The Sexy Intellectual label is rapidly bidding to overtake Eagle Vision as the prime serious historical review agent of the rock and roll genre. Now, as owner of, at last count, 60-plus Eagle Vision DVDs, I do not say that lightly. More, as a critic and writer, I'm obliged to enshrine the worthy and relate magnitudes of excellence. With each new release, Sexy Intellectual improves its position and further cements a long-overdue recognition of rock as an aesthetic subject worthy of academic study…here in the oral tradition granting insights no journalist could hope to equal. Ahhhhh, but then there's also the non-authorized status of this document, which, frankly, should be one of the most credible of badges of legitimacy for any critic worth his or her salt (which is to say: not many).
This extremely engrossing look-see at Eric Clapton's seminal period is crammed full of unexpected and essential viewpoints from such diverse origins as Tom McGuinness, Neil Innes, Top Topham, an array of diverse minds not normally consulted but who were right there in the thick of it, lo those many years ago. It also carries the very well known (John Mayall, Chris Dreja, etc.) and a man perennial to these overview gigs, the nasal, pedantic, Oxford drawling Alan Clayson...who, I must hasten to note, is absolutely fearless in turning over rocks to reveal the underside of not only the business but some of the rockers themselves, his portraiture of Mayall qua Mayall rather unflattering but extremely revelatory. Nigel Williamson is likewise quite forward in his opinings, forwarding facts not in common knowledge, and thus the viewer begins to become expert. There's also a wealth of photographs and performance clips, most of which hardly anyone has seen unless they've lived as research journalists. In short, this DVD is a generous 2-hour extravaganza; we're talking cornucopia here.
Cinematically, the editing is superb, smoothly flowing from comment to comment and interlude to interlude with suave voiceover bridging segments where necessary and propitious. For those eschewing the bookish end of things (often with good reason, considering the so-called acumen of the bulk of rock scribes), no better orientation can be had, and, with such enterprises, you get a pictorial deluge. The history is almost moment by moment with analysis aplenty and intimate anecdotes provided by the Turks who were creating the vanguard.
In Review, the stories of Clapton's soul-deep seriousness regarding blues are pretty much set in stone, with a few mildly dissenting opinions to the side. One begins to see where, especially during the Yardbird years, ironically enough, as Eric was resistant to a good deal of the direction there, the guitarist was adapting to modern times and heading towards Cream. Interesting is the view by Clapton himself that he was "edged out" of the hitmaking Yardbird members, though he's the only one minded that way. The story carries on from there, landing in terra very firma by the time E.C. joins Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and I'll leave the delicious rest to the aficionado to discover but pause to re-emphasize that (probably especially to we of the Boomer generation) this sort of video is particularly toothsome, and one can only hope to see it applied even more broadly in the future, both to the famed and the not-so-famous (after getting ahold of a documentary on the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, I'd dearly love to see Golden Earring, Nazareth, and many others treated in similar manner).
Ultimately, though, due to the intensity of Clapton himself, In Review is unutterably fascinating, perhaps the only venue in which black blues are properly interpolated into what became dirty white boy blues launched from the Chicago sound.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles