo acoustic performances across the 2 CDs and the DVD, plus the DVD has pre- and post-show interview segments.

Formed in 2003 by Parker Griggs in Ames, Iowa, the band has been based in San Diego county, California, for several years. Radio Moscow has released five studio albums, including 2007’s self-titled debut, produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who introduced the band to Alive Natural Sound records, the label that released the band’s next three albums – 2009’s “Brain Cycles,” 2011’s “The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz” and 2014’s “Magical Dirt,” which was the one that the trio was supporting at the time of this live taping. In 2017, the group offered up “New Beginnings,” their first for Century Media Records.

Griggs, who says in the interview that he hopes this lineup with bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone will be more permanent, is the main songwriter. Songs from “Magical Dirt” played here include “Death of a Queen,” “Rancho Tehama Airport,” “Before It Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman.” “Death of a Queen” is very Hendrix influenced, as are, to a lesser extent, “Before It Burns” and “Deep Blue Seas.” The psychedelic touches come in on “I Just Don’t Know.” A highlight is the softer “250 Miles,” which turns into the fiery instrumental “Brain Cycles.”

The two solo acoustic performances by Griggs are Peter Green’s “World Keep on Turning” and his own “250 Miles.” Griggs does most of the talking in the interviews. Grade: B+

Peggy Lee: Things Are Swingin’ -- Her Greatest Songs (MPI Media Group, DVD, NR, 88 min.). Lee (1920-2002) was a singer, songwriter and actress whose career spanned genres and generations. This is a collection of TV performances, including a full show, “Celanese Center Stage” (1967), and even a handful of singing commercials. The earlier performances are in black and white.

The “Center Stage” performance is well put together, with Lee introducing each instrument, its history and the performer as her backing unit grows larger with each song. An early highlight is her hit “Fever,” performed with stand-up bass, drums and her finger snaps. There is a Broadway section, consisting of “Come Back to Me” from “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and “Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity,” around her own “So What’s New,” which is lively with horns. Another of her hits is “Alright, Okay You Win,” followed by the bright “Manana,” sung with an accent. The sole guest is Toots Thielemans, who whistles his way through his hit “Bluesette,” before playing harmonica in a playful duet with Lee of “Makin’ Whoopee.” Lee is joined by a string section for a slow and lovely “Unforgettable” and a slow “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Lee famously had a hit with Richard Rodgers’ “Lover” that he reportedly hated, saying it is supposed to be a waltz. Saying she cleared it with Mr. Rodgers, Lee here performs a new arrangement of the song, which, for me, was the only sour note of the show. I much prefer her earlier version.

Next come a selection of performances from various – unfortunately unnamed – TV shows, including her Grammy Award-winning “Is That All There Is,” a duet with Johnny Cash that includes “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” a duet with Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence on “Bye Bye Birdie” and a duet with Petula Clark on “She’s a Woman/ Wedding Bell Blues.” The singing commercials are for Halo shampoo, Rheingold beer and Oldsmobile 88 (4:41).

There is a nice featurette in which Michael Feinstein discusses Lee’s craft and points out her song arrangements made them mini-playlets (8:48). Finally, there is a Paul McCartney greeting from 1990 on the occasion of Lee’s 40th performing anniversary (39 secs.). Note that if one chooses the “play all” option, some of the material after the “Celanese Center Stage” show is repeated for some weird reason. Grade: Celanese show A; other material B

Austin City Limits: Country (1974-2018, Time Life, 10 DVDs, NR, 813 min.). “Austin City Limits” is the longest-running music show in television history, and since the beginning it has held a special connection to country music. The show presents authentic music presented in live and uncut performances. This collection has been selected from more than 40 years of the show’s archives to find the greatest country performances by five decades of country’s greatest artists in 164 performances.

Artists include legends Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Don Williams, Charley Pride, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton and Buck Owens, as well as superstars Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, George Strait, Jerry Reed and Randy Travis. Younger stars include Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and Brad Paisley.  Plus, there are once-in-a-lifetime collaborations like Sheryl Crow and Kris Kristofferson singing “Me and Bobby McGee,” Gill and Patty Loveless singing “After the Fire is Gone” and Emmylou Harris singing “Crazy” with Nelson, who wrote the song.

Highlights include Nelson’s "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues,” Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning,” Reba McEntire’s “Whoever’s in New England,” Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around,” Jackson’s “Livin’ on Love” and Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” Special moments include Roger Miller singing “Old Friends” with Nelson, Gill singing “Amie” with Pure Prairie League, and Dwight Yoakam and Owens performing “Streets of Bakersfield.”

Bonus features include interviews with Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Gill, Alison Krauss & Union Station, McGraw, Nelson, Paisley, Parton and Keith Urban, among others. The 10th disc consists of the complete 1974 pilot, an all-Nelson outstanding episode. There also is a nice photo-filled, 36-page memory booklet, with an essay by Terry Lickona, the show’s executive producer.

The set is not available at retail. It can be ordered online at Grade: A