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Lightning in a Bottle
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On February 7, 2003, renowned artists across music genres and generations commandeered the stage atNew York City's Radio City Music Hall to pay tribute to their common heritage and passion: the blues. Shared with thousands of fans in attendance, legendary performers from the roots of rock, jazz,and rap joined forces for a once-in-a-lifetime salute to the blues benefit concert whose proceeds went to musical education. Executive produced by Martin Scorcese, produced by Alex Gibney and directed by Antoine Fuqua, LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE captures the night's magic and weaves a history of blues through the juxtaposition of performers, backstage interviews, rehearsals, and archival clips of some of the greatest names in American music, from blues royalty like Buddy Guy and B. B. King to theirmusical heirs ranging from John Fogerty and Bonnie Raitt to Mos Def and Indie.Arie.
Part concert, part history lesson, part summit meeting, and all blues, Lightning in a Bottle puts a bright spotlight on this quintessential American music. There are some heavy hitters at work here, both behind the camera (Martin Scorsese executive produced, while the film was directed by Antoine Fuqua of Training Day and King Arthur) and especially in front of it, with a superb house band and a mind-boggling array of musicians (including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Solomon Burke, Keb' Mo', Macy Gray, the Neville Brothers, Robert Cray, and John Fogerty, to name but a few) performing at New York's Radio City Music Hall in February, 2003. The idea was to trace the music from its beginnings; thus we get an African song (by Angelique Kidjo), some early gospel blues (the great Mavis Staples), acoustic Delta blues, and so on, right up to blues-drenched electric rock and even some rap (a riveting version of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" by Chuck D.). Virtually all of the immortals who defined the blues (Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and even Jimi Hendrix, whose fiery style is re-enacted by Buddy Guy) enter the picture, either through vintage film clips or new performances of their songs. One might wish for more insight into the influence of the blues on jazz (Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," sung here by India.Arie, is a fine song, but it's not a blues tune) or country, but overall, Lightning in a Bottle is an edifying and, most important, highly entertaining portrait of the music and its heritage. --Sam Graham
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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.
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.
The night is a story of the blues that dates back to the 30s. The songs are tributed to the originator as each performer sings. You will see photos and archive film of the past from the slave auctions, working in the fields, lynchings, The Klan, and the early performers of the blues. Son House says there is only one kind of blues, a male and female in love.
The songs are performed by the early blues performers and the newer ones. The highlights are: Ruth Brown with Mavis Stapleton and Natalie Cole having fun with Bill Cosby for a fun song from 1939, "Men Are Just Like Streetcars"; Macy Gray in her own rendition of "Hound Dog'; and performing Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee".
Another great performance is Solomon Burke, who just died in Oct. 2010; "Turn on Your Love Light" and he gets the audience on their feet. I especially like John Fogerty, "Midnight Special". And what show would be complete without the sound and guitar of Bonnie Raitt, "Coming Home".
Someone I had not heard of or seen before is "David Johansen singing "Killing Floor"; that was memorable!
This is a night to remember, a telling of the blues story. Only thing better would to have been there that night. ......Rizzo
See it with someone you love. Or alone....but if you care about the blues as an art form, do see it.