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Friday, November 8, 2013

"Muscle Shoals": Magic, Tragic, Music

Muscle Shoals
Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter III

It all appears to be some sort of joke, or a extremely tough trivia question: what do songs like "When a Man Loves a Woman", "Land of 1.000 Dances", "Wild Horses", "Free Bird", "I Never Loved a Man", "Sweet Soul Music", and hundreds of other soul-pop-rock classics have in common? Here's the answer. A small town in Alabama, named Muscle Shoals, on the banks of the Tennesse River, was the unexpected were they were created. And this is the ridiculously absorbing documentary that reveals and depicts that astonishing truth.

Although having similatiries with the highly recommendable "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", "Muscle Shoals" it's even more shocking. For me it's bizarre that this is not a widely known legend, and that director Greg "Freddy" Camalier had the chance to surprise the spectator with such an spectacular story. And despite that, in my opinion, he takes a while, a long while, on unnecessary scenes filming the "Singing River", and the landscape of rural Muscle Shoals, while he recaps the first bits of opinions from music stardom. Sure, he wants to create the atmosphere, build the myth. But when you have such a striking story in your hands, you just have to let the camera roll on...

But on the other hand, Camalier really nails it when deciding that the focus of his documentary is going to be Rick Hall, and later on, Rick Hall and The Swampers. With that choice he provides the film with an structure while adding a human side that makes it richer. The founder of FAME studios has also a powerful story to tell, Southern style, that includes poverty and terrible, recurrent tragedy. Music is a way to escape and confront his inner demons, and along his rise as owner/producer there's a mind-blowing account of music history, racial evolution (he brought black and white together in not the most open/tolerant place in America), personal ambitions and struggles.

Not yet convinced? Well there's even more to be engaged to. Despite looking like redneck farmers, homegrown FAME studio musicians, The Swampers, will soon evolve as a parallel, intertwined plot. Responsible of creating that special trademark sound that made so many music icons as well as Atlantic Records owner Jerry Wexler go to Alabama seeking for the next big hit, they eventually left Hall to start their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound. Betrayal, rivalry, tragedy but also huge success again.

On a final note, the amount of musicians that pay tribute to the place is mesmerizing. Bono, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, Greg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, and many many more. The majority are/were direct, real witnesses of the music that was/is created there, and the amount of precious, personal remarks is colossal. But even the ones that haven't/didn't record there are so mystified by the place that I guarantee you will end this film absolutely convinced there has to be some kind of magic, maybe something special something in the air or the river banks at Muscle Shoals. Allow you to discover the story. You won't regret it. Thanks In-Edit.

SCORE: 7,75/10

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