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Muscle Shoals [Blu-ray]
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on October 4, 2013
As of today, we can't buy this DVD - it did play in our local arthouse movie theater and our cable TV system is showing it now, for an extra few dollars. I grew up in Alabama and was bitten by the R & B bug at age 8. I've loved it, lived it, played it all my life (I'm now a 65-yr-old caucasian lady). Yes, people in our little town thought my brother and I were crazy, so much did we love this music. I'm thankful that this film was made, and it must have been years in the making, because here you see Wilson Pickett and Jerry Wexler, both of whom have been dead for several years now.

I never knew the story was so rough. Never knew that Rick Hall had such a rough life. We picked up bits and pieces about Muscle Shoals as we grew up -- it became like a magic, mystical place in our minds. It would be wonderful if the whole cut of each song could be played, but that would make the movie way too long. The photography is beautiful, the remarks made by Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Jerry Wexler, Keith Richard and Mick Jagger, and more, make you slowly realize that Muscle Shoals was almost a miracle. The first hit, the wonderful "You Better Move On" by Arthur Alexander - followed by the Rolling Stones playing and singing the same song, makes you gasp. Tears flowed, I don't mind saying. Just put aside whatever you may think about Alabama, and see this movie.
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on October 15, 2013
I love watching historic accounts of notable subject matter from the past. For some reason I'm just drawn into documentaries, narratives and key figure interviews from people that were first hand witnesses to key events in the history of mankind. Muscle Shoals fits into this category wonderfully. It is an amazing account of the history of a significant recording studio that played a huge part in the development and production of American Music culture.

I would have willingly given a rating of 5-Stars for this gem of a production, but I'm selfish. I wanted more and did not want it to end. The cinematography was beautiful. The stories that were told made me feel like I was there. The still photographs from the past were like looking through an old family album eliciting both joyful and sad memories from the past. One of my favorite things about Muscle Shoals was hearing first hand stories from the artists that were there. Wilson Picket and Keith Richards made me laugh out loud. The recounting of Aretha Franklin's first session at the studio and the build up to the first song she recorded there, had me totally mesmerized. The description of Etta James' persona, her strong will and the explosive talent she possessed were wonderfully described. Then of course there were the Swampers an unlikely group of caucasian country boys that grooved on more popular recordings than you could even imagine. Who knew?

I would definitely recommend a viewing or the purchase of this wonderful production to anyone who enjoys history, music or just the triumph of the human spirit through daunting challenges. Muscle Shoals is more than just a history lesson, it is a story of artistically gifted people discovering who they are and what they were created to do. It is a story of striving for excellence in an imperfect world and sharing the successes and disappointments that make up the journey of our lives.

I had always wanted be a session musician, like the guys in the Swampers. My own successes and disappointments led me in different directions. Muscle Shoals gave me a glimpse into a world that has always held a special place in my heart, which is music recording and performance.

Watch this and be surprisingly drawn into Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Sweet Home Alabama!
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on October 13, 2013
Our tradition is to watch documentaries about music and the music industry. I've seen many and enjoyed them all...and I'm just your regular person that enjoys music. By far this is my favorite. Brings back lots of memories...as great music always does. I didn't realize this small town, the Swampers and Rick Hall had such a massive impact on music. This movie was so educational (I just learned what "muscle shoals has got the swampers" meant in the hit Sweet Home Alabama...and I've been listening to Lynryd Skynryd for YEARS). So touching...I didn't want the movie to end. And a little sad...I can't think of anything like this today--session musicians...the magically creative musical process...the diversity. I can't wait until this comes out on video to own. I just ordered the various soundtracks. Visiting the Tennessee river is now on my bucket list.
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on March 15, 2017
I don't usually write reviews, but I have to with this one. Since the Beatles went onto the Ed Sullivan Show I was almost obsessed with Music. Just background noise before then. I was just a spud living near Mobile with a transistor radio (I think was stolen). I'd get close to my window late at night and listen to all kinds of Music. Some Music sounded way better than others, but I couldn't tell you why. I've now watched this thing several times, and wind up tearing up every time! The Music is fantastic! I live in the desert Southwest now, and get incredibly homesick each time. Great photography just takes me back there. I can "hear" wind in the trees, I can smell the mud of the river, etc. I just wonder now how the ABB would have done if they had broke out from Muscle Shoals instead of Macon! That sound! Man! Great job all around! Also hearing Alicia doing "Pressin' On"- Really good stuff. Alright, I'm outta here!
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on March 15, 2014
If you have any interest at all in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or the history of '60s-'70s music in general, you should certainly check this out. It's one of the few ways to see and hear a lot of the people who were involved in the Muscle Shoals recording scene, through interviews and some great old photos. The movie is beautifuly shot and captures the feel of the river and the area.

