Archives

LURE/KRAMER/STINSON/BURKE – L.A.M.F. Live at the Bowery Electric

January 01, 1970

www.mvdb2b.com

The Upshot: Walter Lure and company blast through Johnny Thunders’ legacy with a ramshackle joie de vivre that’s more about feel and soul than precision — just like the work of the man to whom it pays tribute.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

L.A.M.F., the only studio album by Johnny Thunders’ infamous New Yawk punk ‘n’ roll band the Heartbreakers, turned 40 in 2017, outlasting its driving force by a good quarter of a century, Thunders, a notorious junkie, having passed away in ’91 in New Orleans. In anticipatory celebration, Heartbreakers co-guitarist and torchbearer Walter Lure assembled a dream team of Thunders cohorts and acolytes to perform the album front-to-back in its original Track Records 1977 order for a week-long residency in mid-November 1016 at the Bowery Electric venue, recording the shows for a proposed album and video. (For a detailed review of the event, along with the Heartbreakers’ backstory, check out journalist/photographer Caryn Rose’s account at Noisey.)

Joined by MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer (who played with Thunders in the short-lived Gang War), Blondie/Plimsouls drummer Clem Burke (who came up on the same downtown NYC scene as Thunders) and erstwhile Replacements/Guns ‘N Roses bassist Tommy Stinson (the ‘Mats being one of the few American bands to keep Thunders’ reckless rock ‘n’ roll spirit burning), plus guests, Lure delivers exactly the kind of rock show you’d expect from someone who came up that close to the flame.

The quartet plays like they rehearsed just enough to be on the same page with the songs, but not enough to be anything close to slick. Lure and Stinson share the vocals, with the former keeping to NYC cool and the latter bawling like an out-of-breath animal, while Lure and Kramer faithfully reproduce the original LP’s clashing six-string chaos and Burke calmly makes the case for being the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer alive. The ad hoc band acquits itself nicely on the usual classics like “Chinese Rocks” and “Born to Lose,” with Kramer singing “Let Go” and Burke doing Jerry Nolan’s “Can’t Keep My Eyes On You.” D Generation’s Jesse Malin guests on a feral “I Wanna Be Loved” and a poignant “It’s Not Enough”; Cheetah Chrome romps through “Goin’ Steady”; up-and-coming New York rocker Liza Colby brings soul to “I Love You”; and Chrome and Malin team up on a blazing “Pirate Love.” The whole thing comes clanging to a close with a Kramer-sung “Do You Love Me,” the Heartbreakers’ roaring bash through a Motown classic.

Production values are catch as catch can, with frequent out-of-focus video, a squirrelly mix that favors volume over nuance, a director clearly flying by the seat of his pants, especially in the editing room, and no effort put into maintaining continuity between the three different performances captured in order to compile the film. It makes one wonder if the decision to shoot it was last minute. But you know what? That’s all fine, even appropriate. Johnny Thunders never chased perfection when he could nail the moment, and Lure and company blast through his legacy with a ramshackle joie de vivre that’s more about feel and soul than precision — just like the work of the man to whom it pays tribute.

TRAGICALLY HIP – Long Time Running

Title: Long Time Running

Director: n/a

Release Date: December 01, 2017

www.eaglevision.com

The Upshot: A most fitting tribute to the Canadian stars – and a most fitting goodbye to their charismatic frontman.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The Tragically Hip were most definitely a Canadian band. Despite some strong pockets of fervent fans in the U.S. and elsewhere across the globe, over the border up north they were U2, Springsteen, Petty and the Rolling Stones all rolled into one.

That diehard, decades-long devotion to the band can be seen throughout Long Time Running (95 mins; Eagle Vision), an emotional documentary focusing on The Tragically Hip’s farewell tour. With singer Gord Downie diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, the Ontario-based group decided to give their devotees a proper goodbye in the form of a 15-date cross-Canada run of shows in 2016. The film intersperses performance shots with fan testimonials and interviews with the band and Downie’s doctors.

After diagnosis, it was not clear that the band could perform again, with treatment causing Downie to forget most of the lyrics to their songs, but the singer that eventually took the stage month later seems to be in prime form, with the audience helping by singing along to every single song.

