Hey there music lovers, it’s time for some video to go with our audio. Today, we’ll look at two recent DVD releases: B.B. King Live at Montreux 1993 and Jethro Tull: Living With The Past.
For those of you whose only reference to B.B. King is his appearance in the U2 film Rattle and Hum, it’s time for some education. King is one of the finest American blues guitarists, living or dead, whose distinctive soloing and soulful vocals influenced such rock legends as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck in addition to anyone who has ever played the blues. His Grammy award-winning version of Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins’ “The Thrill Is Gone” cemented his place as a star and a true crossover artist in the late sixties.
He reached out to rock audiences for the first of several times as the opening act for the Rolling Stones 1969 U.S. tour. His list of later collaborators is long and features Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King, Albert Collins, Robert Cray, Katie Webster, Gary Moore, Clapton and many others.
Live at Montreux 1993 finds the 68 year-old King fronting the B.B. King Blues Orchestra, a fine eight-piece band (trumpet, two saxophones, keyboards, percussion, guitar, bass and drums) that just cooks, whether they are taking on big-band blues like Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia” or King’s own 1964 R&B classic “Rock Me Baby.” Versatile and very talented, they are as good as it gets.
The 99 minute set is well-paced and includes King standards such as “Ain’t Nobody Home,” “Why I Sing the Blues” and “The Thrill Is Gone” along with “Since I Met You Baby” and “Playing With My Friends,” tunes from his then current album, Blues Summit.
The beautiful film quality and the 5.1 surround mix are bonuses to the outstanding performance. Live at Montreux 1993 is a top-notch old-school effort from a blues legend that is a guaranteed winner.
Now on to the franchise that is Jethro Tull.
24 different musicians have been members of Jethro Tull since their first album, This Was came out in 1968. 21 albums later, the only constant has been singer, flutist and main songwriter Ian Anderson.
Over the years, Tull’s original material has been the subject of several remasters, special editions, box sets, re-recordings and bonus takes, the list of which is exhausting in review. Anderson gives the people what they want (to borrow a phrase from Ray Davies) and that is the premise behind Living With The Past.
Presented in documentary style, the meat of the disc is live footage from the 2001 tour. Woven throughout are comments from and interviews with band members, road crew, and fans. Other musical segments include an acoustic performance with a string quartet, sound checks and three songs with the original Jethro Tull lineup of Mick Abrahams, Clive Bunker, Glenn Cornick and Anderson.
Bonus features (you knew they were coming!) are plentiful: Anderson performing live and separately with Fairport Convention and Uriah Heep, a photo gallery, video outtakes, a virtual ticket window, and a PSA from Anderson about the dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Overall, the band sounds strong, the setlist does a good job of highlighting the deep Tull catalog, and there is a lot of variety over 100 minutes which makes this an interesting package for the casual fan as well as the hardcores. The 1968 reunion footage is great and could have been the beginnings of a disc by itself.
Originally released in 2002 on the Varese Sarabande label and subsequently going out of print, Eagle Rock Entertainment is to be credited for bringing it back to the band’s catalog. However, a little money should have been invested to bring this up to today’s 16x9 video and 5.1 Surround Audio standards. The absence of both makes this DVD stand out for the wrong reasons.