Video Reviews

This is an archive page - last updated in 1998


First - a message from Chris Warwin; if anyone out there has got a copy of the "Motown returns to the Apollo" show -- please contact Chris at cmwarwin@webtv.net

commercially available video tapes

The Beat Video tapes - 7 two-hour tapes

The Beat was a series of half hour soul music shows that were produced by a local Texas TV station in 1966. There were 26 episodes filmed in all. Some episodes have been circulating among collectors for years, but now all the episodes have been made available by Anglo-American (Tim Brown's operation in the UK) on this 7 tape series, and the price is quite reasonable. Feel free to e-mail me for more details on how to get them. The tapes are available on PAL, you'll have to ask about NTSC.
Although I have some reservations, let me start my review by saying this - if you're here reading this, then you must get these tapes. This thing is as close to a time machine as you can get.

Some of the performances were recorded live with the house band, Clarence Gatemouth Brown and the Beat Boys, but tha majority are lip-synched, and also instrument-synched, i.e. the band is filmed playing, but actually the record is heard. It seems the band only had time to learn one or two tracks per program, so the rest were lip-synched. For me the live tracks are the cream of the crop, but some lip-synched tracks are so good that they're also a joy to watch.

On the technical side: The audio is OK, there's a slight hum but that didn't bother me too much. The picture quality is a little disappointing. Maybe it's the NTSC to PAL transfer. And there's an annoying time code that's running throughout the programs, about an inch from the bottom of the screen, counting frames. I don't know the time code got there, the one tape I had before (NTSC) didn't have this time code, but the video quality was very poor.

On the advertisement breaks, there's just a blank screen, and some background talking is heard - e.g. "Mathew, are these your socks?", which is a little weird, isn't it. It's definitely an American accent, so it can't be Tim Brown's family.

And there's a couple of go go dancers, which I find generally silly.

And now here's the good stuff:

Program #1

Little Milton - We're gonna make it (live) - great! a roundish man with that familiar growling voice, a real treat.
(host talks to Milton, we find out why the Little. Throughout the shows each guest gets a short interview, just a couple of sentences - not in-depth interviews, but fun to watch)

Frank Howard and the Commanders - Shotgun (live) - WOW! song and dance extravaganza from this trio, who seem to have some sort of in-house vocal act status for the show. Somehow for me this captures the essence of 60's soul - just three unknown guys with a lot of soul having big fun.

Esther Phillips - I could have told you (ls = lip synch) a standard, no interest for me there.

(short intsrumental interlude from the Beat Boys)

Little Milton - Blind man (ls) bluesy, minor hit in early 65

Little Milton - Who's Cheating who (ls) - nice - this was the follow up to We're gonna make it, which BTW was a major hit - three weeks #1 Billboard R&B on the spring of 65. Cheating, almost a straight copy of WGMI musically, made it to number 4 in the summer of 65. Nice but lip synched.

(Clarence Gatemouth plays lead guitar on a short instrumental)

Esther Phillips - Just say goodbye - didn't blow my mind.

Program #2

Joe Tex - A sweet woman like you (ls) - nice, but a little too sweet for me (R&B #1 early 66)

Etta James - Only time will tell (ls) - wonderful ballad. Etta has her blonde wig on - beware!

Little Milton - We've got the winning hand (ls) nice mid tempo one, I hadn't known it before I got the tape.

Etta James - Something got a hold on me (live!) - Big Etta burns the screen, albeit the version is a little stretchy at the end.

Frank Howard and the Commanders - It didn't work out that way - a serene, slightly doo-woppish ballad. I like these guys. (can't tell if that was live or pre-recorded)

Joe Tex - Hold what you've got - lip synch + the record is too well known for me to enjoy.

BTW each show ends with all the guest artists joining in, dancing and sometimes singing together, can't remember now what was the finale for this show, but I definitely remember Etta James joining Joe Tex and doing the Jerk (or the something else), a sight to see.

