BRUCE, JACK - The 50th Birthday Concerts - DVD - MIG Music - 2014
This celebration of Jack Bruce's life is an excellent way to pay tribute to
the artist who has passed away in 2014.
Filmed in 1993, this video release (2 DVDs on the standard release reviewed
here, 3 DVDs on the special edition) documents two consecutive evenings in
which Bruce celebrated his 50th birthday by performing live with many of the
musicians who accompanied him throughout his different musical endeavors.
Don't expect perfect takes here, as this impassioned performance
appropriately represents the bassist's musical agenda. Bruce - renowned for his
role in the supergroup Cream - has conducted most of his a career in less popular realms, experimenting with blues, jazz and even a bit of avant garde music.
The program starts with a slightly limping cello solo by Bruce, which you
can skip. Things improve noticeably when Bruce approaches the piano to play the
instrumental "FM" and the ballad "Can You Follow?." On the latter, Bruce reveals his sensitive vocal
performance is in top form, and this is reaffirmed on later numbers such as his
duet with Maggie Reilly "Ships in the Night" (released the same year
these concerts took place) or "Bird Alone," on which he once again
sings to the sounds of piano (before a blistering attack commences, with Gary
Husband ripping through the drum set). In fact, some of the best, most driven
and expressive singing we've ever heard by Bruce is found in this release.
His musical companions come and go. Gary Husband teams up with Bruce on the
piano, before drummer Ginger Baker (also of Cream fame) and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith (of Colosseum)
hold a jazzy jam session (including numbers off Bruce's 1970 Things We Like) that
might not be impressive but serves as a warm up for future events and
demonstrates the musicians' joyful state of mind.
Things get tighter when the criminally underrated guitarist Clem Clempson join for "First Time I Met The Blues,"
showcasing his definitive blues rock chops as an answer to Heckstall-Smith's
trademark trick of playing two saxes simultaneously. It is the same Clemspon who later joins Bruce and Baker as a stand in for
Clapton in an excellent set of Cream songs. Few of these are soon repeated,
along with others, only this time in footage from the second evening in which
Gary Moore stepped in on guitar. It is interesting to contrast the two players,
as Moore utilizes more distorted and fleshy tones, and the inclusion of the two
sets is definitely welcome, and can be appreciated even by the casual listener
due to the riveting performances.
For those who want to see Bruce in his most natural and most enthusiastic
form while sampling from his varied repertoire - this is an extremely good
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