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Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues

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Sure, it’s a marketing tsunami, and the “Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues” branding on everything but Robert Johnson’s grave is a bit much. But the films have been tremendous, and the music is even better.

After a pause due to the departure of our great friend and colleague Jan Herman, I am back at MSNBC.com with a look at the music of The Blues:

    The list winds on like the mighty Mississippi to include many of the greatest popular musicians and songwriters of the 20th century: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B King, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers Band, Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Bessie Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, Lead Belly, to name but a few. All of them were created by, and in turn helped create America’s first great original art form – the blues.

    ORIGINALLY SPRINGING FROM those largely excluded from the fruits and mercies of their own land, the blues at its best is a profound artistic expression of sorrow, frustration and – against all odds – joy. And the influence of the blues is almost ubiquitous: Muddy Waters wrote a song called “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll,” but Muddy could have added jazz, R&B, soul, folk, even hip-hop to the remarkable list of the blues’ musical offspring…..

And we are accumulating interesting responses to the series here on Blogcritics as well:

Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues – “Godfathers and Sons”
Last night’s episode of Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, called “Godfathers and Sons,” was a fascinating failure: fascinating because it gave insight into what made Chicago special in the development of the blues, especially the electric blues, and had some…
Posted in Blogcritics on October 3, 2003 09:19 AM

Figgis & Eastwood do the Blues
The last two films in the Blues series are Red, White & Blues by Mike Figgis and Piano Blues by Clint Eastwood. Both directors are musicians and it shows in the films. You can occasionally see the frizzy hair of…
Posted in Blogcritics on October 3, 2003 06:49 AM

Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues – Devils and Angels
There is no way anyone can accuse Martin Scorsese of imposing any kind of uniformity of style of format upon the directors he chose for the seven films that make up his PBS series The Blues. Thus far we’ve had…
Posted in Blogcritics on October 2, 2003 10:21 AM

Watchin’ The Blues
I have been watching the PBS series The Blues this week and I’m telling you this documentary on the blues exec produced by Martin Scorsese is fantastic and I urge everyone to tune in. Even if you are not a…
Posted in Blogcritics on October 1, 2003 11:16 PM

Bobby Rush Tames The Booty
Last night I was idly flipping channels before hitting the sack when I came upon the third episode of Martin Scorsese’s The Blues, directed by Richard Pearce. Daaaamn. The Blues is a gigantic thing that most people (and most fans…
Posted in Blogcritics on October 1, 2003 11:35 AM

Feel the Love
Steve was right: last night’s episode of Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, “The Road to Memphis,” was fun, powerful and very moving. Director Richard Pearce followed blues superstar B.B. King and mid-level blues veteran Bobby Rush in their respective tour…
Posted in Blogcritics on October 1, 2003 09:28 AM

Scorsese’s Blues
I am really enjoying Martin Scorsese’s blues series on PBS. Sunday night’s debut was a journey, directed by Scorsese himself, from the Mississippi Delta to Mali in West Africa with young bluesman Corey Harris, going farther and farther back in…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 30, 2003 04:50 PM

BB King on The Blues
The best episode of the Blues so far airs tonight. It focuses on BB King. Tomorrow’s show is a movie by the great director Charles Burnett. The DVD box set also comes out today, and a concert DVD of…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 30, 2003 02:54 PM

The Friday Morning Listen
Father Of The Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions – Son House
I’m pretty much gettin’ cranked up for this weekend’s premier of Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues.(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 26, 2003 09:00 AM

Slim Harpo – The Excello Singles Anthology 1957-71
A great new Slim Harpo (born James Moore, 1924) collection is the first I have received in connection with the forthcoming PBS series Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues, a seven-part look at the genre premiering Sept. 28. While Harpo’s name…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 2, 2003 11:27 AM

And here are some more recent blues-related posts from Blogcritics:

Allman Brothers Alive Again
The original Allman Brothers Band is back in the spotlight, and rightly so.
Posted in Blogcritics on September 24, 2003 05:11 PM

Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Unclassified
Smoke drifts towards toward the gray celing. A man about the age of fifty sits, puffing on a pipe. His eyelids are starting to droop, and he makes no effort to change that. He is sitting in a large, leather…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 18, 2003 07:23 PM

Chris Duarte Group – Romp
With guitars and their wielding very much on my mind, I tossed the new Chris Duarte Group (Duarte, John Jordan – bass, Ed Miles – drums) CD on the player and let it rip, er romp. Romp is the hairy,…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 18, 2003 11:34 AM

Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland blessed our collective turntable in September of 1968, marking the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s third U.S. album release in a year.
Posted in Blogcritics on September 18, 2003 10:07 AM

Muddy Waters – Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live Legacy Edition
As part of its ongoing “Legacy Edition” reissue series, Sony has rereleased the classic Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live, recorded in the middle of Waters’ sensational comeback period in the late-’70s (with the loving help of Johnny Winter), and augmented that…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 10, 2003 02:31 PM

Otis Taylor – Truth Is Not Fiction
In a discussion I heard on the radio the other day, a pundit suggested the blues as a genre needs to speak to “today’s reality” to find a wider, younger audience. I have found such a voice and such a…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 8, 2003 12:35 PM

The Yardbirds: Guitar Hero Conspiracy Revealed
If you’re old enough to remember when the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” first hit the charts, you might also remember rumors of a cooperative venture between the US and UK. In order to lessen American teenagers’ angst over JFK’s assassination,…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 3, 2003 08:52 PM

The Black Keys – Long Walk Off a Shortlist
The 2003 Shortlist Finalists have been announced: Black Keys, Bright Eyes, Cat Power, Cody Chestnutt, Floetry, Interpol, Damien Rice, Sigur Ros, The Streets and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. INTERPOL, BRIGHT EYES, CAT POWER, DAMIEN RICE AND BLACK KEYS CONFIRMED TO PERFORM…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 3, 2003 01:41 PM

Whoa, these guys rock
Polaris DVD Companion North Mississippi All-Stars (ATO) This is a 2 video and 1 documentary DVD from this band of Mississippi blues merchants. The videos and the track (un-named) that plays over the menu show how impressive this quartet can…
Posted in Blogcritics on September 2, 2003 05:01 PM

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    this is interesting. maybe i’m not rememberin’ this correctly, but i could swear that the buildup to ken burns “Jazz” was much larger than this….but there appears to be a much larger groundswell of blues support after only three nights of the show.

    …which is fine by me (the burns thing was disappointing on several levels)

  • Taloran

    I loved the Ken Burns Jazz series. I am also very much enjoying the Scorsese series. I am a much bigger blues fan than jazz fan (20 years ago the opposite was true) but I found the Burns series more educational (thus far.)

  • Eric Olsen

    T, you’re right about the educational side of it. Scorsese and his minions have made a big deal about the series being “impressionistic not pedantic,” and that has certainly been true. The book and the CDs assotiated with the series are much more educational than the films themselves.

  • jan herman

    Hate to disagree with you Eric, but I find the films in the blues series getting progressively worse. I think the best one was Scorsese’s on the first night of the series. The rest seem dull, though I love the music. They’re missed opportunities to me.
    — Jan Herman

  • Eric Olsen

    Disagree away! What would you do differently, how would the opportunity be better fulfilled?

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    For the interest in the blues to spread to the hoi polloi there need to be tie-ins, Mark. Ken Burns’ relationship with Starbucks’ Here Music and a special Borders Books pamphlet and CD series kept the material out there. I suspect it may have penetrated to people who never gave jazz a second thought before.

    A funny aside in regard to Burns is it was also the jazz films that got him kicked out of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

  • Eric Olsen

    MD, that is funny! Was he too sympathetic to the artistry of the descendents of the unpaid help?

    I think the marketing difference just comes down to Burns himself. Over the course of doing his films he has learned to be a great marketer and merchandiser. I don’t he’s ever had anything like the volume of products The Blues series has, though.