AFBF DVD Reviews

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AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby blueswriter » Sun Nov 23, 2003 6:24 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Nov-23-03 AT 02:01 PM (EST)]Various Artists
The American Folk Blues Festival - Volume One
Hip-O DVD (2003) 750-09

http://cover09.cduniverse.com/MuzeVideo ... 214254.jpg

B&W, 76 minutes. With the airing of the Martin Scorsese-produced blues series on PBS television, many saw a good deal of vintage film clips showing Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin' Wolf and others, but a major concern was that these were incomplete looks of great blues artists that left nearly every viewer wanting much more than brief snippets. The situation has been rectified and for anyone with an interest in blues, what we have been rewarded with is a monumental gift that almost defies proper description. Europeans have long held an interest in blues while Americans in the past did little more than ignore it completely. Because of a number of problems including extreme racial barriers, sometimes graphic subjects, and the raw power of blues, American television in the 1960s wanted nothing at all to do with its own blues performers, but thanks to Horst Lippman and Fritz Rau, two German promoters and music enthusiasts, the American Folk Blues Festival became a major attraction overseas more than forty years ago. In addition to the festivals themselves, German television decided to film a wide cast of blues giants, many still in or near their prime, and some of that footage is now available for the first time in over three decades, and the level of care that was given to American blues artists so many years ago on foreign shores is something many of us will marvel at for years to come.

Volume One finds T-Bone Walker backing up Shakey Jake Harris for a stirring Call Me If You Need Me, complete with Jake on his knees pleading to a woman who ignores his advances while she knits. At the close of the first song, T-Bone, in amazing shape for a man in his 50s at the time, walks across a soundstage to a porch front and introduces Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee who deliver Hootin' Blues to a gathering of dancers, then it's McGhee who sets the stage for Memphis Slim offering The Blues Is Everywhere. And while these were filmed on soundstages made to look like American South streetcorners, porches, and juke joints, the attention to detail is visible in each scene. Otis Rush, sharply attired in sweater, tie, and dress slacks hands in the perennial favorite I Can't Quit You Baby backed by Jack Myers and Fred Below, and while the footage prior to this 1966 performance is sharp and crystal clear, it's during the Rush segment that you begin to fully grasp how fortunate you are to be seeing this. From a camera far-left of where Otis is on stage, the image of Otis' breath escaping his mouth as fine mist while he delivers an impassioned, sweat-drenched vocal is heartwrenching. We're also graced by Lonnie Johnson's guitar magnificence, Sippie Wallace belting one out, John Lee Hooker carrying off a stark Hobo Blues and more. Walter Horton's Shakey's Blues finds the harp wizard in tip-top form followed by Junior Wells whose version of Hoodoo Man Blues may leave many speechless. Wells was a master of phrasing and delivery, and a harp player of equal ability, but to see him in his 30s is beyond words. Buddy Guy, barely visible but clearly in full grasp of his masterful guitar skills, backs up Eddie Boyd on Five Long Years, and there's also Mississippi Fred McDowell and Big Joe Williams, Willie Dixon strumming guitar for his own Weak Brain And Narrow Mind, as well as Sonny Boy Williamson II introduced as a "handsome man" before he rivets your eyes to the screen during Nine Below Zero. If that's not enough, Muddy Waters grimacing at Sonny Boy's countrified harp work during Got My Mojo Working will have you doubled-over in laughter, plus there's a photo gallery, and bonus footage of Earl Hooker's Off The Hook which shows that Hendrix wasn't the only guitarist making fans shake their heads in the 60s.

Packaging is superb with a twenty-four page booklet offering great pictures, written memories from Bill Wyman, an essay by Rob Bowman, and some rewarding information on Lippman, Rau, and others who saw the importance of these artists, along with complete track listings with personnel for each cut. As disappointing as the PBS blues series was for many, these newly available DVDs of the 1960s American Folk Blues Festival on film will make you aware of how much you have to appreciate. There is simply no way to overplay the importance of what's here. Remarkable and priceless.

Rating: *****

Various Artists
The American Folk Blues Festival - Volume Two
Hip-O DVD (2003) 751-09

http://cover09.cduniverse.com/MuzeVideo ... 214257.jpg

70 minutes. If the first volume of the American Folk Blues Festival on DVD got your attention, the second volume will further deplete your monetary value since it's is just as strong, brilliant, and well worth investing in. While just a bit shorter than its predecessor, the highlights are many indeed, and the footage here does not come as an afterthought. Without stretching the introduction any further, let's jump in and see what's here.

