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4.9 out of 5 stars76
4.9 out of 5 stars
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on August 27, 2004
This film is a wonderful tribute to the Funk Brothers. They are truly the 'forgotten heros' of Motown. One thing bothered me about the performances taped for the film...the director spent at least 80% of the time shooting the vocalists (who are great...don't get me wrong). It was the same mistake Motown made in the '60's when it never recognized the Funk Brothers. For this documentary/film the director should have always shot the vocalists in 2 shots with at least one of the Funk Brothers. Some nice 'low depth of field' shots come to mind. The rest should have been instrumentalist shots only. Instead we have performances that feature the vocalists instead of those people that the documentary was about...the Funk Brothers. 'Cloud Nine' is particularily bad...we have an intro about the wa-wa pedal and then no shots of the guitarist in the whole performance. I'm sure the producers and the Funk Brothers shook their heads when they screened the concert footage...too bad, they looked like they were having so much fun! An aside, Joan Osborne's performance of "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted" is worth the price of the DVD, I just would have loved to see more interaction with the band.
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on April 22, 2003
As a kid growing up listening to Motown music and loving every minute of it, I will play "Standing In the Shadow of Motown" over and over to glean and burn every story told into my memory. I was awed by the love and talent of the Funk Brothers even though I had never heard of them before. Finally, they will receive the credit and recognition they deserve. It would have been fun hearing the Funk Brothers jam together in Detroit in the 60's but at least through this video, Motown fans will get an oportunity to experience a small part of those years.
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on May 23, 2003
"Standing in the Shadows of Motown" tells the great and virtually unknown story of the Funk Brothers - a collection of talented jazz musicians who rewrote musical history by providing the music for many of Motown's greatest hits. The Funk Brothers consisted of 10+ very talented musicians, and they definitely deserve to have their stories told. Unfortunately, despite their talent and contributions, the Funk Brothers apparently received little glory and compensation. The story is inherently interesting, but the documentary ultimately falls a bit short of greatness.
First, their contributions to Motown are not given enough context. Most of the story is told by the remaining Funk Brothers, and very few Motown artists are interviewed. I guess that the documentary makers wanted the focus to be on the Funk Brothers, but praise from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, or some of the remaining Temptations would undoubtedly have added to the luster of the Funk Brothers. Second, the degree to which the Funk Brothers wrote the music they played was not addressed (at times, the doc makes it seem as though they wrote much of it). Third, some of the stories are told with cheesy re-enactments, which detract from their impact.
Perhaps the best part of the documentary is that the Funk Brothers re-unite to play several songs throughout the movie. When and where these live songs were recorded is not made clear, but many of them are very good. The Funk Brothers team up with several singers, such as Ben Harper, Joan Osbourne, Montell Jordan, Gerald Levert, and (best of all) Chaka Khan. Your enjoyment of these sections will likely correspond to how much you like these singers, but the performances are all pretty good. Ultimately, I think that the makers of the documentary were a bit too timid and deferential in their approach. They seem intent on avoiding angering Motown, even though many of the Funk Brothers seem to have been treated poorly by the label. The Funk Brothers deserve 5 stars, but sadly I can give the doc only 3 stars.
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on July 15, 2004
i loved this eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at the incredible musicians responsible for so many of those #1 Motown hits.
long overdue. it's too bad that some of the guys passed on before the film was made and hardly received the respect and glory while alive.
last, hardly least: joan osborne's version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" just may bring tears to your eyes.
(Having been a great fan of music for many years) i am ashamed/embarrassed to admit that until this movie i had no real idea how gifted a singer this woman truly is.
i sat in awe as she belted out this song and could not stop myself from playing it a few more times after the initial viewing of the film.
i guess there is no alternative for me, but to go out and buy a CD or two by this great talent.
see this DVD. it's a gem. thank you, funk brothers, for enriching our lives through your magical gifts!
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on April 28, 2004
As a white Fender bass player in the South in the 60's, I had a very tough time keeping up with soul music and R&B developments. There were two sides of town, and mixing of the races was still not encouraged then-- at least, not in the South. When Motown records could be listened to, the sound, and the highly-advanced musicality was utterly fascinating and totally innovative, but it was a real challenge to learn all the parts from the primitively-mixed records (the reasons for which are explained in the DVD). Rumors abounded about how the songs were recorded. One of my favorites was that each Motown hit was recorded with TWO bass tracks: one acoustic (upright) bass, and one track with the Fender bass (electric guitar). As it turns out, this rumor was false, but to see the interplay between the bass player and the drummers, not to mention some improvised percussion "instruments" (such as plywood boxes stomped upon in time with the beat), is to understand how the listener would get the wrong impression. To see and hear the actual studio players (AKA "The Funk Brothers") is exhilarating, to say the very least. To watch this excellently-produced DVD is to have the gauze pulled from one's eyes and ears, and to be able to appreciate the Funk Brothers for their superior musicianship, in addition to that of the arrangers. The movie itself, as released to theaters, is a constant revelation and enjoyable from start to finish, jumping as it does from history to flashbacks to oral history by the participants to recreations of the original hits sounding even better than they originally did. But the DVD goes much further: It contains a whole second disk of behind-the-scenes shots taken of further interviews, social get-togethers of the Funk Brothers where their tongues get REALLY loose, and other such materials. There was only one thing on the entire package I didn't like, and that was some contemporary studio sessions of some rather dull, nowhere basic 12-bar pieces that really weren't much more than just riffing. My impression was that this was just filler. But in terms of everything else on the two disks, whether it was social history, musical history, personal histories, rare archival film footage from the 60's, or the recreations of some of the greatest Motown hits, was absolutely top-notch. I've done a lot of research on Motown over the decades, and I found the DVD's content to be factually consistent with the rest of my research, but in much more depth; and the excellent musical performances just take the presentation right over the top. I can't begin to count the "mysteries" I'd wondered about for decades that were all "solved" by watching and listening to this DVD. I play it over and over, and it gets better and better. I highly recommend it to anyone who lived through the era and wants to gain an even greater appreciation for the Motown phenomenon; and to younger people who aren't familiar with the cultural and historical contexts that made the phenomenon such an important aspect of the time.
