Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Muscle Shoals review

Last night I went to the Hot Docs Festival at the Bloor Cinema in downtown Toronto to see the music documentary Muscle Shoals. Before I get into the film, I wanted to comment on accessibility at the Bloor Cinema. It is accessible but they have very limited space for wheelchairs. I was speaking to someone from the festival and apparently it's in the building code that wheelchair space has to be level and not on an incline. Old school cinemas like the Bloor are on an incline. The only space is in the front corner. Too close to the screen. Most powerchairs including mine don't slide around when turned off. The incline is not relevant. Maybe the building code is outdated. The festival is aware that their wheelchair space is inadequate. They will have to address this as you can't have wheelchairs in the aisle because of fire regulations. This documentary is about the great music that was produced in the sleepy town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We all know that Motown is in Detroit, STAX is in Memphis and The Wrecking Crew is in Los Angeles. But Muscle Shoals? Like Standing In the Shadows Of Motown, Muscle Shoals looks at the unsung heroes of popular music. The storytelling is fairly straightforward. FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals was founded by Rick Hall. He was the recording engineer. Musicians included Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, Jerry Carrigan, Earl "Peanut" Montgomery, Donnie Fritts, Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn. Most of these musicians appear in the film. Hall's big break came when he produced Percy Sledge's When A Man Loves A Woman in 1967. Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler was leaving STAX and decided to produce Wilson Pickett at FAME. When that was successful, he took Aretha Franklin there. Then the floodgates opened and everyone wanted to go there. The film also talks about the 1969 split when Beckett, Hawkins, Johnson and Hood left FAME to start their Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Their big break came when The Rolling Stones recorded Sticky Fingers there. They were one of the most successful studios of the 70s. The whole point of the film is that all this great music was produced by these simple country boys in this little town. Among the famous artists who appear in the film are Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and many others. At the end of the film, Alicia Keys performs a song in the studio with the Muscle Shoals musicians. That's the only thing that bothered me. She has nothing to do with Muscle Shoals and it just seems like an excuse to put a celebrity in the film. I would have preferred a performance by David Hood's son Patterson Hood and his band Drive By Truckers. They have recorded at Muscle Shoals and that would have shown the continuation of the Muscle Shoals legacy. Other than that, Muscle Shoals gives a great musical history lesson and I will be adding it to my DVD collection. Unless the producers want to send me a copy. Hint, hint. Check out the trailer.

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