Martin Scorsese Presents "The Blues"
Part One of Four
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
On September 28, PBS will air the first segment of a seven-part series that provides an in-depth examination of the blues. Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese served as the catalyst for the project, which features films directed by Scorsese as well as Wim Wenders, Richard Pearce, Charles Burnett, Marc Levin, Mike Figgis, and Clint Eastwood — each of whom was given the mission of exploring the blues through his own personal style and perspective. Needless to say, this program is the true definition of "must see TV," but for those who want even more, a special DVD-set that includes all seven films plus three hours of bonus material will be released on October 7.
In conjunction with the film project, Universal Music and Sony Legacy have combined their efforts, combed their archives, and culled material from other labels in order to create the most comprehensive blues compilation ever to be presented. Featuring nearly 500 songs, the collection will cover material recorded between the 1920s and present day, including 30 brand-new tracks. The centerpiece is a 5-disc box set titled The Blues: A Musical Journey, which pulls together 116 tunes and touches briefly upon nearly every important blues artist of the 20th Century. For those seeking something either more or less in-depth, there are separate soundtracks for each of the films, 12 individual artist compilations (Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keb’ Mo’, Stevie Ray Vaughan, J.B. Lenoir, Taj Mahal, Bessie Smith, and the Allman Brothers Band), and a 21-track, single disc overview of the project, so one need look no further to build an astounding blues catalog.
Still, whether one opts for the 5-disc box set or some combination of the other 19 compilations, this is quite an enormous investment. Not to mention, paring down the collection to something more manageable is an extraordinarily difficult task. The Music Box has opted to cover a mere four albums from this mammoth project, and these were chosen after much consideration was given to the song cycle contained on each album. In a way, the individual artist compilations speak for themselves, leaving the seven separate soundtracks. The final four — Feel Like Going Home: A Film by Martin Scorsese, The Soul of a Man: A Film by Wim Wenders, Warming by the Devil’s Fire: A Film by Charles Burnett, and Piano Blues: A Film by Clint Eastwood — were selected carefully in order to balance personal interest with the needs of our readers.
Feel Like Going Home: A Film by Martin Scorsese
Like most people, Martin Scorsese was drawn into the blues through his enjoyment of rock ’n‘ roll. Upon digging deeper, he discovered a rich and vast heritage, and the further he delved, the more he found. In fact, Scorsese soon realized that the legacy of the blues formed a two-way cultural highway that stretched across continents. With the help of contemporary bluesman Corey Harris, Scorsese explored and examined this exchange of ideas, taking a journey that followed a path from Mississippi to West Africa. Together, the duo searched for the blues’ earliest beginnings and in the process charted its evolution.
As one might expect, the soundtrack to Feel Like Going Home winds its way along the same thread of logic, beautifully relaying the story in song. It begins with Robert Johnson’s Traveling Riverside Blues and concludes with a recent interpretation of Willie Dixon’s My Baby by Otha Turner and The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band. In between, the influence of Walkin’ Blues, which has been attributed to and performed by both Son House and Robert Johnson, is felt within tracks by Muddy Waters and Taj Mahal, and the intermingling of performances by Turner, Napoleon Strickand & The Como Drum Band, Willie King & The Liberators, John Lee Hooker, Salif Keita, and Ali Farka Touré provides a picture-perfect, cross-cultural, and cross-generational snapshot that is as educational as it is enjoyable.
For certain, this is a lot of ground to cover, and Feel Like Going Home’s 20 songs in 80 minutes merely begin to scratch the surface of the blues’ extraordinary lineage. Yet, miraculously, Scorsese and Harris find a way to cast a discerning eye on the genre, focusing on the connections between the artists, and painting a concise, but vivid picture of the music that has shaped and reshaped the history of rock ’n‘ roll and ultimately civilizations.
46th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Album Notes
46th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Historical Album
Of Further Interest...
Part Two: The Soul of a Man: A Film by Wim Wenders
Part Four: Piano Blues: A Film by Clint Eastwood
Feel Like Going Home is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
The Blues: A Musical Journey (CD Box Set) is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
The Blues: A Musical Journey (DVD Box Set) is available
from Amazon.com. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box