The Brits got it
Dave Goldberg | 40 miles north of NYC | 06/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most Americans still don't understand the roots of our own music. Certainly the record companies and radio stations don't _ slotting musicians and music into categories without with no thought about the connections among all varieties. The Brits do, as this, the best of the Scorcese-sponsored series demonstrates. There are numerous examples here of how American musicians had to have their music transported overseas and brought back. The classic: when the Rolling Stones arrived in the U.S. and cited Muddy Waters, among others, as their model, few people knew who he was.
There is some stunning music here, no more so than at the start, when Van Morrison walks into the middle of a session at Abbey Road studios, sits down and starts singing incredible blues with a band that includes Jeff Beck. That session is interspersed throughout and also includes Tom Jones, of all people, and Lulu, who had a hit in the 60s or 70s with "To Sir With Love,'' but really is a pretty good blues singer.
But what hit me is how the British musicians were able to popularize American roots music in this country, something American radio couldn't or wouldn't do. Steve Winwood, a true musical genius, talks about going to Tennessee and understanding the roots of country music. And the Beatles covered Carl Perkins and Buck Owens. (An aside: Albert Lee, a great British player who is interviewed for this film, has played electric guitar with Earl Scruggs, one of the inventors of bluegrass.)
Finally, Mike Figgis, the director and a musician himself, ties it all together in an extra interview. Turns out that he had no idea whether the enigmatic Morrison would show up. So the opening scene is relatively spontaneous _ Van walking in, taking off his coat (but leaving on his hat) and joining the session.
One curiosity. When British musicians show up, a line appears over them: "Van Morrison, born 1945, Belfast,'' etc. Even John Lennon "1940-1980, Liverpool.'' Except for Clapton. The assumption, I suppose, is that everyone knows Eric, who is a central figure in this movie and, obviously, in the British blues scene. Or maybe he decided he didn't need to be identified.
He's also involved in a gratuitous scene repeating what he's said many times: that "Music from Big Pink'' by The Band changed his entire musical orientation. It di, although The Band was not especially bluesy and Clapton, or course, recently recorded an album with B.B. King. (B.B. is also in the movie repeating what he's said many times: that he's grateful to the Brits for making an African-American music part of the mainstream.)
In any case, this is well worth the investment.
Little treasures hidden here...
J. M. Jacobs | East Helena, MT, USA | 08/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you even just sort of like the Blues, you might need to own this disc. For my money, the best parts were the recent live recordings by Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Jeff Beck and Lulu. You will be stunned.
The previous review hit it on the mark with the opening scene of Van Morrison walking into an Abbey Road session, liking the vibe, picking up a guitar and diving into the song. To quote Eric Clapton later on in the material, I was gobsmacked!
I've always liked Tom Jones' voice and presence but he just blew me away here. His love of the Blues and his understanding of that genre were something I had no idea about prior to watching this on PBS.
Then there's Jeff Beck. Back in the late 60's and early 70's, I was a big Jeff Beck fan especially of his guitar mastery. Here again, no idea about his feel for the Blues. The song "Drown in my own tears" with him on guitar and Lulu on vocal is something to be savored and treasured. When you watch this one, remember that Jeff Beck is over 60 years old... he's pure magic without the tricks. Watch his finger work on both hands particularly his string-bending. This is the real deal when it comes to guitar playing.
Lulu was an unexpected surprise in all of this. What a marvelous voice and feel for the Blues material here! She makes you feel the ache.... the phrase "hurts so good" comes to mind. Wow.
O.K., back to our story... who'd a thunk that a bunch of white British kids would introduce the Blues to America? That's right. That's what this disc details - the path of the Blues from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago and Detroit to Britain and back to America.
Back in the 50's and early 60's, the Brits had no compunctions about black musicians having white girlfriends and wives and so they listened, accepted, and came to love these gifted individuals and the music they brought with them. For those "mixed race couples" reasons, the USA turned it's back on them and would not allow their music to be played on most radio stations. However, down south, white kids were listening to it on their transistors late at night under the covers.
Meanwhile over in England, Clapton, Beck, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, the Beatles, Van Morrison, Mick Fleetwood... were all tremendously influenced by the Blues ala Muddy Waters, Albert King, Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, etc. Only thing is, they got it direct from the Horse's Mouth.
When these folks and THEIR bands came to America, they brought the Blues with them in the songs they covered, and Americans said, "WHAT is THAT?" Because black musicians weren't played on mainstream radio stations, nobody had heard them before. So the message of the Blues had to migrate to England first before we could even pay attention. Because white musicians were the ones who brought it back, it was then accepted by mainstream America. If you love the Blues today, you owe a tremendous debt to the Brits.
This DVD chronicles that journey. The steps it took to complete it are outlined and elucidated by many, many British musicians whose love for the Blues just can't be hidden. In many cases, they were allowed to go up on stage and play behind these ambassadors of the Blues when they first hit England. Their admiration for the simplicity and feeling that are the key elements of great Blues material and the playing of it is readily apparent. For those reasons, this DVD will become a sparkling gem in any collection of Blues music and video you may already own.
Don't forget to scour the Special Features section on the DVD as well. Some very interesting, first rate stuff to be found there. The more I watch this disc, the more I feel like I'm in on some kind of very cool secret. I promise you won't be disappointed.
After viewing the DVD several times, I also bought the companion CD which features full length versions of the songs featured in the documentary. Pure audio dynamite!"