Picks and Pans Review: Music on Video

updated 05/15/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/15/1989 01:00AM

>NELSON MANDELA 70TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE The tape of this June 11,1988, concert honoring Mandela, the black South African freedom fighter who has been imprisoned since 1964, takes off with Sting singing "They Dance Alone" to the accompaniment of Branford Marsalis's penetrating soprano sax. It concludes with opera star Jessye Norman turning a cliché into a profound experience, singing "Amazing Grace" a cappella. Throughout this two-hour production, the levels of both ideological fervor and pop music entertainment are astonishingly high. There is one draggy segment when Steve Van Zandt, wearing his trademark Maria Ouspenskaya-model babushka, struts self-importantly around the stage at London's Wembley Stadium. But there are plenty of compensations, such as Whitney Houston singing "The Greatest Love of All" with rare passion, Tracy Chapman adding a ringing version of "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution" (with just her guitar for accompaniment), Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and Eric Clapton joining Dire Straits for "Brothers in Arms" and "Wonderful Tonight." Royalties are expected to be donated to Artists Against Apartheid, among other South African charities. The performers were asked to minimize overt political comments, but that didn't stop Whoopi Goldberg from making a brief "I come to bury Caesar" speech and saying slowly and clearly, "Apartheid is wrong." (CBS, $24.95)

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