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4.8 out of 5 stars
The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966, Vol. 1
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2003
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Miraculously unearthed and licensed by Reelinintheyears and released through Experience Hendrix, the 3-hours featuring 36 performances by 24 artists are the real thing filmed at the peak of many of their careers. Filmed in a Baden-Baden Germany studio with sets designed to reflect the realities of the urban blues, the sound and B&W footage is amazing. Imagine seeing Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin' Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Lonnie Johnson, Big Walter, otis Rush, Otis Spann, blues brother Matt "Guitar" Murphy (as exciting as he is today) and others (with 1969 bonus footage of legends Magic Sam and Earl Hooker) in your living room.
Watch closely Sonny Boy's virtuoso "Bye Bye Bird," "Mojo" with Sonny Boy and Muddy, a five-harp jam with Big Mama, John Lee, Big Walter, J. B. Lenoir and Dr. Ross, and the magic of Lightnin' Hopkins doing "Mojo Hand" and laying out enough hot guitar licks in one song to fuel a rocker's whole career.
Hip-O has released a highlights CD but these two DVDs must be seen to believe. These are the performances that American audiences have never seen since they were filmed but which inspired the Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Ten Years After, Yardbirds, Animals, Van Morrison, Ten Years After and so many of the British blues-rockers.
This was no small event. These artists played the finest concert halls of Europe, stayed in the best hotels, and ate in the best restaurants finding a deep respect they never lived to see in America. Their performances show it. Some didn't want to leave. Sonny Boy Williamson stayed on for over a year after the 1963 festival appearing in clubs and on numerous TV shows and recording with the Yardbirds, Animals, Jimmy Page, jazzman Chris Barber and even Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
As talent scout Willie Dixon said, "The blues are the roots; the rest are the fruits." These are the roots and the British Invasion were only the first blossoming of the fruits. Miss these DVDs at your own risk.
Bill Donoghue AKA 'fessor Mojo,
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Get ready for some great blues, from the legends to the modern masters, acoustic to the electric featuring essential performances covering the last half-century of blues by the greatest of the great blues performers. Entire album reeks with every word and note from artists who aren't holding anything back. This has the feelings music is supposed to have, especially blues and this in right up there with the best of the best.
Sit back and enjoy "The American Folk Blues Festivals 1962-1966 Vol. 1", featuring Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Big Mama Thorton, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf some of the legends that gave us our favorite genre...BLUES! Each cue is dead on, with detailed liner-notes and a little history of their background and accomplishments. This DVD is proof that once and for all Blues...was then and is very much alive and well. Blues is still some of the best music around...gotta love it!
Total Time: 80 mins ~ Hip-O Records 602498604120 ~ (8/26/2003)
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2003
Just got finished watching this last night and I was blown away. From Otis Spann to John Lee Hooker to Muddy Waters to Sonny Boy Williamson to Willie Dixon and on and on this is one dvd that anyone who loves the blues must own. COMPLETE PERFORMANCES!!!! One of the greatest music dvd's ever released. I can't wait to pick up volume 2. Picture and sound quality is outstanding. Crank up your speakers, sip on some wiskey, and let the blues flow like blood from your TV.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2004
In 1962, two gutsy German concert promoters flew a host of top African-American blues musicians overseas to perform a string of shows in France, West Germany, Scandinavia, and England. The package tour was so successful it became an annual event that ran until 1970. For four years -- 1962-1966 -- these concerts were televised by Südwestfunk, one of Germany's broadcast networks. Using state-of-the-art cameras and audio equipment, Südwestfunk producers taped performances by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Lonnie Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin' Hopkins, and a passel of other greats. Unseen for 40 years, these well-preserved tapes were recently rediscovered, transferred to DVD, and released as a two-disc set, The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966.

