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Red, White and Blues

Martin Scorsese

℗ 2003 Hip-O Records 60249 80773

℗ 2012 barin.livejournal.com BR LLI 85176

Martin Scorsese  2003  Red, White and Blues

Director Mike Figgis' documentary Red, White & Blues, one of the seven parts of the PBS-TV series The Blues presented by Martin Scorsese, is ironically named, since it actually concerns itself with the British response to American blues music, among other styles. Truth be told, the British, appreciating American music of the 1950s and earlier entirely through recordings, have always tended to mix things up, failing to acknowledge distinctions between jazz, blues, gospel, folk, and R&B that Americans take for granted. Figgis illustrates this tendency in his choices of vintage music, which draw upon the likes of Louis Armstrong, Big Bill Broonzy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Miles Davis, and Ray Charles, not to mention the homegrown Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group's frantic aping of Leadbelly on the hit 'Rock Island Line.' Relatively little of this music is what an American blues fan would call blues, except in the sense of roots and influences. Figgis adds to this eclecticism the core band he assembled and filmed for the documentary, the performances of which are interspersed with the older tracks here. The band itself, led by Jeff Beck, is unobjectionable, but Americans may be taken aback by the singers, Tom Jones, largely thought of stateside as a Las Vegas lounge entertainer, and Lulu, who is remembered in the U.S., if at all, as the '60s pop singer of 'To Sir With Love.' (Van Morrison, who appears in the film, is not on the soundtrack.) Thankfully, there are also selections from British blues-rock legends such as Fleetwood Mac (in its Peter Green era, of course), John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, and Cream. But the overall selection is still one that will make American listeners marvel at the oddities of British taste.