Son Seals
"A Journey Through the Blues " The Son Seals Story "

A Rare Glimpse, (10/18/07)

It seems odd that there is only one other DVD release on the great Son Seals (Son Seals: Chicago Blues Guitar), which truly is a pity as Seals was one of the most original Bluesman on the planet and one that possessed an amazing, stinging guitar that growled almost as hard as his gruff voice. Thus, when this new DVD landed in my post box I ran to my DVD player to give it a viewing.

The DVD starts chronologically with his early days in Arkansas where is dad ran a juke joint on to his eventual relocation to Chicago. The documentary is partially auto-documented and also includes interviews with musicians like Koko Taylor, Steven Seagal, Dr. John, and Lonnie Brooks. Also included are three separate live performances that speak volumes of the true power of Son Seals. Plus its autobiographical footage provides us a rare glimpse into the life of one of the greatest Bluesmen of all time.

Guitarist Frank "Son" Seals' first LP appeared in 1973, his scorching guitar work and soulful vocals cemented Seals as one of the finest Blues voices of his time and it was evident that a major talent had been unveiled. Born in Osceola, Arkansas, in 1942, Seals grew up in the Blues, his home was in the back of a juke joint, The Dipsy Doodle, where musicians like Albert King, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk regularly played. By the time he turned eighteen Seals was leading his own band on guitar and vocals and was also playing drums. In 1963 he went on the road with master musicians such as Earl Hooker and Albert King. Seals' 1977 release, "Midnight Sun," was a major triumph, as Son then started to play at venues outside of the Windy City and was then starting to tour nationwide and internationally.

This film documents the music and life of this legendary (and controversial) artist from the perspective of his friend, producer Peter Carlson.

It's fascinating to watch and hear Mr. Seals talk about his illustrious career and the real bonus is the three performance segments included, the first of which is a little rough from an audio prospective, but it is a rip-roaring version of "Everyday I Have the Blues" recorded at Rooster Blues in Chicago. The second performance is from the House of Blues (also in Chicago) where Seals is backed by Junior Well's band from 1998. Here is where we see the amazing power of a still-standing Seals as he shreds through "Sitting At My Window," which made its first appearance on The Son Seals Band recording. The final segment is from the 2001 Chicago Blues Fest with Jimmy Vivino on board and by this time Seals had lost his leg, but not his power, as he and the band soar through "Don't You Lie To Me."

My only complaint about this DVD is that I would have liked to have seen more live performances, as seeing Seals in concert was always a monumental event. Few of his peers could match the intensity he delivered and those who got to see Son Seals, especially with Jimmy Vivino and the Conan O'Brien band (the same band that backed Seals on arguably his best recording, Telarc's Lettin' Go) at the now defunct Chicago Blues in New York City, would know what an amazing musician Son Seals was, as the Conan band (specifically Vivino) really unearthed the maximum out of Seals.

I was fortunate to have interviewed and know Son Seals and I truly miss him. As gruff and rough he looked on stage, he was a sweet and kind man who had a passion for his music and who took pride in performances. Thanks to this DVD we have a more than welcomed capture of the greatness of Son Seals. Let's hope that there is more Seals footage available that will make its way on to video. Until that time, I

Bob Putignano: