Customer Reviews: Lightning in a Bottle
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on April 16, 2005
This memorable concert was filmed at New York's Radio City Music Hall in February 2003. It was the start of the "Year Of the Blues". Martin Scorsese, who gave us the wonderful (but a bit controversial content-wise) series of Blues Films (which took over a year to be screened and available here in Australia) opens the show, after the Blues Year he was also a voice in "Shark's tale"!

There is no denying that this is a memorable and well presented concert. Many of the greatest living Blues players are here as well as those we might refer to as marginal-transitional people with Blues interests. Some we don't get to hear, Robert Jr Lockwood and Jimmie Vaughan are seen, but not heard. the concert itself represents a musical journey through various Blues styles from African songs, to WC Handy, to music hall styles, women singers, the lone Juke Player right up through B.B. King and Hendrix and, yes, Chuck D trying to stop the Iraq Invasion with "Boom Boom" Rap!

This DVD is most enjoyable and a great and reasonably priced addition to one's music library. Highlights for me include B.B. King's story about "Sweet Sixteen" and his performance. Robert Cray's input, as usual is outstanding with his clean understated guitar work. David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who knew Robert Johnson, provides a rare self-penned tune (he mostly did covers during his career), Hubert Sumlin (who has just lost a lung!!; and was smoking in the interview!!!!; and who I got to meet in 1991) plays a great rendition of "Killing Floor" with the riff he made famous for Howlin' Wolf. Natalie Cole (a comeback?) does a great update of Bessie Smith's "Saint Louis Blues"-reminds me a bit of Janis Joplin-remember she started out sounding like Aretha on "This Will Be". The tune with Natalie, the great Mavis Staples (who does a great version of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Make Sure My Grave's Kept Clean") Ruth Brown and Bill Cosby "Men Are Like Street Cars" is a great humourous blues. It was horrible to hear the Ruth had suffered a stroke prior to this concert and was still superb (see more of this delightful lady in the "Blues Story" DVD).

Solomon Burke, who I just saw in Australia, was fabluous as usual. His singing is great and he sure knows how to work the crowd (like all great church inspired soul singers). Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was an awesome talent. This was probably his last recorded performance. His no pick guitar style was unique and classic. His playing is a highlight of the entire DVD!

Macy Gray does a great version of "Hound Dog" in the style of Big Mamma Thronton. It's interesting to see her at the rehearsal a bit perplexed about the whole thing and then transform on stage. Buddy Guy is Buddy Guy, he's great, out front, out of tune, and, to me, stands for what the Blues is all about. He does a rare acoustic version of "I Can't Be Satisfied" in dedication to his mentor Muddy Waters. He also does a bit of Jimi Hendrix's "Red House"-this was great because if purists ran the show this would not have been done. I agree with the previous reviewers the rap, Aerosmith, John Fogarty and rock in general are farther from the blues than Jimi Hendrix, but in a show like this I can stomach anything, for one thing the band is so great.

Another highlight of this show is Odetta, the hippy Black folk singer from the 1960s. She does a great version of Leadbelly's "Jim Crow Blues" and even phrases like Leadbelly! A wonderful effort. The documentary footage between songs, the lighting and effects and the interviews are great. The bonus tracks are superb as well. Get this if you are a Blues lover!
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Billed as "a one night history of the blues," Lightning in a Bottle (with Martin Scorsese serving as executive producer) assembles a ton of great performers to retrace the steps of the blues from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to the rest of the country. The concert took place in Radio City Music Hall in February 2003, and it packs a lot of music and history into a little less than two hours. Old clips, interviews, and snippets of rehearsal accompany the performances themselves, offering a blues history lesson of sorts. I won't pretend to be an expert on the blues; Muddy Waters is about the only blues singer I've ever spent time seriously listening to. That will probably change, now that I know a little more about the incredible music I've been missing out on all these years.

