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The Old Grey Whistle Test -- Two Disc Set DVD

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For better and for worse, The Old Grey Whistle Test was probably the most resolutely serious music programme ever broadcast on television. During its 16-year run it showcased only the most earnest exponents of whichever musical style was currently popular, and given that the programme's heyday coincided with the early 70s, some of the footage included here will provide mirth as exquisite as only unintentional comedy can. The absurd prog noodlings of The Edgar Winter Group and the belief-beggaringly awful Focus now seem as unfathomable in retrospect as trench warfare or child labour. However, the good stuff collected here is very good, both in terms of performance (Tom Petty snarling "American Girl", a pre-irony U2 whooping up "I Will Follow") and historical interest, notably a shockingly youthful Elton John crooning "Tiny Dancer" and reminding us, in the process, of a time when he was regarded as a cool and hip singer-songwriter, rather than understudy to the Queen Mother. --Andrew Mueller On the DVD: Wonderful performances all captured in remarkably pristine picture and extraordinarily vivid sound, regardless of vintage (it doesn't even crackle during "Hocus Pocus"!). However, the menu is pretty clunky and won't allow direct access to the individual songs (other than selecting the "Random play" option). Instead, you can only jump into the programme year by year, not song by song. The track listing itself is unhelpfully hidden behind the discs in the gatefold packaging. --Mark Walker

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