December 27, 2014

Beware of Mr. Baker

Jay Bulger, 2012
Basically any fan of Rock is aware of Cream, appreciates them on some level. They certainly made their mark on the world of 60's Psychedelia. Their run was short lived - they were only together for two years before breaking up at the peak of their success. Their body of work is very recognizable, from Strange Brew to White Room to Sunshine of your Love. People constantly talk about Eric Clapton's contributions to the band, but many are unaware of drummer Ginger Baker. Baker was a very present drummer with a background in Jazz. Red headed, bearded and fueled by sort of a manic energy. His eyes stared menacingly as his arms would hammer away. The film is a study on Baker the person, during his time with Cream but also with his many other bands that he performed with. Undoubtedly a complicated figure, his unpredictable behavior combined with the fact that he was constantly under the influence of various drugs made him a liability. Many of the stories about him involve some dialogue about how much of a talent he was, but how the many relationships in his life never really ended well. The story of the troubled genius drummer is told through some amazing stock footage, multi-perspective interviews but also with some beautiful illustrations reminiscent of other good doc Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. Comparisons could also be made to other great music doc The Devil and Daniel Johnston, also about a mentally-ill but proficient musical genius. The film reinforces the concept that someone can have such unique talent and musical abilities, but also be a difficult person to maintain any kind of relationship with. Eric Clapton comes off as pure class in the film, providing many compliments about Baker and only mildly hinting at some of his personal avoidance of Baker and his turbulent personality. But Ginger Baker was a destructive force at times, and while he is in a reflective state for much of the film, he doesn't want to dedicate a lot of energy or attention to many of the mistakes he has made. He is certainly not an easy interview. Reclusive, agitated, vulgar. While Baker is a person with many flaws, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest rock drummers of all time and worthy of a documentary. Beware of the man, but be AWARE of him.

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