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Wick's Review

Created May 04, 2014 06:04PM PST • Edited Aug 16, 2018 11:29PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    The Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James and Percy Sledge did their best work in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Lynyrd Skynyrd added the piano intro to Freebird while there. This Muscle Shoals documentary covers all that rocking glory, with Bono commentating along the way.

    Muscle Shoals stands with Motown as a twin tower of 60s & 70s American popular music, just as Muscle Shoals stands with Standing in the Shadows of Motown as a perfect documentary of their time and place.

    Muscle Shoals has a rockstar parade you won’t encounter anywhere else: Percy Sledge, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and especially Aretha Franklin, who recorded R-E-S-P-E-C-T with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section in the Big Apple. The Queen of Soul said of those white players: “they played greasy.”

    Rick Hall emerges as the Godfather of Muscle Shoals, a white Berry Gordie from the dirt poor Deep South. A genius producer, writer, arranger, engineer & entrepreneur, Hall started dirt poor but rode mighty high.

    Donna Godchaux reminisces about when the stars fell on Alabama. She means stars like Jimmy Cliff – someone you wouldn’t think would play for a strong willed white producer – recorded Sitting in Limbo.

    Wilson Pickett talks about making Land of 1,000 Dances, Mustang Sally & Funky Broadway with Hall and his fellow White boys. But it doesn’t end there, not by a long shot.

    Southern Rock came from Muscle Shoals. Gregg Allman tells how brother Duane hightailed it out of L.A. for Muscle Shoals. Hanging out during a session break, longhaired Duane Allman suggested to handsome Wilson Pickett that they do Hey Jude. This was in ‘69 when Hey Jude was an instant classic from The Beatles. Duane takes off on slide guitar during the “JUDY JUDY WOW” part, using an empty Coricidin bottle to slide. Gregg Allman says that’s when and where Southern Rock was born. Musical Sex, as it were.

    Lynyrd Skynyrd included “Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers” in Sweet Home Alabama. Leon Russell dubbed the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as The Swampers. Those that lived to tell are in Muscle Shoals.

    Bono explains how Rick Hall and the Swampers pioneered the use of big bass – heavy guitar and drum. Bono goes on to say that Hall’s drum miking was world class technological sophistication for the time.


    Muscle Shoals says we’re at our best in America when you “Might not know who was Black and who was White.” Black singers, White players, Black players but mostly White players: Mostly they all grew up poor. Percy Sledge started singing When a Man Loves a Woman working in the cotton fields.

    Bottom Line

    Muscle Shoals is a wellspring of the powerfully pure R&B and Southern Rock that owned the 60s & 70s.

    This review written with the Muscle Shoals Soundtrack playing on repeat.

  3. Perfect 5.0
    Muscle Shoals Men
    • Rick Hall lived a life of the blues: dirt poor, lost a little brother, lost his mother, later lost a wife, had heartbreaking business setbacks. Muscle Shoals gives the man behind FAME Studios the recognition he deserves to claim his rightful place in the Pantheon of American Music.
    • The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section – aka The Swampers – all deserve props, but the Rhythm Section’s rhythm section of Hawkins & Hood laid down the Muscle Shoals Sound.
      • Roger Hawkins (drums)
      • David Hood (bass)
      • Jimmy Johnson (guitar)
      • Pete Carr (guitar)
      • Barry Beckett (keyboards)
      • Spooner Oldham (organist)
    Stars Who Fell On Alabama
    • Aretha Franklin got sent to Muscle Shoals by Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler after she’d endured six years of futility with Columbia. She got busy right away with Rick Hall & The Swampers, recording I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), which went #1 on the Rhythm and Blues charts. Its B-Side was Do Right Woman, Do Right Man for goodness sakes! The Queen of Soul had arrived. Wexler later flew The Swampers to NYC for the sessions that produced R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
    • Mick Jagger provides expert commentary about why Aretha had failed with her previous label, but succeeded so spectacularly with The Swampers at Hall’s FAME Studios.
    • Percy Sledge was an orderly at the local hospital who had written a song while working the cotton fields. When a Man Loves a Woman became the first #1 hit to come from Muscle Shoals.
    • Jimmy Hughes was Percy Sledge’s cousin. He recorded Steal Away with The Swampers, as pretty a song – a naughty song – as you’re ever going to hear.
    • Wilson Pickett talks about recording a string of killer singles, Mustang Sally among them.
    • Keith Richards & Mick Jagger appear in documentary footage from ‘69 when the Stones recorded Wild Horses and Brown Sugar at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Keith later waxes on about how it’s one of the best rooms they ever worked in. He wishes they’d of recorded Exile on Main St. there, except he was forbidden from entering the United States at the time.
    • Gregg Allman describes the birth of Southern Rock, as covered in the Summary above.
    • Jaimoe talks about he and the Allman Brothers formed The Allman Brothers.
    • Clarence Carter sang the super sad hit Patches, a song that Rick Hall wrote about himself.
    • Etta James heard Clarence Carter’s Tell Daddy and redid it at Muscle Shoals as Tell Mama, which became a big crossover hit.
    • Jimmy Cliff recorded Sitting in Limbo with Hall & Crew in ’71, pre-reggae. The Swampers, White Southern boys, figured out how to play Jamaican, with timeless results. Wow
    • Donna Godchaux came to prominence as a quixotic background singer for The Grateful Dead. She sang backup in Muscle Shoals before that, appearing in the documentary to describe it.
    • Martin Luther King got on stage with Aretha. The movie includes the archive footage.
    • Jerry Wexler speaks
    • Sam Phillips gets a nod via archive footage
    • Skynyrd represented by archive footage of Billy Powell, Ronnie Van Zant
    • Candi Staton became the First Lady of Southern Soul at Rick Hall’s FAME Studios.
    • Steve Winwood talks about taking Traffic to Muscle Shoals
    • Bono provides powerful commentary about Rick Hall and The Swampers throughout.
    • Alicia Keys represents the present generation of R&B singers, doing so beautifully and soulfully.
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    If the Stones, the Allman Brothers, Aretha, Skynyrd, Wilson Pickett, Etta James or lots more are among your favorites, their best moments are in Muscle Shoals because they recorded at and with Muscle Shoals.

    Rookie documentarian Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier has done himself proud creating it.

    Beyond his film, there’s a great site supporting the picture

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Perfect 5.0
  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Featuring 14 rock stars and dozens of top flight musicians

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.4
  15. Sex Titillating 1.7
  16. Violence Gentle 1.0
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.6
  18. Natural 1.0
  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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