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on April 11, 2004
With many of my favorite groups, I know they have stage hands doing backup on recordings and live concerts, but I did not know that such a group existed that did so much and lasted such a long time. Granted, my forte is not Motown, but I do like it. There has been a consistent high quality from many groups, but I was suprised at how much of it was based on the Funk Brothers. Certainly one of the best documentaries I have seen in the past two years.
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on July 8, 2004
I have just view this DVD today and was totally blown away. Born and raised in Detroit area I grew up with Motown and loved everything connected with it. It is still one of my favorite music venues and brings back great memories. With all the stars up front like the Four Tops my (ultimate favorites) I was unaware of the backbone of Motown. Thank you for bringing me to light of the wonderful talent of the great Funk Band.
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on March 11, 2009
Absolutly a must to see if you love Mowtown and the Detroit Sound. Thes guys are great and what more can be said except Wow! Great DVD. Loved Joanne Osborne.
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on May 23, 2004
Sure, everyone's heard of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, but what about the Funk Brothers? Never heard of them? It turns out that even if you've never heard of them, you've most likely heard this group of musicians before: it turns out they've played on more #1 hits than the Beatles, Elvis, Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys combined. Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a documentary that raises some debatable issues: someone in the film says that anybody could have sung the songs because it was the music (and the musicians) that was the key element in the song's success. Director Justman makes it seem like it was a gross miscarriage of justice the way that label head Berry Gordy didn't publicly acknowledge the Funk Brothers' contribution to the Motown sound. What fails to be kept in mind is that this oversight isn't unique. I mean, when kids listen to Christina Aguilera or Avril Lavigne today, how many actually stop to think about the backing musicians? The actual size of the Funk Brothers' contribution is never made completely clear here and none of the relevant people are interviewed (Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, etc.) so the tone remains decidedly one-sided. Even so, it's still an entertaining ride as the Funk Brothers liven up the proceedings with fascinating anecdotes and by reminiscing about Motown's heyday in the 60s which are much more vivid and memorable than director Justman's cringe-worthy use of reconstructions. Another touchy point is the fleeting, unnecessary mention of the Vietnam War and how the Motown sound apparently brought comfort to the soldiers: it seemed to have been included for sentimental value and didn't fit with the rest of the film and the reason why the soldiers listened to Motown was left unexplained. The many musical performances by the Funk Brothers and the guest singers are what make this film worth watching, even if it's a tad too long at 116 minutes. It's one thing to hear them say that the music was what made the song, not the singer, but the performances say so much more. Joan "What If God Was One Of Us" Osborne gives a powerful, touching rendition of "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" while Gerald Levert sounds every bit as good as Gloria Gaynor on "Reach Out I'll Be There". Even though Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a tribute to the Funk Brothers as musicians, it is the Funk Brothers as men that is really being honoured here: even with rumours that they were cheated out of royalties by Motown and the lack of public recognition, the Funk Brothers don't come across as bitter and vengeful at all, and this magnanimous attitude is what saves this documentary from being a humdrum VH1 special, despite director Justman's attempts to (over)lionize the Funk Brothers.
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on February 23, 2004
This is important documentation of not just a band of musicians but an era in American history. The Funk Brothers, the unknown backing band of Motown's stable of stars, created a phenomenal vocabulary of sound for future musicians. They also translated the music of other genres as well as the struggle of black people in America.
This is a treat. I really like the format of pairing the Funk Brothers with current singers to perform Motown classics.
I've always like Motown. But I have to admit that I've generally preferred the harder-driving backbeat that came out of the Stax and Atlantic R&B labels. But watching this documentary, I realized several things:
* Motown had the far more innovative rhythms and riffs
* The Funk Brothers added jazz rhythms and sounds to the vocabulary of R&B
* These musicians could rock as hard as any of their contemporaries at other labels, as exemplified by later Motown hits such as Cloud Nine
I'll only make two "negative" comments about the documentary:
* It should have been longer; these guys deserve more; and the shortness makes the interspersion of interviews about how the music was made with cut-aways to acted-out anecdotes seem choppy
* As many others have mentioned, I'd like to see Stevie Wonder , Smokey, some of the surviving Tops and Temps, and Barry Gordy himself chime in to give these men the accolades they deserve.
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