Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Paul Justman

BY David DacksPublished May 1, 2003

The feel-good documentary of the year has made a quick appearance on DVD. Standing in the Shadows of Motown chronicles the Funk Brothers, Motown's studio orchestra of the '60s and early '70s, profiling each member and documenting a series of reunions. These guys are worthy subjects, having played on more number one hits than Elvis, the Beatles and Beach Boys combined, but were completely unsung in Motown's assembly-line environment. The movie itself collects mostly second-string vocalists (so as not to upstage the band) belting out their versions of Motown hits. The power of these performances is in the septuagenarian musicians who can still get down and elevate the likes of Joan Osborne to funky credibility. The DVD satisfies nerds like me who wanted more details and more emphasis on the musicians themselves. The theatrical cut used dramatisations of incidents in the character's lives and spent too much time on the simple point that "these guys deserve respect," as opposed to chronicling their achievements and distinctive musical abilities. With two discs, most of these qualms are addressed, from discographies to extensive video biographies of each Brother. The deleted scenes were rightfully cut — they contain side stories that don't relate — but one hilarious moment has the Brothers talking about how they would give more to certain producers who had a greater ability to run the show than others — although they cheerfully played their hearts out for a young George Clinton in 1967, who exclaimed, "I got this damn song and I don't know nothin' about recording!" This DVD is the best way to experience this story: as a collection of bonus material uncompromised for the sake of a substandard narrative, which plagues the movie itself. You'll get a whole evening's entertainment and it will make you want to listen more closely to the original recordings, which was a feeling I didn't get the first time. Extras: director/producer commentary; trivia track; "Dinner with the Funk Brothers"; multi-angle jam sessions; deleted scenes; video biographies; obituaries; music video montage; discography; DVD-Rom interactive virtual recording studio. (Seville,

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