Tuesday, November 30, 2010

REVIEW OF THE DAY: 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.

You do have to wade through the mud to get to the gems. Don Cornelius did wonderful work creating and producing the show, but we don't need so much of him hosting, all the standard intros and animation openings included. If those had been cut out, it would have made for a faster-paced, more watchable product on DVD. His interviews on the show are excellent, but the modern-day chat added as a bonus on each day is one of the most tedious Q and A's in the history of boxed sets. And the dance numbers, while a major part of the show, are cool only as historical artifacts now. Skipping chapters never felt so right. It's a pity more live performances weren't found to replace the many dull spots that would have jumped this set up to a must own.

1 comment:

  1. I love this set !

    Sure, there is some cheese, but that just adds to the charm. :-)