Program #3

Esther Phillips - And I love him (ls) - Well, I like some of Esther's later recordings such as When love comes to the human race and I saw me on Atlantic, but this is way too schmaltzy for me.

Lattimore Brown - I got you (I feel good) (live) a killer version of James Brown's hit.

Lattimore Brown - I'm not through loving you (ls) - a beautiful ballad, a pity it was lip-synched. What a soulful singer, and a personal friend of Otis Redding (he did a tribute to Otis - Otis is gone on Seventy Seven)

Etta James - I'm so sorry for you - (ls?) - a poppish ballad, not too brilliant, though Etta's voice saves it.

Roscoe Shelton - Money - (live) Barrett Strong's hit, a gritty and soulful performance - one of the peaks of what I've seen so far.

Roscoe Shelton - Easy going fellow (ls) - nice but ls, alas. R&B # 32 early 1966, presented as a big comeback for him but actually a minor hit, and his last chart entry, a pity.

Grand finale - Esther, Etta, Roscoe and Lattimore doing a live What's I say - can't be bad, can it
Programs #4 - #6

Lee Shot & Gerri Taylor - Tighten up your game - fascinating dialog type duet

Carla Thomas lip synchs through Comfort Me and some other tracks from that LP (e.g. Move on drifter) - I haven't been a big Carla fan before but I am now - her eyes did that to me.

Art Grayson lip-synchs When I get home - great ballad.

Cleo Randle does the same with Big city lights - impressive bluesy Chicago beat ballad.
She sounds quite similar to Mitty Collier.

Mighty Joe Young does Suffering Soul - he doesn't even try to lip SYNCH, he just moves his lips around, and actually it looks like he's suffering through it all. But who'd have thought we'd ever get to see the guy do this painful classic?

Jimmy Church with a handful of covers - The Duck (Oh! so that's how you do it, I'll try it next time I go dancing), Can't turn you loose, Uptight (totally off key) - the man is a good looker, but not a top league soul artist, in my opinion.

Frank Howard and the Commanders, my favorites, always live, do Land of the 1000 dances (do = sing AND dance), and Try me. Both terrific. < /FONT >

Gerri Taylor does Bitter tears, LIVE, uptempo, I loved it.

At the end of the 5th show, Lee Shot, Jimmy Church, Cleo Randle and Frank Howard do "If I had a hammer", live of course - each of them sings one verse, and for me it's a moment of sheer soul.

Well that's it as far as detalied reviews go - you get the picture. I'll let you be surprised by the subsequent episodes, numbers 7 to 26, but I'll just mention some of the artists that perform on them - Barbara Lynn, the Mighty Hannibal, the Kelly Brothers, Johnnie Taylor, the Radiants, Robert Parker, Joe Simon, Willie Mitchell - to name just a few, and the last show is hosted by none other than Otis Redding, who brings with him his own band for an all-live show!!!


Back to Stax volumes 1,2,3 - Polygram/Channel 5

This three volume set was filmed live at the Palais Des Festivals, Cannes in 1990. The Back to Stax bill included the original Booker T. & the MGs/Mar Keys, with Danny Gotlieb replacing the late great Al Jackson Jr. on drums, but the otherwise original line up: Donald "Duck" Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Wayne Jacskson and Andrew Love, augmented by Marvell Thomas on piano (as on many a Stax session). On vocals were three of Stax's major artists, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), Carla Thomas, and Eddie Floyd, and one non-Stax artist, Phil Upchurch. This was not one of those sloppy oldies shows, but a splendid, soulful experience. It was almost as if the 23 years that have gone by since the Stax/Volt European tour have disappeared , and with them the disco disaster. True, they didn't play any new, original stuff, which would have really made this a true soul revival. And some of the performances sound not quite as tight as the records. And Otis was not brought back to life, though his soul was there. But the playing and the singing was pure soul music. I don't think this could have happened during the 70's or early 80's, when soul artists were still trying to adjust their performances to the inferior current styles. At that night in Cannes, there was an air of confidence in the original sound, that great Stax tradition that has outlived anything that superseded it.