Viewing these DVDs is like stumbling into a time warp: Rarely -- if ever -- did these musicians perform on American TV in the '60s. Consequently, there's precious little domestic footage of these giants coursing through the data stream. In fact, most blues fans have never actually seen Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin' Hopkins, or Howlin' Wolf work their mojo. But now we can, thanks to these discs.

Some highlights: The poised and urbane Lonnie Johnson, who started recording in the mid-20s, performs a swinging blues accompanied by a young Otis Spann on piano and the masterful Willie Dixon on upright bass. Backed by a piano trio, T-Bone Walker delivers a stunning version of "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong." His playing is packed with the trademark phrases and fat, archtop tones that set the standard for electric blues guitar in the '40s. It's exciting to watch Otis Rush -- armed with an Epiphone Riviera and looking sharp in his suit, skinny tie, and shades -- fill "I Can't Quit You Baby" with fluid, reverb-drenched lines. A 29-year-old, Strat-wielding Buddy Guy makes several appearances in one of the killer house bands. Howlin' Wolf turns in three supremely intense performances with a young Hubert Sumlin on lead guitar. As Sumlin wrenches quivering bends and stinging vibrato from his P-90-equipped goldtop Les Paul, we hear the sounds that Eric Clapton would build on two years later in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

One of the most amazing performances comes from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who plucks wicked slide riffs on an weathered acoustic archtop in "Going Down to the River." McDowell was 61 when this song was taped, yet his tight vibrato, razor-sharp intonation, and burning eyes prove he was in peak form. Thumbing his thin-line electric and staring intently into the camera, John Lee Hooker unleashes a menacing boogie, "Hobo Blues." We can only imagine what the good burghers in TV-land thought about Hooker's carnal rhythms. Sonny Boy Williamson spins a chilling tale of betrayal in "Nine Below Zero," and then joins alpha-bluesman Muddy Waters and his band in a rousing "Got My Mojo Working."

Half the performances in this collection were shot in front of a live audience -- a group of enthusiastic, but very proper young Germans -- in a formal concert hall. It was a novel arrangement: Many of the listeners had never before seen live blues or even African-Americans, and most of the musicians were more comfortable wailing in smoky clubs and noisy juke joints than entertaining rows of attentive spectators. It's amazing to watch both parties use a mutual love of music to bridge their superficial differences.

The remaining performances occur on elaborate stage sets -- some evoking Chicago streets, others rural roadhouses. Seen from today's perspective, these theatrical backgrounds can seem strange, quaint, or even patronizing. But in early-'60s Germany, such visual enhancements were likely necessary to emphasize the cultural aspect of this exotic and compelling music.

In addition to the many marvelous songs culled from four years of the Südwestfunk broadcasts, we're treated to some incredible bonus footage from 1969. On the first disc, Earl Hooker does a hilarious parody of hillbilly music in the dressing room, and then goes berserk onstage with his Univox Les Paul copy through a Sound City half-stack. On the second disc, Magic Sam borrows Hooker's rig to rip through "All Your Love" and lay down a grinding boogie. Both discs contain a gallery of photos shot by Stephanie Wiesand during the various tours, and are packaged with informative and well-illustrated liner notes. We learn fascinating background details, including how during WWII the Gestapo arrested Horst Lippmann -- one of the festival's two promoters -- for publishing newsletters on the forbidden topic of American jazz.

It's fair to say that these folk blues festivals altered the course of popular music, and especially guitar. Jimmy Page, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards were among the many young British musicians who sought out their blues gods when they rolled into England as part of an AFBF tour. The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, and Animals are among the many British R&B bands that sprang directly from these encounters. We're lucky to have such an emotionally satisfying chronicle of this pivotal moment in blues and rock history.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2004
Well, okay...but it is revelatory to finally be able to see men like T-Bone Walker, Lonnie Johnson and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) performing live, even if it's only on TV.

