HOME   News   Reviews   Adv Search   Features   My DVD   About   Apps   Stats     Search:
  Directed by
  • Full Frame
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • None
  • 4 Teaser trailer
Willie Dixon - I Am the Blues
Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 60 mins . E . PAL


In the history of the blues, which stretches back as far as the early days of the last century, there have been a handful of names that even the most casual of music fans will recognise. Greats such as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker are household names, and rightly so, but there are plenty of other artists whose influence, dominance and affiliation with the blues is equally as significant, or more so, yet their names are far less-well known. Willie Dixon is one such name.

Born in 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Dixon was already a respected musician and songwriter by his teens, writing and selling songs to local, established acts. He learnt his craft as so many blues greats did, from just listening, improvising, embellishing and doing things their own way because there was no precedent set. Dixon learnt much of his craft from a local carpenter and part-time muso who helped Dixon develop his deep voice into an effective harmonising instrument.

Dixon was a more than competent singer, writer, bass player, guitarist and eventually producer. As a young man he joined a number of small blues bands, and eventually ended up in Chicago. It was at this point that Dixon’s life almost took another path. As a boxer, he showed enormous potential and won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship. Thanks to blues-legend, Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston, Dixon ditched the boxing career and concentrated on music.

His early recording career was disrupted when he refused to join the services, and was imprisoned. After serving time, his career picked up, but sadly he was never really financially rewarded for his achievements He became a founding artist in the Chess Label which was to blues what Sun Records was to rock and roll. Writing for, and playing with, artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Bo Diddley and Otis Rush, amongst others, still didn't reap Dixon the financial benefits it should have.

It wasn’t until later in his career that such matters where somewhat righted when Dixon started to take more control over his work, releasing records under his own name, and had more commercial artists such as the Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds cover his work.

Not even declining health, and the loss of a leg to diabetes could keep Dixon down, and he lived to the age of 76, which isn’t too bad compared to many other blues artists of the era.

Dixon’s contribution to the history of the blues should not be underestimated. Many artists of supposed higher stature owe a great deal to this great man.

This DVD combines a 1984 intimate live performance with the Chicago Blues All-stars mixed with what appears to be interview footage recorded around the same time. The trouble is that the interviews tend to spring up mid-song, and many of the songs end in a Willie Dixon babble about mankind and the state of the world. I am not convinced this DVD does the man true justice, but as there is precious little quality material around of blues legends such as this, it will have to suffice.


Hmm. This full frame presentation is bordering on acceptable. The image is very soft and almost fuzzy at times. When the camera is still, the image is a little stronger and more defined, but when it pans, look out! The image breaks up and looks decidedly shaky. Colours have that very ’70s VHS look, with colouring all over the place, effected by bleeding and some quite significant chroma noise. The picture is relatively clean, however, though there are a few minor analogue tape glitches.

Skin tones are a little dark, as is the overall image. Shadow detail is quite poor, and black levels are effected by noise. There is no layer change and no evidence of aliasing or shimmer. Sadly, there is very little else to be said in its favour.

Thankfully, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio was a lot better than at first expected. I was anticipating one of the thin, reedy and tinny mono audio tracks that gets pushed 5.1 directions, and while it is not of reference quality, it is streets ahead of the video image which I guess is more important, certainly for audiophiles.

The rear speakers are used mainly for filling up the room and, as this is essentially a stereo recording, there is very little in the way of audio gymnastics. The sound is not overly separated and is a little flat sounding in places. The music is quite stripped back, so at least there are not countless musicians fighting for space. Vocals are mostly audible, though a little muffled, and when these guys have such poor diction to start with, it can really test a listener.

There is some low-level hiss that really doesn’t interfere to any degree, and there are no dropouts, pops, or issues with synchronisation. For an older recording (1984) that was only ever a stereo recording at most, this holds up reasonably well. I would still recommend piping the audio to just left and right front channels if possible. It improves the overall sound ever so slightly.

The only extras are a two-page discography that lists some of the more essential Willie Dixon albums, and some Madman Propaganda for some blues-themed music biography/performances for Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters and Lead Belly.

Blues fans really will appreciate the chance to see this legend in action. Sadly the video quality is not first rate, although the audio isn’t too bad.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3139
  • Send to a friend.
  • Do YOU want to be a DVDnet reviewer? If so, click here

    Cast your vote here: You must enable cookies to vote.
  •   And I quote...
    "Blues legend Willie Dixon gets up close and personal in this mix of interview and intimate live performance."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
      Recent Reviews:
    by Terry Kemp

    The Boondock Saints
    "This ‘Tarentino-coulda-been’ film is pretty damned enjoyable..."

    Take the Money and Run
    "... will appeal to die-hard Woody Allen fans but be lucky to earn passing interest from most."

    Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - The Christmas Specials
    "By this stage, you either love or hate Frank Spencer and nothing in this review is going to change that…"

    Beyond Imagination - Pyramid. Colosseum. Pompeii
    "This triumvirate of features is a great addition to any collection and sure to offer something to adults, children and armchair historians everywhere…"

    Empires - Islam: Empire of Faith
    "…forget the “Be Alert – Be Alarmed” campaign (or whatever the fridge magnet assault suggested) and try – “Be Informed”."

      Related Links
      None listed


    Search for Title/Actor/Director:
    Google Web dvd.net.au
       Copyright © DVDnet. All rights reserved. Site Design by RED 5