Classic Gil Scott-Heron
Ibochild | Los Angeles, CA USA | 12/22/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, let's be honest here. There can be no denying that this documentary is a great tribute to Gil Scott-Heron's words and music, but it is clearly not for everybody. Gil Scott-Heron, while having a legion of loyal fans, has never been a mainstream artist. His first significant national exposure was probably through his appearance as a musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," when Richard Pryor hosted the show during the end of 1975. On that episode, he performed "Johannesburg" (which he also performs in this documentary). However, Gil Scott-Heron could not get arrested on the show today, which now showcases primarily mainstream artists like Ricky Martin. This does not in anyway diminish Scott-Heron's talent or influence as an artist -- if anything it boosts it. This is particularly true in the wake of this documentary's release on homevideo. Robert Mugge, the Philadelphia-based filmmaker best known for his documentaries on African American music artists, does some of his best work on BLACK WAX. The director wisely chooses to have the film "speak for itself" through the words and music of Gil Scott-Heron, rather than have some "expert" talk about him. This is particularly significant given the politically charged nature of much of Scott-Heron's work (e.g., Whitey on the Moon, "B" Movie) and the fact that Robert Mugge is not African American. Performance footage of Gil Scott-Heron's best known songs are intercut with scenes of him walking through the streets of Washington, DC commenting on the issues of the day. Also included are some amusing segments where Scott-Heron "addresses" wax statues of John Wayne and several U.S. presidents.Although this film was shot during the beginning of the Reagan presidency, much of what Gil Scott-Heron talks about is still revelant today. One cannot help but sense the irony when Scott-Heron refers to the then vice president as George "Papa Doc" Bush, when his son, George W. (who as governor of Texas, lead the nation in executions), will soon succeed Bill Clinton as president of the United States. Also, Scott-Heron's commentary on Reagan's so called election "mandate" is sure to elicit a response for those who witnsssed the razor-thin election of 2000, which brought George W. to the White House. You can bet this documentary will not be on W.'s required viewing list! In general, Scott-Heron's unabashedly liberal message will not sit well with middle America. But for those with progressive or liberal leanings, this documentary is like a breath of fresh air. As an added bonus, you get "Is That Jazz?:A Mug-Shot Afterthought," which immediately follows the film. It is essentially a performance film of the title song (which was originally the flip side of the "B" Movie single) with no outside commentary.For fans of Gil Scott-Heron, this documentary is a must for your video collection. If you lean to the left on the political spectrum, this video is also worthy of serious consideration. Jazz aficionados might also like the music and the band which is first-rate. For everybody else, I would suggest checking out one of Gil Scott-Heron's albums first (particularly from his late 1970's/early 1980's period) before buying this video. In short, Gil Scott-Heron is well represented on this video, but to use the vernacular, you've got to "dig what he's putting down.""
pete | vancouver | 04/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The cover blurb on this DVD says something like "No artist was ever better served by a documentary...", and that seems to me about right. I had heard a couple of GSH tunes before I saw this on PBS in about '83, and I was somewhat impressed, but what I'd heard was short radio-friendly stuff, and alas, this was of course in the days after the short exquisite life of Beautiful Radio was ended by brutal corporate murder, so radio-friendly meant short and easily accessible, whereas I was listening for audio with more protein than sugar, so I was only mildly tweaked. Then I saw this doc, and was an instant convert. I was quite buzzed by his articulate intelligence, but about when the long slow meandering spoken introduction to "Angeldust" slyly and seamlessly passed through poetry into song, I realized I was watching genius at work. I have been a fan ever since, and not regretted it an instant. It is wonderful to have this brilliant bit of filmmaking available. Now, if we could only please have the video (preferrably full length) of the performance captured on the double live CD "Tales of Gil Scott Heron and the Amnesia Express", which in CD form is criminally long out of print, while the video is currently only available in europe, and only 62 minutes long."
GIL SCOTT HERON at his PEEK !
Eddie Landsberg | Tokyo, Japan | 12/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With so many of Gils albums out of print or hard to find state side, and his current band only being a shadow of the tight and soulful ensemble I remember as recently as the late 80s, its great that this video was shot for posterity, because its definitely a soulful third world funky politically conscoius Jazz soul injection. Gil takes it to the Streets of DC and tours a wax museum while giving a lecture on US history (including a recitation of WHITEY ON THE MOON.) Between these vignettes Gil is LIVE and LIVING. His band features a heavy rhythm and horn section - - hes sitting behind the old Fender Rhodes, and Im sure the bartender is quite busy. From songs like GUN to WINTER IN AMERICA, if youre VCR isnt hooked up to a great sound system, get it... because this is stuff too slick to waste to the world of mono.... the rhythm and solos and happening and this is the Gil you probably most remember from songs like THE BOTTLE and JOHANNESBURG. - - ANGEL DUST, featuring Robert Gordon and REEL TO REEL worth the price of admission alone. I hope the soundtrack to this eventually gets released as a CD ! ! !"
powwowhappy | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The editorial review was just about dead on. Gil Scott Heron, in his poetic genius, brought to light stories of the people, stories of the streets, and an honest look at the role politics played with the people. Though "not for everybody" perhaps, his lyrics to "Whitey on the Moon" ring true once again, today. Powerful, powerful stuff from a man in a class all by himself. I only wish there were more videos of his other works.If you have a love for the written word, for poetry that strikes you, makes you think and has a rhythm to it -- also have a look at Pinero (starring Benjamin Bratt) and Cyrano de Bergerac (starring Jose Ferrer). These 3 videos, though totally different, are each wonderful works."