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Standing in the Shadows of Motown
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Index 74 reviews in total 

26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Hard to find a better music documentary

10/10
Author: Ed Uthman (uthman@airmail.net) from Houston, Texas
22 December 2004

I am not a hard core Motown fan, but I have to give this film a 10, because it's the best music documentary I have seen. With just the right mix of interview footage, historical photos, and live performance, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN takes its place alongside THE LAST WALTZ as a cinematic cornerstone of music history.

Musicians will especially like some of the technical discussions, such as details about how legendary bassist James Jamerson produced his famous groove.

The live musical performances are inspired, with modern singers covering Motown classics, accompanied by the Funk Brothers themselves. I have watched the DVD of this film, and more recently, the high-definition version on ShowtimeHD. The 5.1 soundtrack is impeccably mixed. You can hear every instrument clearly, but the vocalist is not drowned out. With this type of mix, you want to listen to your favorite numbers over and over, concentrating on a different part each time. And, you can rest assured that there is no lip syncing or studio overdubbing. This is real music for real people.

All of the vocalists are superb, creatively interpreting each song, while at the same time paying respect to the style of the original recording artists. Viewers will have their own favorite performers, but mine is Joan Osborne, whose powerful rendition of "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" brought tears to my eyes.

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17 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Fabulous!

10/10
Author: ragtime_millionaire from Canada
30 September 2002

This is a "must see" if you are at all interested in R&B, soul, Motown, etc. But it's really a must-see if you're a musician yourself.

Using archival footage interspersed with recent concert footage and anecdotal recreations, this film follows the careers of "The Funk Brothers" - the men who backed up a who's who of Motown's brightest stars from 1959 into the mid 1970's, and who have played on more #1 hits than the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and Elvis COMBINED.

The movie will be in general distribution Nov. 15 (2002) - I saw it at the Vancouver International Film Festival, where the theater was packed (I'd guess at least half with musicians) - and the response was amazing - people were laughing, crying, shouting, singing along, and dancing in the seats (to paraphrase Martha and the Vandellas)

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Finally the "Funk Brothers" get their overdue recognition.

10/10
Author: Paul Ferguson from Louisiana
4 February 2004

Having purchased, listened to and loved Motown's records in the 60's and 70's, I often wondered who were the masterful (and usually uncredited) musicians responsible for so many top 10 hits. With "Standing In The Shadows of Motown", I was able to finally put some faces with the riffs that I admired.

Although many of the "Funk Brothers" are no longer with us, their legacies live on with those disks by the Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves and so many other great artists. The Funk Brothers defined soul and R & B music in its golden era. These guys played on records that sold in the millions and were being paid "scale" - sometimes as little as $25.00 per song at the time! Amazingly, most recordings were done in one or two takes; a testament to the talent portrayed in this movie.

If you love soul music, especially Motown's releases, this film is a must see. The recreations of the original songs by the remaining Funk Brothers and their guest performers are awesome!

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19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Behind the music

10/10
Author: gravity3 from California
25 October 2003

Forget VH1, forget MTV, this is the real deal. Even if you loathe documentaries, this film is different - it's about the music and the musicians that made it, and there's not a boring moment on film. If you ever liked the Motown sound, if you ever liked music for that matter, you owe it to yourself to learn how so many great recordings really came about. If you like what's on the radio right now, here's a rare chance to find out where it all really came from. A lot of the artists playing and singing today were heavily influenced by the Funk Brothers, whether they realise it entirely or not. So if you want to learn who created those sounds in the first place, you must see STANDING. I can't say enough about this film.

Now I don't want to belittle the talent that stood in front of the Funk Bros., because they deserve a lot of credit. But honestly, after seeing it the first time, I thought about how tragic it is that no one had really done it before. Maybe that's it's only flaw - this is a story we should have heard 30 years ago. I probably knew more than most being a musician myself, but there were many aspects that were revelations. To hear these guys play in a live setting again, is above and beyond what you could expect in this kind of work. But it's here - rent, buy, go see this movie!

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Meet The Funk Brothers!

Author: macjazz
30 April 2003

Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a terrific documentary that gives us a wonderful introduction to The Funk Brothers, the musicians behind the hits at Motown. This is their story, therefore little time is devoted to Barry Gordy or the label's stars. The Brothers emerge as engaging personalities in their own right - it's a pleasure to listen to them tell their tales of life in "the Snake Pit" (the studio) at Motown.

Even more a pleasure is listening to them play and hearing new interpretations of some of the great old tunes. Especially, for me, Bootsy Collins on "Cool Jerk" (Bootsy puts the "fun" in "funk") and Joan Osborne on "Heat Wave" (the Brothers really groove on this one) and "What becomes of the Broken Hearted" - a stirring rendition that raises the roof and brings down the house! Great stuff. A few of the other new performances are not quite as strong as this, but overall the music is just great. The old guys have still got it. I really loved hearing little bits of their jazz playing sprinkled throughout the movie - in fact I'd like to have heard more of this, but of course there are time constraints in any film. It was also great to hear some of the arrangements broken down to (or built up from) individual parts. It brings home the fact that these guys are really creative players (try to imagine "My Girl" without the "dum da da da da da" guitar lick, for example).

I already knew a bit about James Jamerson, the genius bass player for Motown, before watching this movie, but meeitng the rest of these great players and hearing their stories was just a pure pleasure straight through. Good to see these guys getting their props - they are The Funk Brothers!

