Take Me to the River

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Loren Bien­venu

Take Me to the River , mu­sic doc­u­men­tary, rated PG, The Screen, 2.5 chiles Mu­sic and Mem­phis are in­sep­a­ra­bly en­twined in Martin Shore’s doc­u­men­tary. Nar­ra­tor Ter­rence Howard opens the film by fer­vently prais­ing the largest city on the Mis­sis­sippi River as an “in­te­grated mu­sic utopia.” This spirit is sus­tained by the nu­mer­ous mu­si­cians, vary­ing in age and pro­fes­sional stature, who come to­gether in the movie to do what they do best — which is not just rem­i­nisc­ing about the good old days (though sev­eral are ex­perts at that), but record­ing a stu­dio al­bum to­gether, with Shore doc­u­ment­ing the process.

The idea of a record be­ing made in or­der to be filmed seems like it might lead to over­pro­duced re­sults. This is partly the case. The film’s sav­ing grace is its foun­da­tional con­cept of men­tor­ship. All 12 of the recorded tracks fea­ture a pair­ing of at least one leg­end from the past and one newer voice. Ex­am­ples in­clude Booker T. Jones work­ing with rap­per Al Kapone, and Wil­liam Bell and Snoop Dogg with stu­dents from the Stax Mu­sic Academy. The col­lab­o­ra­tions are not al­ways per­fect, though they are con­sis­tent with the mes­sage of the film — that Mem­phis’ rich his­tory of de­vel­op­ing key mu­si­cal gen­res comes from the in­ter­min­gling of the city’s di­verse peo­ple and sounds.

The sto­ried Stax Records is the touch­ing point for most of the older play­ers. Syn­ony­mous with the Mem­phis soul move­ment of the 1960s, the la­bel and stu­dio put out land­mark re­leases by artists such as Otis Red­ding and Isaac Hayes. Al Bell, the la­bel’s ex­ec­u­tive for part of its his­tory, says in the film, “Stax didn’t say, ‘We want you to sound like this or sound like that.’ Stax was say­ing come on in and be your­self. … That’s what made it so au­then­tic.” This au­then­tic­ity does not carry over fully to the ses­sions in the film. The oc­ca­sion­ally forced artist match-ups lead to some par­tic­i­pants not know­ing who they are work­ing with un­til the per­son ar­rives at the stu­dio (and some­times not even then). But again, the pos­i­tiv­ity of the play­ers buoys most dips in mu­si­cal qual­ity and nar­ra­tive, es­pe­cially in the case of the older mu­si­cians — a num­ber of whom are cap­tured record­ing their fi­nal takes. While most view­ers of Take Me to the River won’t be glued to the edges of their seats or rush out to the record store af­ter the cred­its roll, the film is a touch­ing trib­ute to the mu­si­cians who paved the way for the present gen­er­a­tion, and it of­fers a promis­ing out­look on what’s to come.

From me to you: Bobby “Blue” Bland and Lil’ P-Nut

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.