It would be impossible to talk about every performance crammed into this concert - blues songs tend to be pretty short (especially when you don't include any jam session stuff), so an incredible number of songs were performed on this historic night. Go check out the soundtrack to see who performed what. All of the living legends were fantastic, and their vintage blues is still the best blues on earth. Mavis Staple really gets the ball rolling with her spiritual performance of Blind Lemon Jefferson's See That My Grave is Kept Clean. David "Honeyboy" Edwards (at 88) still shows the world what acoustic Delta blues was all about with his performance of Gamblin' Man. The incomparable Clarence "Gateway" Brown plays Okie Dokie Swamp like only he can. Hubert Sumlin, despite having recently lost a lung, pours great energy into Killing Floor (although I thought singer David Johansen came off as hopelessly contrived). Ruth Brown, Mavis Staple, and Natalie Cole (with a little help from Bill Cosby) make Men Are Just Like Streetcars one of the most entertaining songs of the night. Natalie Cole, I have to say, can sure 'nough sing the blues, as she proves with her version of W.C. Handy's classic St. Louis Blues.

Robert Johnson is represented by Keb' Mo' performing Love in Vain, while Odetta wows the crowd with Lead Belly's Jim Crow Blues. James "Blood" Ulmer (with Allison Kraus) takes us all the way back to 1930 with The Mississippi Sheiks' Sitting on Top of the World. The incomparable Muddy Waters was well represented by Buddy Guy on I Can't Be Satisfied. Buddy Guy, as far as I'm concerned, stole the whole show. How important is this man to the blues and music in general? He's the very nexus between Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix. Later in the show, Guy returned to perform his own First Time I Met the Blues. Then, after giving us some riffs of Hendrix's Red House, he is compelled to come back out to perform Hendrix's Voodoo Child with Angelique Kidjo. Solomon Burke gets the crowd jumping with Turn on Your Love Light and Down in the Valley. Last but not least, B.B. King puts the final exclamation point on this historic night, making Lucille wail on his classic Sweet Sixteen.

The younger performers feature some hits and misses. Shemekia Copeland, who performs I Pity the Fool with Robert Cray, is incredible. The Neville Brothers shine on Big Chief, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry bring their own style to I'm a King Bee, and Bonnie Raitt shows she belongs onstage with Coming Home. I didn't particularly care for John Fogerty's rocked-up performance of Midnight Special, though, and Macy Gray (after appearing quite clueless at rehearsal) had a little too much fun with Big Mamma Thornton's Hound Dog. I have nothing but disdain for Chuck D, I have to say; turning John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom into rap is bad enough, but this guy momentarily spoiled the whole evening by using the song to make a political statement.

Don't think of this concert as the blues' funeral. Lightning in a Bottle is a celebration of all the greats who defined this uniquely American style of music. The blues will almost surely never return to the heights of the old Delta and Chicago eras, but the classics will always be a part of us, and there is at least some hope (Shemekia Copeland, for sure) on the horizon for its future. One of the problems with the blues is the fact that so many people still haven't experienced it for themselves. This DVD goes a long way toward solving that problem, and with any luck, it will inspire one or more young performers to follow in the giant footsteps of those celebrated here.
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on July 20, 2007
Attention, rhythm and blues fans- this is your movie! Exhilarating, toe-tapping performance film gives you a front-row seat for this milestone event, with peerless musicians young and old honoring the birth of the blues. Macy Gray and Steven Tyler, Natalie Cole and Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo, and John Fogerty and B.B King appear to pay tribute and light up the auditorium with their joy and talent. What a ride!
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VINE VOICEon December 21, 2014
Movie director Martin Scorsese presents the story of blues music and traces its origins to West Africa. International star Angelique Kidjo begins the evening with a traditional African song in which she laments that "they took away our people". She was followed by Mavis Staples amid screen images of the antebellum South. The presentation uses the very successful format of an earlier Scorsese concert DVD - The Last Waltz - in which artists talk briefly about the music and about themselves amid performances. The video is interspersed with snippets of past blues greats.

The concert provides delightful entertainment. Among the blues artists are Ruth Brown, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, B. B. King and Bonnie Raitt. But the night is not limited to blues. Rock and rollers Steve Tyler and John Fogerty take to the stage and belch classic rock. Solomon Burke adds classic soul music.

