The cult movie market has been serviced well by the DVD/blu-ray world but can the same really been said for the cultish rock music market? Major labels rarely show an interest in this stuff, their corporate mindset precludes such chance-taking and rights issues (the bane of the music reissue world) frequently snuff out the best projects in their infancy. Usually, the best projects in this area are done by bootleg outfits — and they often have to trade quality for completeness.
Volume 1 of the Barry Richards T.V. Collection is a unique release because it manages to find a happy medium between the two worlds — it’s an official, thoughtfully packaged release but it has the generosity of content and broad spectrum of acts you would expect from a bootleg release.
Image quality is very good for 1970-era video shot under lo-fi conditions. Most of the material included on the DVD was taken from the original 2-inch video masters for the show: the colors are often surprisingly vivid and detail is good for something shot on video. The set utilizes a mono soundtrack that sounds pretty clear: there’s the occasional minor hitch but that is usually due to the nature of the live recording situations that Richards’ show favored. There is a stretch of rare material that is taken from a black-and-white VHS source that suffers from a fuzzy images and some audio glitches early on but the rarity of this material ensures that it is worth watching. Overall, the a/v quality is solid, especially when you consider the production conditions.
There are also some swell extras. A brief image gallery is taken from on-set photos and shows Richards with a number of acts, including a few not featured on the DVD itself (like Iron Butterfly, for instance). There is also around a half hour’s worth of audio interviews included on the DVD: the half-dozen clips presented there include Buster Crabbe talking about ecology and his work on serials and an interesting, uneasy interview with Patrick Wayne and Chris Mitchum in which Richards asks Wayne if his dad — The Duke — ever smoked pot! However, the most entertaining bit in this section is a radio interview with a wisecracking, probably inebriated Alice Cooper circa the Muscle Of Love tour.
Anyone who enjoys the aforementioned audio clips will appreciate the CD included in this set. It offers a mixture of radio interviews and audio clips from other episodes of Turn On. Most of it is chat but there is some music interspersed amongst the dialogue: Little Richards does a wild, rock rave-up theme for The Barry Richards Show, Dr. John contributes an epic, ten-minute version of “Gris Gris” (plus another tune) and there are a pair of songs from underappreciated Anglo-pop genius Emitt Rhodes.
As for the spoken material on the CD, it’s pretty compelling all the way through. Early on, you are treated to some brief interviews with the Beatles circa 1964, with Richards affecting a pretty intense vintage-d.j. voice and a brief interview with a very surly Dr. John. That said, the highlight of the CD is a closing block of Alice Cooper-related material: a wild, Richards-voiced ad for a Cooper concert, a brief 1972 radio interview in which Cooper talks about the soon-to-be-released School’s Out and, best of all, a boozy and hilarious extended interview (nearly 17 minutes!) of Cooper with Flo And Eddie of Turtles/Zappa fame. It’s the kind of freewheeling, unhinged, shoot-from-the-hip chat you’ll never hear in this packaged, p.r.-dominated era.
In short, this a grand-slam of a collection for fans of the more eclectic and eccentric corners of 1970’s rock. You get treated to 150 minutes of video material as well as 120 minutes of audio and the set even boasts colorful, thoughtfully laid out digi-pak packaging. Said packaging includes a booklet full of essays by people involved with the set’s production and several rare photos and ad mats from Turn On. If cult rock from the 1970’s is what you crave, Barry Richards T.V. Collection, Vol. 1 delivers the vintage goods.