Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group
Robert Mugge is one of the hidden gems of the documentary world. For more than four decades he has recorded the history of American music in all of its various forms. Films such as The Kingdom of Zydeco, Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus, and Hawaiian Rainbow & Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture have made Mugge an authority on American music. They are just a few of the many projects that Mugge has helmed. This past April MVD Visual re-issued yet another of his any films when it released Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records. Its release on Blu-ray marked the second time that it had ever been released, the last time being on Laser Disc in 1993. Considering the relative failure of the medium and the more widespread success today of Blu-ray, the label’s story will hopefully reach a more widespread audience. That is because for any music (and more specifically blues) enthusiast, it is an enjoyable presentation. That is due in part to the manner in which the story is presented. It isn’t just a documentary. It is in fact one part documentary and one part concert recording. This will be discussed shortly. The history presented within the program’s documentary side is another important part of the program’s presentation considering the program’s title. Last but definitely not least important in the program’s presentation is the program’s overall editing. This will be discussed later. It rounds out the program’s presentation. Each element shows in the end to be a highly important part of the program’s overall presentation. Altogether they make Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records a story that any blues aficionado will agree hits all of the right notes.
Robert Mugge’s Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records is yet another impressive presentation from the documentarian. It is a presentation that blues aficionados will agree hits all of the right notes in telling the story of the famed blues label. This is due in part to the program’s general presentation. It is more than just a documentary. Rather it is both a documentary and a concert experience. It is not the first time that Mugge has gone this route with his documentaries, either. Deep Blues, The Kingdom of Zydeco and its recent follow-up (sequel) Zydeco Crossroads are also both presented in this same fashion. Many of his previous films were presented in similar fashion, too. So even having originally been released in 1992, using such a format at the time was nothing new for him. The documentary side features interviews with Alligator Records founder and owner Bruce Iglauer and a handful of famous artists that at one time called the label home as well as some of the artists that once called the label home. The other side of the program, its concert recording documents a handful of performances from one of the shows included in the label’s 20th anniversary tour. The featured performances were from the artists listed on the documentary’s cover art. They are expertly edited into the program throughout its presentation, making the two elements a solid collective foundation for the documentary. Having noted this, the history presented within the program makes that foundation even more solid.
The foundation established by the two-part presentation of Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records is a solid base for the program. That foundation is strengthened even more through the history presented within the documentary’s interviews. Speaking more specifically, the interviews with label founder and head Bruce Iglauer provide the bulk of the label’s history. The label’s history is not told in just one sitting. Rather it is split over many segments, throughout the program’s hour-plus run time, thus ensuring audiences’ maintained engagement from beginning to end. This is tied in to the movie’s editing (another of the program’s noted key elements) and will be discussed later. Audiences will be interested to learn of the label’s humble beginnings in Iglauer’s tiny apartment and how it grew from there into an operation based in a multi-story house to a full blown record label. Again, this is all divided up over the course of the program’s presentation. It is coupled throughout with performances by the program’s featured artists. As if all of this isn’t enough there are plenty of other discussions linked to the label’s history including Iglauer’s practice of hiring staff right out of college due to new graduates’ mindset about the industry and how the label has maintained its place over that history as an independent label, thus allowing maintained control over distribution, recording processes, and more. That and so much more is explained as part of the discussion on the label’s rich history. That history couples with the documentary’s two-part presentation to make for even more enjoyment for blues fans. That is not even having counted the many other interviews included in the documentary from its featured artists. These are not the only elements that make Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records such an interesting program for blues enthusiasts and music lovers in general. The program’s editing might not seem all that important on the surface. But in the bigger picture of the program it is one of the most important of the program’s elements.
Both the general presentation of Pride and Joy: The Story of Alligator Records and the history presented therein are key in their own way to the program’s overall presentation. Even as important as they are to the documentary’s presentation, they are not its only important elements. The program’s editing is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements. It was previously noted in this review that the label’s history is presented not through one long interview and extensive history lesson. Rather it is broken up over the course of the label’s hour-plus run time. It is mixed in with performances by the artists featured on the cover of the documentary’s box and with interviews with said artists. Sometimes the connections between the performances and interviews are relatively random. But at other times they are far more noticeably deliberate. Case in point the interview with Lonnie Brooks and his son. The pair discusses the differences in its musical styles. Brooks notes that his style is more rooted in pure blues while his son notes that his style is more rooted in rock and roll. Immediately after, the story cuts to a performance by the pair. The performance allows each man to display his own noted roots and influences. In another key moment Koko Taylor discusses the link between the blues and the lives led by the artists who perform the music. She notes that blacks have always lived the blues. That is why it is so pure. She goes on to note that despite this there is a need to connect to the audiences because other people have their own difficult situations in life, so it’s important to be able to reach them regardless. That is coupled immediately with a decidedly powerful performance by Taylor exhibiting exactly what she had just discussed. This is just one more example of the importance of the program’s editing in its presentation. There are other interesting moments not tied to the program’s concert recording that exemplify the importance of the program’s editing just as much. Case in point label founder Bruce Iglauer’s discussion on having control over the recording process and his philosophy of recording. He notes in this interview segment that he likes to try and give every record a feeling like it has been recorded in a small club. From there the program cuts to footage of Iglauer behind the glass as he works with Lil’ Ed in recording one of his songs. This moment serves very well to illustrate that noted mindset. It is exhibited through the energy exuded by Lil’ Ed and company in recording the song as well as the song’s sound. Even though it is being recorded in a studio it truly does exhibit a feeling of a song that might be played in a club setting. It is just one more of so many examples that could be cited in exhibiting the importance of the film’s editing. When those other moments are set alongside the moments all noted here, the whole of the documentary’s editing proves to be just as important to its presentation as its featured history and its general two-part presentation. All things considered Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records shows in the end to be a program that every blues aficionado should see. It is a program that hits all of the right notes for blues lovers everywhere.
Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records is a documentary that every blues aficionado should see. It is a program that hits all of the right notes for blues fans everywhere. That is due in part to its general presentation. Much like so many of Mugge’s other documentaries it is presented as not just one long documentary/history lesson. Rather it crosses information and entertainment by making the documentary one part history lesson and one part concert recording. The history in question is presented over the course of the program’s hour-plus run time. It is mixed in with interviews with label founder and head Bruce Iglauer and some of the label’s most well-known names, and with the presentation’s concert recording. This approach ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment from beginning to end. Staying on that note (no pun intended) the program’s editing is just as important to its presentation as the other noted elements. The documentary’s editing seamlessly ties everything together and in turn brings everything full circle. Each element proves, in the end, to be important in its own right to the overall presentation of Pride & Joy: The Story of Alligator Records. Altogether they make this documentary re-issue a presentation that every blues aficionado should see. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct via MVD Visual’s online store and via Amazon. More information on this and other titles from Robert Mugge is available online now at:
More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:
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