The DTS master audio of the disk is quite good and the video quality is better. If this is your music you should be very happy with the concert.
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on May 18, 2016
To say I was looking forward to seeing Steven Tyler and Joe Perry would be an overstatement. I never owned an Aerosmith album, but if they had played a blues album or two who knows. Their two songs (one on Bonus songs) on LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE are well done with the only problem the songs, together, don't last 5 minutes. But, Tyler and Perry come across the cool showmen in the process. Tyler blues-shrieks and "hollers" like a dude with the best of 'em. Almost difficult to admit but true.
As for the rest of the show there is also the stunning singing by Natalie Cole (I want to find out if she EVER recorded a blues album now); the great combo of Robert Cray and Shemekia Copeland; Buddy Guy in general (and that great footage of Jimi Hendrix in front row "skipping a gig" to watch Buddy play in 1968!); and you just can't go wrong with seeing Clarence Gatemouth Brown do anything (performs - at 80 - Okie Dokie Stomp ... very well... and shows off his violin prowess Pre-show...).
As far as clear cut misfires (in my critiquing eyes) Mos Def (he is a good actor, if you didn't know); and the Fine Arts Militia (thing) doin' (tryin) the John Lee Hooker "Boom Boom" (great clip of Hooker from '62 or 64, though). At least the "Militia" is anti war.
I would have preferred another sad, lovely "Lady Day" jazz-blues song rather than the Chuck D's and Militias of the so-called blues musical influences of the world (or, of this documentary).
Fogerty is worth the mention playing "Midnight Special."
Hubert Sumlin - short one lung(!) - plays his guitar as a long-haired David Johansen does a (good enuff) Howlin' Wolf voice impersonation.
And B.B closes the show (naturally).
I didn't want to mention Cosby makes an appearance (this was filmed in 2004 so make your own observations) and I find it interesting Director Antoine Fuqua made this 3 years after directing Training Day (with Denzel Washington).
Still gotta watch 'action' Director Fuqua's interview which is an xtra on this entertaining Blues music documentary.
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on April 6, 2015
Gave it to my husband as a gift, he loves all things "Blues" and he absolutely loved it. Not only was it a great show to watch with all of the blues GREATS and then some, but it really did a good job in telling the story around the start of the Blues and it's roots.
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on June 28, 2013
After seeing this DVD on a TV channel it immediately took me back to my younger days when this was my introduction into Blues & Soul. Being 84 years of age, I have seen many of the artist at various stages of my life. For me it was a recall of my younger years of loving the concerts and artists. I purchased 4 copies so that I can share these moments with some of my life time friends who are still breathing like I am ~ but for how long we don't know. Bringing back many great memories at this time of life is joy to my heart and soul. I have introduced such musical adventures to my children, grand children and I now working on my great-grand children, because I never want such musical adventures to die in my family. There are several more like this one that I have on my list to acquire.
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on June 26, 2005
This is a time capsule of blues music. It will be looked at for ages, and like the blues, will not fade like the fashion of the day. This is such an enjoyable concert film, that paces itself wonderfully. The rap and the only political statement utterd by chuck d serves a wonderful purpose. It shows that musically rap has no place, is woefully inferior, and can't exist outside of itself.Chuck D and his performance is embarassing, and anyone who views this dvd years from now will see how our culture momentarily slipped and lost it's way. It will be a mystery how such a great evening of music of was tainted with such a one dimensional,tired, and talentless hype they call "rap" It is so completely out of place, historically, and without question musically. The rest of the dvd is a labor of love, and recorded like your favorite cd. A MUST OWN.
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on January 26, 2016
i love the blues ... but some singers kill d this cd... rather than play blues some want d to give a slavery lesson...AGAIN..!! ! billy holidays strange fruit... did not belong in this event nor did the first song.... excluding those two songs... it was good... a shame those two songs ruin d this cd
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on April 19, 2014
I saw this documentary before and I loved it! I received item and the package was slightly damaged on the top, which I don't think will effect the playing of the disk, however. it is/was a gift for someone. I wouldn't like to receive a gift that has been slightly damaged no matter how small the damage maybe. The gift is already belated so I see no point in exchanging it. That is why I gave this rating a 3 stars.
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