B. J. Blote | Voorschoten, ZH Netherlands | 10/26/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It is not the rather lame documentary that makes this item worthwhile but the bonus disc. It contains 2 hours with 38 live video clips recorded in black and white for American television in the late fifties. The performances are set against a sober kind of German expressionistic background. Most of the time the accompanying musicians (piano -must be Mildred Falls-, acoustic bass, electric guitar, drums and organ) are not in the picture. Without an audience the performances are rather serene but they are of high musical quality. Though some songs are more uplifting than others Jackson and the other musicians are in great form. They are randomly taken from the 80 video clip collection 'Mahalia Jackson sings' which lasts for 4 hours.
In regard of the documentary: it is apparent that there is not that much video footage left of Mahalia Jackson, except from the above mentioned footage. There is something to be said for the interview recordings used but for a visual documentary it is a pity that only two excerpts, lasting only seconds, are accompanied by moving pictures of Mahalia Jackson. This is the great omission of the film. To cover up for this problem a lot of irrelevant archive footage is used and the camera zooms in or out on tens of still photographs. Then there are a lot of chit chatting talking heads from people who where more or less close to her and on top of it all there's the annoying voiceover. Most troubling is that their voices are mixed through the soundtrack of the few interesting concert snippets, which are not fully shown in the first place. Most of the scarce concert footage is from one of her later and less impressive concert tours where her voice, music (without pianist Mildred Falls) and performance have lost power. This footage is earlier and to a greater extend used for Allen Miner's, mostly depressing, 86-minute tour report (released in 1974). On a slightly positive note: added up there are a few minutes of unique video material from earlier performances. The one-minute recording of 'How I got over' from the march on Washington is very impressive; she performs the song at the same lectern where Dr. M.L. King gives his famous speech. Unfortunately this recording is also interrupted by speech and visuals.
I have not much trust in hoping for a thorough documentary film on Mahalia Jackson's life and music. I do hope for complete video releases of the concerts, which are so barely touched upon in this documentary. For example nothing beats the overwhelming recording of a part of her concert at the Newport Jazz festival 1958, which was used for the impressive music documentary 'Jazz on a summer's day' (Bert Stern, USA 1960). And then there are the unpublished television specials she made for CBS in 1955 (not the same as the 'Mahalia Jackson sings' recordings), a bit of interesting audio material is used for this documentary."
Matthew Beckley | Sacramento, Ca | 12/24/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have all four volumes of Mahalia Sings Videos and a couple of other Mahalia Jackson Videos, and I can honestly say that this is the most well made and more informative than all the other videos combined. Lots of hard to find film clips and so many sound clips of Mahalia at her best."
Long and lonesome road. . .
William V. Cleland | Winchester, Indiana | 12/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have read everything in print, I believe, about Mahalia Jackson. I have researched her life diligently for more than 35 years. This film does a good job of recreating from archival footage the basic substance of her life and work. While some things are not fully accurate, the film does depict the chronological events in her life quite well. For example, the Carnegie 1950 performance was not actually filmed or shown here. The later 1961 image from CBS was used to approximate the actual event. I do not fault any of this, as the film does justice to Mahalia's fabulous career in many ways, thus providing at least some form of historical narrative for future generations. I sincerely hope that an intensive and thorough work is currently in the making. Mahalia made TV appearances as late as 1971 (Flip Wilson). She sang at M.L. King's funeral, yet in this documentary that actual performance was not used. I personally watched her April 1968 televised performance of "Precious Lord" at his funeral. All major networks televised the event, so this performance should have been used. Mahalia was on TV in the 50's and 60's frequently. I believe that in essence this particular film does capture the life and work of Miss Jackson fairly accurately and well. I am grateful to its producers for the effort and research and the images of the great Mahalia. I did enjoy this film and in the end I felt that long familiar pang. . .I surely do miss her."
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
wbmercer | Dallas, TX USA | 04/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2-DVD set is a treasure if you care about Jazz, Blues, Gospel, the Civil Rights movement or the roots of Rock music. If you're a Mahalia fan it's an absolute "must have." The first disc is a montage of photos, film clips and recent interviews with people who knew and worked with Mahalia, interspersed with brief clips of her actual performances and interviews with her. The second disc is composed entirely of her performances. The approximately 40 songs she performs on the second disc appear to all be from one or two recording sessions on a set. Apparently without a live audience for the most part, and restrained for the occasion, her performances aren't as animated as many of the clips in the first disc, but it's still an amazing experience to watch.This set meant that, after 35 years of hearing, at last my eyes could see the life and the joy and the laughter and the tears with which Mahalia Jackson embodied Gospel and the gospel.Watch, listen and "move on up a little higher.""
A Historical figure without peers
wbmercer | 06/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There will never be another singer like Mahalia. She was really the greatest voice of the 20 century and this documentary video tells the whole story."