Music Blu-ray Review: The Rolling Stones - From the Vault: Hyde Park Live 1969

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Now on Blu-ray via Eagle Rock Entertainment is the latest in The Rolling Stones' on-going From the Vault series. This one is a pretty straightforward issuance of the original 56-minute television documentary about the Stones' July 5, 1969 free concert at London's Hyde Park. The original footage has been remastered and the audio has been remixed, presented here as a muscular DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. There is no bonus material however and, unlike some of the earlier From the Vault titles, no package that includes a CD of the music.

That's likely because what we have here is not the full concert. Hyde Park Live 1969 is a jumble of interview clips and sometimes truncated songs. Voice-overs occasionally mar the songs that are included. The set list has been radically rearranged for the TV program, beginning near the actual end of the concert with a partial performance of "Midnight Rambler." It doesn't jump back to the real opening number, "I'm Yours & I'm Hers," until somewhere around the middle of the program. The editing doesn't make for a particularly satisfying viewing experience, but the concert itself is historically important enough that it's still worth preserving even in this form.

The concert event, which featured numerous support acts including King Crimson, occurred just two days after the untimely passing of Brian Jones. The free show, which marked the Stones return to live performance after two years off the road, turned into something less celebratory than presumably intended as it took the form as a eulogy to the late Jones. Mick Jagger reads poetry prior to the opening number as a dedication to their fallen band mate, followed by the release of thousands of cabbage white butterflies. The Stones debuted new guitarist Mick Taylor with this show and their performance is understandably tentative. Rocked by the death of their friend, the band seems almost lethargic at times. But a loose, sloppy Stones performance from this era is infinitely more interesting than a perfectly competent one from any of their more recent tours.

The film footage retains an authentically grainy look in the 1080p transfer, entirely appropriate for its era. The real treat is hearing the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix. Regardless of whether you like the sound the band coaxed out of their instruments that particular day, and no less an authority than Keith Richards himself was quoted as saying "we played pretty bad," the new lossless surround mix allows the listener to closely examine every element. It sounds great from a pure fidelity standpoint.

While we can only dream about the complete, 14-song concert surfacing one day, From the Vault: Hyde Park Live 1969 gives us eight of those tunes in as good of audio/visual quality as we're likely to see. And, in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ Easter egg of sorts, look closely during the end credits for a quick glimpse of Paul McCartney making his way through the audience.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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