Fans of harmonica will be rewarded right from the opening seconds as we witness Sonny Boy Williamson II, smartly clad in a dark suit and French beret come around what appears to be an West Memphis or Arkansas streetcorner, climb onto a juke joint porch, and finish a solo version of Bye Bye Bird only to disappear inside the tavern. Turning in a storming In My Younger Days joined by Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim, Willie Dixon, and Clifton James, the buzzard-like harp player gives the spotlight over to Slim, a pianist and vocalist of strength and passion, who unselfishly allows "Little Hubert" the lion's share of solo space in Come On Home Baby and Sumlin doesn't disappoint as he tears careening single notes, slurs, and bends from his Les Paul. Willie Dixon is regally introduced by Memphis Slim as a man weighing between 400 and 500 pounds, but jittery regardless of his size and Dixon pulls off the stuttering Nervous before we cut to Lightnin' Hopkins handing in a solid Mojo Hand from another makeshift Southern beer joint. More humor follows when Lonnie Johnson brings Victoria Spivey out for what he assumes will be her old favorite, T.B. Blues, and when Spivey reminds the audience that Lonnie was responsible for a slight error as she intends to offer Black Snake Blues, a seated Sonny Boy Williamson buries his head in his hands, reduced to muttering before giving some muscular harp to the proceedings. T-Bone Walker is again present, but not as an accompanist this time, he stands front and center to produce a mind-numbing Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong from 1962 that shows how unorthodox his approach to guitar playing was as he holds an archtop perpendicular to his body while pulling out effortless flurries of notes. Roosevelt Sykes hollers his way through a loosely-based Pinetop's Boogie Woogie (mistakenly titled Tall Heavy Mama) before we see Willie Dixon, who is followed by a yong and vibrant Matt Murphy moving his eyebrows in rhythm to almost every note from his guitar. Sonny and Brownie return for Stranger Blues, and as incredible as everything has been up to this point, what follows may turn into a religious-like experience for throngs of viewers. Howlin' Wolf may well have performed until shortly before his death in 1976, but at that time, he was far beyond his better years. To watch him at the height of his power in 1964 is astounding as he hands in close to ten minutes of soul-shaking vocals and potent guitar roaring through Shake For Me and I'll Be Back Someday, in addition to Love Me Darlin' where the film work catches Wolf's in a statue-like stance for a moment where he appears to pondering the entire scope of his abilities.

Just as rewarding and spellbinding as the first volume, the finale and bonus footage for volume two will offer more reasons to celebrate. Big Mama Thornton leads an all-star aggregation for Down Home Shakedown which brings out J.B. Lenoir, John Lee Hooker, Doctor Ross, and Big Walter Horton, each delivering a harmonica solo to the on-the-spot instrumental, but it's Horton who will warm the hearts of many with his smile and fancy dance steps around the stage. For fans of Chicago's West Side approach, the bonus footage of Magic Sam will be the highpoint as he glides through All Your Love with eight cylinders burning hot before launching into Lookin' Good (here titled Magic Sam's Boogie) where he turns Earl Hooker's Univox Les Paul copy into a thundering device to do his bidding. It's crushing to realize that Sam would be dead just a short time later, but all the more rewarding that we have him on film at his pinnacle.

DO NOT put off getting either of these remarkable examples of just how powerful blues was in the 1960s. While the footage is decades old, it's as clear as if it were shot yesterday and a lasting tribute to just how deserving of care these people were and will always be. While many of us may have memories of seeing Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Roosevelt Sykes, John Lee Hooker, or Lightnin' Hopkins, it's doubtful that many of us saw them in their prime, and even more doubtful that any of us were lucky enough to have been in Germany when these performances were captured on film.
http://www.reelinintheyears.com/index.html

