Thursday, October 17, 2013
"Muscle Shoals" is the third terrific music documentary of the year, behind "Sound City" and "Good Ol' Freda."
Its raison d'être is to get your fingers snapping and your toes tapping, with an endless bounty of classic rock and R&B albums engineered by Rick Hall and his prodigies in the small town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama (population 8,000). Here, amid the water, the mud, the grease, Clarence Carter, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Steve Winwood, the Rolling Stones, the Allman brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and countless others have come to record and found a sound they couldn't replicate anywhere else. There's a fair amount of mystical hooey among the interviews, trying to get at what makes the Muscle Shoals sound unique, but mostly there's a color-blind purposefulness and perfectionism, a lot of humor, and all that wonderful music. At just under two hours, director Greg "Freddy" Camalier could have trimmed 15 minutes, but I was still highly entertained. My favorite line came when Paul Simon planned a visit and asked Hall to hire the same black musicians who'd accompanied Percy Sledge (who cut "When a Man Loves a Woman" there). "You can have them," Hall replied, "but they're pretty pale."