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  • Writer's pictureJohn Parker

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival: Criterion Collection Blu-ray review

The perfect Christmas gift for the old rocker in your family. This exquisite box set from the Criterion Collection brings together the most comprehensive selection of footage of the Monterey International Pop festival ever produced. Staged only once, in the Summer of 1967 (the Summer of Love), Monterey Pop was a seminal event, that would change rock music and pop culture forever.

Stunningly restored for this release, D.A. Pennebaker’s extraordinary documentary is more than just a concert movie, it is also one of the most definitive depictions of 60s counter culture. A perfect time capsule, capturing the style, spirit, music, and personality of the hippie movement.

Featuring iconic performances from Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Animals, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar’s mind-altering sitar solo, and of course, the career defining, guitar scorching set from Jimi Hendrix, Monterey Pop has everything a fan of 60s rock and roll could ever want. Spread over three packed discs, this box set delivers one jaw-dropping performance after another. Monterey Pop reminds us of a time when rock stars really were stars, and music could change the world.

Disc one comes with the original movie, digitally restored into 4K resolution, and an audio commentary featuring director D.A. Pennebaker and festival producer Lou Adler. The disc also features brand new and archive interviews with both men, and audio interviews with artists such as John Phillips, Cass Eilliot, David Crosby, and Derek Taylor. Theatrical trailer, re-release trailer, and radio spots are also included on the disc, as well as a photo gallery from Elaine Mayes, who covered the event for Hullabaloo magazine. This can also be watched as a photo essay, with commentary from Mayes recorded in 2002. Also included is a facsimile of the original festival program. When the film was first introduced in cinemas in 1968, it was accompanied by Richard Leacock’s short film Chiefs, which is also included on this set.

Disc two has extended footage of various bands and artists across all three days of the festival, including Simon and Garfunkel, Al Kooper, The Steve Miller Blues Band, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Grateful Dead, The Mamas and the Papas, and Buffalo Springfield. There’s also some extraordinary footage filmed by Pennebaker inside Monterey’s Hunt Club – known as the official green room of the festival – where using only the illumination of a cigarette lighter, he captured Tiny Tim performing a number of old standards.

To finish things off, Disc three gives us the complete Jimi Plays Monterey. Already a star in the UK, Hendrix announced himself to America with this phenomenal set, including Purple Haze, Foxy Lady, Like a Rolling Stone, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, and that finale performance of Wild Thing. And if that’s not enough, there’s also Shake! Otis at Monterey – the complete set-list performed by Otis Redding at Monterey.

The word definitive doesn’t do it justice. This is a stunning box set.

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