DVD Review – Neil Peart: A Work in Progress
This is NOT an instructional and don’t let anyone tell you different! This is a glimpse into the mind of Neil Peart and what he was thinking about when he was with Rush making their Test for Echo album. Remember how I said that there wasn’t much deep thinking or drumming philosophy in Drum Philosophy? I think I might have found where it went. Neil Peart shows himself to be a very deep thinker and quite articulate. In other words he’s the perfect drummer to undertake a project like this.
The beginning of the DVD is Neil telling you his story as a musician from piano lessons to being instructed under the tutelage of Freddy Gruber. Every thing Neil talks about is given the attention to detail that he gives the lyrics of a Rush song. I really enjoyed his talents as a word smith and his ability to easily communicate deep and abstract concepts through words alone. After he catches you up on his path as a drummer he proceeds to go through a bunch of different songs on the album and talk about them in detail, taking a few detours to other interesting subjects along the way. There is some demonstration of grooves and fills but it’s more to give you an idea of what he was thinking when he created the part. If you want detailed transcriptions I believe there is a booklet that will come with the DVD. I’m not sure because I rented this from netflix so I didn’t get the booklet. If your looking for a Mike Portnoy-esq slow motion breakdown of every interesting part in a song then the DVD isn’t going to provide what you want.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that about 70 percent of the video is Neil speaking to the audience. That’s a lot of talking for a drum DVD, lucky for you Neil is great to listen to. He’s not as entertaining as Gregg Bissonette but it still works, because he lives up to his nickname, the professor. He comes across exactly like a professor of whatever subject you’re just fascinated by, in fact this DVD would probably be worth a rent even if he never touched a drum during the entire thing. The movie is nice and long so there was room for lots of studio performances of lots of the tracks off the Test for Echo album. They had just the right talking to playing ratio for the kind of movie the were trying to accomplish. The camera work was great and they made sure they were constantly changing up the background so you’d always have something new to look at. Presentation wise this was years and years ahead of its time.
If you buy this you apparently get a free poster… that’s something right? The DVD itself is very thin on extras. It’s got a performance mode where it just goes through all the performances on the DVD which is very nice because it’s Rush and Rush is good music. There are some previews of DVD from other artists and there is a bare bones kit tour kind of thing that you’d find on a drum manufacturers website. It’s not so much a gear tour as it is a drum-set diagram. Kit tour kinda implies that someone would be giving a tour of the gear and that’s not what’s happening here. This was probably pretty good for it’s time but it’s just not impressive now.
All and all this is a great EDUCATIONAL DVD. There is little to no instruction going on in here but it’s definitely an enlightening experience and you should definitely see it at least once. If your gonna rent then you’ll probably need netflix, if your gonna buy then do whatever.