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LEGENDS OF THE AMERICAN FOLK BLUES FESTIVALS DVD

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TROPICAL MUSIC (DVD68364)

AFBF 1967: Little Walter, Koko Taylor, Bukka White, Skip James, Son House, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Hound Dog Taylor. Plus interviews with Bruce Jackson, Sonny & Brownie, Horst Lippman. (Duration 55.56)

AFBF1968 John Lee Hooker, Eddie Taylor, Big Joe Williams, Big Walter Horton, Curtis Jones, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed. Plus interviews with Al Smith, Fritz Rau.(Duration 55.37)

AFBF1969: Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, Juke Boy Bonner, Clifton Chenier with Cleveland Chenier, John Jackson, Alex Moore, Carey Bell. Plus interviews with Magic Sam, Clifton Chenier, John Jackson. (Duration 53.50)

Here's one to get all you blues film buffs excited. This DVD contains three programmes made by the WDR and SWR TV networks in Germany as the Lippman+Rau American Folk Blues Festivals barn-stormed their way across Europe in the late 60s. Apart from the 1969 segment, which was filmed on the road and back stage during the German leg of the tour, the shows were made in TV studios with no audiences. If you've already got the three wonderful Universal "American Folk Blues Festivals 1962-196" DVDs, you know exactly what to expect; rare live performances by the cream of America's greatest bluesmen captured in excellent quality with studio standard sound. And you can buy with confidence because there is no duplication whatsoever and nothing here has ever been previously released on video or DVD.

The music ranges from pre-war blues masters and country bluesmen to the urban sounds of Chicago, the hot guitarists from Texas and full blown Zydeco. Bukka White is simply majestic as he belts out "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues" while he thrashes the hell out of his vintage National steel guitar and Son House delivers "Death Letter Blues" with the barely controlled, emotion racked intensity that sends shivers down your spine.

Little Walter is rarely seen on film so now's your chance to catch his performances of his hits "My Babe" and "Mean Old World" along with another track that is a great piece of untitled instrumental improvisation. Earl Hooker turns out to be quite a character, foolin' around back-stage doing a hillbilly impersonation on "Walking The Floor Over You" before going on stage to perform a blistering "Off The Hook" and then ripping out the chords on his big guitar number "Rocket 88". But even he is no match for the great Magic Sam who rocks the joint with his relentless riffing and glorious vocals on "All My Love" and the thundering miss-titled "All My Love Part 2" (it's actually "Looking Good").

Skip James slides smoothly into an awesome version of "Hard Times Killing Floor" singing in a truly relaxed manner while effortlessly picking out a complicated but gorgeous melody. It's worth the cost of the DVD just to see him alone. The legendary zydeco accordionist Clifton Chenier appears with his brother Cleveland on rub-board and drummer Robert St Julian to charm the pants off the audience with a rockin' blues, "You Got Me Walking The Floor" and a classic piece of zydeco "Zydeco Et Pas Sale".

John Jackson shows how ragtime guitar should be played with his romping version of "John Henry" then there's some nice back stage footage before Whistlin' Alex Moore takes the stage to thrill the audience with his eccentric Texas blues. After the show he's hi-jacked by a bunch of German kids obviously enchanted with his appearance. Carey Bell rounds the whole DVD up with some soulful harmonica on the slow blues "Love Ain't A Plaything"; a harsh, unrelenting number straight out of the Chicago's south-side with Carey belting out the vocals like he means it.

This is not just an historic piece of film documentation; it's a great two and a half hours of your favourite music played by some legendary artists. I loved it and you will too!

 

Review Date: March 2009

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