This DVD includes 18 excellent black-and-white recordings, most of them taped in a small studio (although a few are "real" concert footage). Otis Rush is here, doing his first and biggest hit, "I Can't Quit You Baby", in front of a solely white (and quite formally dressed) audience. John Lee Hooker does a gritty "Hobo Blues" solely for the benefit of the camera. Pianist Eddie Boyd plays his classic "Five Long Years" (a great performance, marred only by his own awful solo). "Mississippi" Fred McDowell (from Tennessee) plays a great acoustic "Going Down To The River". And Lonnie Johnson, then in his mid-60s, does a soulful "Another Night To Cry", introduced by the towering Aleck "Rice" Miller, whose performance of "Nine Below Zero" is another highlight.

Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working" is a bit more subdued than you might have expected, and he doesn't play his guitar, but it's great nevertheless, and Rice Miller on harmonica is an added bonus. And speaking of harpists...Junior Wells performs a slow "Hoodoo Man Blues", and Big Walter Horton is here, too, doing a tremendous swinging instrumental. And Sippie Wallace's spirited and supremely confident performance of "Women Be Wise" is a wonderful thowback to the 20s when brassy female blues belters were the order of the day.

The glossy 22-page booklet is well illustrated, well written, and very informative, and the DVD is worth its weight in gold. Keep 'em coming!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2004
The American Folk Blues Festival,
1962-1966, Vols. 1 & 2
In the early 1960's, America's greatest musical artists went to Europe to be appreciated. Rhythm and blues legends such as Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Willliamson, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Rush and so many others were revered across the ocean but commercially ignored in America. So `festival tours' of Europe were assembled for these artists, the performances were recorded live in a small TV studio in Germany and then --- the performances were lost.
What once was lost is now found and 40 years later, we have these performances on DVD, with Reelin' in the Years' The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966, Volumes 1 and 2. I stumbled upon these thanks to a savvy friend who brought them to my house in the middle of night, insisting I need to see them.
I knew the players of course and was expecting good performances but I was not prepared for what I can only describe as 'astounding quality'.
The video and audio on the 33 songs sound and look state of the art even for today. Some of my favorite moments are T-Bone Walker's earliest known film performance of "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong," the great Howlin' Wolf doing "Shake for Me", "I'll Be Back Someday," and "Love me Darlin;'" Also there's Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Workin" and a jaw-dropping finale of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon all performing together.
Not only did these festivals help the musicians, but also these performances fueled the great British blues invasion that came to America in the mid-60's.
Not to be missed under any circumstances.
-mbb
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2003
While "Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues" is sure to whet many an appetite and with its attendant 20 CDs, 5 CD box set, and 7 DVD box set I hope fans don't overlook the "The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966" DVDs.
Let your eyes in on the fun your ears have been having. Not in color you say? I say write Ted Turner. Can you imagine Ansel Adams or The Three Stooges 'colorized'? The picture and sound quality is more than fine. The equipment used was state-of-the-art when these performances were recorded. Our recording technology has improved, but today's videos are the leaves to the to the roots you'll find on these AFBF discs. We're fortunate to have such great archival footage of these legends. As wonderful as they are to hear, seeing them is a really sweet. The bonus tracks truly are. Watch Earl Hooker and see things that Hendrix and Stevie Ray came to do in later years.
Each DVD contains over an hour of music for your viewing and listening pleasure, as well as photo galleries. The liner notes are well written, detailed, and informative.
A thousand "we're not worthy"s to Reelin' In The Years Productions, Experience Hendrix, and Hip-O Records for collaborating to get these to us (they all have websites ~ visit them!). There's more AFBF to come. I wait with worms on my tongue.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2004
Verified Purchase
I have a pretty good collection of blues videos, and I have obtained many of these performances as low-quality videos. When I got these DVDs, I was hoping for a complete copy of the performances from these festivals. Unfortunately, the producers of the DVD mixed and matched performances from different festivals, and did not show the original broadcasts from start to finish. What we are left with is not only incomplete, but the performances are out of context. In the original broadcasts, there is continuity. On this DVD, we have some great videos, but it is more of a compilation than anything else. I'm waiting for someone to finally release the original broadcasts. Missing are many of the best performances, such as Sleepy John Estes and Hammy Nixon. Still, the quality of the videos is superb. I have to give it 5 stars because of the performances, but the producers get 0 stars for butchering the original tapes.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
What Professor Donoghue says is the scientific description of what this is, and I can add little to what he says except yes.

