|Index||9 reviews in total|
In this Scorsese-directed segment we follow musician Corey Harris as he
explores the origins of the blues, tracing back from the birth of the
Delta-blues to the slave-experience and finally to Africa, meeting with
musicians from Mississippi to Mali, culminating in a magical moment where
the American Harris and the Malian Ali Farka Toure improvise on a theme,
each in their own style and sound perfectly harmonious.
If a movie about the origin of the blues sounds didactic, rest assured it isn't: there is very little voice-over commentary, the soundtrack consists of almost wall-to-wall music, and it feels as if that music tells its own story. And what music it is: the early Alan Lomax recordings of Robert Johnson and Leadbelly, the fife and drums of Otha Turner (no, I had never heard from him either) or the African folk-music from Salif Keita or Ali Farka Toure, it is all so excellent that the documentary often frustrates by only giving excerpts. When Keita took my breath away with a soulfull rendition of a griot-song, I wish Scorsese didn't interrupt for an interview with the man.
For anyone who is even remotely interested in blues, this is a must-see documentary, with a must-have soundtrack record.
I rated the 7 episodes from 8 to 10 and gave it an 8 overall (The 7th episode getting the only 10). If there had been more music and less talking, I would have enjoyed it better. Fuller biographies would have been nice too. Marshall Chess is a walking encyclopedia of the old time blues and was the best talker. It was still a great mini-series and well worth watching.
It's hard to apply the usual numbered or grade ratings to this 7-part mini-series, as some parts may be more appealing to you than to others. It's a long mini-series, as each part goes in its own ways through the history of the blues, going back to Africa for some (as in Scorsese's first of the 7 films, Feel Like Going Home, which is one of the best of them), traveling around the country for others (The Road to Memphis, which is also very interesting, if a little repetitive), going this way and that to search for its passion and power (Wenders segment), or taking it down easy to sit with the masters (Eastwood's Piano Blues, one I will probably watch more than once on its own as its so loaded with musical goodies). As a fan of music in general, and of Blues up to the point when I watched the documentary fairly well, it's really an eye and ear opener. A lot of history and emotional connections go on with people and how they play or respond to the music, but it's all in tune with a simple, straight-forward way of telling little stories and getting a real mood more than anything. How you respond to the mood may depend more on your musical tastes, hence why the documentary, while overall intriguing, cool, sluggish, and hard-edged in different ways, is hard to really grade overall. But it's not one to miss if you've got the time; as it is I went back to at least a few of the segments recently, as the effect from first seeing the series in 03 wore off. Oh yeah, and Tom Jones is in one of the segments (perhaps the least effective one).
I found this documentary to be riveting to say the least. As a blues
fan for well over 20 years, I learned more from this 10 part
mini-series than I have anywhere. It was great to hear some of the
original blues artists in rare recordings that I would never have
Someone commented that they wished there was "more music and less talking" but then want on to say he/she wished there was more "documentary" as well. I'm not sure how you can do one without the other, but while I too was sometimes disappointed when they ended a tune to cut to someone talking, I think overall, it was a terrific balance. The series is after all, a documentary, not a VH1 music video! Hearing some of the olde thyme greats speaking of the old days, was compelling to say the least.
I highly recommend buying the boxed CD set as well (then you get to hear all the music).
Seven 90 minute documentaries on various aspects of the blues by noted
film makers, ranging from the disappointing "Godfathers and Sons",
"Piano Blues" to the sublime; Wim Wenders "The Soul of a Man" and
Martin Scorsese's "Feel Like Going Home". The other three films fall
somewhere in he middle.
As a series the overall impact was less than I hoped for, but still very worth seeing. I was surprised by the amount of overlap; not only are a number of songs, and even specific recordings repeated in several of the films, but so are chunks of the vintage footage used.
To my personal taste, I found the series most potent and alive when it examined the roots of the blues on not just a musical, but also a political and historic level. When it just presented little pieces of songs by various artists (especially modern ones) without the benefit of probing context, it could feel predictably shallow. Still, an excellent overview of blues in the 20th century for those who already have a love for the form, and for the newly curious.
Not all the documentaries are on the same depth level, but generally speaking is one of the best series on any subject, in the whole... Some are excellent movies, and above all I place the piece by Wim Wenders: I quite believe the man is really a better documentarist than a 'movie' director; I mean, watching his film on blues, using actors and cinematography at the highest level, you forget about documentary, and just feel like you're watching ages lost films (just to contradict my first statement about this director: but I'm also thinking about the excellent Tokyo Ga from the same man!). Besides he is the one who is most successful, in my opinion, in communicating the great love he feels for this music and for the 'heroes' involved: well, he is also the most experienced director on this kind of subject, after his other great 'film' Buena Vista Social Club. In general the other documentaries are quite informative and well made too, but I also sense a kind of 'lack of a styling signature' from such otherwise GREAT directors (Eastwood and Scorsese above all); given that, surely it's worth seeing and hearing this whole piece of work.
This movie was a sweet history of the blues. It made me think of more pleasant times in my past. I could only think of a strong heritage, with strong values while watching this movie. It is also a very good educational tool while giving our blues forefathers their propers(recognition). Thanks to Charles Burnett and his cast and crew.
I really enjoyed this series overall, but on the "Red, White & Blues" piece, I was absolutely dismayed and disgusted to see Tom Jones (and hear him sing) portrayed as ANYONE who had ANYTHING to do with the blues movement. Why no George Harrison (this being the British related blues) and why so little of Keith Richards (among many other British blues artists omitted)? There was plenty of Clapton, Beck, Mayall and a few others that were and are truly blues-oriented guys. Mr. Figgis ruined this one with Jones. What a turn off. I give all the others in this series a 10/10 and a 5 for Figgis version and only that much because he did include, although way less than he should have, a small sampling of the blues excellence that came out of Great Britain beginning in the '60's.
Just after Gangs of New York was released I heard about a series being
made about The Blues and kind of shrugged it off afterwards. I had not
previously seen any of Scorsese's documentaries like My Voyage to Italy
or a Personal Journey so I didn't really expect anything special from
it. A friend of mine knows about my interest in Scorsese films and
asked me if I wanted the Feel Like Going Home episode on DVD directed
by Martin Scorsese as a gift. I said yes as it would start me off into
watching his documentaries and if this is anything to go by the rest he
has made then I have got to start building up my Scorsese Documentaries
because after I saw this I thought Wow. It was good timing as well as I
have just recently started listening to the likes of John Le Hooker and
Muddy Waters. Feel Like Going Home though really opened my mind to what
the Blues really means and where it came from. The story follows a
Blues Guitarist called Corey Harris who goes on a pilgrimage to find
out more about his ancestors who first started playing the Blues and
Scorsese's own knowledge of the music.
If you are a Martin Scorsese fan then cast your mind back to the beginning of Gangs of New York when The Dead Rabbits are preparing themselves to go up against The Natives. Listen to the music in the background whilst Amsterdam is holding his fathers hand. It sounds just like some of the music you hear in this. The very first scene in FLGH where two black men are holding a drum to them and another one is using the whistle instrument sounds just like the music used in the scene in GONY. I was wondering where that sound came from and now I kind of know. I am yet to see the rest of the episodes Directed by Clint Eastwood, Wim Wenders etc but if they are anything like this then this will go down as one of the greatest series ever of it's kind. Blues Fans will think this is the best thing since The Blues and I think it will like mine open up whether they are young or old to The Blues and just get them started off watch this to see how it developed originally.
A powerful and inspiring look to the Birth of The Blues.
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