Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1971 // 53 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // February 15th, 2007
Tony Palmer's film of Ginger Baker in Africa.
Along with Jack Bruce's contributions on bass, drummer Ginger Baker helped form one of the more cohesive rhythm sections in rock history with the famed band, Cream. Oh, and a guy named Eric Clapton played guitar for the band too, I wonder what happened to him.
Sorry, went off topic for a second. During the course of the second wave of British invasion rock bands in the late '60s and early '70s, many of these rock musicians would do some exploring of foreign lands to discover new musical influences. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were always one for discovering musical tastes of India and other regions, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards loved the blues of American musicians, and that is without figuring in Clapton's love of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.
Drummers are a bit of a different sort. And for drummers in British rock bands, the shared characteristic seemed to be over-consumption. Led Zeppelin's John Bonham and The Who's Keith Moon both suffered premature deaths at the hands of alcohol, but they also both compiled drum sets that became so bloated that it was any wonder each piece could be played at all. Baker wasn't without his own personal demons, as he consumed large quantities of drugs, to the degree that some were saying he died at one point. But he was alive, and he had a passion for searching out new and exciting percussion methods in various countries.
With the intention of opening a recording studio in Nigeria as an outlet for emerging international acts, Baker got a Range Rover and made the journey with a friend, driving from Algeria through Niger into Nigeria. Along the way, the obligatory stops to check out local markets and villages were present too, and luckily, Baker's friend Tony Palmer, who previously captured Cream's farewell concert on film for the world to see, brought a camera with him to document the experience.
The experience itself is a very appealing concept. How cool would it be to drive through Africa and the Sahara? Well as it turns out, it's several thousand degrees less cool than other things you may consider doing. And while this film is presented in widescreen, I would hardly describe it as a film. There is accompanying narration by Baker, but the narration is sparse, and Baker sounds like he was doing it after downing cough syrup and Winston cigarettes for three straight days. Or to put it another way, it's like watching home movies from your favorite drunk Uncle who might be a fun guy, if he knew where he was all the time.
At less than an hour, this was a painful experience to sit through. The jam sessions in and of themselves were interesting, and helped reaffirm my faith that Paul Simon's album Graceland is even more of a rip-off of what other musicians tried to do before him, he just managed to produce it well. But Baker just isn't a charismatic enough subject to enjoy watching. The film itself is pretty bland and doesn't capture too many interesting things, and at the end of it, you're left with the impression that Baker and Palmer just filmed in between booze binges. I got a contact buzz from them after the first 35 minutes, had to lie down and finish watching it later. If you're really curious about watching this, I'd employ the same strategy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 53 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Tony Palmer Site