The Spencer Davis Group

Gimme Some Lovin': Live 1966 [DVD]

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The featured part of the Gimme Some Lovin': Live 1966 DVD (although it's actually not the lengthiest portion) is the half-hour or so of footage of the Spencer Davis Group from a Finnish television show, shortly before Stevie Winwood left the band. (Note that although the date given for this program is 1966, it seems far more likely that it's early 1967; during the interview segment, the group refers to "Here Comes My Baby" by the Tremeloes, which didn't enter the British charts until February 1967, as a then-current hit single.) This black-and-white broadcast is really a valuable vault find: the sound and image quality are good, and the band performs well, if not that charismatically. The eight-song set includes their hits "I'm a Man," "Gimme Some Lovin'," "When I Come Home," and "Keep On Running," but also some less-traveled covers, among them "Dust My Blues," "Mean Woman Blues," and "Georgia on My Mind." In addition, the first three songs offer a chance to see Winwood on lead guitar, though he switches to his more customary keyboard position for the remainder of the show. The interview in the middle is a bit odd, as the bandmembers are interrogated while they're eating and smoking on the TV studio set, and Winwood has the least to say of any of the foursome. Indeed, he even seems stuck for words when asked to name some of his favorite singers! And in hindsight, it's sad to hear Spencer Davis diffidently declare that it's too early to tour America, seeing no need to go until the summer; by that time, Winwood would be gone, and Americans would never see the group perform live while he was aboard.

The other part of the DVD is by no means trivial, presenting a circa hour-long German film documentary on the Spencer Davis Group from 1967. The catch is, however, that it was made after Winwood (and his brother, bassist Muff Winwood) had left the band. While this lineup (with Phil Sawyer and Eddie Hardin replacing the Winwoods) was by no means negligible, it couldn't compare to the previous incarnation. The documentary's still interesting as a record of the group in the wake of the lineup change, though it's not that interesting, mixing footage of the band on-stage, horsing around backstage, doing a photo session in London, working out songs, talking with management, fleeting cameos by Mitch Mitchell and Mick Jagger, and recording a jingle (based on the "I'm a Man" riff) for Great Shakes. For English-speaking listeners, total comprehension is obstructed, though only slightly, by the periodic unsubtitled German voice-overs. Not much scintillating stuff comes out of the non-performance footage, but there are the odd illuminating moments. When Davis is asked about the group's "blue-eyed soul" flavor by an American-sounding interviewer, for instance, he notes that their music had been pulled from some black radio stations' programming after it became known the band was white. Also, a manager makes the bizarre prediction that Davis could become a bigger name in film composition (an area in which Davis was active in the late '60s) than John Barry. What the film doesn't portray or address, however, is the absence of Winwood, and how that was obviously impacting the band's fortunes.

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