Rhoads leads three musical biographies – Knox County VillageSoup

Randy Rhoads; Reflections of a Guitar Icon (MVD Visual, Blu-ray, NR, 85 min.). For much of this film – 56 minutes in fact – it is as much a biography of Quiet Riot, Rhoads’ first real band, as it is of Rhoads. Rhoads found fame as an incredible guitarist both with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne, before dying in a stupid plane crash at age 25. The crash was stupid because it happened when the plane’s owner and pilot buzzed Osbourne’s band’s tour bus for the fourth time.

The film, narrated by guitarist Tracii Guns of Guns n’ Roses and LA Guns and directed by Andre Relis, outlines Rhoads’ Southern California upbringing, during which his mother Delores ran a music school. Both Delores and his brother and sister are interviewed and there are numerous photos from his childhood, as well as home videos. Rhoads himself is heard in archival interviews.

As mentioned, the film is heavy on Rhoads’ time with Quiet Riot and includes extensive interview footage with the band’s original drummer, Drew Forsyth, and with bassist Rudy Sarzo, who joined the band in 1978, just prior to Rhoads leaving to work with Osbourne . Vocalist Kevin DuBrow, an original member, died in 2007. Quiet Riot was formed by Rhoads and his longtime friend, bassist Kevin Garni.

The film shows how, despite repeated failures to get a record deal, including such desperate measures as the disco song “One in a Million,” Quiet Riot was a big success on the Los Angeles club scene. It goes into the rivalry between Eddie Van Halen and Rhoads, who taught guitar at his mother’s school and sometimes had to teach Van Halen songs. The rivalry seemed more on Van Halen’s side though.

There is some live footage of Quiet Riot from these club days, including one of Rhoads’ extensive solos.
When Rhoads was 22, he was approached by Osbourne’s people to join the recently sacked Black Sabbath vocalist’s new band. Rhoads moved to England and worked with Osbourne on songs during the year he lived at Osbourne’s house. Rhoads helped create and is heard on Osbourne’s terrific first two solo albums, “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman,” with his riff for “Crazy Train” becoming a classic. By then, Rhoads was playing neo-classical guitar. In December 1981, Rhoads was voted “Best New Talent” by the readers of Guitar Player magazine and voted “Best Heavy Metal Guitarist” by the readers of UK-based Sounds magazine.

There were a couple of ironies: first, in that Rhoads had success with Osbourne, yet he did not like Black Sabbath because he felt they were too sluggish; and second, that Quiet Riot, which briefly disbanded in 1980, reformed in 1982 and finally got a record deal and had a smash album with “Mental Health” and its single “Cum On Feel the Noize” (a Slade cover; see below) , Quiet Riot became the first heavy metal band to have a Top 5 hit and No. 1 album in the same week. Somewhat surprisingly, Quiet Riot’s eventual success is never mentioned in the film.

Extras, all less than 3 minutes in length, include eight interview bits and five vintage scenes of Quiet Riot. Grade: film A-

The cover of the Van Duren documentary. Courtesy MVD Visual.

Waiting: The Van Duren Story (MVD/Living Eyes, DVD, NR, 79 min.). The film tells the story of very talented singer-songwriter Van Duren, whose next-big-thing status was derailed by a small Connecticut record label. Duren was associated with Memphis’ Big Star, the band led by Alex Chilton that foreshadowed alternative rock with its music inspired by The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Byrds. Duren even tried out once to be a tour guitarist for Big Star but did not make it. In 1976, he did make recordings with Jody Stephens, Big Star’s drummer, and in 1975 worked with Chris Bell, Big Star’s guitarist-songwriter. Both are along the 26 people interviewed in the documentary.

While Duren is heard often in the film, he is not shown until late, first in a bit of a 1986 TV interview, then some performance footage and finally when the filmmakers arrive at his house and later tour Ardent Studios with him. The filmmakers, by the way, are two Australian fans of Duren’s first album, “Are You Serious?” They are musician Wade Jackson and band manager Greg Carey, who often – arguably too often – film themselves and appear in the film.

