Check Out the Animals

Music DVD Documentary: Eric Burdon: The Animals and Beyond — This 1991 vintage doc was just reissued on DVD. Flawed as it is, there are a number of good reasons any fan of British Invasion bands and great rock’n’roll should see it. First is the numerous live clips that show The Animals — the most populist and blue-collar of their ‘60s Brit peers, as well the ones most steeped in the blues — as a sweaty powerhouse of a band. Then there’s Burdon himself in his interviews here, a good-natured survivor with few regrets who has enjoyed the life rock music has given him, as well as the wise comments on his fellow original Animals (except Alan Price, who reaped the publishing profits of the band’s hit arrangement of the traditional song “House of the Rising Sun” because his was the only name attached to it). One has to wonder why the only name rocker attesting to the greatness of The Animals is Sammy Hagar. But even some of his comments ring true.

TV series DVD: Traffik — Just watched this 1989 British six-part TV series on heroin trafficking and advise it as essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding the scourge of that drug and why “the war on drugs” is a failure. Deserving winner of an International Emmy Award for Best Drama, it interweaves related plot lines in three locales: The growers, manufacturers and merchants in Pakistan; the smugglers and the police fighting them in Hamburg, Germany; and a British minister of drug policy and his heroin-addicted daughter in England. The Pakistan scenes are especially vivid viewing, and the international cast gives the series a grippingly real ambience. The dangers of heroin and its illegal trade are shown all along the road that the drug travels from poppy plant to addict. Without any preaching or political agenda, the two inherent final conclusions are all but indisputable: as long as there’s a profit motive, people will grow, refine, smuggle and sell drugs, and the best way to fight addiction is to battle not just the trade but the human condition that leads people to take a drug like heroin. It’s superb drama with a fine international cast, and an excellent look into everything from the personal effects of addiction to the international geopolitics that affect the growing, making and smuggling of the drug.

CD: Written in Chains — Buddy Miller represents what country music could be, even should be, if the spirit were the most important component to the Nashville music business. His solo albums and releases with his singer/songwriter wife Julie are as good as it gets in contemporary roots music—smart, soulful, utterly musical, and equally authentic and adventurous—and Written in Chains is no exception. Judge the man by the company he keeps, like Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Robert Plant, all of whom guest here, as Buddy plays guitar. The realms of the heart and soul have rarely been explored in song with such emotional resonance as found in the singing and writing of both Millers. This is wonderful even magical stuff to be savored for years to come.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2009

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