Rating: *****


Various Artists
Harmonica Blues Vol. 2 1946-1952
Fremeaux (2003) FA 5059

http://www.audioroots.com/images/obj/624.jpg

2 CDs, 36 tracks, 100 minutes. For those interested in the Mississippi saxophone, gob iron, tin sandwich, or plain old blues harp, the 100 minutes of music in this collection is superb. With a fine gathering of the bigger names like John Lee (Sonny Boy #1) Williamson, Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson #2), Sonny Terry, Snooky Pryor and others, there's more than enough to like, but it's the lesser known players who dominate this set leaving the most impressive moments. Forest City Joe's A Woman On Every Street is a tough tribute to Sonny Boy #1 and well worth the cost of the 2-disc set, but so much more is indispensible blues, including Doctor Ross, who manages snarling distortion on My Bebop Gal, a pair from Big Walter Horton (Little Boy Blue and Now Tell Me Baby) with Joe Hill Louis on guitar, and Elder R. Wilson with his two sons, all playing harmonica on Better Get Ready. Sam Kelly's Rambling Around My Blues is another nod to the first Sonny Boy, Joe Hill Louis delivers the ominous Walkin' Talkin' Blues, and Pee Wee Hughes offers a memorable Santa Fe Blues with a repetitive guitar line akin to one of Slim Harpo's gems. Pete "Guitar" Lewis put away his six-string for the bouncing Harmonica Boogie as well as the Spike Jones fueled Scratchin' complete with bellowing trombone. Driftin' Slim's Down South Blues could get the award for the lowest of the lowdown examples, but if not that, it might be Little Sam Davis on Going To New Orleans, or Sunny Blair's Five Foot Three, a crashing slice of Arkansas boogie driven by the twin guitars of Baby Face Turner and Junior Brooks. No compilation of harmonica blues in the 1950s would be complete without some Little Walter for good measure and this includes two shimmering and atmospheric instrumentals with Blue Midnight and Sad Hours, Papa Lightfoot's Jumpin' With Jarvis is here along with his take on The Honeydripper, Eddie Burns tosses in Hello Miss Jessie Lee, but there's also a bit of Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Terry, K.C Douglas and Sidney Maiden, Frank Edwards, and plenty more to excite the sense. Being a French import, even though it's not specifically designed for those of us who read English, the notes are in both languages and there are complete session details as well as a few nice photos in the booklet. If there's one minor rub, two CDs at about 100 minutes is relatively short considering much more could have been included. All in all, this is highly rewarding with excellent remastering and a number of tracks have not been previously available on CD until now.
http://www.fremeaux.com

Rating: ****

Review Ratings:
Fair to good (has its moments) *
Good to very good (very strong in spots) **
Very good to excellent (strong throughout) ***
Excellent to superb (remarkable) ****
Superb (critical item) *****

© 2003 by Craig Ruskey
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby costa » Mon Nov 24, 2003 3:52 pm

...I just bought the two DVDs and I can't wait to get home (damn things don't play on my PC here at work). Since I don't own a TV, I rarely pay attention to DVD/Video releases. But how can I resist this one? The Otis Rush clip on the site was so good I was hyperventilating!
Once again, nice reviews Sir. You’ve opened up another Pandora box for me!

Costa

...blow your harmonica, son.
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby boz » Mon Nov 24, 2003 4:00 pm

Great review (as usual) BW,
Now could you contact my kids an coerce them into buyin those for me for Christmas?
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby blueswriter » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:27 pm

Boz...

Have your kids been good this year? If not, the answer is simple. Tell them you spent a small amount of money on yourself since they weren't deserving of anything but a sack of coal. If they have been good, buy the DVDs as your own "thank you" for raising your children the right way. At the price they sell for, don't even wait until Christmas.

And Costa, I imagine we won't see you for a couple days while you're locked in front of the computer at home watching these... I gather your PC plays DVDs. Have fun and post your thoughts. There are so many priceless moments. Otis Spann leaning back in his chair playing some smoking piano and looking as cool as an October night, him introducing Muddy, Lightnin' shaking the daylights out of an acoustic guitar getting the vibrato he wanted for a phrase, Wolf looking like an absolute giant and making that Epiphone archtop look like a kid's toy.

Simply amazing stuff!

BW
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby boz » Mon Nov 24, 2003 11:07 pm

Hey McG,
Your right I checked em out. At the local Borders their listed for $15 ea. What a deal!!!! Their on my list.
Cool...
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby costa » Tue Nov 25, 2003 4:33 pm

>And Costa, I imagine we won't see you for a couple days
>while you're locked in front of the computer at home
>watching these... I gather your PC plays DVDs. Have fun and
>post your thoughts.

Ok...first impressions:

Shakey Jake (with T-Bone alone) is awesome. T-Bone plays some licks I haven't heard anywhere else.
Lonnie Johnson is in excellent voice (almost sounding like Wolf!) and plays some fine guitar.
Walter Horton's solo spot is OK, although he misses a whole bunch of notes. His facial expressions are kind of fun to watch though. He's far better on the harmonica showdown.
Speaking of the showdown, Big Mama blows nicely, JB Lenoir sounds good though his tone is thin, John Lee Hooker should have stuck to the guitar. The killer is Dr Ross who just rips! He gets real close to the microphone and blows some nice fat chords that really show him to great advantage.
Brownie McGhee plays some smoking bass lines backing Sonny…
Otis Rush is #?&@!#$ AMAZING! I MUST see the rest of his set…Little Brother Montgomery’s un-credited piano is great too.
Junior is just sharp like BW said, plus there’s none of his annoying clicks and pops and jive talking. Good tone for a P.A. mic too!
Muddy is in crooner mode and disappoints (the CBC footage from the same period is far better). He can move though…
Earl Hooker goes Hendrix, but shines nonetheless. His ‘warm-up’ backstage is fun. The producers tease us with a shot of Earl pulling out his slide but we don’t get to see the performance. (Dare I hope for VOL. 3?)
Sonny Boy walks with a cool swagger and wears a cunning little smile the whole show. It’s quite obvious why the Europeans loved him.
Hubert Sumlin and Matt Murphy are both better than you can imagine. Their playing is both smooth and lethal and always in the pocket.
Sykes, Memphis Slim and Spann all play great, and we get nice shots of their hands working the keys.
Howlin’ Wolf is the true star of this set and worth the price of admission. Words can’t describe how intense his singing is.
Magic Sam. Live. On film. Wipe your chin.
There are many more highlights, but this is already a long post. The sound, by the way, is pretty damn good. The bass sounds as big as Texas and the drums are present enough to keep the groove driving without distracting. Kudos to whoever did the mastering.

