ALMOST FAMOUS: EXPANDED LIMITED-EDITION UBER BOX SET

 

Fictional rock ‘n’ roll does not have a very successful history. Whether in books or on screen, the few gems that exist are noteworthy. Two decades on, it is evident that Almost Famous is the best exception to the rule. The film charts the improbable but basically true story of a teenage journalist and his early success writing for Rolling Stone magazine. The first time I saw the film I was in equal measures of jealousy, awe and delight.

To celebrate the film’s two decade anniversary, UME has managed to assemble and clear the rights to a treasure trove of music and delightful artifacts. The limited-edition Uber Box sports an expanded soundtrack with five CDs, seven 180-gram black vinyl discs, and a brand new 7-inch for Stillwater’s “Fever Dog.” The expanded soundtrack includes songs from The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Who, and Yes, plus all the songs created for the film’s fictional aspiring rock group Stillwater, most written for the movie by Cameron Crowe, Heart’s Nancy Wilson and Grammy Award-winning guitarist, Peter Frampton.

With over 100 audio tracks (36 of them previously unreleased), it is like a multi-hour aircheck of the best FM programming possible from the early 70s. Instead of a mellow voiced DJ back announcing the songs, you occasionally get a very clever set of dialogue clips released for the first time. Each elicits a knowing smile.

Famously, Led Zeppelin granted writer director Cameron Crowe the right to five Led Zeppelin songs; the only time they had previously licensed a song in a film was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which Crowe wrote.

Some of the gems in the newly expanded soundtrack include a remix and edit of The Who’s “Amazing Journey/Sparks” instrumental from their rock opera “Tommy” and live album “Live at Leeds.” Also included is Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” previously only available as a bootleg. (Eagle-eyed viewers noticed in the expanded film version that album slipped into the stack our hero finds under his sister’s bed). Another delight is a version of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” blending the cast’s voices in a memorable scene on the tour bus. The poignancy of the scene prompted Elton to include it in his live set list, where it has generally remained over the decades.

The box set is cleverly designed like our hero’s high school notebook, stuffed with Stillwater ticket stubs, and other memorabilia. A fold out poster of Stillwater riffs on Allman Brothers At Fillmore East imagery, a good hint at Crowe’s inspiration for the film.

A deep dive into the making of the film is provided by a lavish booklet, bursting with images from set photographer Neal Preston. Recollections 20 years on from Crowe, Preston, Wilson and others offer revealing perspectives.

The original soundtrack won a Grammy, and the film was nominated for four Academy Awards. It won for Best Original Screenplay (the film apparently directed itself).

Almost Famous was met with broad critical acclaim upon its release, and time has only burnished its success with succeeding generations of fans.

This lovingly assembled box set assembles the music that inspired and fulfilled the promise of the film.

Unboxing video here.

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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