Monday, 6 October 2008

The Time-Life CD Commercial Anthology: 8 DVD Box Set

I will admit, when I sat down to this 60-hour box set of Time-Life CD commercials, I wasn’t full of optimism for a good time well spent. Normally the presence of one of these ads on my TV screen elicits a weary sigh and a hasty click on the remote. But when I forced myself to sit through these 8 DVDs, I found myself enthralled and entertained, like a manchild with a hoop.

The DVDs are arranged chronologically by half-decade. For my money, the best parts of the box set came in the latter years, once the Time-Life team had reached the peak of their talents. The wonderful and much-missed 2002 commercial for the Time-Life Best of Gangsta Rap compilation is a personal highlight for me. Hosted by Patrick Duffy, this is pure gold from the gunshot-strewn intro to the news that calling in the next seventeen minutes will earn the buyer a set of free commemorative plates featuring Dr. Dre, MC Ren and KRS-1. Everything is beautifully produced: the five-second song snippets segue flawlessly, the font used to display selected titles is superb and Duffy’s interaction with co-presenter Coolio is jovial and not at all forced.

Similarly, the ad for 1995’s Time-Life Presents: 6 CDs of Songs about Forests is a marvellous example of the pseudo infomercial. Set in a wooded glade and hosted by Fabio, the commercial is ten minutes of pure poetry set around the leitmotif of a totally unnecessary musical compilation. Fabio is an excellent compere, switching effortlessly between serious (when describing the first time he heard a song about a forest and closed his eyes and actually believed he was in a forest!) and playful (when he’s dancing around, pretending to be a wood nymph). When he looks into the camera and excitedly informs us that the first fifty callers will get their reward in Heaven, well, I truly believe it.

Earlier commercials are less impressive. The first DVD, showcasing the first Time-Life CD box set adverts, has a naive charm, but the anthology’s compilers could have omitted everything on the DVD without missing anything special. Rock n Roll Classics, Doo Wop Legends, Rock n Roll Classics Volume 2: The EnRockening, Rock n Roll Classics Volume 3: This Time it’s Rock!!, Doo Wop Legends 2: More Doo, Even More Wop and Rock n Roll Songs That Aren’t Quite Classics But We Ran Out of Classics so Have These Instead: All ads for these compilations lack that special something that makes the later ones so enjoyable. Where are the bonus offers for early purchasers? Where is the grainy stock footage of 50s dancers cutting a rug? Where is the photo of young Elvis pointing at the camera and winking? These details are what make future ads great, and these early attempts are done no favours by their omission.

But the joy that can be had from the other DVDs is really what stands out from this anthology. Take the sight of Marilyn Manson breaking down and crying while telling the viewer about the CD collection Songs Your Grandfather Would Play as You Sat on His Knee and Looked up at Him with Wide-Eyed Wonder. Take the tripped out brilliance of the ad for Psychedelic Drug Party 4, which consists of a brightly coloured spiral spinning on the screen for 18 minutes. Take the majesty of the boudoir set where the ad for 200 Songs to Play while you’re Trying to get a Girl to Sleep with You takes place.

But wait! That’s not all! The first one hundred – yes! One hundred! – people who order this anthology will get an extra DVD featuring bonus material such as behind-the-scenes making-of featurettes! Interviews with the ads’ presenters and producers! Outtakes! A classy cardboard carry case! And much much more!

I would give the Time-Life CD Commercial Anthology collection four stars out of five. It's not perfect, but then again, who is? Apart from me, I mean. Yeah, exactly.

Postage and packing for this DVD box set is available in twenty easy instalments beginning with your first born son. The Time-Life CD Commercial Anthology DVD box set is not available in any shops, online, or through mail order. It is not available anywhere. Not even in space or in Honest Ed’s, where they’ve got everything else in existence. Your home is at risk if you do not keep up payments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it.


Red said...

If I had a dollar for every time I was seduced with 200 Songs to Play while you’re Trying to get a Girl to Sleep with You, I'd have a whole lot of imaginary dollars.

ÄsK AliCë said...

You had me at Fabio dancing around, pretending to be a wood nymph

words...words...words... said...

It's really only 199 Songs To Play While You're Trying To Get A Girl To Sleep With You And One Song That Will Fuck Your Shit Up. I don't know what the hell "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" was doing in there.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Red: If I had a dollar for every time a girl had slept with me, I'd have a dollar.

Alice: Yeah, that image aroused me, too.

WWW: I think they ran out of ideas after 150, myself. "Heretic Anthem" by Slipknot? Not romantic.

Max said...

I'm a concert promoter putting together a "Smooth Music" night where 12 bands are all doing covers of...well...smooth music; and I want to try and play some of those commercials on the projector between sets. Is there anything you could do to help me get my hands on some?