Even if you’ve never heard a minute of the Tragically Hip, there is still plenty to enjoy about Long Time Running. Emotional without being exploitive and appreciative without drifting into overt fawning over the subject, the directors did a commendable job of bringing to life a story about a band saying goodbye on its own terms

 

ARCADE FIRE – The Reflektor Tapes: A Film By Kahil Joseph

Title: ARCADE FIRE - The Reflektor Tapes

Director: Kahil Joseph

Release Date: February 24, 2017

www.eagle-rock.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Those only vaguely familiar with Arcade Fire and their proficiency for staying several steps ahead of the musical curve may not find further insight in this daring two disc documentary meant to showcase the band in concert and commentary.

Shot partially in black and white before segueing into color, the rapid scene switching, disjointed imaging, and schizophrenic cinematic set-ups all reinforce the unusual nature of their quirky indie pedigree. That leads less to accessibility and more towards a sense of general mayhem. As a backstage document it offers some opportunity for band members to speak candidly about the music and their involvement with the band, but the rapid shift from scene to scene compels the viewer to lean in order absorb all the sights and sounds. Disc two makes much more sense from a musical perspective, in that captures a complete concert and allows a continuous thread of music rather than simply a series of strange scenes that reflect an extreme psychedelic sensibility.

Given a sound that often verges on cosmic cacophony, that’s appropriate, but viewers might be best advised to become familiar the band’s song selection before subjecting themselves to a total sensory assault.

A Fat Wreck: The Story of Fat Wreck Chords

Title: A Fat Wreck: The Story of Fat Wreck Chords

Director: Shaun Colón

Release Date: December 13, 2016

www.afatwreck.com

a-fat-wreck-2016-logo

The Upshot: What could have easily been little more than a 90-minute infomercial for a record company ends up being a pretty impressive look into one of the most influential indie punk labels.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

You kind of expect going into a documentary about a record label, produced by that label, that it’s going to be little more than a glorified advertisement; propaganda for punk rockers, in this case. And that’s sort of true, with this film about the Northern California punk label Fat Wreck Chords. But the only thing that you can really expect with the label co-founder Fat Mike is that nothing can really be expected.

Yes, a lot of time in this movie is spent praising the bands that have filled the label’s roster going back decades (NOFX, Rise Against, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name, among many, many others). And there are plenty of interviews with fellow rockers in bands like Bad Religion and The Vandals attesting to the fact that Mike was always a pretty determined punk, even as a young kid. But Fat Mike and the director of this doc leave plenty of time to talk about some of the labels criticisms as well, like the “Fat Wreck Sound” that many associate with its bands. The criticism is that many on the label started to adopt a cookie-cutter pop-punk sound thanks to the same producers and engineers many of the bands tended to favor. It’s this criticism in particular that seems to get under Fat Mike’s skin here the most. And while it would have been easy for the folks associated with this movie to gloss over it or take it out entirely, to their credit it’s here in all its awkward pauses and angry retorts.

There is also plenty of time in the doc devoted to the label’s Punk Voter movement launched by Fat Mike and the label in 2002, a failed effort to get young voters engaged in the political process to defeat George W. Bush in the 2004 election. Some of the more hardened anarchist punks mocked his efforts in trying to help Democrat John Kerry get elected, in particular, the Canadian band Propagandhi, who were on the Fat Wreck label at the time. Through interviews, the band talks about their disgust with the U.S. political systems and the label’s association with it at the time.

What could have easily been little more than a 90-minute infomercial for a record company ends up being a pretty impressive look into one of the most influential indie punk labels to come out of California, thanks to an unflinching look at it from the filmmakers.

 

 

Last of the Mississippi Jukes

Title: Last of the Mississippi Jukes

Director: Robert Mugge

Release Date: October 21, 2016

lastofthemississippijukes21

The Upshot: As much as a celebration as it is a eulogy: Though at times this documentary looks at the Mississippi blues scene grimly, you still feel grateful that director Robert Mugge at least took time to document that scene at its root. Even if it’s been fading for years, no true music lover will come away unmoved—and at times during the film, utterly exhilarated. Above: Mugge in the film with Irma Thomas and Morgan Freeman at the latter’s jukejoint.

