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BLUES ON DVD

THE HOWLIN' WOLF STORY:
The Secret History Of Rock & Roll
Bluebird 56631 $19.99
For my money, the Wolf was the greatest blues singer of all time. Fusing his deep Mississippi roots via his rough upbringing and the influence of his favorite musician Charley Patton as well as Country Music's first star, Jimmie Rodgers, and electrified instruments, the Wolf naturally created a powerful and often intimidating stage persona that simply will never be matched! Live footage from the 60s in a Chicago bar easily illustrates this as the Wolf just roars through a fabulous set spellbinding his audience. There's also the famous appearance he made on the teenage-oriented television show "Shindig" which was also the first time that ANY blues musician had been seen and heard on national television--quite a shock for a very conservative mid-60s America! Fleshed out with interviews with Wolf, numerous musicians who either worked with/for him and/or were influnenced by him and lots of live footage from the 60s and 70s, this is one of the best documentaries, bar none(!), ever made!

DON'T START ME TALKIN:

THE JUNIOR WELLS STORY
Legacy 55754 $15.99
Junior Wells was unique simply because not only was he blessed with tremendous natural talent as a musician and showman, he was a streetwise punk who knew how to strut his stuff. Primarily influenced by John Lee Williamson (Sonny Boy I), Little Walter and later the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, Junior cultivated a powerful no-nonsense style that captivated audiences in little Chicago Southside taverns as well as large concert halls. This brand new documentary was shot in the twilight years of Junior's life incorporating many interviews with his peers--especially Buddy Guy, his on again off again musicial partner who is also featured in the only live footage shot at his Legends club. While it would have been nice to incorporate "vintage footage" of Junior performing, this is a wonderful testament to one of the greatest blues singers/musicians who helped shape postwar Chicago blues' vibrant history.

JOHN LEE HOOKER

"COME AND SEE ABOUT ME / THE DEFINITIVE DVD" $20.99
A self-proclaimed "career retrospective" from the John Lee Hooker estate, this disc has been beautifully put together and features loads of interviews, live footage from the 60s-90s and is a "must have item" for all Hooker and blues fans. Later performances, of course, feature such "rock superstars" as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, et al, but the vintage performances of Hooker either solo or with his band are worth the price of admission alone!

THE STORY OF THE BLUES

MVD-Quantum 1351 $19.99
For better or for worse, this particular documentary is one of the most peculiar ever produced. Essentially, there are lots of photographs and background music of pre and postwar musicians, newly filmed footage of unknowns playing various instruments, footage from various sources (including a brief sequence illustrating the Civil War from what looks like a John Ford film) and loads of surreal camera trickery. The Story of the Blues is very entertaining, but not very enlightening.

AMERICAN FOLK BLUES FESTIVAL 1962-1966 VOLUME 1
Hip-O B750; VOLUME 2 Hip-O B751;
$19.99 each.
Almost forty years before the obscene commercialism of the "blues boom" of the `90s, before corporate America collectively decided to gentrify Memphis' Beale Street and Clarksdale, Mississippi, a handful of Europeans organized tours and concerts featuring quite literally a Who's Who of Afro-American blues talent. Miraclously, a large number of these shows were also filmed and are now available for the first time on these two DVD sets. Volume One features T-Bone Walker, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Otis Rush, Lonnie Johnson, Sippie Wallace, John Lee Hooker, the often neglected pianist Eddie Boyd, Walter "Shakey" Horton, Junior Wells, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Willie Dixon (accompanying himself on the guitar!), Otis Spann, Muddy Waters and a grand finale with Muddy, Sonny Boy, Memphis Slim and Willie. Both the sound and picture have been beautifully restored and the results are simply breathtaking! There's also "bonus footage" of the great Earl Hooker from 1969 that's just amazing! Volume Two features more footage of Sonny Boy, Willie and T-Bone along with incredible performances by Sunnyland Slim, Lightin' Hopkins, Victoria Spivey (with Lonnie Johnson), Roosevelt Sykes, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Howlin' Wolf and Big Mama Thornton and "bonus footage" featuring Magic Sam rockin' the house as he belts out earthshaking performances of "All Your Love" and "Magic Sam's Boogie". Both of these extraordinary sets should be in every true blues lover's collection.

MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS:

THE BLUES: A MUSICAL JOURNEY
Legacy 55808 $139.99 (or as single DVDs for $19.99 each)
In a nutshell, these seven films are the reflections of seven different directors with very different ideas regarding blues musicians and/or blues history and/or influences, etc. Even collectivley, this series doesn't attempt to fully illustrate the music's rich history, which sets it apart right away from other similiar projects. If you're interested in country blues, Scorses's "Feel Like Going Home" is an interesting and original film tracing this aspect from it's humble African roots via contemporary Afro-American interpretors of the music and African musicians. Clint Eastwood's "Piano Blues" has a nice personal touch partially because the director is a piano player himself. As a set, these seven films may not be for the hardcore blues purist AKA "the blues police", but it is never-the-less an interesting and well-done series.

-George Hansen


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All reviewed items are available from the Jazz Record Mart, 1-800-684-3480.