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Muscle Shoals Reviews

Page 1 of 4
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

April 1, 2014
There is no denying that Muscle Shoals, Alabama has its place in modern music. In this documentary we hear from many great artists about the importance and unique influence the area had on them and their careers. Indeed, the examples given make it clear that there is a certain signature sound that was developed and maintained in the studios there that are unlike any other in the world. The string of classic songs recorded there is nothing short of astonishing. There is definitely something in the water. The style of documentary is nothing new, it is informative and well structured. Unfortunately however, we hear from many different musicians who don't really have anything to do with it. Bono didn't record there and the Rolling Stones are even cited in the documentary as being copy cats, wannabes who came over because it was fashionable but left unchanged. They are given way too much screen time but I guess the makers felt they needed bigger names. I enjoyed it but it can be incredibly slow at times, if only it could grab the audience the same way the music does.

Super Reviewer

November 11, 2013
Documentary explaining how two studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama became hit factories, supplying us with number one singles from Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and others. This goes deeper into the music business and its history than the more celebrated 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, and Anthony Arendt's unexpectedly great cinematography makes this tiny hamlet and its environs into a character every bit as intriguing as the rural music moguls.
John B

Super Reviewer

May 2, 2013
There have been a tremendous amount of music documentaries created over the last five years and Muscle Shoals adds to that memorable list. Here deep in Alabama, a unique sound emerges causing all the big names in music to come, record and pay homage. This is also a homage to those individuals who stayed in the community and contributed to that greatness.
April 22, 2014
Excellent documentary about the sound that was born out of a little town in Alabama. Everyone from Aretha Franklin to Lynard Skynard came to Muscle Shoals to play.

The film interviews all the major players and tells the story from the first days of FAME studios to today. The film is pretty chronological, but kind of skips around some, which saps the pace a bit.

Plus, there are music stars who pop up for no apparent reason, like Bono and Alicia Keys.

But, the music is great, there are lots of good stories, and the cinematography is well done.
March 1, 2014
Or the One Where Rednecks From South Alabama Sound Just Like Funky Black Musicians...

Just like the sound coming out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, I was not expecting this film at all. Maybe it's because I didn't know anything at all about the subject, but I found Muscle Shoals to be an engrossing and fascinating documentary about the studio built by Rick Hall that attracted musicians from all kinds of genres. Greg Camalier crafted this documentary to be more than just an informative and entertaining look at Fame Studios, but it also serves as a look at the effect music had on the civil rights movement.

Every story coming out of Muscle Shoals speaks about the union of these white, country boys blending their sound with the soulful sounds of black musicians from Motown and the likes. It serves as a reminder of the power of music to unite people. In the end, race doesn't matter, all that matters is the music. Muscle Shoals works on multiple levels, but one of the most important is its examination of the civil rights movement.

The entire film also has an almost mythical feel. This is aided, of course, by much of the interview that Bono gives. But the truth is, all of the musicians talk about how the sound coming out of Muscle Shoals is enigmatic, and solely belongs to that group of people and that studio. In a year of great music documentaries, Muscle Shoals earns its right to be a "must see".
October 1, 2013
A lot of people won't go see this very fine documentary and that is a shame. Could be one of the better music documentaries out there. I learned so much about even some of my favorite bands/songs (both past and current). I had no idea what Muscle Shoals even meant. I just recall the lyric from the old Lynyrd Skynyd song, "Sweet Home Alabama" and I even had that mixed up in my head all these years (don't worry, they explain it in the film). If you like Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Aretha, Allman Bros., Blues, Southern Rock, Soul..., hell, if you like MUSIC, don't miss this one. You'll thank me later...
June 28, 2014
A wonderful look at a location that changed the history of music recording. Certainly worth a watch. Muscle Shoals is a jem.
July 6, 2014
Loved it...I've even been to Florence, Alabama but didn't know just how significant it was!
June 29, 2014
a muset see....learned so much about the Muscle Shoals, Alabama music scene. Incredible. Now I know why Skynrd says, "Muscle Shoals has the Swampers"...... in Sweet Home Alabama.
June 14, 2014
rare, amazing moment of genuine southern pride
June 7, 2014
Every music lover should rent this documentary. The Muscle Shoals sound is a combination of talent, hard work and diversity (in The South of all places)
May 30, 2014
A great documentary. If you love music and it's history then you need to watch this.
May 22, 2014
Fantastic program if you like southern blues and soul
May 20, 2014
May 14, 2014
One line summary: Beautiful portrait of two of the greatest recording studios.


The recording house Fame Recording Studios began in the small town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, seemingly out of nowhere. The film fills in a lot of back story, commentary from well-known music figures, and a great deal of local colour. The early perspective was with Rick Hall, who led a group of local musicians who became his session crew for recordings with big names such as Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin.

The story of how Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman conspired to make a cover of the Beatles' Hey Jude was touching, magical, and hilarious, as was the short story given of the beginning of the Allman Brothers Band.

At one point, Rick Hall got a contract with Capital Records. When he announces that, his early crew has an announcement of their own. They broke off and went with Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records) to form Muscle Shoals Recording Studios in the same town. At first the new studio did not do well, but then the Stones recorded You've Got to Move, Wild Horses, and Brown Sugar, three of their best blues tunes, at MSRS.

Rick Hall was in a feud with Jerry Wexler, and recruited a new session crew using the leverage of Capital Records. He formed a new rhythm section called the Fame Gang. This worked well for him. He cut records with Lou Rawls, Bobbie Gentry, Candi Staton, King Curtis, Little Richard, Mac Davis, Joe Tex, and plenty more. In 1971, Rick became Producer of the Year, which he did not achieve with his original session group.

Jimmie Johnson's MSRS was also doing interesting things. They signed Lynard Skynard, and recorded a number of great cuts with them. However, the band ended up leaving Johnson when he could not sell a nine minute single to any record company. After a plane crash took the lives of three band members, two of the survivors came back to Johnson and asked that 11 of the 17 cuts they did at MSRS become the next album.

The stories about Jimmy Cliff (early reggae) and Steve Winwood (Traffic) recording with MSRS and going on the road with them were just delicious. Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Glenn Fry, and a host of others recorded at MSRS.


This one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
If you like modern music (last 50 years or so), catch this film: for the musical history, for the cultural references, for the magic and the misfires.
From Sweet Home Alabama: ' Muscle Shoals has the Swampers...'; this film gives a complete explanation.
This film really does deserve the 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
One line summary: Beautiful portrait of two of the greatest recording studios.
Five stars of five.


Cinematography: 9/10 Beautifully shot; only some of the archival footage was not great looking, but no surprise there.

Sound: 10/10 Oh, so good.

Acting: z/10 Not relevant here.

Screenplay: 10/10 Nicely organised; one gets a feel for the practical magic of the two studios in Muscle Shoals.
May 5, 2014
Another wonderful supporting-player documentary similar in scope to Twenty Feet From Stardom, Answers the musical riddle of what the line in "Sweet Home Alabama" in Muscle Shoals they got the Swampers means. Eminantly watchable and toe tappingly wonderful. Keith Richards is a panic!
Johnny B. G.
April 8, 2014
If you are a student of history--and especially if you are a student of music--this is a must see. I was inspired and very moved by the stories (and MUSIC) of the people who were brought together by an unlikely movement started in Muscle Shoals. Highly recommended!!
March 8, 2014
An interesting story where when you have soul there are no racial boundaries, but it's the songs that will stick with you
March 3, 2014
This documentary is magic. Funky, "greezy" soul in Muscle Shoals Alabama...R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!
March 3, 2014
Music made of magic that needs to be heard. You know who you are. Now go watch!
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