THIS IS EVERYTHING THE PBS SERIES WAS NOT. BUY IT NOW!!!

Costa

...blow your harmonica, son.
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby slidnslim » Thu Nov 27, 2003 6:02 am

>
>THIS IS EVERYTHING THE PBS SERIES WAS NOT. BUY IT NOW!!!
>
>Costa
>
>...blow your harmonica, son.


Ok Costa I will!

Now just tell me where ya got that at HMV's? My brother in-law
works downtown I'll have him pick me up one!

Kenny,

P.S. BW great review by the way!
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby costa » Thu Nov 27, 2003 1:45 pm

> Now just tell me where ya got that at HMV's? My brother
>in-law
> works downtown I'll have him pick me up one!

I refuse to shop at HMV (high prices, ignorant staff, and too many bootlegs/quasi-legal imports...I'm digressing, sorry) but they probably have a copy. I got mine at the Archambeault in the Eaton's center...20.98$ each I believe. Enjoy.

Costa

...blow your harmonica, son.
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby slidnslim » Thu Nov 27, 2003 2:21 pm

Thanks Costa!


Kenny,:P
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby hashtaff » Thu Nov 27, 2003 9:13 pm

Well, as usual, Craig, you've made my life richer but my pocket poorer.


"First feel really bad. Or really good. The point is to feel" doc Mojo
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby mtblues » Wed Dec 03, 2003 8:11 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Dec-03-03 AT 03:12 PM (EST)]I received my “American Folk Blues Festival” DVD’s, and I must say, not only do they not disappoint, they far exceed my already high expectations! What a great buy right here at Christmas for any blues fans you might know....and don't forget yourselves!

The camera work, the sound, and all-around production is top quality, and these are NOT just little snippets of our dearly-beloved Wolf, Muddy, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, as well as many others; they are full-fledged complete performances truly to be savored.

There are several moments here that I will always treasure, not the least of which is the Finale on disc one which features Big Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters, Lonnie Johnson, Victoria Spivey, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Bill Stepney, and last, but NEVER least, Otis Spann.

As the review(s) already state, at approximately $15.00 each, this is possibly the blues buy of the decade.

I’m thrilled, mesmerized, and set for another viewing this evening.

MtBlues
;)
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby jellyroll baker » Thu Dec 04, 2003 10:21 am

Dear Santa,

I know I haven't been a very good boy this year but I will try harder next year. Please get me all of the AFBF DVD's as well as a DVD player to play them on. And a better TV so that they look good. And a better sound system so that they sound good. And one of every National guitar. And a Diamond slide.

Thank you,

JellyRoll Baker.
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby santa claus » Thu Dec 04, 2003 10:53 am

>Dear Santa,
>
>I know I haven't been a very good boy this year but I will
>try harder next year. Please get me all of the AFBF DVD's
>as well as a DVD player to play them on. And a better TV so
>that they look good. And a better sound system so that they
>sound good. And one of every National guitar. And a
>Diamond slide.
>
>Thank you,
>
>JellyRoll Baker.

Ho Ho Ho JellyRoll!

You're right, ho ho ho, you haven't been a very good boy! ho ho ho But after all, I'm SANTA! ho ho ho, so I overlook a lot.

Santa has put all your requests on a list, and I'm checkin' it twice (to see who's been naughty and who's been nice--personally, I like the naughty ones).

ho ho ho

MERRY CHRISTMAS

SAMTA CLAUS
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby hashtaff » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:34 am

The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966, Vol. 2 [DVD]
$14.99
Shipping
$ 8.97
Seeing JL Hooker doing 4th harmonica solo after Big Mamma Thornton, Big Walter, JB Lenoir and Doctor Ross...........
PRICELESS

"First feel really bad. Or really good. The point is to feel" doc Mojo
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RE: AFBF DVD Reviews

Postby hardluckchild » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:59 pm

I'll be buying the first volume very soon, and maybe the second volume somewhere down the road.
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