STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN
This documentary drags the Funk Brothers out of the shadows into the limelight where, it argues, they belong. The self-named Funk Brothers were a group of session musicians gathered in Detroit who created what is known as the Motown sound, putting the backbeat, the soul, the funk, into the recordings of legends like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many more. Working at Motown records from 1958, over a 14 year period, members of the Funk Brothers played on more No 1 hit songs than Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – combined.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Berry Gordy jnr founded Motown in 1958; it takes its name from its home city, Detroit, home of America’s car makers, hence Motor Town or MoTown for short – a name that’s so saturated with the music created there that it even sounds cool, hip, musical. The film took its inspiration from Slutsky’s 1989 book about the legendary bassist James Jamerson, one of the Funk Brothers. Slutsky got drawn into the remaining circle of the Funk Brothers in the course of research, and he also discovered the bleeding obvious: the success of Motown’s greatest recording stars lay in the musicians who worked the sessions.
By a stroke of luck, the 30 odd musos who were regulars in the tiny basement studio played off and with each other in an ever inspired, ever inventive way that gelled as a unique, irresistible sound of its own. Didn’t matter who sang the dang song! This melting pot of musical forces found in each other’s improvised inventions the soul of the music they were playing. The documentary was financed by amateur musicians and includes performances on archival footage, plus brand new, super-sharp works recorded at Detroit’s Royal Oak Music Theatre, where the Funk Brothers (those still alive) are re-united for the jam session of their lives.
These songs include Reach Out I’ll be There, Heat Wave, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, Do You Love Me, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted and What’s Going On. Other songs scattered through the film include You Keep Me Hanging On, Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love, My Girl and Dancin’ In The Streets. You’d have to be dead (or musically flatlining) not to dig this doco.
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Andrew L. Urban interviews Allan Slutsky
Allan Slutsky (pictured with Joe Messina)
STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN (G)
CAST: Documentary featuring Alex Alexander, Donald Becks jnr, Garu Bosek, Michael Ellison, Otis Lockhart, Brian Marable, Antonie McKay, Mark Mutafian, Antonio Ramirez, Kevin Smith, Joe Wheeler. Narrated by Andre Braugher. Documentary of the Funk Brothers
PRODUCER: Paul Justman, Allan Slutsky, Sandy Passman
DIRECTOR: Paul Justman
SCRIPT: Inspired by the book Standing in the Shadows of Motown by Allan Slutsky
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Doug Milsome BSC, Lon Stratton
EDITOR: Anne Erikson
MUSIC: (underscore: Evan Solot, Mick Rossi, Allan Slutsky)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 30, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century Pictures Video
VIDEO RELEASE: May 28, 2003