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'Beware of Mr. Baker' gets up close to the reclusive drummer

Posted 2:51pm on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

Unrated (strong language, violence, substance abuse); 100 min.

Drummer Ginger Baker gave journalist Jay Bulger lots of his time when Bulger pitched first a magazine profile of the reclusive percussionist, then a documentary film project. And as Bulger discovered and as we see in the film's opening moments, when Baker disapprovingly smacks the filmmaker in the nose with his cane, some people are recluses with good reason. Ginger Baker has spent a lifetime wearing out band mates, lovers and nations of residence with his manic ways and ill temper.

Take that sign at the entrance to his South African compound seriously: "Beware of Mr. Baker."

Taking his cue from a 1970s documentary, Ginger Baker in Africa (about Baker's first trip to Africa, when he visited the source of his Africanized rhythms and set up a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria), Bulger uses music and animation, interviews and studio sessions to paint a portrait of a man whom drummer after drummer, from Charlie Watts to Lars Ulrich, Carmine Appice to Mickey Hart, describe in awed terms.

Baker gets teary-eyed over his "true friend" Eric Clapton, who later declares that he was horrified when Baker, whom Clapton had tried to escape when he bailed out of Cream, elbowed his way into Clapton's next group, Blind Faith. Baker's earlier wives are bemused witnesses to his lunacy, his latest African wife simply resigned to her fate.

Exclusive: The Texas Theatre, Dallas

-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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