DVD Reviews

Sacred Steel

Arhoolie Foundation

 One of the most joyful films you'll ever watch is SACRED STEEL, filmed on location and exploring the steel guitar tradition of the House of God churches.

 We viewed this dvd as a group to give us the feel of watching it in a small movie theater: we laughed, we cried, we tapped our feet, we talked: "What did he say?" "That's a peddled steel - they usually play lap steels in the House of God churches." "Wow - they have two steel guitarists in this group" (The Campbell Brothers), "Man, can she sing - it's like Aretha Franklin without the 'Baby oh Baby'."

 SACRED STEEL bounces between live playing in church and interviews of the artists explaining what they do and their influences.

 After the film concluded I asked our group what they thought: "Much too short," was one response, and "I wanted to know so much more, I'm really interested now, even though I never knew this music existed before."

 That just about sums it up best, I think: something so good you just want more.

 Most people would not want to watch and listen to more than 55 minutes of music and documentary on a culture foreign to them - but SACRED STEEL is an exception: it grabs you and holds your interest, and leaves you wanting more, just like the best performers do in concert.

 My only criticism of this dvd is the special features section, which just shows the same section of film again - not extra footage which we all desperately wanted. 

 More! More!


Mariza Live in London

Times Square Records

 Who is Portugal's greatest female fado singer now that Amalia Rodriguez is gone? Many people say it's Mariza, the Mozambique-born singer who has taken Lisbon by storm.

 Mariza's parents opened a restaurant in one of Lisbon's most traditional neighborhoods: it was here that the little girl who would become Mariza learned to sing a very traditional style of fado.

 But can a singer who wears a radical haircut and strange, somewhat outlandish dresses and who goes  by only one name (ala Cher) really be a great singer, not a freak show? For the answer, pop MARIZA LIVE IN LONDON in the box and close your eyes: wow, she can sing - she's definitely one of the greatest fado singers ever recorded.

 In case you're not familiar with fado, it literally translates as 'fate': it's a very emotional music style with much pathos and sadness and it gets compared to the blues quite a bit, but think of country music weepers and you're closer to it.

 Any female fado singer gets compared to Amalia Rodriguez, Portugal's answer to Patsy Cline.

  Mariza does one of Amalia's songs on this dvd and although very enjoyable, it suffers slightly compared to the original - not to say it's not good; it's very good - but Mariza shines on the other tunes not associated with Amalia.

 Some of the notes she hits! She could have been an opera signer if she was so inclined - and we fado fans are grateful for her focus!

Live! And More

Johnny Clegg with Savuka & Juluka
Eagle Rock Entertainment  www.eaglerockent.com

 If you are a fan of South African music or a politically aware person who supported the anti-apartheid movement in south Africa, you're probably well aware of Johnny Clegg - or maybe you're just a music fan who heard one or more of Johnny's cross-over hits on the radio or in a music store.

 Either way, you will love this long-awaited dvd JOHNNY CLEGG WITH SAVUKA & JULUKA LIVE! AND MORE: not only do you get to hear those fabulous songs, but you get to see Johnny and his bands perform live, as well as music videos from Savuka and Johnny's original band Juluka with Sipho Michuno.

 A big thrill for us was watching Juluka live in Cape Town before a huge integrated audience: this was before the fall of apartheid, when an integrated band like Juluka was very rare, controversial, and frankly dangerous (Johnny is white, Sipho is black).

 Juluka began as a duo performing Zulu music, then evolved into a full band playing Zulu music, later bringing in folk rock elements similar to Jethro Tull.

 Sipho retired (temporarily, it turned out), Johnny then introduced more modern elements as well as other African influences other than Zulu, changing the band name to Savuka.

 Personnel changed a great deal over thirty-some years: some members are no longer alive, and Johnny pays tribute to them in note and song.

 A great thrill of a lifetime experience for Clegg was performing 'Asimbongana', the song he wrote for and about Nelson Mandela's imprisonment, and having Mr. Mandela himself dance out on to the stage and praise the great music: a very touching, thrilling rare moment captured on JOHNNY CLEGG WITH SAVUKA & JULUKA LIVE!

 Johnny explains most of this and more in an interview later in the DVD.

 This DVD means as much historically as the complete Bob Dylan, or complete Beatles recordings and videos.

 There probably won't be a Volume II of this video but if there were, we'd be first in line. Can you wear out a DVD? We hope not: newcomers and old fans alike who select JOHNNY CLEGG LIVE! will want to view it again and again: it's a keeper and a classic.