It is fascinating that each major release cycle of the music from the Monterey International Pop Festival (it was originally billed as "the first," but there never was another one) has taken place amid a new cycle in American technology or marketing. Woodstock may have copped the biggest press exposure, but the owners of that property were asleep at the switch while those behind the charitable cause for which Monterey was originally organized have done their work well and nimbly. The original commercial incarnation barely trickled out after 1968, the Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, and Mamas & the Papas sets showing up on vinyl as individual sides or complete LPs, respectively. The movie Monterey Pop -- originally shot for an intended ABC network special but ultimately released as a feature film -- was also out there, enticing audiences and fans with performances by a brace of major artists, among them Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, et al., and it did make a brief appearance on VHS tape by way of Sony in the mid-'80s. Portions of the Who's set surfaced in documentaries about that band, but most of the rest remained locked up.
Then, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary in 1987, a plunge by the producers and various engineers back into the tapes for an extended radio special -- which coincided with the CD boom -- resulted in a huge (though incomplete) treasure trove of performances, including Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Country Joe & the Fish, Hugh Masekela, Paul Butterfield, the Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, and Booker T. & the MG's. There was a hugely expensive box set from Rhino with a cool booklet, and also a set of bootleg CDs -- among the most widely circulated of that latter category of release at the time -- that included material by the Buffalo Springfield and the Grateful Dead that was on the radio special but not in the Rhino box (the Dead gave the organizers the most trouble, objecting to being filmed and threatening to set up their own makeshift festival down the road). Additionally, there was a laserdisc of the movie that included -- for the first time -- credits for most of the musicians who participated. And when the DVD medium took off, an expanded version of the movie showed up from The Criterion Collection with extensive outtakes, commentary tracks, and accompanying annotation (adding up to three discs' worth of material).
And finally, with Starbucks moving into the realm of CD marketing in a big way in tandem with Razor & Tie, there arrives this double-CD set, which includes performances by Simon & Garfunkel and the Buffalo Springfield (sans Neil Young) that weren't on the previous official CD versions. Everything else has been heard before, though this set does have some advantages -- it is less bulky by far than the Rhino set (which came in a huge psychedelic yellow LP-size box), and it is very nicely mastered. Digital sound has come a long way since 1987, and engineers are now a lot more comfortable pushing analog sources to the limit, and getting a live recording like this right is all about pushing sound -- volume, distortion, balances -- right to the edge. It's amazing even now to hear how formidable and powerful the Byrds' sound was at this point, a moment when their lineup was about to seriously splinter. One would like to hear the Jefferson Airplane's complete set remastered by the engineers from this project; even the Association's "Along Comes Mary" has more punch than one remembers it from the movie outtake that surfaced from Criterion. There's also an essay by Andrew Loog Oldham explaining the events behind the festival and its significance, for the benefit of those who were not around 40 years ago. As to the Springfields' performance on "For What It's Worth," it's mostly a showcase for Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, and it's not bad, though hardly representative of what that band was about. Also present is the live version of Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," which was replaced for the film by the studio recording.