Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Standing in the Shadow of Motown - The Funk Brothers

My follow up piece to Peter's Chuck Berry post was going to be on another Berry, Berry Gordy, but he's already been up and at 'em with another, yes another Braggist post. You get the feeling he's got enough Bragg to drive to Scotland and back, let alone his commute twice a day. Anyway, I'm struggling on with my Motown post, seeing as I watched the Standing in the Shadow of Motown documentary yesterday, and found myself enjoying ..................... Joan Osbourne!
I'm not a big Motown fan, as I'm sure I've heard all the big hits a billion times. But, this docu focused on the loose collective called the Funk Brothers, effectively the inhouse band that the label used on hundreds of their recordings. Just to put it into perspective, they played on more number one records than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys combined.
I'm sure the purists hate to hear other people singing the classics, but I enjoyed the structure of the film as it cuts back and forth from a live Funk Brothers show with guest vocalists, to interviews with members of the band, and also mentions what was going on in society at the time. Marvin Gaye was desperate to have Funk Brother James Jamerson play bass on What's Going On, went out and found him in a bar, but the guy was so pissed that he couldn't sit on a stool in the studio so had to play lying on his back on the floor. It was still good enough and made it on to the record.
If you'd asked me to sit down and watch a concert featuring Gerald Levert (nasty smooth modern R n' B) and Joan Osbourne (her of 'What if God was one of us' pop fame) I would have fled from the room lobbing excuses as I went, but the live concert from film is great. Joan Osbourne has a great, forceful, full sounding voice, and Levert had (died in 2006) a beautiful soul voice. Chaka Khan is there too, along with Ben Harper and Bootsy Collins. All manage to add something to a tune you've heard a million times over, and of course they are backed by the best.


  1. I may have to see if this documentary is on BB3 at some point in the near future, or More 4. Sounds great. As for Bragg, I am tiring of him more than you can imagine, and I know that I have not even dented it. Lisa always said she was rather disappointed that when we got together she was hoping to inherit a large diverse record collection, what she got was a lot of Teenage Fanclub, The Frank and walters and The Wedding Present. Similarly the trawl through the CD’s, namely the B’s should have produced gold but it seems that it is going to be a whole lotta big nosey.

  2. It was on BBC 4 I think. I've got a copy on DVD if it isn't repeated.