Muscle Shoals [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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Slightly disappointed that the DVD extras didn't extend to a 2-DVD set given the obvious depth and amount of interviews that must have been conducted. The extras amount to just 33 mins. However, there are two interesting commentaries from both the director and the key characters of the documentary - Rick Hall and the Swampers.
Personally I loved it.
I was delighted to find it on DVD so soon after its transmission on BBC4, and have watched it a number of times, each time discovering something new.
For those considering buying it, just look down the list of artists featured. Although not all of them get equal amounts of screen time, consider how they are linked and whether that link is something that would interest you.
Essentially the thread is the life story of Rick Hall who founded Fame Records and was responsible for the Muscle Shoals sound.
A range of artists (talking and playing/reprising their music) help to carry the story forward, with Rick Hall and the Mississippi River (and its environs) filling the gaps.
Would have liked a 'hard copy' of this film but looks like it's not released in the UK until 2014; But, it is available in digital format now on iTunes for £9.99.
The film begins with the singing river, the Tennessee, a tributary of the Ohio that flows through northern Alabama and the town of Muscle Shoals (pop. roughly 13,000). The river was formerly called the Cherokee, so named by the native inhabitants long before the pale faces arrived. The Cherokee heard voices in the river that sang to them. It contained spirits. It also contained mussels, a staple of the Cherokee diet. Muscle Shoals was named after these shellfish. Tennessee, the white man’s name for the river, comes from the name of a Cherokee village called Tanasi that was located along its banks.
The Trail of Tears dispossessed people of their ancestral homelands, among them the Cherokee and Yuchi tribes. Many couldn’t adapt to the dry, flat, alien landscapes of Oklahoma. The rivers or streams in Oklahoma didn’t sing. There were no spirits in them. Some of the dispossessed walked back. It took one Yuchi woman five years to reach the Tanasi again, the place of song for her, her home. There she could live and die in peace among the ancestral voices. Or so we are told through elements of legend, myth and magic in the film.
Song is the South, its soul. It’s found in the land and soil, in the mud and swamps and rivers there. Negroes sang their hosannas and spirituals in the cotton fields. Hillbillies played their banjos and fiddles in the hills. Ragtime and jazz were played on riverboats and steamships. And in the Delta wise men sang the blues, the origin of everything worthwhile in American song.Read more ›
The story of the studio is intertwined with that of Rick Hall whose rise from poverty is an indication of his determination to succeed against the odds. Hall suffered a number of setbacks in his life including the decision of his house band to leave him and set up their own studio not far away from his own. At this point the story encompasses the fortunes of both studios and shows how Rick Hall recovered from his disappointment and went on to create a new studio band and continue his successes.
Initially, his rivals found it difficult to establish themselves but with the arrival of the Rolling Stones (hence the reference to Mick Jagger) the studio began to attract big names from both the US and the UK. From then on their success was enormous.
I strongly recommend this DVD.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent documentary about the origins of the Muscle Shoals Studio built by Rick hall, and the evolution of the 'Muscle Shoals Sound', featuring 'The Swampers'.Published 1 month ago by flickersboy
Absolutely WONDERFUL documentary, 5* just a shame there wasn't a EUROPEAN RELEASE on Blu-ray..if there is one, I can't find it...Published 2 months ago by Mark Carroll
Wow, what an interesting story, fascinating the breadth of music and musicians they have influencedPublished 8 months ago by Ms Dillon