Blues Masters: The Essential History of the Blues-Volume 1 (1993)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Volume 2 Preview
|Year Of Production||1993|
|Running Time||49:47 (Case: 51)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||L.L. Tarter|
Rhino Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Some people like the blues and others don't. I am in the former group, although this was not always the case. There is much more emotion, depth and raw earthiness behind a blues piece than is found in a lot of the commercial fluff produced by the pop industry. Wanting to know some history of the early years of the blues and see some rare footage, I happily grabbed the opportunity to review Blues Masters: The Essential History of the Blues - Volume 1. This disc covers the Blues scene in the States up till the second world war. It mixes discussion of the development of this genre and the events that surrounded and shaped it as well as providing nine songs, in full, for our enjoyment. These were captured on film from the prominent blues artists featured during the narrative.
After brief discussion about the origins of this music - which occurred during the civil war as blacks travelled widely across the country - the disc gets right into the music with the only known footage of the popular early 20th Century blues singer called 'Leadbelly'. The growing prominence of women in the Blues during the twenties and thirties is discussed. The powerful voice of Bessie Smith is featured here singing the famous St. Louis Blues. After having three record companies reject her, Bessie finally signed with Columbia and instantly became the most popular female blues artist ever. After this success, the other record companies got the idea and artists like Bessie and Maime Smith saw the blues become popular with non-black audiences. Some of the style changes in the blues are covered by this documentary. The rise of swing and development of regional differences between the north and south blues are mentioned, though only briefly. This volume intersperses its early clips and discussion of the blues with footage of the depression, first and second world wars, the Ku Klux Klan and prominent black boxers and athletes. It mentions the lowly status of the black population during these times and how these events and groups influenced society.
This DVD is not a comprehensive coverage of the development of the blues and there is no footage of interviews with blues musicians talking about their music. It is more a potted overview of the early years. Most of its 47 minute length is structured around the footage they have available to them. The nine showcase songs are great to see and enjoyable but the narrative's swing from one topic to another seems haphazard with no direction or theme to bring the documentary together. One moment Al Capone is being discussed, with no obvious relevance to the blues that I could make out, then the focus switches to a religious leader running soup kitchens, again with no mention made about how this affects the blues. Notwithstanding such criticisms, the DVD was not hard to sit through and when it was over I was left wanting to watch more.
|1. Son House-Levee Blues|
2. Leadbelly-Pick A Bale O' Cotton
3. Bessie Smith-St. Louis Blues
4. Mamie Smith-Lord, Lord, Lord
5. Mamie Smith-Harlem Blues
|6. Roy Milton-Hey, Lawdy Mama|
7. Jimmy Rushing-Take Me Back, Baby
8. Ethel Waters-Quicksand
9. Big Bill Broonzy-Guitar Shuffle
The picture was not sharp at all. The blacks were not well saturated and had plenty of low level noise. Film artefacts were abundant, as you would expect when much of the source material is around 80 years old.
This is not a colourful DVD. Virtually everything is in black and white. In the few spots where colour exists it is muted.
MPEG artefacts were not problem in this transfer, with the bit rate remaining high throughout the feature.
This is not an RSDL disc, so there is no layer change.
Audio sync was not a problem.
The surrounds are constantly active doing identical things to the front speakers but are essentially mono.
The sub never awoke from its slumber.
|Surround Channel Use|
All of the 1.33:1 menus were animated and scored.
A small photo gallery with eight photos of the featured artists.
A three minute clip from the next volume in the series.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using Component output|
|Display||Toshiba 117cm widescreen rear projection TV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Rotel RSP-985 THX Ultra certified surround pre-amp.|
|Amplification||Parasound HCA-2003 3x300w THX certified power amp, NAD 208THX 2x300w power amp.|
|Speakers||Velodyne HGS-18 1250w 18” servo-driven subwoofer, Celestion A3 front speakers, A2 rear speaker (full range) and A4c center channel speaker.|