The Ed Sullivan Show: Rock & Roll Classics Box Set

This three-DVD set is a box full of joy, and no one who digs the sounds of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s should draw another breath without owning it. Imagine James Brown, Jackie Wilson, the Beach Boys, the Stones, the Beatles, the Byrds, Bo Diddley, the Band, Ike and Tina Turner, the Supremes, Janis Joplin, Elvis, Buddy Holly, and more—all in their prime, and, for the most part, rocking totally live. Shocking! (Actually, in those instances where an artist is lip synching to a performance track, the mumble-mouth miscues are often goofy enough to be entertaining in their own special way.)

Of course, I’m of a “certain age,” so this set totally brought me back to the days when I sat on the couch in my family’s living room every Sunday evening, soaking up the heat (and sometimes dorky glee) of the tremendous musicians and pop artists burning up Ed Sullivan’s stage. As only a stark, garish backdrop and the charisma of the artists is transmitted, the performances seem almost quaint after an era of choreographed background dancers and MTV-style jumble cuts. Still, I must admit that the sequences were stunning enough in their simplicity to draw a few tears of nostalgia for artists long gone, bands long broken up, and a childhood of thrills and wonder.

The only bummers about this collection are that the menu music is quite a bit louder than the sound of the clips (which is disconcerting when selecting a series of single clips from the menu page) and the “historical” preambles that precede most clips only serve to wither the excitement level. In addition, I found the punchiest sound to be the stereo mix, as the 5.1 mix tended to thin out the sonic spectrum. But, then again, who really cares about sound quality when the artists are this mesmerizing. I could listen to this collection through a tin can, and I’d still be floored. Sofa Entertainment/Ventura.
—Michael Molenda