THE BEST OF SOUL TRAIN (DVD)
The American Bandstand of soul music, this long-running TV series probably meant more to the African American community than any other show. There was an obvious message: This is our music, it is great and the world's best, and this is to celebrate our culture. In guest James Brown's words, "say it loud, I'm black and proud." Over three discs, we get some truly wonderful music, from artists at the peak of their powers, including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers, Aretha, and the Jackson 5. Although the program stretched into this century, this set concentrates on the 70's, when for my money, the music was best.
While there many great moments here, there are several problems with the collection. First and foremost, most of the acts appearing on the show perfomed lip-synch. While this was pretty typical, it also means the moments are forced and less special. Marvin Gaye struggles and jokes with it, The Commodores are painful, and most disappointingly, The Jackson 5 just aren't special at all. But there are several magic moments as well. Bill Withers is tremendous, and Lean On Me and Use Me never sounded better. James Brown's J.B's wreck the joint, so accomplished live. Stevie Wonder does a medley of hits just at the piano, with the famous Soul Train dancers singing along to Sir Duke and Ma Cherie Amour. And hearing Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin duet on Ooo Baby Baby, with Aretha playing piano is a milestone moment in soul.