Muscle Shoals (2013)

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Released 7-May-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary
Alternative Version-Opening sequence
Deleted Scenes-Various
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 106:36
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Greg 'Freddy' Camalier

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     There is a little town in Alabama, near the banks of the Tennessee River, out of which some of the best popular music of the last 50 years has come. It is called Muscle Shoals and is the home of two small recording studios, FAME Studios and Muscle Shoal Sound Studios (actually in nearby Sheffield, Alabama). FAME Studios was started in the late 1950s by Rick Hall and two partners. Hall grew up locally in a very poor family and had struggled through life up to that stage, turning him into a very driven perfectionist. After a short time, Hall split with his partners and moved the studio. He then began to record and write hit songs with local artists such as Arthur Alexander. His first major hit was Alexander's You Better Move On. The success of that song allowed Hall to open his permanent studio in 1963, a site he still operates from today. Here he recorded many great artists including Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, mostly with a rhythm section who became known as The Swampers. The Aretha session brought him into conflict with Jerry Wexler of Atlantic records who brought Aretha and Pickett to the studio. This resulted in Wexler deciding not to work with Hall any more. Shortly afterwards, The Swampers broke off on their own and created Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. The studios both continue to record great music up to today. Over the years many great artists have recorded in one or other of these little studios including The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Percy Sledge, Boz Scaggs, Elton John, Bob Dylan, The Osmonds, Lynyrd Skynrd, Paul Simon, Traffic, The Allman Brothers, Mac Davis and many more.

     This excellent documentary tells the story of Rick Hall, The Swampers (immortalised in the lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama), the two studios, the great music recoded and the dramas and struggles that unfold. It includes interviews with many of the artists above, lots of detail of Rick Hall's life and career, his fallout with The Swampers, their subsequent successes and their eventual reconciliation. Of course, much of the great music is included and some interesting archival footage of recording sessions and more. There is drama, joy, heartbreak and success. There is also impressive and evocative footage of the surrounding landscape plus some interesting details of the local Indians beliefs about the 'river that sings'. One amazing thing about these studios is that they were open to black and white artists and musicians from the start, despite the racism going on around them in the deep south.

     All in all, this is a wonderful documentary, essential viewing for all fans of popular music especially soul and southern rock.

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Transfer Quality


     The video quality is very good.

     The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio or close to it. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The picture was sharp and clear in the modern footage. The archival footage comes up looking good for its age. Shadow detail was very good.

     The colour is great especially for the local landscape footage.

     There was some grain in the archival footage but no more than could be expected.

     There are no subtitles which is a shame.

     There is no obvious layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is very good, nearly excellent for DVD.

     This disc contains an English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 plus a commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0.

     Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand but subtitles would have proved helpful on occasion.

     The music is plentiful as you would expect in such a film. It sounds great on this soundtrack. Despite this it is a shame that this is not available on Blu-ray.

     The surround speakers were really well used for the music but also for birds, water sounds and more creating an immersive atmosphere.

     The subwoofer supported the music throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     A good selection of extras


     The menu features music.

Audio Commentary - Director 'Freddy' Camalier

     Commentaries require preparation and enthusiasm to be worthwhile. Unfortunately this one seems to have involved neither. There are lots of pauses, gaps and tedious moments. He does talk about the locations, some trivia but keeps saying 'love that shot'. Not worth your time. A great documentary but not a great commentary.

Extended Interview - Spooner Oldham (1:31)

     I am not sure one and a half minutes qualifies as extended but Spooner talks about his career and love of music.

Extended Interview - Candi Staton (8:01)

     An interesting interview about her career and experiences recording at Muscle Shoals.

Extended Interview - Donnie Fritts (6:47)

     The country songwriter and musician talks about his career and Muscle Shoals.

Original Opening Sequence (1:24)

     The one in the final film is much better than this one which focuses on the local Indian beliefs.

Jimmy Johnson on Aretha Franklin (1:28)

     Swampers guitarist talks about experiences recording with Aretha. Interesting.

Harvey Thompson live performance (1:37)

     Swampers horn player soloing in a pool hall.

Muscle Shoals Montage (1:17)

     Music with scenes of the area and people involved.

Recording in Muscle Shoals (2:03)

     Small featurette of presumably deleted footage from the main feature about the experience of recording at Muscle Shoals.

Rick Hall's reunion with The Swampers (5:09)

     The four main guys behind the studios get back together and discuss their relationship and careers. Interesting.

Theatrical Trailer (2:24)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film is available in other regions on Blu-ray and I presume DVD however I cannot find any specific details. Buy local for DVD but a Blu-ray version would probably be worth the investment.


    A wonderful music documentary.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are plentiful but mixed in quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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