In the last 2 weeks, I've seen two really great music documentaries.
The first is Standing in the Shadows of Motown and it's about the Funk Brothers, the house band for Motown who played on all Motown records from the 60s to the 70s but were never credited for their contributions. The band also played on many great records of the time outside Motown as well, like Jackie Wilson's "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher & Higher)". The film is centred around a tribute concert featuring an assortment of singers covering songs that the Brothers played on, backed by the surviving members of the band.It is inter cut with a series of interviews with the members of the band, who are fascinating and astoundingly modest about their ground breaking work. What is most refreshing about this is that the film never resorts to the old documentary standby- talking heads. Instead, the artists performing in the concert have conversations with the band members, and are genuinely interested and respectful of their work.
The performers include Meshell Ndegeocello, Montell Jordan, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan and Joan Osborne. In between the interviews and performances, director Paul Justman includes archival photos, unearthed video clips and surprisingly well-done dramatizations, in what could be a first for the genre.
Here's its IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0314725/
It's a really excellent watch.
Also: Worth seeing for:
-Bootsy belting out "Cool Jerk" in a shiny pink wig and his trademark star shades
-Joan Osborne, (yeah, the one who sang "One of Us") who delivers the best performance in the concert with her jawdropping takes on Martha & the Vandella's "Dancing in the Streets" & "Heat Wave". She actually put out a soul album in 2002 but apparently didn't include any of these covers for some reason.
Here's a clip of her performing Heat Wave:
The second is Scratch, a documentary by Doug Pray about DJs and turntablism and their role in hip hop culture. Pray rounds up innovators and luminaries in the field like Grand Wizard Theodore, (inventor of the scratch), DJ Premier, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Qbert and DJ Shadow to discuss the DJ's rise to glory and its cultural importance. The film is informative without being dull and is relentlessly about upbeat and optimistic about the future of the DJ. Bonus points for parts where the film's audio is scratched and looped like a record by Qbert. I can't recommend it enough, whether you're a DJ or simply interested.
Here's the movie's website:
Here's some amazing scratching from DJ Roc Raida:
Also you can watch and download the entire movie here. Still, I recommend picking up the DVD for its excellent bonus features.: