It's hard to belief that blues Legend B.B. King will turn 90 years-old next year and still tours the world, "three weeks on; three weeks off". Until recently he would play over 300 nights each year.
Surprisingly, no one had made a filmed bio of his life and career - until now, that is. This new film (2014) has been making rounds of the film festivals and now comes to home video on Bluray and DVD (and there is a companion CD as well - from universal Music Group. (I was provided an advance screener of the BD). (UPDATE 6/17- There will not be a physical CD release of the soundtrack; it will only be available as download with no notes or booklet.)
This is a must see for anyone interested in the blues, whether pioneers like Robert Johnson, Bukka White (B.B. King's cousin) or the other famous blues "King"s - Albert and Freddie, or even "the next generation" like Clapton, Jonny Lang or Derek Trucks. Director Jon Brewer weaves some archival interviews with lots of contemporary ones along with historic photos (most, it seems from the B.B. King Museum in Mississippi). Brewer got nearly every one you can think of (and some who don't often give interviews) to sit down and tell their stories. Let me start with just a FEW folks who he got on camera: Ringo Starr, LeonRRussell, Dr. John, Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Green, Rufus Thomas, Johnny Winter, Slash, Carlos Santana, Bono, Aaron Nevelle, Susan Teseschi, Derek Trucks and Micj Taylor. Impressed? You should be. Most has a chance to play with, or record with King.
But there are not just celebrities here. B.B.'s 2nd wife discusses the effect of his touring on their marriage and relatives and original band members are here too.
The basic film ruins 123 minutes and that is long for a documentary. But Brewer had to leave almost 30 minutes of interviews (with the celebrities) on the cutting room floor and there are 13 bonus interviews - each just over two minutes - in the "Bonus section". The other bonus feature is "Live at Royal Albert Hall" which has King singing (not playing) the traditional song "See That My Grave is Kept Clean", with a NOLa beat, on stage with Tedeschi, Trucks, Ron Wood, and Slash, followed by his major hit "The Thrill Is Gone", where he plays Lucille but leaves the solos to Slash. This clip runs about eight minutes. Since the documentary has no room for full performances, these two numbers give you a chance to hear a whole song.
The visuals and sound on the BD are great. The BD and DVD are not being released by any of the major video labels but, rather, by Music Video Distributors. This title is a real coup for MVD. (I'm not sure why the majors didn't grab it.) As noted above "Mr. King" - and Lucille - are still touring and still making music. As King says in the most recent interviews included (many King interviews over a 30 year period are expertly pieced together by Brewer to address an issue), he'll just keep playing till he just can't play no more.
Five Stars all the way!
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.