Monday, 26 August 2013

Blu-Ray Review: Beware Of Mr Baker

Think of all the best drummers you've ever heard in any musical genre, and the name of Ginger Baker would be very high on the list. Jay Bulger's remarkable Beware Of Mr Baker gives us a revealing documentary that really does lift the lid on the life and times of a musical genius.

Born on the 19th August 1939, Baker's formative years were scarred when his father died when Ginger was just 5. Years later, one of Ginger's classmates suggested he start to play the drums and a career full of highs and lows had begun. It's often recorded that seeing a particular film or listening to a certain recording was enough to launch a career and for Baker, it turned out to be a Charlie Parker LP that compelled him to set out on a long musical road containing twists, turns and dead ends.Bulger's documentary charts the choppy waters of Baker's life and career, using interviews, concert footage and home movies to provide riveting viewing for 90 odd (sometimes very odd) minutes. Here, the likes of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Charlie Watts, Carmine Appice, Carlos Santana, Neil Peart and John Lydon are just a few of the artists to record their respect and appreciation of his talents, and there are also reflections on his darker side from friends, colleagues and family.

On the surface, Bulger's interviews with Ginger reveal a cantankerous old git, prone to acts of violence and who prefers animals to people ('They never let you down'), but when he was playing, Ginger really was at peace with the world. Thanks to some remarkable concert footage of Cream, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker's Airforce and Baker Gurvitz Army, we can not only hear but see what a great talent he possesses, and eventually we can understand why his projects began like a firework and fizzled out to ashes of some great performances. So, what made Baker such a wonderful drummer? Natural time ('You either had it or you didn't'); the jazz music that was his roots and a genre he would return to again and again and influential drummers that inspired him to cultivate a style that enabled him to land all 4 beats in a different place. Ginger also holds forth on his deep love and admiration for African music - including his time spent there - and has some rather controversial comments concerning Keith Moon and John Bonham. In 50 years from now, Ginger Baker will still be remembered for being a major part of some terrific music, and maybe the dark side of his nature will still be discussed, too. When his son declares that Ginger should have been alone and never had a family, one begins to understand the upset he caused, but there is a tender side to the man: witness the scene where Ginger cries as he declares he's met the four main influences on his career, and considers them to be friends. It's a moving moment and ultimately confirms that for Ginger, it was only ever about the drums.
Curzon Film Worlds Blu-ray features the interviews in HD, with concert footage taken from a variety of sources. The HD quality is fine, and the soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 surround. Unfortunately, there are no extras on the disc, but this a pleasing presentation for fans of the man and his music.

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