Lightning in a Bottle (2004) Poster

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A Diverse Offering Of Blues Talent; Don't Overlook The Extra Songs
ccthemovieman-13 August 2007
Overall, this recent concert was good and offered a wonderful group of diverse artists. I had never heard of about a half dozen of these performers and really liked a lot of the "new" faces (to me). They ranged from a few old-time gentlemen to a couple of young women. Macy Gray blew me away with her rendition of "Hound Dog."

I also had no idea Natalie Cole could belt out the blues as she did. Wow, that was a pleasant surprise, as were the two Aerosmith performers, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry. I thought they were just rock/heavy metal-type guys. Wrong. Kim Wilson on harmonica was great, and Buddy Guy playing guitar is always awesome.

How about the band? There were some heavy hitters in there and they left no doubt what a great time they were having helping out most of these performers.

The only negative to this DVD, as a few others have pointed out, is the ridiculous rendition by Chuck D of a John Lee Hooker classic. Plus, he made things worse by turning the song into some really lame anti-war diatribe. This is where the expression, "Shut Up And Sing" takes hold. There is always some moron who has to get political, where it's not the forum for that sort of thing. The real question is, "Why was this included in the DVD while so much other good music was not included?"

Anyway, B.B. King finishes up the disc on a positive note and then Bonnie Raitt and Robert Cray join him as the ending credits roll.

This is more of a concert than a documentary but the songs are short, too short for my tastes since I enjoyed them so much but, hey, there were a lot of "acts" to squeeze into this 103- minute DVD, so I understand. I'd rather have paid more and had a two-disc DVD and heard the entire night's offering. That would be awesome.

Speaking of that, don't forget the extra bonus tracks on the "features" part of the DVD. There is some excellent music in this, some of it, I found, better than many of the performances on the main concert. The two Aerosmith dudes, Greg Allman and guitarist Warren Haynes, Buddy Guy doing another number and a "21st Century Blues" rendition of "Revelation," featuring Chris Thomas King. These extra songs are not to be missed.

Any fan of blues, I would suspect, would want this in his or her collection.
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A treat for Blues lovers
penseur28 July 2004
Most of the big names in American blues music, certainly the black exponents, get glimpsed in this tribute show - and if they didn't attend, mainly because they are deceased, there is archive footage of them. Although a concert, the film manages to become a documentary as well and reasonably chronological. Obviously you can't expect this condensed film to be comprehensive about a subject this big with so many artists, but it makes a good try. The artists and their performances I guess are a matter of personal taste, but I enjoyed most of them. The borders between blues, soul and rock are rather blurred sometimes, but there are lots of people who resist categorization. Standouts for me were Buddy Guy's rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Red House" (Hendrix was actually a big fan of Buddy Guy) and BB King's fret work right at the end. For blues lovers it's a must see; for those who don't know much about it, this film is a good introduction. Try to see it in a cinema with a good sound system.
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The essence of the Blues
terrastar15 January 2005
Lightning in a Bottle was not exactly what I expected. I went into the film expecting more of a documentary, and came out with more of a concert film. Yes, there were bits of history in the film, which were well presented. I am not terribly knowledgeable on the blues; just having enjoyed the music rather than learning it's history. Regardless of what I expected versus what I got, I enjoyed the film.

My favorite scene was simply a great camera angle. Watching Buddy Guy play, from below the guitar, while the light streamed between his deftly moving fingers gave me a feeling that is difficult to describe. Something about the light, and the music, and the hands that brought me there.

Several of the musical numbers were outstanding, notably Buddy Guy, BB King, Natalie Cole and Bonnie Raitt. I also enjoyed some of the "oldsters" like Hooker and Clarence Gatemouth Brown.

When Angélique Kidjo convinced Buddy Guy to come back on stage and accompany her on "Voodoo Chile" I was amazed! She was so full of energy, and she had that old pro wrapped around her tiny finger as she strutted on stage. To me, the performance was electric, and the smile on Guy's face makes me think he agreed.

I also enjoyed watching India.Arie perform Strange Fruit. Her voice is soothing, and there was an underlying passion that I think embodies the blues.

As for Lightning in a Bottle...I think it was described in the film, but not named specifically. It was said that you can write down all the lyrics, and the notes, there is still unmistakably something not present on the page. It takes a blues artist to find the missing essence and infuse it into the performance. If we could bottle it, we'd be millionaires, huh?
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A Dream for Blues Lovers
claudio_carvalho5 February 2012
On 07 February 2003, fifty artists are gathered in a concert in the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, for one of the greatest tribute to the blues. Produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Antoine Fuqua, this concert and documentary entwines wonderful songs with interviews and footages, for example, of John Lee Hooker that died in 2001.

I have just seen this wonderful tribute on DVD and I dare to say that it is a must-see and mandatory in any collection of blues lover. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "A História do Blues" ("The History of the Blues")
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Lightning In A Bottle..... Yes! it's about time.
bluesdude8 March 2005
I rented this DVD tonight, and was extremely impressed with the entire program. An amazing house band led by drummer extrodinare Steve Jordan, backing the absolute cream of the crop of blues legends. Not to mention some surprising performances by some new artists paying homage to the greats of the blues. Being a huge blues fan for at least 25 years, I was shocked to accidentally run across this DVD in my local video store. For one, I didn't even know it had been made..and I was also amazed that our video store had the good taste to stock it on their shelves. My next move is to buy a copy for my own collection. One of the strangest things to me is that some of the best songs on this collection are only found in the bonus tracks and did not make the feature. For example an incredible version of "The Sky Is Crying" by Warren Haynes (one of the greatest white guitarists alive) and the legendary Gregg Allman. Plus some other great gems, from Buddy Guy and others. If you love the blues, do yourself a favor and see this movie. I plan on seeing it many more times myself. A totally inspirational music film for lovers of ANY music. I give it two thumbs up and the rest of my fingers too.
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Fantastic Docu-Concert about the Blues!
HowardFranklinJr16 June 2005
I really enjoyed this movie. It was a mixture of Blues history, music, interviews and historical footage - heavy on the Blues music. It was a treat to have some of the oldies, especially Buddy Guy, getting intense and passionate while doing their music. "Voodoo Chile" was magical. I also enjoyed the younger/newer artists doing covers on some of the songs. I would have given this movie a "9 or 10" except for one inappropriate performance. Chuck D did his sloppy version of one of the classics and used it to interject his negative opinion of President Bush. It didn't fit the rest of this "classy" film. I highly recommend this film to anyone that likes the Blues. It would be an especially good film to watch with a few music-loving friends because it feels like you're getting a personal concert. Check it out!
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Roots to Rock - A wonderful blues review
bovee-325 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Just in case you're going to be upset if I talk about the artists in a music compilation DVD, I've indicated there are spoilers. Personally, I'd find that a strange attitude, but you never know...

I've seen some of the really negative comments about this film after having taken a chance on it at the local rental shop. Yes, rockumentaries have a bad rep - this film doesn't deserve it. However, if you buy or rent it hoping to learn how to play like Buddy Guy, B.B.King, Joe Perry, Herbert Sumlin, or any of the many other musicians featured here, don't. It is a DELIGHTFUL and really enjoyable collection of excellent performances by a wide variety of artists, and if you like the blues and don't expect an instructional video you won't be disappointed. On the DVD there are extra songs by Buddy Guy, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry, and a great number by 21st Century Blues. The acoustic piece on the main 'movie' by Guy is outstanding, with period still and film footage and sound of the song that was the roots of the song, a lead in where Buddy tells you the well worn story of his roots, and then you get this sparkling Muddy Waters piece performed by Buddy on acoustic. Tyler and Perry rip up their numbers and bring the place down. Killer. Absolutely killer. And for those of you wondering how and why Buddy Guy sometimes out-'Hendrixes' Hendrix, there is some historical background and footage on the Blues lineage that's of interest. And it isn't all about Buddy Guy; there is a wide range of vocal, acoustic and electric blues ranging from the early part of the century to the latter half. Some of it is straight up; most of it is made slightly more contemporary by the performers. The Billy Holiday piece is incredibly haunting...

If you're thinking about buying, rent it first. I wasn't planning on buying at all and I rented it. Now I'm seriously thinking about buying it.
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enjoyable documentary
Buddy-5117 July 2005
The thing that separates the Blues from many other types of music is that it is an art born of pain and suffering, of a collective experience that includes slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, discrimination and poverty. With all that to face, who wouldn't be singing the blues? Yet, as with any great art form, the suffering is only a part of the story. For the Blues derives its true energy and strength from the optimism and hope it exudes, that hope for a better future that resides in the human spirit even in the darkest of times. Through the years, the Blues has given voice to the powerless and helped change the world in ways that one never could have imagined a hundred years ago. That is its true legacy.

All of this has been effectively captured in "Lightning in a Bottle," a documentary about a concert held at Radio City Music Hall to commemorate one hundred years of the Blues. The concert organizers gathered some of the greatest legends still alive today - far too numerous to mention - to play and sing together and to pay tribute to the musical trailblazers who went ahead of them (artists like Leadbelly, Billie Holliday etc.). The concert itself has an almost "survey course" feel to it, charting the development and growth of the Blues from its roots in Africa to its flowering as the premiere art form and avenue of expression for millions of oppressed blacks in 20th Century America. The performances are accompanied by behind-the-scenes interviews with some of the artists present at the event as well as by old audio and film clips of many of the seminal performers from the past doing their thing in the recording studio or on stage. Thus, we are given a nicely balanced view of the Blues both past and present.

The musical performances are all first rate, although, in the interest of time, the sets are much shorter than any real Blues fan would probably like them to be. Still, it's great to hear the old standards being performed by world-renowned artists at the peak of their form. If you're a devotee, check out "Lightning in a Bottle." And if you're not a blues fan, check the film out anyway. You might just learn something and have a terrific time listening to all that great music at one and the same time.
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"Look at me!" instead of "Listen to me!"
Carl-1727 April 2005
I just got back from watching this movie and have to say I was quite disappointed. You have a stellar lineup of musicians who are going to show us a thing or (fifty) two about playing the blues, so what does Fuqua do? Alternate for most of the running time between sending his cameras all over the place and going in for tight closeups to watch people emote. It's even worse with the handling of the guitarists (disclaimer: I am one): show us what they're doing with their hands, not their faces. Better yet, show both. B.B. King is almost completely mishandled in this respect after he plays his intro.

This was always the worst thing about concert movies from the 1960s especially--the cameramen are always pointing in the wrong place. This, for example, is why the coverage of Jimi Hendrix in "Woodstock" is so terrible and why Austin City Limits, say, is consistently so great. It is about the MUSIC, folks--the performance is about everyone on stage and what they're doing with their whole body. Let them do their thing and don't try to juice it up by moving that camera all over the place. Scorsese knew this when he made "The Last Waltz" all those years ago--you would have thought he could have passed on a hint or two to Fuqua about how to make a concert film.

A case in point: my spoiler. Now, my spoiler is actually about singers, not the guitarists, though I won't spoil things totally by naming a name. Suffice it to say that a very famous comedian comes on stage to be the foil for Ruth Brown, Odetta (I think), and Natalie Cole (I think) when they sing, "Men Are Like Streetcars." See, they're supposed to sing these lines about how men are like dogs, and the comedian is on stage to react to everything for the enjoyment of one and all. Now, John Cleese in talking about the Monty Python movies once spoke about how to set up comedy shots. He pointed out that you pretty much always want a two-shot. That is, you want to see the person telling the joke and you want to see the person reacting in the same shot. This maintains the rhythm of the joke, as the two performers cue each other for greater effect. Send the shots back and forth and it's easy to lose the rhythm of the joke, the timing of the punchline.

Well, what do they do for "Lightning"? THEY ZOOM IN FOR CLOSEUPS AGAIN ON THE WOMEN AND DON'T SHOW THE COMEDIAN!!! We don't get to see the comedian reacting to the horrible things said about men AS THEY ARE BEING SAID. That's what's going to make them even funnier, and that's what's going to make him seem really funny, too! We lose the joke, we lose the reason for this guy being on stage, we lose the rhythm, we lose the timing. Oh, sure, we get the occasional cut back and forth, but the effect is simply not the same and the viewer is left wondering, "Why did he even come on the stage in the first place? He is a very funny man (oops, spoiler!) and that was about the most unfunny appearance of his I've ever seen--no, not 'unfunny,' but 'didn't even get a chance to be funny.'" What a waste. He's just comic relief, but the choices of camera angle and movement in his segment symbolize the cinematographic problems with the whole.

To top it all off, my sense is that a fair number of guitar solos were simply cut out. Either that, or a lot of folks were told not to do one. Goodness, the song John Fogerty played cries out for a long solo at the end, one he does in the original recorded performance and did again in his concert film (more satisfying than this film, but they should have shown more of his band--he ain't makin' all that noise up there by himself!). Where is it? Granted, the filmmakers doubtless wanted to get this one in under two hours, but a helluva a lot of the blues is about long jam sessions while everyone boogies down--and I'm not talking about 60s/70s rock version of the blues, either.

So, what you get with this movie is a lot of performances that are reasonably strong, a couple of weak ones, and a handful that are just great (Solomon Burke, the Neville Brothers, and the just-too-cool-for-words Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown come to mind instantly). All in all, however, the busy camera work spends more time screaming, "Look at me and all the places I can send a camera!" instead of just letting the music stand on its own. The truncations or cutaways that get made right when the music really kicks really dampen the overall effect (man, SHOW me Buddy Guy and Vernon Reid trading licks, not Angelique grooving to it--let us see WHAT she's grooving to without interference, nice though watching her shake her thing may be). I wouldn't buy the DVD even for the extra performances; this one is a renter. There's too many distractions even for the standout performances (look at that footage of Son House or Hooker from the 1950s--one camera, one focus, and far more compelling than most of the "Bottle" footage). It's definitely worth seeing once if you're into the blues, but there's nothing that demands you to go back and review it once the film has finished. And if you're a musician, you'll cry at the lost opportunity.
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What is Lightning in a Bottle?
cmgann17 December 2004
With all due respect to the blues legends that performed, and were celebrated in this documentary, it was awesome. I loved the camera angles, the lighting, the sound, as well.

During the viewing of this film, I was searching, listening, for the answer to the question its title sets up - what is "Lightning in a Bottle?" I just don't know - they never told it whiskey? I've yet to figure it out. If someone reading this caught the answer, please name it, for my attention failed.

However, there were things that were shown to me, that I feel could have with common nicety, been edited out. I didn't need to see Odetta, lady blues icon turned bitterness, stomp in and scream that Ruth Brown must not compete with a band. It was enough for me to notice her dramatic instability when she budged off stage following her own performance. Likewise, I didn't need to see Macy Gray asking someone what song she would be singing, and how she should sing it. First of all, who doesn't know "Hound Dog?" Second of all, it didn't do her justice to display her ignorance in this rudimentary phase of practice.

My last gripe - what a sad, sad tribute Chuck D displayed for John Lee Hooker. There was no homage in that, no reverence, or even dignity. He should be ultimately ashamed for taking a disc from the spine of blues and smashing it into such a blasphemous, desperate failure. Mr. Hooker must have rolled in his grave.

Back to the positive notes...Buddy Guy, as usual, was awesome. I even forgive him for coming back out to play while some band butchered Voodoo Chile. It was that performance made for one great camera shot in which I was looking up from the floor at his hand scratching away on his guitar. Clarence Gatemouth Brown was wonderful. I enjoyed him talking, and doing his thing on the stage. BB King gave a great and fitting finish.
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Blues music
q_imdb-4124 November 2004
penseur wrote about Buddy Guy's rendition of Jimi Hendrix's Red House. Red House is an old blues standard that a million people cover, so Guy wasn't covering Hendrix he was just playing Red House.

I don't mean to nitpick but it's frustrating when I see things like "Clapton's I Shot the Sheriff" or "Aerosmith's Train Kept A Rollin". Covering blues tracks is a fundamental, and great, part of rock and roll, but the songs should be remembered for what they are, not some mega-bands rendition of them. Led Zeppelin's first album was almost entirely blues covers and it was awesome. Those guys constantly give credit to the great American blues legends. Without them there is no Led Zeppelin.
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Better Heard than Seen.
eddiez6129 May 2008
Brother, the director totally blows. There's way too much close facial camera work and not enough actual musician work, as this brand of music demands. Every chance to show guitar wizardry, magical band interplay, or joyous group activity is squandered with MTV style ADHD spastic fast-cuts and illogical camera movements. Shame, damn shame. It's a fine DVD to put on to cook, read, or dance to, but way too frustrating to watch.

Also, don't expect to learn everything there is to know about the blues in one 2 hour DVD, even if they seem to suggest it's what they're attempting. As a record of ONE particular blues STUNT, it's OK. A TRUE blues event is a dive bar, a buzzing PA system, a dancing drunk grandmother, and unbelievably honest music.
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The blues
jotix1008 October 2005
This is a concert film more than a documentary. Anthony Fuqua directed a show that has been recorded for posterity and for those of us, unfortunate enough, not present in the audience. The whole purpose of the concert seems to be to pay a tribute to all the great musicians that have made the blues a musical genre that is unique. This is music derived from the pain of whoever is experiencing it, who obviously is going through a rough patch in life.

Some of the best interpreters of this type of music are seen on stage. Most of the old timers that performed have had distinguished careers and are still around to delight us, their fans with their renditions on these, mostly, sad songs in a way that gives us the viewers pleasure by watching them.

The best way to appreciate this film is to let it surround you and enjoy a couple of hours in excellent company.
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"So long as there's juice and pain, we got the blues".
classicsoncall5 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this on a cable telecast and not the DVD, so that's where this review is coming from. Still, there was a lot of great talent on display and as a blues fan I was suitably entertained. Keeping track of the numbers performed I counted twenty six songs with a handful of singers showing up more than once. Unfortunately there was no mention of when this tribute concert occurred (2/7/2003) during it's run time, so unless you research it yourself you wouldn't know, although that might not have been a problem with the DVD.

It's hard to come up with a favorite number out of the mix, but the ones that knocked me out included Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown on the 'Okie Dokie Stomp', Bobby Blue Bland with his 'Down in the Valley', and a more than respectable version of 'I'm a King Bee' by Steve Tyler on vocals with Joe Perry along side. Though the show plays more like a concert than a documentary, there are interludes and archival clips of deceased blues musicians like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters to lend perspective on the blues experience. I got a kick out of Solomon Burke's analysis of the difference between the old time neck bone circuit and the chitlin circuit that followed it chronologically. I won't ruin it here, you'll have to check it out.