What is good about the filmmakers, in addition to throwing a spotlight on Duren, is that they helped him get back his master tapes, including the “lost” second album, “Idiot Optimism,” which apparently was only released in Japan. By the way, both of Duren’s albums are currently available on amazon.com. Duren has a very pleasing voice – reminds me a bit of Eric Carmen of The Raspberries – and the songs are very well arranged.

Some scenes in the film, especially dealing with celebrities such as Bruce Springsteen, are presented as drawings. There is more than an hour of extras, including full interviews with Stephens; Andrew Loog Oldman (Rolling Stones), who was brought to Memphis to possibly produce Duren’s album, but fell asleep while Duren was performing; and Terry Manning of Ardent Studios. There is also some behind-the-scenes footage with the two directors, as well as a 15-page booklet. Grade: movie B+

20,000 Days On Earth (MVD Visual, Blu-ray, NR, 97 min.). Nick Cave, the subject and star of this film turned 65 Sept. 22. He is noted for his early career work with the Birthday Party, later Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and his current film work with composer-bandmate Warren Ellis. The film, directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who wrote the film with Cave, originally came out in 2014 on Drafthouse Films.
The project started when Cave invited visual artists Forsyth and Pollard to shoot behind-the-scenes footage of Cave and the Bad Seeds recording the album “Push the Sky Away.” Forsyth and Pollard are not narrative filmmakers. They are known for creating museum installations which visitors experience, leaving them dazzled, provoked, or puzzled. At times, this film does the same thing, as on three occasions while Cave is driving – usually in the rain, so the windshield wipers are going – people suddenly appear in the car, have a conversation with Cave and then disappear. Among these are Ray Winstone, who appeared in the Cave-written film “The Proposition,” and Kylie Minogue, who had a hit single with Cave in the murder ballad “Where the Wild Roses Grow.”

One problem with the film is the people who interact with Cave are never identified, so it makes the film seem aimed more at fans than the general public. Warren, of course, is Ellis’ bandmate and songwriting partner.

The film is disguised as a chronicle of Cave’s 20,000th day on Earth, making him then 54. It is a carefully staged piece, with almost nothing in the film actually having happened, including what appears to be a therapy session, during which Cave talks about his youth, first sexual experiences and relationship with his father. Cave recalls his father reading him the beginning of “Lolita” as an example of excellent writing.
Cave talks about his songwriting – it is all about counterpoint, he says, putting two opposites together and seeing what happens – and we see him working on songs at the piano. Cave tells stories of some people he met who left an impression, such as an upstairs neighbor who decorated with cutouts of Jesus. He also talks about old photos and a weather diary from his past.

Towards the end of the film, there is more performance video from his past, including bits of three shows with different intensities. Grade: film B

Slade: All the World Is a Stage (BMG, 5 CDs). This new collection includes the previously released live albums “Slade Alive!” (1972) and “Slade on Stage” (1982), as well as three unreleased shows: “Alive! At Reading” (1980), “Live at the Hucknall Miners Welfare Club” (1980) and “Live at The New Victoria” (1975).

Slade rose to prominence during the glam rock era of the early 1970s, achieving 17 consecutive Top 20 hits and six chart-toppers, all penned by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea, on the UK singles charts. Don Powell and Dave Hill rounded out the band, which stayed together until 1992, before reforming as Slade II. Hits included “Cuz I Love You,” “Look Wot You Dun,” “Take Me Bak ‘Ome,” “Mamma Weer All Crazee Now” and “Cum On Feel the Noize.” The misspellings became a signature of the band, much to the dismay of schoolteachers.

The first album was recorded over three nights at Command Theater Studio in London, when the band was hardly known, but it and the second live album made them a musical force. The Reading gig was as last-minute replacements for an ill Ozzy Osbourne. Grade: A

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduating from Northwest University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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