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Moving tribute

Author: rodew from usa
13 November 2004

I really loved this documentary. Three key points: (1) I applaud the spirit and energy to put the project- long overdue recognition and praise for great musicians- together. I happen to be a fan of the Temptations movie and saw this DVD next to it. Had I not bought it on a whim, I would be so much more empty. (2) James Jamerson-I would love a documentary on him alone. Not because of his quirks, but because of his tortured spirits; a great movie-making project! Also, upon my research of this topic after seeing this film, I came across an extensive web site, bassplayer.com, with a great tribute page to Jamerson. Among the most outrageous discussions that have not been resolved to my knowledge- who played bass on Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her"? The majority of folks strongly contend it was James Jamerson, however, a woman named Carol Kaye states she was the actual bass player for the song.

I don't know the truth, but I do know that after never hearing the bass in the song for the 30+ plus that this has been one of my all-time favorite songs, I ONLY hear the bass line. That bass line is so masterful, so exceptional, and so unrelentingly funky, that I believe only a virtuoso could have done it. The fact that that song and bass line were done in 1966/67, amidst so many hundreds of other Motown hits and other songs, tells me that the Funk Brothers and James Jamerson were truly blessed talents.

(3) Chaka Khan's rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" is undoubtedly the very best performance I have ever seen her do and is among the top performances ever recorded. That she won a Grammy for the song is amazing. She actually sang it in 2000; the movie was released in 2002 and won the Grammy in 2003! I get teary every time I hear her singing the song in the movie(I replayed this section at least 10 times when I first saw the movie) and I don't think she will ever have another brilliant performance that would match that intensity. Bottom line: I strongly recommend this movie and subsequent deeper research into other great R&B music roots. Rod Walker

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Just beautiful....

9/10
Author: marsupial3300 from United States
11 January 2005

At 35, I'm too young too have been around when all this great music first appeared. But I truly feel the Motown music in my soul, always have. I still get goosebumps, to this day, when I hear certain Motown songs.

Therefore, I spent half this film sobbing, for the beauty & genius of the music, the happiness I felt that that Funk Brothers were finally getting their due, and lamenting, as always, that they simply do not make music like this any more, and never will again.

Beautifully filmed, fascinating....if it doesn't move you, or get you moving, you must be comatose.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

In the beginning it was The Funk Brothers

10/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
8 March 2005

"Standing in the Shadows of Motown" is a documentary that has to be seen by all lovers of popular music. This is a must for all fans of the best sound that came out in the middle of the last century from Detroit. Paul Justman, the director of this extraordinary documentary, takes us into a fantastic voyage to the place where the music was born. Aided by the narration of Ntozake Shange and Walter Dallas, this film will warm up anybody's heart.

The documentary is a tribute to the people that created most of the hits that became popular and went to become classics: The Funk Brothers, as they were known. The survivors of these talented musicians are presented individually, and those no longer living are remembered with anecdotes told by living artists in loving memory of them. These talented musicians gave America, and the world, some of the most memorable songs of its history.

The Funk Brothers' music had such an edge, that everything else written by popular songwriters pale in comparison. Detroit nurtured these magnificent musicians and gave them the base where they were able to excel by creating something that wasn't easily duplicated by their contemporaries, or their followers.

In a poignant performance Chaka Khan, perhaps the best and most original exponent of the genre gives an amazing rendition of the old Marvin Gaye's mega hit, "What's going on". Then, to end the film, this incredible and generous singer is seen and heard with Montell Jordan singing "Ain't no Mountain High", which keep us singing, smiling, and shedding a tear for that innocent bygone era that the sensational Funk Brothers created for our delight and pleasure.

Long live the Funk Brothers and the sound they left behind. Amen!

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Under-appreciated National Treasures

9/10
Author: spider-82 from United States
28 December 2004

The mere fact that these 13 people created so much of the best of American music in virtual anonymity is reason enough to watch this movie. But the performances of those great songs...lots of them, make it a really special movie. I think they could have found some better current singers to perform with them in the concert but even Joan Osbourne can sound good with the Funk Brothers playing behind her. Maybe that's the point of the movie. Steve Jordan said it best though when he said that Deputy Dog could have sung to their tracks and made hits. And just for the record, I was kind of proud that at least 2 of the 13 were Caucasian. :-)

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

I enjoyed it

Author: joeregularman from Washington DC
31 August 2003

One thing that I always noticed in the traditional "Motown" music from the 60's is either the sound of the Tamborine or the Vibes. Little did I know it was the same guy on every album.

Unlike many "true story" documentaries this was a good story with a happy ending. Most times when we watch documentaries about celebrities we tend to see much of the bad and ugly moments from their past. Certianly nobody is perfect with a squeeky clean background, however, I appriciate the fact that the producer of this movie put more emphasis on the good things and the funny stories and less on the conflicts and the shortcommings.

All of the extra features give you a sense of who these people are with the extra unedited footage of the band interacting with one and other. The part about the guys that died before, during, and after production was especially touching because it brought closure to a situation with many loose ends. I feel that this story has a happy ending because those who are still living and those who passed on are satisfied that they were recognized for their contributions.

Personally I would have liked to see the concert in its entirety instead of a few clips in between the candid interviews but overall it was a very well balanced and well written story about a band that most people didnt even know existed. Even though most people didnt know about the band, we can all relate because we know the songs. As each musican shares his involvement with Motown I know and "feel" where they are comming from because I probably have listened to their music a hundered times over.

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