Music DVD Reviews: Review of The Cars: Unlocked

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Buy your copy from The Cars: Unlocked starstarstarstarstarLabel: Docurama
Released: 2006

Ric Ocasek might’ve given some semblance of a blessing to his fellow members of the Cars when they came up with a plan to take the group on tour with Todd Rundgren filling his shoes, but you have to figure that when his latest solo album tanked upon release, Ocasek might’ve been wondering, “My God, what have I done?” (At the very least, when he made an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” Ocasek put Rundgren “On Notice.”) When the New Cars proceeded to release a live album with new renditions of old songs, however, that must’ve really gotten Ric’s goat…because, all of a sudden, he announced that he was going through the vaults and putting out a collection of previously-unreleased live performances from the band’s heyday.

The Cars: Unlocked is 72 minutes – give or take – of concert footage interspersed with backstage antics, stuff captured on tour buses, in planes, and in airports, as well as from video shoots; as might be expected, Ric Ocasek served as producer, but it was directed and edited by his son, actor Eron Otcasek (“School of Rock,” “13 Going on 30”). Inevitably, the footage varies wildly in its quality, and given that’s almost entirely taken from handheld cameras, viewers might do well to down a dose of Dramamine beforehand; the sound, however, is consistently strong. The most professionally-filmed of the live performances is the Cars’ set at Bill Graham’s oft-maligned US Festival…but, then, the show was filmed for international broadcast, so that’d explain it. Of the behind-the-scenes material, certainly, the few off-the-cuff moments from Andy Warhol on the set of the band’s “Hello Again” video are the most valuable from a historical perspective, but seeing the fashions of the band and their fans change as the years go by is pretty damned funny.

It’s particularly cool that the set includes both a DVD and CD, especially given that the CD contains songs that aren’t on the DVD and vice versa; plus, the sound quality of the album is pretty strong, considering that the recordings are taken from various points throughout the band’s career. (That’s what digital remastering will do for you.) The included “28 page photo lyric book” is impressive for its black and white photos, to be sure, but the inclusion of lyrics for songs that aren’t included on either the CD or the DVD smacks of filler.

To be honest, one gets the idea that the whole thing was kind of rushed; I mean, the official website advertised on the back of the box is, as of this writing, still inactive. (Granted, it’s still a week before the official release as I write this, but, c’mon, there’s not even a placeholder for the page yet!) Still, if you have to choose between the New Cars or the original model, there’s no question; the one fronted by Ocasek and Orr remains the one to take for a spin.

~Will Harris