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We have heard their recordings and seen their photographs but any live performances we may have attended or video recordings we may have seen were mostly of them very late in their career, past their best. So this discovery of early sixties recordings of Blues greats is something of a treasure trove. There is a distinctly amateurish air to these recordings. The introductions are very awkward and wooden, with the performers introducing one another with much line-fluffing and a remarkable amount of stage fright. You may be startled to hear the second act introduced as "Sunny Terrace and Bonny McGhee" but not to worry, you'll be delighted by the subsequent performance by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. And the clips are strung together in a disjointed fashion, rather than being a properly edited sequence. One clip starts with a presenter leaving the stage and we will never know what it was he might have said. Others begin with the audience applauding the previous, unseen performance. None of that matters when the actual performances begin. John Lee Hooker gives a truly visceral performance and Otis Spann is on top form. But all the performers are worth seeing. Modern viewers may be disconcerted by the totally white, unfailingly polite audience, including ladies in fur stoles. But that is part of the period charm of these recordings, for that's how it was in the early sixties. Don't be misled. We may have dressed formally and behaved with decorum but that didn't mean we were not moved. We were. The Blues resonated with us and became a vital part of the European music scene. This influence began before the time of these festivals.Read more ›
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
The Real Thing: Roots, Fruits in Fertile Soil2 Sept. 2003
William E Donoghue
- Published on Amazon.com
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,
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"Blues the way is was meant to be ~ American Festival 62-66"1 Sept. 2003
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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)
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The Real Deal!!!!!!!! Unbelievable footage!!!!!16 Oct. 2003
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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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Crucial blues history26 Dec. 2004
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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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
An epiphany!30 Sept. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
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!