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Music Video Distributors presents
Blues Collection: Live at Wilebski's (1984)

"I need a whole lot of lovin' / Cause I'm down in the dumps."
- Valerie Wellington

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: October 31, 2002

Stars: Lady Bianca, Dr. John, Archie Shepp, John Lee Hooker
Other Stars: Willie and the Bees, Gravenites-Cippolina Band, Valerie Wellington, Baby Doo Caston, Geoff Muldaur, Minnesota Barking Ducks, Dr. John, Archie Shepp, Ben Sidran
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:18m:06s
Release Date: September 10, 2002
UPC: 022891133896
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+C-C C+

DVD Review

What better way to beat those brutal Minnesota winters than with a scalding couple of days of R&B? That seems to be the idea, as this DVD offers highlights of a March 1984 blues festival at Wilebski's Bar in the land of ten thousand lakes, and a dozen or so of the best cuts were culled for this collection.

There aren't many frills here, as it's all about the music—we're thrust right into things with the first cut, Willie and the Bees doing Fine Brown Frame, and then it's a series of songs and quick cuts from performer to performer. What you'll find here is a pretty eclectic mixture, with some familiar faces to blues fans: John Lee Hooker is the grand old man of these proceedings, and Dr. John offers a nice, brief song of his own. Then there are some performers whose reputation may not extend much beyond Wilebski's: if you've heard of the Minnesota Barking Ducks before, you're a more ardent blues fan than I am. But the performances are generally of a high quality, as they vary in style—Corky Siegel is sort of the court jester of these proceedings, performing solo on piano, and Ben Sidran and Archie Shepp perform a duet, on piano and sax, of Willow, Weep For Me that's more akin to jazz than the hard-driving sixteen-bar blues.

The time of filming is very much in evidence, ranging from Lady Bianca's unfortunate spangled headband to one of the guitar players thinking he's so fabulously dapper in his electric pink shirt and turquoise tie. (You could really be a Beau Brummel, baby, if you just gave it half a chance.)

There isn't much to the filmmaking—simple titles introduce the performers and the songs, and we get very little sense of the size or flavor of the venue. (There is the occasional cutaway to the dance floor to cover transitions.) It's not really a collection, either, but a concert film, and the songs, with just a couple of exceptions, aren't blues standards. So it's not the last word on the blues, by a long shot, but it's a pretty solid set nonetheless. Here's the complete setlist:

Willie and the Bees, Fine Brown Frame
John Lee Hooker, Boom Boom
Corky Siegel, Half Asleep at the Wheel
Gravenites-Cippolina Band, Down in the Bottom
Valerie Wellington, Down in the Dumps
Baby Doo Caston, Low Down Dog
Geoff Muldaur, Why Should I Love You?
Lady Bianca, Imagination
Gravenites-Cippolina Band, Small Walk-In Box
Minnesota Barking Ducks, Jukes
Dr. John, You Lie Too Much
Archie Shepp and Ben Sidran, Willow, Weep For Me
John Lee Hooker and Lady Bianca, Boogie Woman



Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Colors are badly washed out, and the resolution is severely limited. The image quality is at times so poor that some of the musicians can't be properly discerned, and things aren't helped by the fact that frequently the film crew pointed the cameras directly into the stage lights, making for lots of glare. Not a whole lot to recommend the video quality here.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Lots and lots of crackle on the soundtrack, and the mono mix is limited, but the music, despite all that, still sounds pretty good. It's not the most artfully recorded concert movie you'll ever see.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Music/Song Access with 13 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. list of the top fifty blues songs
  2. history of the blues
  3. top thirty artists of the twentieth century
  4. trivia quiz
Extras Review: Informative if brief bios are provided for nine of the performers. There's a list of the top fifty blues songs of all time, though it's not clear who compiled the list, and it doesn't seem at all like a definitive roster. (Number 1: Have You Ever Loved A Woman, by Eric Clapton.) Similarly, a truncated Story of the Blues takes up three panels; if you've never heard the music before, this Cliffs Notes version of its history probably won't do much to make you a fan. Artists of the Century is arbitrary in the same manner that the top fifty list is: it provides a few sentences on thirty musicians, listed alphabetically, from Louis Armstrong to Stevie Wonder. I'm suspicious of a list that includes Madonna, but omits Ella Fitzgerald, Irving Berlin, B.B. King and Little Richard. Finally, there's a thirty-five-question trivia quiz—it's all multiple choice, and annoyingly, no answers are provided.

The flip side of the disc offers the same program for Region Two, and the copy on the case could have used a good proofreader—Valerie Wellington, one of the singers, is listed there as Valerie Washington.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Some good driving blues always help to alleviate the winter blahs. Not a groundbreaking or earth-shattering collection, but it's sure to get you tapping your feet.

 


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