BY JASON GROSS

In 2006, a Mississippi trip provided me with sumptuous culinary highlights but mixed musical highlights. The Howlin’ Wolf Blues Museum had opened the year before in West Point and the Blues Festival done in Wolf’s name provided a great tribute including his long-time guitarist, the late Hubert Sumlin. The Delta Blues Museum stood as a large expanded former freight depot in Clarksdale, with its doors open since ’99, and just down the road from Ground Zero, a blues club co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, which started out only two years after that. Fitting that both places are also adjacent to the fabled crossroads when highways 61 and 49 meet. Unfortunately, both places were closed the days we visited so we made due with the 930 Blues Cafe in Jackson, a small suburban house that had comfort food and an older gent playing electric piano, as well as a stop at the Club Ebony in Indianola (purchased two years later by local legend B.B. King) which featured a band rehearsing ‘80s pop tunes- it didn’t necessarily feel down home in either place. But there was also plenty of mouth-watering, sauce-slathered barbecue there that any Northerner would kill for or weep in shame at the fake shit for passes for food above the Mason-Dixon Line.

A trip four years before that would have revealed another music landmark and cultural hub- the Subway Lounge in Jackson. Opened in ’66 by bandleader Jimmy King as a basement club in a black-owned hotel, Subway was a somewhat spiffier version of the blues clubs, aka juke joints, which featured local talent and all-night jams. It also a Souther stop for nationally-known R&B acts like James Brown and Jackie Wilson who would pass through (not to mention the Civil Rights Freedom Riders in the early ‘60s).

When director Robert Mugge (also responsible for 1991’s wonderful Deep Blues doc) showed up in 2002 to document the local scene, Subway was on its last legs while Ground Zero was just starting out. As such, his now-reissued 2003 documentary Last of the Mississippi Jukes is as much as a celebration as it is a eulogy. (Go to Mugge’s website for details, photos, and more.)

“We (as Americans) are doing more to preserve European classical music than we are to preserving American classical music” Freeman laments early in the film and you can’t help but think that race is involved there. Still, Freeman and club co-owner Bill Lockett did their part to keep the tradition alive and help rebuild Clarksdale by opening Madidi Restaurant and Ground Zero, where they took care to recreate the look and feel of the old time jukes with Christmas lights, beer signs and pool tables (and a sign that says “no, no, no, no out of town checks!”). Freeman himself grew up in Greenwood (1 hour south of the club) and wasn’t allowed to visit those ‘bucket of blood’ places where the blues wailed out of, though he would sneak out anyway to visit. As he recalls in the film, decades before that, field hands would come off back-breaking broiling days picking cotton to blow off steam and congregate in these small shacks.

“Sometimes people are ashamed of who they are- they wanna run away from that,” another actor tells us later in the film. Chris Thomas King was featured in the Coen brothers’ (arguably best) movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, playing a blues man, as he’s done off screen for years now. Thomas knows of what he speaks of, and not just in his own career- his dad ran Tabby’s Blues Box, which also closed its doors. Indeed, Mississippi comes up woefully short on cultivating its own musical history when compared to states like Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. Truth be told, New York, Chicago and other northern cities are also pretty pitiful when it comes to toasting their own local talent. (Pictured: Mugge with musician Chris Thomas King.)mugge-chris-thomas-king

Speaking of pitiful, the scenes that Mugge documents at the Subway Lounge are especially disheartened when we learn its rich history and how even when it was nearing its coda, it was still a vibrant place to soak up the area talent. Co-owner King started the Lounge because other clubs would close early and musicians craved a place they could play into the wee hours of the morning- as such, it was not just a musical hub but also a place where musicians bonded and felt a kinship with each other. The Lounge was also crucial to the scene because as racially divided as the city was, the club was a place where races intermingled seamlessly otherwise. The racial mixers extended to the club’s own group, the House Rockers. Alongside the Rockers, the King Edwards Blues Band alternated as the house group, with other acts sitting in on gigs all the time. For a meager five bucks, you could experience its musical treasures and wash it down with a bucket of beer (recommended since there were no waiters) and a ‘blues dog’ sausage loaded with onions, chili, relish and peppers.

But there was a money-sucking cloud hanging over Subway in the form of a casino, which in addition to the slots and card games also had its own club to draw in local acts which would enjoy a better sound system and more pay if not the devoted crowd they’d find otherwise. Bigger name area venues also tried to glom off the historic music scene, offering the same amenities and better able to cash in on it. Wanna guess how the half-dozen or so juke joints around then fared against the big boys?

Mugge tells the discouraging tale of Subway and the scene through the eyes of area musicians who are best known to hardcore blues fans but definitely deserve more recognition. The performers also provide us with useful context, history and insight, including Vasti Johnson and Steve Cheeseborough, alongside historian Richard Waterman. Other times, we get the story from the songs themselves, including Jackson’s “Casino in the Cottonfield,” Greg Taylor’s “Subway Swing” and David Hughes, who provides the title song of the movie. To give us a taste of the scene, we also see Subway performances from noted songwriter George Jackson (“Cheating in the Next Room”), singer Patrice Moncell (aka Queen of the Blues), Bobby Rush (whose woman ran off with the “Garbage Man”; view a clip below) and Alvin Youngblood Hart (probably the biggest name here, performing solo and with a trio) among others.

But even with the rich pool of talent, the club had to contend not only with the casino but also highway construction, bureaucratic red tape and not enough props from the local government. A campaign to save Subway coalesced with a non-profit org backed by the local paper, some councilmen and donated labor in recognition of not just the music history but also the building’s connections to the Civil Rights movement. At the end of the film, we see a title panel showing us contact info for the Save the Subway fund and a dedication to Helen King (Jimmy’s wife) who ran Subway with him and died shorted after the filming ended.

In the postscript included as an extra with the recent DVD reissue, we get an update where we see Harris standing in front of crane taking down the dilapidated building in hopes of ultimately rebuilding the place. But there wasn’t enough money to cover the repairs which led to more demolition and flooding. Ultimately, Subway held its last show in April 2003, closing its doors the following month and the rest of the building was demolished the following year. As a post-postscript, further info reveals that the highway came into place and the spot where Subway stood is now a grassy, empty lot with a plaque commemorating the club.

A mixed fate, at best, was in store for the other clubs there. While Ground Zero still hosts shows from Wednesdays through the weekend, Madidi restaurant went under in 2012, 930 Cafe closed about five years ago and Club Ebony is only open for special events. Another local juke joint a half hour south of Clarksdale called Po Monkey’s (which dates back to ’61) is now in limbo since its owner recently died. On the plus side, the Delta Blues Museum just got one and a half million dollars to upgrade their exhibits (which means that the state boosts history but not the here/now) and the Wolf festival now lives on as the Black Prairie Blues Festival. Local writer/educator George Light reports that Clarksdale still has its share of music thanks to area festivals and that some of the Subway acts congregated around a restaurant two hours south of Clarksdale (near where the 930 Blues Cafe stood) for a blues night until the eatery also went belly up about five years ago.

Though Mugge’s doc paints a grim picture, you feel grateful that at least he took time to document the Mississippi blues scene at its root, even if it’s been fading for years.

Luckily, if you wanna support the scene, you have some options- you can boost the Delta Blues Museum at http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org, the Blues Foundation (based in Memphis) at http://blues.org, and the Mississippi Blues Foundation & its Blues Trail at http://www.msbluestrail.org. If there’s enough backing, maybe Mugge could do a sunnier follow-up doc.

miss-jukes-10-21

THE EVERLY BROTHERS – Harmonies From Heaven

Title: Harmonies From Heaven

Director: n/a

Release Date: September 09, 2016

www.eagle-rock.com

the-everly-brothers-harmonies-from-heaven-cover-dvd-lr

The Upshot: A thorough documentary that’s thoroughly entertaining and informative.

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Casting a lasting influence over practically every band at the helm of the ‘60s British Invasion, the Everly Brothers’ earned the distinction of being one of the most important duos to etch an imprint in the entirety of American music. That powerful influence belied their humble beginnings as early architects of a sound based strictly on their backwoods upbringing, nurtured on their family’s radio show and eventually accelerated by a move to Nashville where they gained a source for the songs that would propel them to the top of the charts.

