Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

This week, sound meets vision as we're going multi-media with a plethora of recent releases from down-home humorist Jerry Clower, heavy metal heroes Judas Priest and blues icon Muddy Waters.

Jerry Clower -- Classic Clower Power (MCA Nashville/UMe)
Jerry Clower -- Clower Power DVD (MCA Nashville/UMe)

Decades prior to the international popularity of blue-collar humorists Larry The Cable Guy, Ron 'Tater Salad' White or the late, great Lewis Grizzard, Jerry Clower was the undisputed king of corn-pone comedy. His reign as the 'Original Mouth O' The South' spanned practically 20 years and over two dozen albums, lasting right up until his passing in 1998.
Classic Clower Power gathers a whopping two-and-a-half hours of timeless tales and homespun yarns spanning the comedian's entire career. Of course the Ledbetter family are front and centre throughout as Clower recalls their tales and exploits in the infamous "Coon Huntin' Story," the "Marcel Ledbetter Moving Company," "Mr. Jake Ledbetter," "Marcel's Talkin' Chain Saw," as well as the complete, unadulterated and self-explanatory "All About Clovis Ledbetter". And long before Jeff Foxworthy was making observations on the culture (or lack thereof) prevalent below the Mason-Dixon Line, Clower was reeling off classics such as "Southern Humor," "I'm That Country" and the one that started it all -- "Examples Of A Red Neck."

Of equally stunning sonic and visual fidelity is Clower Power -- which is the very first DVD graced by the singular stage presence that is Jerry Clower. He often goes so deep into his stories that his actual persona changes. Viewers can watch him virtually morph into the characters that his monologues bring to life. The performances on Clower Power come from the nearly impossible to find Live Vol. 1 (1990) and companion Live Vol. 2 (1990) home videos.

He is in top form and high energy throughout and the audience hangs on his every word and expression. Clower again jokes and jives about his alter ego Marcel Ledbetter on "Marcel And The Troops," "Marcel Joins The Navy," "Marcel Drives The Pulpwood Truck," "Growing Up With Marcel" and the saga of "Marcel Hunting Quail." He also talks about other rural activities such as "The 4H Club," "Selling Fertilizer" -- which Clower did for a time before hitting it big -- and even tales of his own fame and fortune on the fateful day that "MCA Records Visits Yazoo City."

Even if you weren't there the first time, Clower Power puts viewers in the front row of the one and only Roy Acuff Theatre deep in the heart of Opryland, USA with an impressive 5.1 Surround Sound mix -- quite possibly the first on a comedy DVD.

Judas Priest -- The Essential Judas Priest (Columbia/Legacy)
Judas Priest -- Live Vengeance '82 (Columbia Music Video/Legacy)

Essential pretty much sums up this two-disc set and despite being somewhat haphazardly compiled , the music hangs together quite well. In fact it is emphasized more so as early tunes "The Ripper," "Victim Of Changes," "Sinner," and their inspired cover of Joan Baez's "Diamonds And Rust," sit comfortably alongside the latter offerings. This is especially true of "Judas Rising" and "Revolution" from Angel Of Retribution (2005) -- the band's recent reunion effort.

Of course if you are just looking for the fist-pumpin' hits, you will find them here in spades. "Breaking The Law," "Hell Bent For Leather," "Heading Out To The Highway," "Ram It Down," "Turbo Lover," "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," "Living After Midnight," "Screaming For Vengeance," and the heavy metal remake of the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac classic "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)," are but a sampling of the primal Priest found here. The one thing that is conspicuously absent on The Essential Judas Priest is live cuts.

So, to fill that void, enter Live Vengeance '82 (2006). The combo are caught in all their leather-studded glory in (where else) Memphis, Tennessee on their Winter of '82 Screaming For Vengeance (1982) tour. Yes there's nothing quite like a coliseum full of rowdy Southern metal fans to inspire the band to drive hard and play even harder.

Among the highlights are the proto-metallic opening medley of "The Hellion," and "Electric Eye," which is followed by superior live versions of the aforementioned "Heading Out To The Highway," "Breaking The Law," "Ram It Down," "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," "Living After Midnight," "Screaming For Vengeance," as well as "Metal Gods," "Desert Plains," "Devil's Child," and another not-to-be-missed "Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)."  Although this program was initially included in the Judas Priest -- Metalogy (2004) box set, Live Vengeance '82 marks its standalone DVD debut.

Muddy Waters -- The Definitive Collection (Chess/Geffen/UMe)
Muddy Waters -- Classic Concerts (Hip-O/Chess/UMe)

We've unquestionably saved the best for last with a pair of vintage anthologies featuring master bluesman Muddy Waters. It would admittedly take several CDs to compile a truly and conclusively authoritativepackage on the artist. However, the 24 selections found on Waters' Definitive Collection can easily be considered a sufficient primer for the casual listener or burgeoning fan.

The track list looks like a Chicago style songbook highlighted by "Rollin' & Tumblin'," "You Shook Me," "The Same Thing," "Rollin' Stone," "Mannish Boy," "Trouble No More," "Long Distance Call," "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" and "Got My Mojo Working," to name but a few. Needless to say, if you don't own any other Muddy Waters, The Definitive Collection is a great place to start.

Then, once you're hooked, take whatever measures necessary to obtain a copy of the Classic Concerts DVD. The main events present rarely seen live concert footage, filmed during three distinct periods in Waters' career. Up first is nearly a half-hour of film capturing his watershed appearance July 3, 1960 at the Newport Jazz Festival. From this gig the renowned Muddy Waters Live At Newport long player was derived. Behold the master at work as he unleashes "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," "Tiger In Your Tank," "Rollin' Stone," as well as a reading of "Got My Mojo Working" that has arguably never been topped. Fast-forward eight years to the Copenhagen Jazz Fest for -- among other things -- a few lesser-known titles, such as "Back At The Chicken Shack," "Train Fare Blues" and "Cold, Cold Feeling." The final set on the roster finds Waters in Norway for the Molde Jazz Festival in 1977. "Prison Bound Blues," "Can't Get No Grindin'" and "You Don't Have To Go," join a smattering of additional standards.

As if that weren't enough, Classic Concerts is rounded out by a one-off clip of "The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock and Roll," from the Vic Theater in London circa the summer of 1977. Wrapping things up are two interviews, the first from a 1972 appearance on the BBC-TV Old Grey Whistle Test New Year's Day 1972 and the other took place quite literally as he departs the stage of the Molde Jazz Fest in Norway in 1977 -- the same show detailed above. These words certainly don’t do this indispensable video justice, which should be regarded as a must-own musical time capsule!
Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.

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