A documentary that celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the signature sound he developed in songs such as "I'll Take You There", "Brown Sugar", and "When a Man Loves a Woman".
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Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the 'Singing River' as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals changed the world and sold millions upon millions of copies. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white together in Alabama's cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the 'Muscle Shoals Sound' and 'The Swampers'. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals' magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today. Written by
[about working for Rick Hall]
That was very frustrating and hard on the musicians, because you think "Well, I already did that."
Nobody ever worked in the music business without getting their ass kicked. If they did, they're on the street somewhere pushing a wheelbarrow of concrete.
He was kind of like a task master, and I don't fault him for that because he is an imperfect perfectionist. That's what made him great, though.
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Although Steve Winwood is feature prominently, including with on-screen name identification, hie name is NOT listed in the end credits. See more »
I always loved listening to the great albums recorded at the two Muscle Shoals studios, so I looked forward to seeing this documentary in the hopes of learning what exactly made the Muscle Shoals sound so distinctive.
Unfortunately, I think the musicians interviewed couldn't really explain what it was that made Muscle Shoals so special from a technical perspective. Bono, as always, was quite articulate, but he didn't offer anything technical. He instead talked philosophically about the power of the Tennessee River just as the Mississippi influenced the Blues. Most of the other musicians fell back on platitudes and clichés about funky white guys. Keith Richards was beyond hopeless as an interviewee. He seemed like he was doing a really bad Saturday Night Live impersonation of himself.
Don't get me wrong. The stories were entertaining. I particularly liked Greg Allman's story about how his brother Duane learned to play the slide guitar and Wilson Picket's story about the first time he came to Muscle Shoals. I also thought the documentary did a good job telling the history of the original FAME studio as well as the second studio started by the so-called "Swampers".
Nevertheless, I think at least one interview segment with a Rock historian or a musicologist to put everything in context and offer technical explanations would have been a great addition.
Finally, although it's clear that the Muscle Shoals musicians were far ahead of their fellow southerners on the issue of race, and the film rightly showcased this, it also showed clips of Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert proudly displaying a confederate flag. Displaying a confederate flag in 2013 is beyond bad taste. It's simply unacceptable.
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