Those humble beginnings and slow but steady rise to stardom unfolds to a remarkable degree in a Blu-Ray and DVD aptly entitled Harmonies From Heaven, a thorough documentary that offers both archival footage and contemporary commentary. As never before it illuminates the brothers’ ascendance to a stature one can only deem as legendary. The footage tracing that upward progression is impressive enough, but a classic concert unearthed from Sydney Australia in 1968 is, in itself, well worth the price of admission. It gives a rare glimpse of the duo after their early heyday but prior to the aforementioned ascendance to the status of rock ‘n’ roll’s elder statesmen. Despite the acrimony and tragedy that would befall them later on, it offers an ample glimpse of the glory that they attained both then and now.

As if there’s any doubt as to why they deserve that recognition, then the testimony given by those under their influence erases any doubt completely. Graham Nash, Keith Richards and Dave Edmunds are among the stars featured through exclusive interviews that recount the ways the brothers left their mark on the adolescent English rockers who aspired to follow in their footsteps. It’s heady stuff indeed, but the obvious emotional attachment these icons had for the Everlys is wholly evident here. If this was a made-for-TV movie, the drama alone would make it an Emmy contender. As it is, the pair’s powerful story enshrines them forever as one of pop’s most prolific pioneers.

ELVIS COSTELLO – Detour: Live at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Title: Elvis Costello - Detour: Live at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Release Date: February 12, 2016

Eagle Vision

www.eagle-rock.com

Costello DD 2-12

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Based on the sheer power and largess of Costello’s catalog alone, any DVD that documents his 40 year career and more than 25 of his superb songs is in itself well worth the price of admission. Consequently, this live disc, taken from last year’s Detour tour, makes for an outstanding concert souvenir as well as a superb summation of Costello’s classic catalog. Granted there is a certain element of goofiness that accompanies the show’s center stage prop, the oversized Lupe-O-Tone TV set, but as a vehicle for Costello to ruminate a bit about his backstory and specifically his father’s career as a musician, it aids with the insight. More significantly, it provides an opportunity for Elvis to get up close and personal with diehard devotees.

 

As for the performances themselves, admittedly there is an element missing when Elvis opts to present his material sans a backing band. That’s especially apparent on songs drawn from his early insurgent phase — specifically “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” “Watching The Detectives” and “Accidents Will Happen” — tunes that would sound more in sync if he had a group in tow. However, he still pulls them off ably, albeit in acoustic/demo mode. Nevertheless, the best offerings come about when he has the support of his special guests, Rebecca and Megan Lowell of Larkin Poe, whose tightly-knit harmonies and adept instrumental abilities provide the backing on such standards as “Peace Love and Understanding,” “Blame It On Cain” and “Brilliant Mistake.”

 

Granted, this year’s model is considerably mellower than the angry young punk that exemplified the early Elvis, but that maturity has also brought an increased appreciation for his song craft and a stage persona that is both wiser and more wizened than ever before. Detour may have taken Costello off the beaten path, but it still finds him on the right road forward.

 

Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows

Title: Any Way The Wind Blows

Director: Rob Hatch-Miller

Release Date: February 20, 2016

Syl_still2

The Rob Hatch-Miller directed Any Way The Wind Blows, currently making the rounds of film festivals to mucho acclaim, captures life of musical underdog and soul legend Syl Johnson.

BY DENISE SULLIVAN

Following the sustained period of grief over the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., soul/funk singer-songwriter Syl Johnson responded with his own version of a mourning song.

“After Dr. King was killed… I didn’t want to make a militant song. My song… was asking a question,” he says.

Johnson’s downbeat “Is It Because I’m Black?” dented the charts, as did the other expressive jams he arranged and cut for Chicago’s Twinight label but mostly, his songs were soul-powered cries in the wilderness. Despite previous and future appearances on the charts and on Soul Train; a Willie Mitchell-mentored Hi Records tenure; a later, post-disco hit (“Ms. Fine Brown Frame”); and a cult following that grew among cratediggers at the dawn of the hip hop era (further fueled by the advent of the CD)—Johnson’s name and reputation as one of soul’s finest remains a fairly well-guarded secret.

