Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Documentary Review: Muscle Shoals

Currently available for streaming
on Netflix as of 7/30/14
Muscle Shoals is an unlikely story. This dinky little town in Alabama in the deep south, in the 1950's through the 1980's churned out hit record after hit record because one man had a vision and a talent for getting a certain sound out of musicians. That man, Rick Hall, was a white southern man who was able to produce and engineer #1 hits from black, southern soul singers. He named his studio FAME Studios.

It's a remarkable story. Back when the only places to find a studio to make your hit record was New York, Chicago, or LA. Rick Hall and his studio musicians, eventually named "The Swampers", were carving out this sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama that was launching careers and #1 records Wilson PickettJames and Bobby PurifyAretha FranklinClarence CarterOtis Redding Arthur Conleyand Percy Sledge, just to name a few.

The film explains how these white boys were able to get these sounds out of some of the greatest Soul legends of all time. Almost like they could understand soul music before anyone knew what it was. It didn't make any sense that Rick Hall had that sound inside of him, being raised a poverty stricken white boy in a state that was pretty oppressive to blacks.

Eventually "The Swappers" figured they could go out on their own and they left Rick Hall and set up shop on the opposite end of the small town. Hall was not happy, and told them they would never make it. They did struggle, mainly after Cher was their first customer, and her recording was a big bomb. And it seemed bleak, until a tiny band from England called The Rolling Stones wandered into their studio for a couple of days. Out of their session came "Wild Horses", and "Brown Sugar". And the Muscle Shoals sound was complete. They began to have many successes with  Lynyrd Skynyrd,TrafficElton JohnBoz ScaggsWillie NelsonPaul SimonBob DylanDr. HookElkie BrooksMillie JacksonJulian Lennon and Glenn Frey.

And Rick Hall's success continued as well as he successfully moved into pop and country music and recorded hits for too many groups to name.

I had a blast with this documentary from start to finish.. Being a huge fan of soul music I was lost in the studio stories and the music itself, as well as just amazed at the fact that none of this great sound could have happened if it weren't for these southern white boys who were thinking beyond what was acceptable at the time.

I give this documentary... 5 stars!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This one was great. -Mark