With more than a decade gone by now since the original concert, it was a bit disconcerting to count off the musicians who have since passed away. They include B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Solomon Burke, Honeyboy Edwards, Odetta Holmes, Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, Levon Helm and most recently, Natalie Cole. As with all my reviews I try to pick out a meaningful quote that sums up the spirit or main theme of whatever I'm watching, so even though the one in my summary line was the best I could come up with, it's a little disappointing that it came not from one of the legendary blues artists, but from contemporary Bonnie Raitt, but I'll be darn if she didn't say it best.
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Lightning Strikes Gold!
anaconda-4065811 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Lightning in a Bottle (2004): Dir: Antoine Fuqua / Featuring: B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Ruth Brown, Natalie Cole: An extraordinary glimpse at blues within one magical night as numerous legends form one big concert. Documentary that may have helped better had it lent more to being so as oppose to an encore of musical moments. These moments are great but more background may have purposed better. Directed by Antoine Fuqua who pays tribute to not only blues music but also to the celebrated artists. This is a huge stretch for a director who previously brought to life such action thrillers as Bait and the wretched The Replacement Killers. B.B. King closes the concert reminding viewers why he is the best after all these years. He is joined with Bonnie Raitt who will also present her own version of the blues. There are a number of other artists participating in this concert as well including Buddy Guy and Ruth Brown. These performances serve as a reminder of raw talent without the trickery often plastered together by modern media and marketing. What is lacking is more interview time, which might have made this less like a concert and more as a documentary, which one assumes was the original plan. As it is, it can be appreciated by hardcore fans of the artists themselves. Perhaps a tad long but a great showcase of musical talent in its highest form. Score: 8 / 10
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Excellent, except for one small segment, almost perfect!
ealbanoski10 October 2013
Just wow! I never saw this movie until recently, and I was completely blown away by the stories behind the artists and songs. Having been a blues DJ on the radio, and having MC'd a few blues festivals, I was waiting for the tributes to some of my favorites, some that I met and even interviewed, such as Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. This would have received a perfect 10 from me if it wasn't for the Tribute to John Lee Hooker, which was a disgrace. I interviewed John on my radio show and he would have spit in the eyes of Chuck D., who completely ruined it for me. What an idiot. He used this wonderful concert to go political - anti-Bush, anti-government, and anti-war. He even had the audacity to change the lyrics to "Boom Boom" to suit his cause, and his band sucked as well. It's too bad the political crap ruined this show like it did. I would have rather seen John Lee Hooker's daughter, Zakiya Hooker, there and singing her father's greatest hits. But as usual, Hollywood producers have to inject their liberal ideology into art, which completely distorts it into a whining, disrespectful rant. It was a crying shame, someone ought to write a blues song about Chuck D.'s stupid presentation. They could call it, "No Talent Blues."
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It changes you, the way music should.
jorjeanag25 January 2013
It is a fantastic musical anthology in live performances by gifted musicians and singers which tells the history of music in America. More than that, it gives insight into the plight of Black Americans and the unbelievable fortitude of the human spirit to overcome centuries of oppression. Beautiful pictorial scenes add to the story as the performers demonstrate just how very important music is to stave up human resolve. Yet, it's content is not heavy, but instead is a well-woven balance of truth, instruction and celebration. It sticks with you. The performers are national treasures like Solomon Burke, Buddy Guy, BB King and yes, Steven Tyler. Try to watch it without crying, laughing and dancing. Then buy the soundtrack because the music is the story, after all.
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Actually, Red House is a Hendricks song...
rickmbari8 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know that there can be a spoiler for a movie with no plot surprises, but I do make specific reference to particular performances of particular songs...

The complaint about penseur attributing "Red House" to Jimi Hendrix is misplaced. As Buddy Guy starts the song, the subtitle says "Originally performed by Jimi Hendrix." In an interview, Guy himself talks about hearing the song for the first time - by Hendrix. Then back on stage, he again credits the song to Jimi. And yes, Zeppelin (then performing as the Yardbirds) started out as a blues band, but unfortunately Page and Plant all too often did NOT give the original writers credit for the songs. They have gotten into legal hot water over that on occasion.

That said, this is a wonderful film about the blues and bluesmen. The back-to-back Hendrix songs (Red House and Voodoo Child) are a high point, but the climax has to be B. B. King's performance of Sweet Sixteen. I've never been a huge aficionado of the blues, but I'm going to buy the DVD of this film, which is thoroughly enjoyable both as a concert film and as a documentary.
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