Now, nearly 50 years after his solo recording debut, the documentary, Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows (directed by Rob Hatch-Miller), currently making the rounds of indie film festivals, goes some way toward unravelling the mystery of why things went the way they did for one of American music’s premiere voices and most-sampled artists (were it not for his explosive track, “Different Strokes,” hip hop as it’s known would not be the same).

SylPoster1200x1800

Johnson’s story is not your average unsung musician’s tale: Timing, as ever, was part of a long miscalculated equation that includes mismanagement and Johnson’s own quirky character traits. But as friends, family, fellow players, at least one hip hop mastermind (RZA) and an ex-wife testify, Johnson’s stalled career was not for lack of talent. His gift for delivering songs of timeless and enduring strength, with a lyrical depth, and dynamite swagger should not be open to debate. Yet for reasons unexplained, his musical abilities are challenged by novelist Jonathan Lethem, who asserts Johnson only had a “a tenth” of what his rival Al Green did.

The word “genius” in the context of Johnson’s creative spark is also argued against by different folks but facts are facts: The only things Johnson lacked in the starmaking department were promotion and a commitment from London Records (Hi’s parent company). Throughout the film, the talking heads agree that Johnson’s rare “loose” and “raw” qualities are what set him apart, contributing to his Twinight sides rising to heights of excellence. Those records, from “Come On Sock It To Me” and “Different Strokes” to “Dresses Too Short” had the sound that called producer Mitchell out of his Royal Recorders in Memphis toward Chicago in search of Johnson, his original choice to sing “Take Me To The River.”

In more recent years, representatives from the Numero Group label, which reissued a Grammy-nominated box set of Johnson’s music, would seemingly diminish the singer’s influence by categorizing him as part of their Eccentric Soul catalog (though enthusiastically received by collectors as well as critics—BLURT included—the series comprises mostly amateur records issued by complete unknowns). Yet keen to spread the good word, collect kudos, and sell records, the young executives and his new musical sidemen seem sincere enough; though Johnson isn’t entirely convinced, only half-joking when he says he’s “keeping an eye on them.”

Johnson’s great grandfather Wallace was a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi; according to the film, his grandfather bought the plantation and Johnson grew up with seven siblings, picking cotton and singing, inspired by listening to the birds sing. No one knows exactly how old Johnson is (one of his daughters suspects he’s considerably older than the 79 years currently assigned to him); it’s certain that in 1950, he followed his siblings and mother to Chicago. He immediately began to hang out and hold his own, playing blues guitar on the Chess Records scene, learning “discipline and how to dress” from Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Junior Wells.

“To go hear Muddy Waters play? You wish you had been there and heard Muddy Waters play,” Johnson says in the film.

But singing the blues was not his desire. “We got some new shit for you, Pops,” he says, of the prevailing attitude behind 1959’s “Teardrops.” Dropping his birth name Thompson, he changed it to Johnson on a suggestion by notorious record man, Syd Nathan of the Federal label. Touring, recording, and trying to earn a living consumed him for the next few decades; the music took a turn and Johnson turned to the restaurant business for his hustle until that dried up too. As destiny would have it, with the advent of sampling, the popularity of Johnson’s records used as basic tracks and themes on rap’s greatest hits allowed him to earn a living from his music again.

syl-johnson-becky

Nobody knows better than Johnson what he gave to the business versus what he got from it, although his immediate family and the musicians he worked with have empathy and an understanding of what it took for him be a groundbreaking musician, as well as a man in all his dimensions—from abandoned child to father, businessman, and playa.

But it’s Wu Tang Clan’s RZA who shows the most generosity of spirit and unconditional gratitude for the price Johnson paid so others might benefit.

“It ain’t only the music that makes you valuable. It’s also something,” he says, pointing to his guts, “that you may have in here, that the other people don’t have.”

***

Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows screens February 20th at the Noise Pop Music Festival, 7 PM at the Roxie in San Francisco (with Johnson and filmmakers in attendance); and at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula Montana on Saturday, February 20th | 12:45pm at the Top Hat and Sunday, February 21st | 7:30pm at Crystal.

