The original, 1970 Woodstock film, while ticking the boxes of being a great documentary with its mingling through the crowd and access to the organisational team, never really showed enough music. At least, it didn't show enough of the interesting acts lower down the bill.
This reissue - containing three hour-long TV documentaries charting each of the three days - gives exposure to those acts who were dwarfed by the, admittedly, huge performances by the like of The Who, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane. Some are bad and some are good. But then again, Woodstock was never really about the music. It was a gathering that would hopefully be the prototype for a new world.
It wasn't, of course, so we're left with the music. There is an all too brief snippet of The Incredible String Band in action, while on the Saturday a young man called Bert Sommers sings a song called Jennifer. He is big haired with feminine features and his voice is positively angelic. Googling him reveals he was in the musical Hair, but not much else. You'd think an appearance at Woodstock would make your career, but in this remarkable talent's case, evidently not. Anyone with more information on him, please get in touch.
One of the great underappreciated artists of the sixties, Tim Hardin, gets a look in too with If I Were a Carpenter - a song made successful by Johnny Cash and The Small Faces, among others. Arlo Guthrie is absurdly stoned as he stumbles through Dylan's Walking Down the Line, while all the more notorious acts sound even better thanks to a remastering - Sly and the Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane in particular. Crosby Stills and Nash's interpretation of The Beatles' Blackbird is possibly the highpoint of the whole DVD - a pleasantly melodic and romantic rest from the terrifying volume of people like Ten Years After and Janis Joplin. Hendrix's overrated performance remains underwhelming, its reputation owing more to the legend he established by playing Star Spangled Banner with lashing of vicious feedback, than any particularly jaw-dropping playing.
Due to restraints to time and resources, there was no roof or back wall to the Woodstock stage so when the storms came on the Saturday, all electrical equipment had to be moved and all the music stopped. The sight of a million and a half sodden hippies is the most striking visual moment of this documentary.
Interviews with the organisers, including the poor saps who put up the money for it, are most amusing. They lost everything, as the festival became a free event when the fences came crashing down under the weight of revellers. Happily for them, the sales of the film and soundtrack put them well back in the black. Michael Lang, the man who arranged the festival, is profiled too, and there's even footage of his tracking down Max Yasgur in order to coax him into letting his farm be destroyed for three days.
Special features include the story of the festival, right from the beginning, and biographies of the artists (though not, infuriatingly, Bert Sommers'). We have here Woodstock's most comprehensive film document yet, but it remains limited by featuring only one or two tracks from each artist's set. Is there footage that lasts the entire three days lying somewhere? If so, the last word on Woodstock remains to be had.