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Postby b dub » Wed Dec 22, 2004 7:04 pm

Here are a handful of reviews of some newer DVD-Audio releases. While all of this material has seen issue before, I believe this is the first time they have been made available in this format. A caveat before looking these over... DVD-Audio discs DO NOT work in standard CD players. Of these five reviews, only the Taj Mahal release is a double-sided CD/DVD which will work in most CD players, provided the correct side of the disc is facing the reading mechanism. Other than the Taj Mahal release, there is no 'live' performance footage in any of the other discs.


The 1955 London Sessions
Silverline 288138 (2004) DVD-Audio ... 530745.jpg
10 tracks. Highly recommended. Big Bill Broonzy should need little introduction to those familiar with American roots music as he's long been recognized in blues, jazz, and folk idioms. These London Sessions were recorded in October of 1955, and now available in 5.1 surround sound, are a treat to the ears. Broonzy was no stranger in Europe as he had already been there a few times prior to this date. Here, joined by a small band, Big Bill (sadly written as Bib Bill in the opening segment of viewable liner notes), rolls through a smart set including It Feels So Good, Southbound Train, St. Louis Blues, Southern Saga/Joe Turner Blues, and Partnership Woman (among others). Although this disc will play on all DVD devices, the only way to hear it correctly is on a home theater system which definitely gives a sense of having been there. If there's one minor gripe to the packaging it's that the 'special features' listed on the reverse tray card boast liner notes. Many collectors and/or researchers might be put off that the notes are only of the viewable sort when playing the disc. Had these and session details been included as a booklet, they would be much easier to refer to. All in all though, a thoroughly satisfying aural delight.

Live At Ronnie Scott's
Silverline 284579 (2004) DVD-Audio
9 tracks. Recommended. Recorded at the famed Ronnie Scott's Club in London of 1988, Taj Mahal is in strong form backed by a small band including Wayne Henderson's keyboards, as well as a rhythm section of bass, drums, and percussion. Big Blues finds Mahal sounding eerily like Howlin' Wolf (as he does a lot of the time - Big Blues seems to be a reworking of Wolf's version of Louise)), and he tears through Stagger Lee, Mailbox Blues, Robert Johnson's Come On In My Kitchen, Blind Willie McTell's Statesboro Blues, and four others. The 5.1 surround sound is exceptional and the double-sided CD/DVD includes a video performance of Statesboro Blues plus a video interview, and computer extras that should fully satisfy anyone purchasing this newly packaged musical super set.

Live 1986 - Up And Down The Highway
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8 tracks. Excellent. Charlie Musselwhite is in good form on this somewhat low-key but romping affair recorded live in 1986. While his musical career has been one of ups and downs, he puts in strong a performance here backed only by Bob Hall's stellar piano and Dave Peabody's to-the-point blues guitar. Musselwhite's harp, as usual, is potent whether he's rocking up a storm on Hey Miss Bessie, grinding out a slow blues on Candy Kitchen, or funking it up a bit for Big Leg Woman (Short Mini Skirt). Big Walter Horton's Need My Baby gets a fine reading and the trio also simmers through Key To The Highway, Everybody Needs Somebody, Up And Down The Avenue, and Skinny Woman. Viewable liner notes are informative and give good insight into Charlie's lengthy time as one of blues' top harmonica showmen and the superb 5.1 surround sound puts you right in the club with these guys.

Back On The Scene
Silverline 288135 (2004) DVD-Audio ... 530742.jpg

12 tracks. Very good. T-Bone Walker recordings from the 1960s don't garner much attention from collectors when compared to his landmark sessions from the 1940s and 50s, and although this 1966 set (originally released on Jet Stream as the Home Cookin' LP) is a decent affair, it's perhaps best left as a later purchase. T-Bone is in good form here both vocally and instrumentally, but the 5.1 surround sound fidelity is somewhat wasted on something that had aural deficiencies to begin with. There's too much bass, too little high end, and an overall booming echo throughout, and while it isn't a dismal effort, it simply isn't as good as the purported aural improvements might lead you to believe. DVD-Audio can be the total music experience it's said to be, but only if the original master recordings are clear and workable. Natural Ball, Further On Up The Road, I Used To Be A Good Boy, Back On The Scene, Treat Your Daddy Right, and seven more. The small band is tight and adds good support to an aging but still potent Walker, but this isn't T-Bone at his best - although it's not his worst either.

The Blues, The Whole Blues And Nothing But The Blues
Silverline 288137 (2004) DVD-Audio ... 530744.jpg

12 tracks. Recommended. Produced by Mike Vernon and recorded in early 1992, this stands as one of Jimmy Witherspoon's more solid outings from late in his career. Vocally strong (although you can hear the start of his throat problems occasionally) and accompanied by a sympathetic band (piano, guitar, drums, and horns), 'Spoon smoothly runs through a strong and mixed set of straight-ahead blues, some jazz, and a bit of Southern Soul delivering the goods on all cylinders. The 5.1 surround sound is exquisite and definitely worth attention. Jimmy McCracklin's Would Man Be Satisfied and Think, Chris Youlden's You Got A Hold Of My Heart, Killing Time, and You Ain't Foolin' Me, plus seven more make this a highly worthwhile purchase. Mike Vernon's (screen viewable) liner notes are highly informative, but one wonders why when a product like this is reissued, the liner notes aren't updated to reflect more recent developments, in this case Jimmy's passing in 1997.

© 2004 by Craig Ruskey
b dub
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