The Jam – About The Young Idea

Title: The Jam - About The Young Idea

Director: Bob Smeaton

Release Date: December 04, 2015

www.eagle-rock.com

Jam 12-4

The Upshot: Exceptional DVD concert/documentary that inspires absolute admiration for the trio’s efforts, as well as the inevitable remorse that they didn’t last longer than their six years of potent activity.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Paul Weller’s efforts inspired by his predecessors – that of the Small Faces, the Kinks, Traffic and other members of the original English establishment — sparked the creation of his original outfit, the Jam, and imbued the band with an authority and authenticity that was every bit as striking as those iconic artists that moved him. Little wonder then that throughout their brief reign, the Jam continually reinforced that notion, and even though Weller went on to a successful solo career — one that pursued the same purposes — it that was the Jam that put his efforts in motion.

Weller clearly fancied himself a combination of a young Pete Townshend and an emerging Ray Davies (note the Jam’s classic cover of the Kinks’ “David Watts” that’s included in this collection), and his tenure at the helm of the Jam eventually transitioned him into the role of an elder statesman whose muse dictated a clear allegiance to British rock tradition. Consequently viewing the Jam in hindsight, courtesy of this exceptional DVD concert/documentary, inspires absolute admiration for the trio’s efforts, as well as the inevitable remorse that they didn’t last longer than their six years of potent activity. As nostalgia, it works especially well, and watching the concert included here, a 1980 live telecast at Rockpalast, underscores the fact that they were one of the most potent bands to emerge from the post punk era. Archival footage, interviews with the three principals and other performance extras testifies to that assessment, making #About The Young Idea# absolutely essential for anyone obsessed with British rock, early on or otherwise.

Ultimately, About The Young Idea asserts its emphasis on “the young” portion of the title, given that the Jam were, and remain, the quintessential young British band, flush with energy, excitement and a feeling that there are no limits when it came to both attitude and aptitude. Let’s hope those attributes never go out of fashion.

TASTE – What’s Going On – Live at the Isle of Wight

Title: Taste - What’s Going On - Live at the Isle of Wight

Director: Murray Lerner

Release Date: September 18, 2015

www.eagle-rock.com

Taste 9-18

The Upshot: Rory Gallagher’s pre-solo fame trio performed at the 1970 festival. The passion is palpable, and whether that was due to the pent up emotion or the feeling that this could have been their swan song, it’s literally a concert for the ages.

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Rory Gallagher died way too young, but the charismatic Irishman left a legacy of exceptional musicianship and a singular style of the blues. It began in earnest with his three-piece band Taste, and ended with a flurry of solo albums (wisely re-released in the last several years by Eagle Rock) that confirmed his stature as one of the finest guitarists Britain had ever known. Indeed, he was only 18 when he formed the band in 1966, but he quickly won the admiration of such peers as John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, who, when asked by an interviewer how it felt to be the world greatest guitarist, graciously demurred and suggested that title belonged to Gallagher instead.

Taste were at their peak when they performed in front of 600,000 enthusiastic fans at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, a gathering that famously also included the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Moody Blues and ELP. The crowd adored this so-called “People’s Band,” refusing to let them leave the stage, even after calling them back for three encores. However, as Garth Cartwright explains in the liner notes that accompany this first official release of their incredible set, the simmering tensions between the members of the band and the band and its record label made the odds against an exceptional show even more daunting. Their van had been broken into the night before, they barely made it to the site on time, and ironically, their manager threatened to cancel their performance when they learned the festival was being filmed without their permission.

 

Nevertheless, as What’s Going On – Live at the Isle of Wight attests, the band played brilliantly, milking every ounce of energy and exhilaration at their command. The passion is palpable, and whether that was due to the pent up emotion or the feeling that this could have been their  swan song, it’s literally a concert for the ages. Sadly, their final tour followed almost immediately. Regardless, the testimonials by such brethren as The Edge, Brian May, Larry Coryell and Bob Geldof included herein attest to their exceptional stature, as does the archival material, a trio of promotional videos and bonus performances from Beat Club concerts recorded the same year. Taken in tandem, it all adds up to a truly Taste-ful tribute that’s long overdue.

Bonus Features:

  • Three tracks from the German TV series Beat Club: (1) If The Day Was Any Longer (2) It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again (3) Morning Sun
  • Three conceptual music videos: (1) I ll Remember (2) What’s Going On (3) Born On The Wrong Side Of Time