“The Muscle Shoals sound was built out of conviction, rejection and raw vision. These muscular characteristics are what connected filmmaker Greg “Freddy” Camalier with Fame Studio founder Rick Hall in the elegant documentary MUSCLE SHOALS. Hall put Muscle Shoals, Ala. (pop. 11,924), on the map in 1961 when he produced the Arthur Alexander hit “You Better Move On,” which was popularized by the Rolling Stones. He created from a dark and maverick energy that becomes the linchpin of the film.The output of country-infused soul music from Muscle Shoals is mind-boggling. Aretha Franklin ignited her career at Fame with hits like “I Never Loved a Man” and “Do Right Woman.” Wilson Pickett took no prisoners at Fame with “Mustang Sally” and “Land of 1,000 Dances.” Hall regards Pickett’s cover of “Hey Jude,” with guitar licks by session player Duane Allman, as the birth of Southern Rock. The hits kept coming. The Rolling Stones traveled to Alabama to record “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses.” Bob Seger’s smash hits “Night Moves” and “Mainstreet” were recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Chicago’s Staple Singers had their crossover success with “I’ll Take You There” with lead singer Mavis Staples callling out names of the session players (“Barry, play your piano…”) Camalier spent four years working on MUSCLE SHOALS. He was able to harvest interviews from Franklin, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Gregg Allman, whose tender remembrance arguably is the film’s highlight. Alicia Keys brings the sound into the present day with a 2012 gospel-tinged version of “Pressing On,” originally recorded by Bob Dylan in 1980 at Muscle Shoals for his “Saved” sessions. There’s footage from the now-deceased Pickett and James. Do not leave the film until the last credit rolls by. Hall, 81, serves up some of his most powerful stuff, which he calls his “sermon for the day.” He speaks of the inner beauty of imperfection. He doesn’t care if a drummer falls off a stool as long as he doesn’t miss the beat. “Get back up and climb back up,” he says. “That’s a human element, there is force. So imperfections give it a human element, which I believe is what we need more today. That’s how you make magic and great records.” And with that freedom of expression, Muscle Shoals made history.”—Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times. PG. 111 Minutes.
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