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Articles: Letters From A Porcupine dvd Review (2001)

Letters From A Porcupine review (DVD)

By Brian Dailey for www.audiorevolution.com



The day Chris Farley, wearing a bumblebee girl outfit, introduced Blind Melon on "Saturday Night Live," it was official. Blind Melon had made the big time. In a few short months, this band of North Carolina alterna-rockers was thrust into the spotlight, thanks to their single "No Rain" being in constant rotation on the radio and MTV. It was too much fame, too fast for lead singer Shannon Hoon, who after repeated trouble with the law, and battles with drug addiction, died of an accidental cocaine overdose on October 21,1995. As a tribute to Hoon, the remaining members of Blind Melon and Capitol Records released "Letters from a Porcupine" in 1996 on VHS and received a Grammy nomination for Best Long Form Video.
The new special edition DVD release of "Letters From a Porcupine" has been spiffed up with additional footage and bonus features, including all eight of Blind Melonís video clips, interviews with the band members talking about their multi-platinum debut album, the follow-up Soup, and Nico, the Enhanced CD released after Hoon's death. The disc also has the ability to play several audio tracks from each of Blind Melonís studio albums.

Because the band was tagged with the "one-hit-wonder" label after success of ĎNo Rain," the incredible musical talent of Blind Melon has been overlooked. The bulk of this DVD is the 82-minute documentary, including a video montage dedicated to Shannon Hoon. It is filled with clips of the band in various live performances, home videos of the band at parties, in the studio, and other day-to-day events filmed with a regular video camera by friends and family. Itís reminiscent of the VH1 Behind the Music series and celebrates the good parts of Hoonís life, rather than dwelling on the negatives.


Another documentary on the DVD focuses on the making of the incredible sophomore album Soup, produced by Andy Wallace (Faith No More, Slayer, Sepeltura). Blind Melon went to New Orleans to a funky old mansion that was converted into a recording studio to get a cool "vibe" for Soup. "Letters from a Porcupine" gives the viewer some insight into the recording process, but not from an overly technical standpoint.

   The sound quality of the 19 live performances on "Letters From a Porcupine" spans the entire spectrum. The bandís live performance at Woodstock is spotty, and some of the live club performances arenít mixed as well as they could have been, but the bandís level of talent never ceases to shine through, even in the worst-sounding venues. Some of the better sounding clips include Blind Melonís performance of "Change" on The Late Show with David Letterman, "No Rain" on Saturday Night Live and their appearance on Canada's MuchMusic, where they played the songs "Lemonade" and "St. Andrew's Fall." The video quality is all over the place, but this to be expected on an documentary that pulls from so many different sources.

   Where this DVD stumbles is in the menus and navigation of the actual disc. The menus are a tad corny and the Blind Melon musical riffs that play in the background are overly repetitive. The main documentary is not broken into separate chapters, so if you want to see one of the performances in the middle of the main documentary, youíll have to fast-forward to it. You can choose the individual music videos you want to watch, but to have the documentary as one long track is a major flaw.

    If you arenít familiar with Blind Melon but like alternative music with a slight "hippie" twist to it, this is the band for you. The dueling guitar work of Rogers Stevens andChristopher Thorn, the backing vocals and melodic bass work of Brad Smith and Hoonís distinct raspy vocals are all here. Blind Melon fans that do not have this DVD have a huge void in their collection. Itís a fitting tribute to a band was struck down in the middle of their most creative years.
Even though they had faded from the spotlight, itís painfully apparent to anyone who watches this touching documentary that the best years for Blind Melon had yet to come


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