Monterey Pop, history tells us, was a monumental event. The Who’s gear-smashing U.S. breakthrough. Jimi Hendrix’s iconic Stratocaster torching. Flautist Andy Kulberg’s solo on the Blues Project’s jazz-rock instrumental ”Flute Thing.”
Actually, that last one sucks. Watching The Complete Monterey Pop Festival: Criterion Collection — a three-disc set that collects D.A. Pennebaker’s original 1968 documentary ”Monterey Pop,” his two 1986 short films ”Jimi Plays Monterey” and ”Shake! Otis at Monterey,” and a full disc of outtake performances — it’s remarkable how bad a lot of this music now sounds. There are some seminal moments: Hendrix’s feedback-animated ”Wild Thing,” the Who’s chaotic ”My Generation,” Otis Redding’s ”I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” But there’s also an abundance of dated and marginal material, like Country Joe & the Fish’s zonked space rock and eight tunes from the Mamas and the Papas (a giant peace-sign button goes to anyone who can actually name eight Mamas and Papas songs).
That said, this is an impressive package with welcome extras (including commentary from Pennebaker, festival producer Lou Adler, and others) and a spectacular new 5.1 sound mix. As if the Who weren’t already loud enough.