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Rhino presents
VH1 Storytellers: Rod Stewart (Extended Cut) (1998)

"My name's Russ Erickson and the first time I got into Rod, I was 16 years old walking through the Seminole Mall in Florida...and I heard "Maggie May" and I was hooked ever since. This guy's the greatest rock 'n' roller of all time".
- Russ Erickson (audience member, Rod Stewart Fan Club member, and impromptu harmony vocalist)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: October 06, 2004

Stars: Rod Stewart
Director: Michael A. Thomas

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief strong language)
Run Time: 00h:44m:49s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 603497035021
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A+A+ B+

DVD Review

If anybody's earned the right to do whatever they want in terms of recording choices, it's this guy. Although he's taken his share of critical and personal knocks over everything from dating/marrying women one-third his age to supposedly deserting the vintage sound of his days with The Jeff Beck Group and The Faces, Rod Stewart has never been anything less than personable, classy, fun to watch/listen to, and enormously generous with his musical gifts. What more could you ask of a performer, who, along with Jagger and McCartney, is truly amongst the last of the truly charismatic showmen? Not a bad accomplishment for a guy who was so shy in the beginning, he hid behind amp stacks before warming to the throng. Of course, that's not to say I still don't dream of him returning to his rock and soul roots by doing a tribute album hailing the likes of Otis Redding, Eddie Cochran, and Chuck Berry, not to mention his idol Sam Cooke. (However, since he's covering the latter's memorable (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons on his latest Great American Songbook album, that dream record may not be too far off... and with persistent rumors of a Faces reunion, those of us from the Every Picture Tells a Story era are, well, need we tell you how intriguing the possibilities are?)

Meanwhile, I'll continue to get lost in my kind of standards, the likes of which formed this excellent show taped before a packed (whew, that's an understatement) house at New York's famed Supper Club near Times Square. Unlike the mostly mellow, acoustic tinged approach of his appearance on Unplugged, this is a more well-rounded overview of the singer's career capturing his versatility from the cocksure strut of Stay With Me (still an "on your feet!" number) to the romantic yearning of You're in My Heart while utilizing his imitable flair for interpretation via well chosen cover versions including Oasis' Cigarettes and Alcohol (which doesn't sound that much different than your typical Faces rave-up in Rod's hands, now does it?) and Primal Scream's Rocks. In addition to spirited, never-get-old renditions of Maggie May and Tonight's the Night, the show's emotional peak comes during a rare live version of Ooh La La; it's made even more special as a lyrics-challenged Stewart invites a passionate fan nearby to assist with the words. And just before that memorable sing-along chorus kicks in, Rod gives an assuring nod of his head and presto, he's got himself an impromptu (and pretty damn impressive) back-up singer (Simon Cowell, take note if you want to increase the age limit in future seasons of American Idol).

Although time has weathered his larynx as evidenced by a few clunker notes here and there, Stewart's charm, consistency, and ongoing love affair with his faithful smooths over the rough spots. it's certainly not due to a lack of effort—gallivanting around the stage area, playing to the crowd at all angles, flirting with the cuties within reach and just plain rocking for the moment. Perhaps his quick aside before tackling Ooh Lah Lah sums it up best: "It's great to be alive!"

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Though produced in the days before 16x9 became second nature, this is nevertheless one impressive picture that's as colorful as Rod's fashion sense. Storytellers' excellent production credentials carry over extremely well (to me, many of the episodes I'd seen via cable look kind of bland and slightly discolored, so I'm hoping favorite installments like Billy Joel, CSNY, and Jewel are equally revelatory, should Rhino be able to issue them). The master WAMO had to work with is nothing short of marvelous, perfect in every area imaginable superbly showcasing Michael A. Simon's enthusiastic direction and fantastic, appropriate cutting by Eli Tishberg.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, the beautiful, wide separation of the instruments, the clarity of the vocals and almost perfect balance between lows and highs add up to one of the best 5.1 mixes I've heard in a while (the 2.0 broadcast version is also included). Only a slight lack of bass keeps it from achieving top honors (oh dear, me...I have to punch that subby up 3 to 5 decibels).

I love this disc. Take a bow, Chris.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Japanese with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus Tracks: Hot Legs, Have I Told You Lately
  2. Music Only Track
Extras Review: Two bonus tunes not included in the original 1998 broadcast are included: Hot Legs, which was rightfully excluded; in addition to spotty remembrance of the lyrics, his performance seems disconnected, like his heart's not really in it (I think he just doesn't have the lung power to pull this off in the original key anymore). On the other hand, his wonderful way with Van Morrison's Have I Told You Lately remains a perfect blend of vocalist and lyricist. Although Stewart doesn't achieve the emotional resonance of his classic performance of the song on Unplugged (yeah, I cried too), it's the best of the two outtakes by a county mile.

For those of you of the "more music, less talk" crowd, a music-only track omitting all of Rod's 'tween song chatter is included (but why anyone would want to be deprived of the raconteur's entertaining patter is beyond me... it's so him).

But honestly, the best extra isn't even included on the disc or advertised on the back. It comes in the form of excellent liner notes enclosed via a multi-page insert booklet. (Hey 40-somethings, remember liner notes? Hey kids? Those who've never known multimedia without VHS or DVD? Remember inserts? We're talking serious collectible, here!)

Storytellers executive producer Bill Flanagan's recollections of this classic episode take us from the top, starting at pre-show preparations originally conceived to be low-key in musical and staging terms, only to see the production grow as if given a magical wonder potion, eventually spurting to King Kong-type heights (well, this was a New York production, you know). Combining the backstage wackiness of My Favorite Year, Network's lunacy and the sheer excitement of A Hard Day's Night's finale, this is an excellent read (and quite meaningful coming from the pen of a man who's not just a television big shot, but a fan's fan); if there's an awards category for DVD liners, Mr. Flanagan needs to start clearing some shelf space. Bravo.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

A perfect companion to his memorable Unplugged session, VH1's Storytellers:Rod Stewart is a rollicking retrospective that I guarantee won't gather dust for very long, deserving many a replay. Highly recommended.


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