Sound — 10
The sound of this recording is superb, it's the first DVD release of this film (movie released in 1986, DVD version twenty years later), and for the occasion, the sound has been remastered to 5.1 surround. Chuck plays his beautiful dark red Gibson ES-355, Keith Richards switches between a Strat and a black Telecaster Custom, but the most important element for the band's sound is the return of Chuck's pianist Johnnie Johnson! The band plays really tight, the guests do a great performance, and Chuck is, well, the Chuck he's always been.
Content — 9
The movie itself is a concert as well as a documentary; it features Chuck going back to the place where he started, Cosmo's (where he also plays some songs), other artists talking about Chuck (Bruce Springsteen, about backing Chuck up, as well as Willie Dixon, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly brothers and Roy Orbison), and Chuck talking with Bo Diddley and Little Richard about the very beginning of rock 'n roll. The songs featured in the film are: 01. Maybellene 02. Bio 03. Come On (by Robert Cray and Ingrid Berry) 04. Oh, Carol (the rehearsal, with one very irritaded Keith Richards) 05. Understand Each Other (a small rehearsal bit, with Eric Clapton) 06. I'm Through With Love (a very intimate Nat King Cole song) 07. Roll Over Beethoven 08. Almost Grown 09. Back In The USA (with Linda Ronstadt) 10. Sweet Little Sixteen 11. No Money Down (great version of one of my favourite songs) 12. Nadine 13. Johnny B Goode (with Julian Lennon) 14. Memphis 15. Little Queenie 15. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (with Robert Cray) 16. Too Much Monkey Bussiness 17. No Particular Place To Go 18. Wee Wee Hours (with Eric Clapton) 19. Rock And Roll Music (with Etta James) 20. School Days 21. Cottage For Sale (very intimate, with just Chuck and Johnnie) The second disc is full of great extra's, split in two parts: the rehearsals and a making-of. The rehearsal features a guitar jam between Chuck, Keith and Eric, the great blues song Mean old world, the full version of understand each other with Eric Clapton, Etta James singing Hoochie coochie gal and a medley of standards by Chuck and Johnnie Johnson, everything with an intruduction by director Taylor Hackford (who also did Ray). In the making of, Taylor Hackford, drummer Steve Jordan and some movie bussiness figures (producers and such) talk about how hard it was to make the movie, and more precisely about how Chuck Berry isn't the easiest man to work with. This might be something of a shock, but of course he's always had to fight to become something, as a young, black, cocky rock 'n roller, and now he's the Chuck Berry, he's very keen on his money. My only negative comment is that the conversation between Chuck and The Band's Robbie Robertson isn't on this DVD, but only on the four-disc version, which I can't find anywhere.
Production Quality — 9
The production of the movie is wonderfully done. It truly is a celebration of the fifties, with a very Technicolor-like set. The box itself is in the same colourful, flashy style. It's really this kind of detail that make the difference between a great movie and a masterpiece. The documentary and interview bits, though, are a bit dated in terms of quality, but the content of it compensates a lot.
Overall Impression — 9
Hail! Hail! Rock 'N Roll is a great movie for true rock 'n roll fans. It's like the Last Waltz in some aspects, but with a lot of bonus materials. I love the way it shows the whole Chuck Berry, and not an idealised hero. What I hate about it, though, is that the conversation between Chuck and Robbie Robertson and the full interviews with Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and all the other greats are all on the four-disc edition. So if it was lost or stolen, I'd probably buy the four-disc version, but I'd have to search ages for it (it already took me quite some time to find this one).