Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Sights and Sounds: Eric Clapton, 1960s San Francisco Sound, Duke Ellington

A fantastic film showcasing highlights from Eric Clapton's series of shows staged at London's Royal Albert Hall in the early 1990s is coming to movie theaters on May 17, as well as a DVD title revisiting the "San Francisco Sound" of the 1960s and a reissue of two Emmy-nominated programs celebrating the legacy of Duke Ellington are showcased in my column this week.

Artist: Eric Clapton
Title: Across 24 Nights (Warner Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins
Tell me more: In 1990 and 1991, singer-songwriter/guitar master Eric Clapton played a record-breaking 24 nights at London's Royal Albert Hall. These unique concert events featuring blues, rock and orchestral sets are revisited via Eric Clapton: Across 24 Nights; the global cinema event arrives on Wednesday, May 17 with an encore showing on Sunday, May 21. 
Eric Clapton: Across 24 Nights features standout performances from the run of shows staged more than 30 years ago, and the restored visual and audio quality of the performances shines throughout the outstanding performances. A who's who of top-tier guests are featured performing with Clapton, further elevating the magic of the film. Early highlights of the film include an inspired take on the Cream classic "Crossroads," reggae-tinged take on the Bob Marley and the Wailers favorite "I Shot the Sheriff" featuring drummer Phil Collins, ambitious rocker "White Room," a funk-flavored "Tearing Us Apart" (elevated by the guest vocals of Katie Kissoon and Nathan East's bass playing), and a three-song run where blues greats including Jimmy Vaughan, Albert Collins, Johnnie JohnsonJerry Portnoy and Buddy Guy share the limelight. When Clapton and his bandmates team up with conductor Michael Kamen and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Clapton standards take on a new life that frequently reveals new emotional and sonic layers. Indeed, a lavish take on "Holy Mother," poignant "Wonderful Tonight" (the latter showcasing Clapton's nuanced guitar playing and strong lead vocals) and soaring "Layla" are truly memorable via the symphonic readings featured in the fast-moving film. To see a movie theater location near you and purchase tickets to Eric Clapton: Across 24 Nights, visit www.ericclaptoncinema.com.

Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title: A Night At The Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole (Mercury Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Santana
Tell me more: Anyone wanting to travel back in time to glimpse the musical forces that launched the so-called "San Francisco Sound" in the late 1960s is in luck. Mercury Studios has just released an essential two-DVD set featuring "A Night At The Family Dog" (1970), "Go Ride The Music" (1969) and "West Pole" (1969); the trio of Ralph J. Gleason psychedelic-drenched television documentaries feature the groundbreaking artists who forged a new sound. Watching the three documentaries is a bona fide treat; the viewer will get to see freewheeling performances from Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and others. Among the terrific performances from Jefferson Airplane featured on "Go Ride The Music" are a tuneful "We Can Be Together," rollicking "Volunteers" and reworked "Somebody To Love." Quicksilver Messenger Service showcases their rootsy Americana brew via the Gram Parsons-flavored "Somebody's Crying" and winning "Subway." "A Night At The Family Dog" finds Carlos Santana and his band firing up a sonic firestorm via "Soul Sacrifice," while the Grateful Dead performs a version of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" and their own "China Cat Sunflower" segueing into "I Know You Rider." Additionally, artist interviews shed additional insight into the important period in music history. Collectively, the three specials that fill the two discs provide an eye-opening look back at the late 1960s. Information: mercurystudios.co.

Duke Ellington
Title: Love You Madly + A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, 20th century jazz
Tell me more: Jazz lovers will want to add the new title "
Love You Madly + A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral" to their music library. Indeed, history comes alive via the new DVD which features two programs focused on jazz icon Duke Ellington. "Love You Madly" is a 1965 profile of Ellington, who was acclaimed for his role as a composer, pianist, conductor and bandleader. In addition to insightful interviews, there is performance footage captured at a number of different locations; musical selections featured on that program include "Take The 'A' Train," "In My Solitude" and "Sophisticated Lady." The hour-long "A Concert of Sacred Music" is a historic program filmed on location at the premier performance on Sept. 16, 1965; Ellington put together the program for the consecration of the Grace Cathedral, which was finally ready after decades of stop-start reconstruction following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. The individual selections fuse classical, jazz, spirituals, blues, gospel and dance. Highlights include "In The Beginning, God," "Ain't But The One," "The Lord's Prayer" and "David Danced Before The Lord." Although next year will mark the 50th anniversary since Ellington's death, the jazz great's music and legacy is sure to endure; "Love You Madly + A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral" goes a long way to make sure discerning music aficionados gain a greater appreciation of Ellington. Information: mercurystudios.co.

Robert Kinsler

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