Starring: Keith Richards, Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Bono, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Rick Hall, Gregg Allman
Directed by: Greg Camalier
Synopsis: 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”.
Anyone with even a passing interest in musical history, and soul music and southern rock in general, will know about Muscle Shoals and it’s legendary band The Swampers. They recorded some of the best, most recognisable music known to man, hence the amount of huge name ‘talking heads’ in this documentary.
Whether you bat for classic soul by the likes of Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge or Aretha Franklin, or blistering southern blues rock by The Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd is more your thing, you can’t fail to get a kick out of this film. The spotlight is firmly on the session players who helped make some of the best music of all time. The likes of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham contributed to thousands of classic songs and albums over the years, usually under the guidance of FAME boss Rick Hall, along with Atlantic head honcho Jerry Wexler.
Rick Hall is a real interesting character, with more than his fair share of heartache (he recounts horrific tales of death involving his Mum, Dad, brother and ex wife) but he still sees the light, and still knows his way around a recording studio better than most. Hall and the Swampers had a falling out in the midst of this story which adds another dimension to the whole thing. I was pleased to see they had all patched things up in the end though.
The only low point is you have to listen to boring Bono ramble on with average poetic verse, in that mildly pompous way of his. Seriously, just let Keith Richards get straight to the point with that Muttley laugh instead. There is a great bit where one of the Swampers recounts recording with the Stones and saying there was no drinking or drugging during the sessions. It then cuts to Mick and Keith who don’t even say anything, they just start laughing mischievously. Enough said.
This is a film that music fans will love, featuring some great characters, stories and, above all, great music.