Going Deep With The Coda Collection of Concert Films

Search “music documentary” on Amazon Prime and you’ll get back nearly 10,000 results. To put that number in perspective, it’s five times what turns up when you search “hamster accessories,” ten times more than “tiny robots.” It would take 1.7 years to watch all of them, and that’s without bathroom breaks.

So when Amazon Prime recently began carrying the Coda Collection channel, the people behind the collection had their work cut out for them. How do you get members to pay an extra $4.99 per month for a “curated library of over 150 rare and never-before-seen concert films, documentaries, and more from the biggest names in music”? One way would be to convince them that this is more than just another subscription channel.

“The way the world appreciates music is evolving and changing,” said Janie Hendrix, sister of Jimi and CEO of Experience Hendrix, in a press announcement. “The Coda Collection is how we grow with that change. It transcends basic music streaming and takes fans on a real journey into the heart of the songs they love and the artists, like Jimi Hendrix, who created those songs.”

Hendrix is one of five individuals helming the project, the others being musician Yoko Ono, documentary producer John McDermott, entertainment lawyer Jonas Herbsman, and co-founding CEO Jim Spinello.

So it’s not surprising that the initial Coda Collection — 20 to 30 more films will be added each month — has no shortage of Hendrix films. A dozen of them, in fact, most of which were produced by McDermott.

Yet despite the Yoko connection, John Lennon is only featured in one documentary. “Gimme Some Truth,” filmed during the recording of the “Imagine” album, was described by critic Jeff Shannon as “a casual montage of Lennon’s celebrity lifestyle [that] presents Lennon, Ono, co-producer Phil Spector, and a host of gifted musicians in a fluid context of conflict, community, and craftsmanship.”

The Beatles, meanwhile, are completely AWOL, which isn’t surprising given the long feud between Yoko and Paul McCartney over the group’s songwriting credits.

Still, when it comes to those “biggest names in music,” the collection does include documentaries and concert films devoted to the Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Aretha Franklin, Wu-Tang Clan, Nora Jones, John Coltrane, PJ Harvey, AC/DC, Jason Isbell, Carly Simon, John Lee Hooker, Miranda Lambert, Dead & Company, Pearl Jam, Marvin Gaye, Fairport Convention, Public Image Ltd, Jane’s Addiction, My Morning Jacket, and about a hundred others.

For those who like some historical context mixed in with their music, there are selections like “Soul to Soul,” which accompanies Wilson Pickett, Ike & Tina Turner, Santana, Roberta Flack, the Staple Singers, Eddie Harris and Les McCann as they journey to Africa for a 1971 festival in Ghana. Or “Wax Trax!: Industrial Rabble Rousers,” a film about the Chicago record store turned label that was responsible for Ministry, Front 242, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and other industrial rock pioneers whose success would be eclipsed by Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails.

While the channel’s initial offerings are largely devoted to well-known acts, there are still a surprising number of films featuring semi-obscure musicians, many of whom are, for some reason, British. Among them are Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, New Model Army, Michael Chapman, Hazel O’Connor, UK Subs, The Godfathers, Stiff Little Fingers and, of course, Splodgenessabounds.

Granted, the Coda Collection falls well short of a cultural revolution, but it does enable music fans to take a deeper dive than most subscription channels, thanks to an impressive amount of supplementary material that includes articles, video interviews, podcasts and playlists. Curated by Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot, who also co-hosts public radio’s Sound Opinions, it’s updated daily and worth checking out.

Subscribers will also have the satisfaction of helping Amazon’s Jeff Bezos stave off Tesla’s Elon Musk as the richest man in the world. And who wouldn’t want to do that?

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