Music

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues

Adam Williams

Slip sliding away... A look back at bottleneck blues' power and passion.


Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues

Label: World Music Network
US Release Date: 2005-04-26
UK Release Date: 2005-04-25
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One of the most overlooked (and subsequently underappreciated) subgenres of music is that of bottleneck blues, more readily known as slide. Evoking images of chain gangs and plantation fields, musky swamps and dusty back roads, bottleneck slide was an offshoot of Delta Blues and an exquisite aural canvas for the deep South of the early 20th century. The sound was organic, falling uncomfortably between melancholy and mean, and attracted many of the greatest blues players of the era. Even second- and third-generation fret board artisans were drawn to the haunting nature of bottleneck; think of Duane Allman and Jimi Hendrix using everything from shot glasses to beer cans in an effort to recreate the sound of their bluesy forefathers. Now, with the release of The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues, committed aficionados and casual observers can indulge themselves equally in this collection of beautifully gritty treasures from the past (and present).

Serving as a solid primer in Bottleneck 101, the CD boasts 22 varied tracks, each resonating in its own special way. The diversity of the collection dismisses any notion that slide was a rudimentary mechanical trick incorporated to elicit tonal nuances; bottlenecking may have been conceptually simple, but the actual art of sliding was far more complex. Listeners can judge for themselves by comparing the juke and jive twang of Blind Willie Johnson's "God Moves On the Water" and Kokomo Arnold's "The Twelves (Dirty Dozens) " with the loping storytelling of Allen Shaw's "Moanin' the Blues" and Muddy Waters' "I Be's Troubled"; the mournful fluidity of Fred McDowell's "Fred's Worried Life Blues" with the breezy pick 'n' slide of Casey Bill Weldon's "You Just as Well Let Her Go".

With a generous helping of tracks, the disc is anchored by the blues' most recognized purveyors (Sylvester Weaver, Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, and Son House) while featuring lesser known but similarly gifted artists (Willie Harris and Dan Pickett). The mixed roster complements itself by offering a broader understanding of the scope of bottleneck blues, as played by noted blues luminaries and forgotten practitioners.

As an added bonus, several contemporary artists' slide explorations are included with classics from yesteryear. Stefan Grossman's instrumental "Memphis Jellyroll" shares time with the somberness of Martin Simpson's "I Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes" as do strong efforts by John Fahey and Bob Bronzman. Interestingly, these efforts carry much the same impact of songs recorded decades earlier, evidence that the subtleties of bottleneck slide can be faithfully recreated long after most of the blues' legends have passed on.

With the proliferation of greatest hits packages glutting the marketplace, choosing quality collections that are fairly representative of their respective genres is a challenge. For blues lovers and those interested in a 70-minute history lesson in bottleneck slide, The Rough Guide to Bottleneck Blues makes the decision process quite easy: Buy it and enjoy it.

7

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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