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
Documentary Celebrating the Rise and Rise of Rick Hall, Founder of Fame Studios
This documentary celebrates the work of Rick Hall, who grew up in poverty but who eventually became the force behind the Muscle Shoals operation, that continues to this day in Alabama. From a personal point of view, Hall's life has been touched by tragedy; his mother left him, his father died in a tractor accident and a brother was scalded to death. But this has been offset by his energy and sheer entrepreneurial skill in creating Fame Studios. Greg 'Freddy' Camalier's film is full of insights - the fact that most of the backing tracks on some of the classic soul works recorded at Fame (by Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and Aretha Franklin were provided by a Caucasian group, who later left Hall to found their own recording studio close by to Hall's. We also learn how Muscle Shoals became a magnet for groups worldwide including the Rolling Stones and Traffic. The ambiance might appear unprepossessing, the facilities somewhat rudimentary; but the sound quality and technical support available there was second to none. This is chiefly down to Hall's influence; he comes across as someone driven by the need for success, much of which he has achieved over five decades. The only criticism of MUSCLE SHOALS is structural: director Camalier interweaves past and present narratives in such a way as to make it difficult to distinguish between them, especially if viewers are unfamiliar with the music being discussed. Perhaps there might have been a case for cutting down on the number of celebrity reminiscences (which tend to be superficial at best) and introducing a narrator to offer some sort of guidance to the uninitiated.
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