This is worth owning. Save your money or steal one if you must, but this is a precious jewel. The only hope is if they have more video and a more extensive version can still be issued since these are excerpts from a series of TV broadcasts that were done over four or five years.

I hadn't studied up on Sonny Boy Williamson II (what Alex "Rice" Miller preferred to be called) previously, but his performance of "Nine Below Zero" here has turned me into a permanent devotee. There is so much in his articulate but not overly showy harp playing and above all his singing and standing and gesturing that translate to total blues and the entire majesty of Black men of his generation and experience as I remember them.

Likewise, you will never forget the magnificent presence and performance of Howling Wolf. As in every time I have seen him sampled on one of these videos, he was a giant musically, emotionally, and in his sheer existence. The little of Wolf here is worth the whole price. It's interesting to see Wolf's protege,the now senior Hubert Sumlin, one of the patriarchs of blues guitar as a very young man introduced as "Little Hubert."

As a Hooker fan, this is the only place I've heard of Hooker as a harmonica player.

What offends me as an African American sometimes blues player and lifetime student of the blues is the sets and approach used to present the artists in many of the clips. Almost every one of these artists was an urban blusician of great accomplishment, even if we see folk with deep country roots. These people's native environments were the boss clubs in Black America of the 1940s through 1960s. Some of these artists like Lonnie Johnson had performed and were still performing with the great masters of Jazz like Ellington and Armstrong.

Unfortunately, many of the performers are presented in the producers' fantasy of the rural south early in the 20th Century. It is really embarassing to see the opening sequence where T-Bone Walker, the master of sophisticated West Coast Blues whose setting for many of his recordings was with a swing combo or even with great swing bands like Erskine Hawkins band, presented as a country singer, playing acoustically (on his electric guitar???) in their version of a front porch in the country south. Walker was the prince of urban electric blues guitar's most sophisticated beginnings and closer to his contemporaries of the post war blues like Charles Brown who then dubbed "the Sephia Sinatras" than he was to great country bluesmen presented here like Big Joe Williams.

Blues clubs I was lucky to be taken to as a child in New York, or visited as a teen in Chicago and Mississippi were not all filthy dives. The setting to see these performers in a black context was the kind of bar or theater where folks would be dressed proper in their best, even if they didn't have a dime. Those were some merry places.

It is sad to see what such great masters of music and culture had to go through to keep themselves living. It is sadder that television in the USA never ever thought of doing anything remotely like this while these great women and men were alive! Justice would have been a special like this done on each artist presented here, not just one or two selections.

Still, if you do not own this DVD, you need to buy it or steal it, but anyone with at least one ear and at least one eye needs to own it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2003
I've been collecting Jazz and Blues records for nearly 50 years and these 2 DVDs covering performances by America's premiere bluesmen at the American Folk Blues Festival in Germany in the mid sixties represent the very best Blues videos I've ever come across. Otis Spann who is my favorite blues pianist plays on several of the titles on Volume I and he was definitely at his very best in these concerts.
Back in the late 60's I went to see Muddy Waters and his band who where playing at the "New Penelope" on Sherbrooke street in Montreal, and, to this day, I've always maintained this was the very best blues performance I had ever watched. I also often said it was too bad that a musical performance of such quality had not been preserved on film.

Well, I now stand corrected. Performances of similar quality have been captured on these two DVDs. I enjoyed these Blues concerts so much, I watched and listened to them without interruption for more than 3 hours. These two DVDs are real gems.
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