003797Reviews & Counting
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: Indiana Sev
Standing in the Shadows of Motown order
Paul Justman

The Funk Brothers
Bootsy Collins
Andre Braugher


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This is a documentary focusing on the group of studio musicians dubbed “The Funk Brothers” who were responsible for playing the music for some of the greatest Motown tunes from the late fifties to the mid-seventies. They recorded at the famous Hitsville U.S.A. studios in Detroit and taking in account all of the famous recordings they played on, they are considered the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music. Hard to argue that.
Considering that I grew up on this type of music (I’m actually in my twenties but listened solely to an Oldies station while in my teens), this is a subject matter that deeply interested me. The movie has a little bit of everything: interviews with The Funk Brothers (dead and alive), comments from the musicians and songwriters that worked with them, re-enactments of some of the particularly amusing stories they tell, footage from old jam sessions and many modern artists covering some classic Motown songs (backed by The Funk Brothers) in a concert-like atmosphere. But the most impressive thing this documentary expresses is the absolute importance of this particular group of musicians in the Motown sound that was so powerful and important in the sixties and seventies. As a few people pointed out in the film (without any disrespect to the artists), anybody off the street could’ve been dragged in to sing on those sessions and it would have been a hit. The songs and the musicians playing on them were bulletproof. It leaves a good feeling in your heart knowing they finally got some recognition for the brilliant work they put in on those now classic songs. You can tell at many points in the film by some of their testimonies that despite the fun they had, money they were paid and the memories they’ll never forget...it stings somewhat to be a part of something so legendary and special and yet be relatively (if not completely) unknown to the rest of the world. It almost feels like a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders and it’s nice to see their star finally shine as bright as the artists for whom they once provided the music.

I’m a purist and I rarely like anything but the original songs in their initial form but the covers in this film provided by the artists were truly magical and prove the point of this film, which is that it was the quality of the music (and not necessarily the singer) that was the backbone of those hits from that era. Here are the songs covered in the film (all backed by The Funk Brothers).

-Gerald Levert (Reach Out, Shotgun) -Joan Osbourne (Heatwave, What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted) -Bootsy Collins (Do You Love Me, Cool Jerk) -Ben Harper (Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, I Heard It Through The Grapevine) -Chaka Khan (What’s Going On, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough w/Montell Jordan) -Me’Shell Ndegeocello (You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, Cloud Nine)
Disc 1:

If the movie didn’t prove to be educational enough for you, the audio commentary by director Paul Justman and producer (and writer of the book the film was inspired by) Allan Slutsky, delves deeper into every detail about the making of the film, the lives of these men and much more. This was a thoroughly entertaining listen and I would describe it as perfect as far as these types of commentaries go. It just adds more to an already great documentary. There is also a Song Selections/ Performances option which allows you to go straight to a desired song performance that was featured in the film. Great if you want to enjoy the song without interruption. There is also a How It All Began feature with a the photo that started it all and the video that started it all section in it. In the “photo” part, Slutsky comments on a picture that was taken back in ’89 (with some of the Funk Brothers) and how his idea for writing a book and eventually making a movie, originated from that moment in his life. In the “video” part, director Justman talks over a short promo film he made to shop the documentary to possible takers. Both are pretty short…but sweet. Finally (for those of you with DVD-ROM’s) you can slide this disc in your PC and watch BMWFilms.com Presents THE HIRE: A Series of Short Films (Hostage, ticker, Beat the Devil). A trivia track and some trailers round out disc 1.

Disc 2:

The second disc starts off with Dinner with the Funk Brothers, which is about eleven minutes worth of the surviving Funk’s sitting around a table, having drinks and talking about everything from nicknames, their reunion, what they listen to today and much, much more. Worth a look just to see these guys hangin’ back and talking shop. Multi-angle Jam Sessions is just what it says it is, three separate sessions with these guys just rocking and rolling, you can see different brothers doing their thing by clicking on the angle button on your remote. It’s okay, but I prefer seeing them in action performing. There are 15 deleted scenes included here as well, all of which are great. The film’s length was fine as it was (a really long documentary can take its toll), but all of these scenes are worth a watch, it’s just more interesting tidbits from and about these guys; at the end of surfing through this 2-disc set you’ll feel like they’re family! The Ones That Didn’t Make It, pays tribute to the Funk Brothers who didn’t live long enough to see this film made in their honor. It’s a wonderful montage of old photographs and present-day interviews from their funky buddies. It would’ve been sacrilege had they not thought of doing something like this for the DVD extras.

At Long Last Glory focuses on the recognition, attention and acclaim that The Funk Brothers finally received after the release of STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN. After “X” amount of years in the shadows of some of the music world’s greatest superstars, it’s satisfying to see the boys getting some of the spotlight. Funk Brothers Video Biographies are individual video biographies of all the guys, complete with pictures, footage and interviews with friends and family. Man, they really went all out with these extras, this is a real treat. The director’s and producers bio’s are also thrown in. There is also a music video montage which isn’t that impressive, just snippets of the guys from the movie and the extra features set to music; nothing special. If you want a good idea of why these guys were called the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music then check out the Selected Discography feature though. It’s amazing, they list every single song (and the artists) these guys backed...even more than I even imagined. Finally, there are some Honorable Mentions, a truly classy extra, which gives some of the people who weren’t necessarily within The Funk Brothers credit for the part they played on many recordings (in studio and behind-the-scenes). More DVD-ROM features are on this second disc as well, including an interactive virtual recording studio. Phew, that’s it!
This is a heartfelt and emotionally involving documentary that’ll reel you in with ease. The next time you hear “My Girl” or “Love Child”, I guarantee you’ll remember these boys. The Funk Brothers were truly “the wind beneath the wings” of the great Motown stars and the movie does a great job of showing why. It’s also got one of the best collection of extra features I’ve witnessed in a while. Good job all around. Rent it or buy it...either way you’ll be satisfied.
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