THE DICK CAVETT SHOW:  ROCK ICONS (DVD) Image

Unseen since their original broadcasts in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this collection of episodes from Dick Cavett’s late-night talk show offers a peerless treasure of both classic rock music and extraordinary conversation.

The performances gathered here represent the peak of the era. An episode from August 19, 1969, took place right after Woodstock concluded and created a minor brouhaha when Jefferson Airplane performed “We Can Be Together” with the word “motherfuckers” intact. Full performances from the likes of David Bowie (doing “1984″ from his aborted musical adaption of the Orwell classic), Stevie Wonder (performing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered) and Paul Simon offering “Loves Me Like a Rock” and a Garfunkel-less “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is also here.

The glorious triumph of this three-disc DVD collection is having the original Cavett programs in their content entireties (minus the commercials). Cavett’s programs, unlike today’s talk shows, encouraged an interaction between the guests – even if they came from different generations, mindframes and persuasions. Thus, Janis Joplin holds her own in conversation with the likes of Raquel Welch and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in one show and with Gloria Swanson in another. Sly Stone is paired against Debbie Reynolds and golf legend Pancho Gonzales. Stevie Wonder shares the stage with British actress Elsa Lanchester, French matinee idol Alain Delon and cowboy crooner Tex Ritter.

Cavett was a wonderful conversationalist and he brought out the best in his guests. Even traditionally reticent artists like George Harrison had plenty to share when Cavett was guiding the conversation.

This DVD is the beginning of a new series of reissues from “The Dick Cavett Show” featuring music legends in performance and talk. A DVD set featuring Ray Charles’ appearances on the Cavett program was recently issued, and one starring John Lennon and Yoko Ono is slated for release in the near future.

The one catch here, sadly, was Cavett’s ineptitude as a monologuist. He opened his show Carson-style, except without Carson’s well-timed delivery and killer material. The fact people would sit through Cavett’s stand-up is a triumph of audience patience, and considering the wealth of talent that awaited beyond the monologue it was worth the bother.

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