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This IS the Real Blues!
on June 29, 2007
This series originally came out during the Year Of The Blues (2003) and provided us with glimpses of the real originals in this genre. The first three volumes gave us a lot of wonderful clips of Wolf, Sonny Boy, Memphis Slim, Otis Rush, Muddy, T-Bone, Big Mamma, Lonnie Johnson and so on. The German settings were a bit sterile and often staged to look like a Juke or with strange back drops of urban America. This set, from 1963-1966, is more like a concert. And it's great!
The concert format with an appreciative audience is really fantastic and well done for the time. We see Sonny Boy Williamson in three performances with the harp in his mouth sideways and playing with his NOSE! He is cool, no wonder he taught Little Walter (whose only recorded performance is in Vol. 3 of this series!).We also see Hubert Sumlin play with Sonny Boy on his second offering in this show. He turns in one of his most unusual solos in "Getting Out Of Town"- very chromatic and almost jazzy! We see Muddy as a stand up singer (no guitar), on "Mojo" and in two bonus performances. He has Matt "Guitar" Murphy playing behind him on this one (who was playing with Memphis Slim at the time). There is a rare look at the great Lonnie Johnson, who plays by himself and shows us why he is one of the original inventors of the Urban Blues guitar style. Big Joe Williams gives us a close up view of his famous nine string guitar.
Lightnin' Hopkins plays his distinctive Texas-style acoustic blues, with a few tricks on the fretboard as well. Howlin' Wolf puts in, to me, his best ever filmed performance-it's worth the price of the whole thing!!! He does an update of "Smokestack Lightning" (without its famous riff) and "Don't Laugh At Me" in a "Killing Floor" groove, a song which had just been recorded. And we also see a young Hubert Sumlin playing with Wolf and also with Sugar Pie Desanto's female input (these shows always had at least one female performer).
Big Joe Turner does his usual big voiced thing and he has Otis Rush on lead guitar, it's a fantastic performance, one of the best insight's into Otis's guitar style we've seen. A bonus in this tune is that we see maybe the only existing footage of pianist Little Brother Montgomery who wrote "The First Time I met the Blues" and "I Can't Keep From Crying"-this is a rarity. Also scarce is film of drummer Fred Below, who gave the beat to Chess Records. Fred plays on this tune and in Junior Well's section.
Junior Wells is in his James Brown groove (he always did this! In Australia in 1991 when I saw him he led off with "I Feel Good"). He does Ray Charles'"What'D I Say" in a JB style, but we hear no harp! Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the first US Blues/Gospel acts to crack the UK, finishes the set with two of the bonus tracks. They are superb as is Muddy Waters' two bonus tracks staged and filmed at a railway station-very effective. His slide playing (standing up) is another extremely rare view of Muddy.
This is one of the most historic releases for urban blues yet available. The sound has been remixed by Eddie Kramer (of Jimi Hendrix fame) and Reelin' In The Years Productions have done it again! I hope they can find more of these rarities soon. We need the Fillmore Concerts that were on PBS in the late sixities. Get this for your Blues collection and check the price, what a bargain!