Let’s praise the Lord of Rock and Roll, for he has shown us mercy! That – or something down those lines – went through my head when I inserted "Slade In Flame" in my DVD player and thus began a trip down memory lane that I have not yet returned from.
"Slade," for those of you who did not have their rock’n roll awakening in Europe during the early 70s, is the epitome of Glam Rock. One of the most successful, celebrated and versatile bands of the period, Slade has enjoyed many years of phenomenal success and brought the world an array of classics and rock’n roll hymns.
Unlike Marc Bolan’s "T. Rex" or bands like "The Sweet," Slade have always had a very distinct quality that set them apart from the rest. Not that T. Rex or Sweet were any less influential or important, but Slade always had an image that would later become the mark of rock music. Slade was in essence the primordial party rock band that helped define British Rock.
After watching "Slade In Flame" I immediately turned my attention to "Get Yer Boots On," a greatest hits album by the band and not having heard the band for some 15 years or more, I was stunned by the variety of styles, the quality of the arrangements, the overall songwriting and of course, Noddy Holder’s unmistakable voice. These were all things I had forgotten about over the years as Slade faded into my memory. This DVD however, and the aforementioned CD, brought back Slade more vividly than ever, reminding me quite strongly what a top-notch act the band was.
To fuel their success in record sales in 1974 the band decided to make a movie. Much of Slade’s career was actually defined by the way the Beatles came to success and the career of the Fab Four oftentimes served as a template for the band to make their strategic moves – and thus a movie was the next logical step. Remember, this was a time before music television and fans hardly had the chance to actually see their favorite artists anywhere but on the road. The movie however was not of the funny slapstick nature the films of the Beatles were. Slade took an approach that was in one way more serious, but at the same time just as entertaining and hilarious at others – the locked-in-the-coffin scene is just a classic. At the same time, the film touches on some dark and tragic issues as well and it definitely still stands out as one of the most desolate band movies – in terms of the story, not its quality, of course.
The movie takes a look at the life of a band called "Flame" during the late 60s. Playing weddings one night and rock concerts the next the movie portrays the dank grittiness of the business as well as giving the band members a good chance to show off their individual personalities. Altogether it weaves a memorable tapestry of music and charm that seems timeless and – in my book – has more in common with Alan Parker’s "The Commitments" than any movie the Beatles have ever made.
The DVD presents the film in a great transfer that is even <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The image is looking a bit dated and grain is noticeable at times, which on the other hand adds to the grittiness and flair of the movie. The transfer is generally clean and free of defects, making for a solid presentation at all times and the sharply define picture hold plenty of detail. Colors are well reproduced, though a bit faded at times, and the black levels are occasionally a bit weak. Overall, nothing to complain about, though, as the presentation and the film are absolutely captivating and definitely make the film look better than anyone could have hoped for.
The audio on the disc is a Dolby Stereo track. The frequency response is a bit narrow, creating a somewhat harsh presentation with dialogue that seems clipped occasionally and music that doesn’t have the natural roll-off you would find in today’s productions. Once again, however, it all serves the film pretty well and enhances its overall appeal.
"Slade In Flame" contains one bonus feature, but it is an absolutely priceless one at that. A 50-minute interview with Slade’s singer and guitarist Noddy Holder, shot in 2002. Unbelievably personable, Holder completely opens up on the band, the intentions and the making of the movie. There are some phenomenal anecdotes in his interview and for someone like me who admired the band during their original glory days it is great to see the spirit and excitement in Holder talking about it. In his Cockney slang – that also permeated the band’s song lyrics and titles – you can’t stop listening to his stories and feel the passion that must have driven the band back in the days.
Slade was never a band to discount, always playing at the top of the charts, and this DVD is doing the exact same thing. Well produced and put together, this is a gem I will treasure for years to come. I can’t thank Shout! Factory enough for releasing this disc and for adding the Noddy Holder interview to the release. If the word "Slade" means anything to you, you have to get this disc. You simply HAVE TO!