'Gil Scott-Heron in Black Wax'
(Gil Scott-Heron, et al / DVD / NR / 2015 / MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Gil Scott-Heron in Black Wax' centers on the late African American poet-singer-songwriter, Gil Scott-Heron - the man Melody Maker (UK) called "the most dangerous musician alive" and many dubbed the forefather of rap music - and his 10-piece Midnight Band.
DVD Verdict: Taking it from the top, for those unaware, although quite how that could be in this business is beyond me, but doing my due diligence, Gil Scott-Heron was an American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and 1980s.
His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. His own term for himself was "bluesologist", which he defined as "a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues."
His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.
'Gil Scott-Heron in Black Wax' is a musical-political entertainment film produced and directed by Robert Mugge in 1982. Indeed, it was also the first American film to be fully funded by Britain's then-brand-new Channel 4 Television and also likely the first film to use Steadicam from first frame to last.
Filmed entirely on location in Washington, D.C., primarily at the Wax Museum Nightclub (now defunct), the songs performed by the band include such potent political numbers as "Winter in America," "Alien," "Johannesburg," "Storm Music," "Waiting for the Axe to Fall," "Gun," and "'B' Movie" (a scathing analysis of how and why Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States).
Between songs, Gil Scott-Heron is shown reciting his equally powerful poems ("Paint it Black," "Black History," "Billy Green is Dead," The H2O-Gate Blues," and "Whitey on the Moon"), leading the camera on a unique tour of Washington, D.C. (from the monuments of official Washington through the minority neighborhoods that make up most of the rest), and finally confronting the "ghosts of America's past" (life-sized wax figures of John Wayne, Uncle Sam, Neil Armstrong, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, four U.S. Presidents, and black leaders from W.E.B. Du Bois to Martin Luther King).
In truth, whether you knew the man or not, this was most definitely, without cause for second guessing, Gil Scott-Heron at the absolute peak of his powers. The politics is always entertaining, and the entertainment is nothing if not political. Transferred to HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored, if you don't check out 'Gil Scott-Heron in Black Wax' on DVD for yourself, well, more fool you, fool! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.