The film is not perfect. There is way too much space spent on boomer rock figures like Bono and the Stones telling us why we should like Muscle Shoals music, and a general rock-centricity to the allotment of time, where the Staple Singers' run of great Muscle Shoals albums is never discussed, while the passing connection with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Duane Allman gets lots of attention.

Personally, I wish this film had been more like STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN or TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, which spend most of their time bring the viewer closer to great musicians and their experience, and capturing their stories and memories. Ironically, MUSCLE SHOALS does this best when dealing with Rick Hall, who was an important engineer and organizer of talent on the Muscle Shoals scene, but not really a key musician or writer. The filmmakers seem to have been attracted by the dramatic possibilities of Hall's biography, without considering whether he was really the central creative force in the scene that the film makes him out to be.

Bottom line: Buy this, if you've got any curiosity at all about the Muscle Shoals scene. It's good that someone caught that scene, even imperfectly, before it disappeared.
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on January 29, 2014
If you go back and peruse your vinyl collection from the 70's and look at the liner notes and studio credits, the names Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins and Spooner Oldham will appear repeatedly. This delightful film brings those names to life and tells the story of how a small group of studio sidemen became the catalyst for the "sound" of so many iconic artists from that era. Rick Hall was a talented, ambitious, musically driven producer who had the vision to see what a tight group of musicians under his direction could do to shape the sounds of those artists that we came to know and love. Muscle Shoals and Fame became synonymous with musical magic -- lightning in a bottle -- and it was almost fairytale-like in the music that came out of those places. While many will never remember those names on the studio credits of their favorite albums, seeing this beautiful film will make them realize just how big a contribution they made to shaping the music of their youth.
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on May 2, 2017
I loved this book. Being from the area when all this first began, and knowing several of the key people involved, I was pleased that it gave a truer picture of the events than I had "heard through the grapevines" . And I was very happy to actually get Rick's version rather than hearsay !
This is not just a book for people from the area. If you have interest in the "roots of some of your favorite songs and singers/musicians", this book is worth your time and money !
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on January 5, 2017
This is probably the best documentary I have ever watched, no hyperbole or exaggeration. The "Muscle Shoals sound" was the foundation of a lot of the best music from the sixties all the way through modern times. What is "the Muscle Shoals sound"? Watch the movie. Hint: arguably the greatest Soul, R&B, Rock, and even Country music ever recorded was played buy a bunch of nerdy-looking white guys from Alabama. Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Cher, Bob Seger, and a host of others recorded their best material with these guys. The film is very well produced and directed, in my opinion and does an excellent job of telling the stories of Rick Hall and his FAME studios and it's offshoot (and competitor) Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. If you like American music, you'll like this documentary.
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on September 27, 2013
Learned so much about the southern influence on Rock that I never knew. Allman Bros, Lynyrd Skynyrd a given but long before that there was Muscle Shoals.
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on August 16, 2017
If you're a music fanatic, this film is a must-see. Its shocking how little attention this film generated. I actually got free tickets, went to see it without expectations, and it's a phenomenal film featuring well know artists - all about the magic that is Muscle Shoals. I hope to visit one day.
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