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Syd Barrett - Under Review DVD
Syd Barrett - Under Review DVD
Released in the UK on 23rd January 2006, the "Syd Barrett - Under Review" DVD is an hour-long look at the musical history of the former Pink Floyd frontman. On the Chrome Dreams label, it promises "rare performance footage never before on DVD" - a boast common to many DVDs coming out these days.

We've taken a good look at this new release, taking a look through the marketing talk so that we can let you know our views on it.

The documentary is a mix of footage of Syd with the other Floyds, in performance, in the studio and live, along with refreshingly knowledgeable and interesting commentary from contributors such as authors Chris Welch and David Parker, Uncut Magazine’s features editor Nigel Williamson, journalist Malcolm Dome, and perhaps most interestingly, (albeit frustratingly brief), former Soft Machine bassist who backed Syd on Madcap Laughs, Hugh Hopper.

The footage used is a mixture of the common and not so common - Look Of The Week, the UFO club, single promos and American Bandstand footage, for example - and most will be familiar to the Barrett era collector. There's also a fairly lengthly sequence from the recently unearthed Jugband Blues promo: a nice addition for those who've not seen it. However, there is nothing new to surprise the Barrett collector.

Having said that, it is notable for the inclusion of footage showing Pink Anderson playing guitar - footage I don't recall seeing elsewhere.

The documentary is well-written; not earth-shattering, with no new revelations, but evenly paced and avoids some of the more sensationalist stories found elsewhere. The focus is definitely on the music, but without going into the minutae of chord structures and sequences as have blighted certain other DVDs released over the last year or so...

Picture quality is fine, if blighted by a little motion blur when any of the "talking heads" move rapidly. In 4:3, letterboxed format which seemed to be defeating the purpose - either pick one screen format or the other! Some of the footage, incidentally, is presented in 16:9 when it shouldn't. The most obvious example comes early on with the Arnold Layne video which looks decidedly squished!

It is worth noting that some of the footage is of fairly poor audio and visual quality - in some cases, poorer than is freely available in the collectors circles these days.

Sound quality of the commentary is very good, in just a stereo mix. With the nature of the footage used, and available soundtracks, a surround mix would be an irrelevent fudge, so this is not missed.

In terms of extras, there's a section devoted to a brief biog of each contributor, a very brief one-screen promo for other Floyd released from Chrome Dreams, and a quiz that is billed as "The Hardest Syd Barrett Quiz In The World Ever", and is suitably tricky. All these items are silent.

There's also a four minute interview with Gary Lucas, who recorded the long lost (and recently rediscovered) Last Minute Put Together Blues Band recording from the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 1972. Whilst not a Stars gig, it does include Syd on guitar duties. Permission is currently being sought for this to be officially released, and frustratingly, we hear nothing from this tape.

Overall, an interesting and well put together look at Syd's brief but absorbing and much revered musical career. Very little new material or views for the hard-core fan who has collected all the available footage, but for the person seeking a good overview, this is worth a try. It is worth pointing out that this is an independent production, not approved or authorised by the band or record company, but unlike other recent titles released under the same strictures, this doesn't strike one as a cynical exercise designed purely for money-making purposes.

If you wish to purchase this title, orders are being taken over at (USA/Canada), Amazon UK, and Amazon Germany.

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