I first came across the existence of Sandy Bull at a film screening of ‘No Deposit, No Return Blues’ in the summer of 2009 at the fledgling Islington Mill in Manchester, UK. A wonderful grass roots film sensitively assembled by Sandy Bull’s daughter, KC Bull depicting the life of her father which centres on his early career and goes onto to illustrate how he became know as a cult hero to a generation of musicians and artists, many of whom, including the likes of poet and ‘clown activist’ Wavy Gravy and Nubian musician Hamza El Din, are seen paying their respects.
As far as I know the film has no DVD or distribution deal and the only way you’ll get to view it is at one of these rare screenings presented by KC Bull. The music and the film blew me away with its cosmic sound track and touching interviews.
Sandy’s music is a slice of the 60s flower-power generation that was opening up to new ways of thinking and demonstrated one of the first cross-pollinations of modern and traditional music in the electric era. The free thinking attitude of his generation is entirely encompassed in his music and is satisfyingly complimented by cruising down the road in some kind of open-top motorcar with the stereo on full blast.
Sandy Bull & The Rhythm Ace was recorded live just a few months after he got out of rehab by Hillel Resner, who provides some insightful liner notes on the LP. We hear him presenting his traditional Oud stylings along side his ‘band’: a four-track tape recorder including drum machine (The Rhythm Ace) and overdubs. It must have been a pretty insane presentation of new technology at the time. Sandy’s banter and the crowds reaction captured on tape is delightful and brings the listener straight into the concert hall of Berkeley Community Theatre back in 1976.
Much has deservedly been written on Sandy’s back catalogue of instrumental genius, however the stand out track for me has to be ‘Love is forever’ that unlike the majority of his recorded output, includes vocals that while might not be pitch perfect are sung with an attitude in tune with his free flowing kick ass Oud licks, which has deservedly made it onto my own personal summer 2012 soundtrack, highly recommended.
Review by: Harry Wheeler
Sandy Bull & The Rhythm Ace / Live 1976 is available from Drag City as a digital download