Booker T. and the players were cooking. Sam Moore had enough soul for two, to compensate for the absence of the late Dave Prater, his performance was exquisite, and included the best of the Sam & Dave repertoire. When he did I can't stand up for falling down, I bet more than a few spines shivered. Carla Thomas seemed to sing better than in the 60's, that little girl whining had gone and a mature, deep soul voice has emerged. Eddie Floyd's part of the show was not as moving as the others, but it's great to see him live.

Although filmed a lot after the heyday of soul, these three video tapes are highly recommended. The performance was very well filmed, the sound is good, and there are short interviews with the artists.

Track listings

Volume 1

Booker T & The MG's / The Mar Keys - Last night, hip hug her

Phil Upchurch - love and peace

Sam Moore: Hold on I'm comin, I can't stand up for falling down, You got me hummin, When something is wrong with my baby (with Carla Thomas), I take what I want, I thank you, soul man.

Sam Moore, Carla Thomas and Eddie Floyd - The dock of the bay

Volume 2

Booker T & The MG's / The Mar Keys - Last night, Green onions, summertime

Phil Upchurch - You Can't sit down

Carla Thomas - Lovey dovey, Baby let me be good to you, tramp, gee whiz, baby

Eddie Floyd - Raise your hand, knock on wood

Volume 3

Booker T & The MG's - Melting pot, Hang 'em high, Johnny I love you (alas no vocals from Booker), Time is tight

Booker T & The MG's / The Mar Keys - Bootleg, Philly Dog

Eddie Floyd: 634-5789, Stand by me / Chain gang medley, Big bird

Sam Moore - Said I wasn't gonna tell nobody, You don't know like I know.



R.E.S.P.E.C.T - (Dancing In the Streets Series - the soul episode) - BBC Video

The editors of this documentary on the 60's soul era were not a soulful lot. The 60's video footage is mercilessly edited, not more than a few seconds devoted to each clip. Everything is dedicated to telling the story, not to listening to the sounds and seeing the sights. Still, the interviews and some of the short clips make this tape a worthwhile purchase. The program is divided into two major parts: first Motown, then Southern Soul: Stax and Fame, with a few seconds of JB at the end. The Motown part includes several real live (non lip-synch) clips from a Motortown review at the Apollo. The bill headlines the Miracles, the Contours (!) and in smaller letters - Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, Martha and the Vandellas and the Marvelettes. Looks like it was filmed in 1963. Wouldn't I like to get my hands on the unedited source of this Apollo performance. Still in the Motown section, There's an interview with Maxine Powell of the "Motown Finishing School", who was supposed to teach the young stars some etiquette. She claims to have taught Marvin Gaye not to sing with his eyes closed... still a later clip of Marvin reveals that as soon as Mrs. Powell turned her back he was closing his eyes again, which goes to show that Motown's notorious "polishing" efforts were luckily wasted on many of their acts. The Southern Soul part contains interviews with Wilson Pickett (very witty - this is the highlight of this tape for me), Sam Moore, Rufus Thomas, Jerry Wexler, Rick Hall, Tom Dowd, Spooner Oldham, and the MG's minus the late Al Jackson Jr. The 60's footage here contains well known clips from the Stax UK tour, Otis Redding at Monterey, and Percy Sledge doing WAMLAW live in the The Beat! program.

Why did 60's soul die out as that decade faded? The final minutes of the program are devoted to this question. Emphasis is placed on Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, the riots that this murder instigated and the growing difficulties in integrated musical work of blacks and whites. I'm not sure that that's the whole story. It seems to have been something much wider - something I would call the death of 60's optimism.

The bottom line - this is a mainstream TV program that tells a rather shallow history and cruelly edits its video footage - but still, there are too many points of interest here to miss out on this.


Soul Power Volume 1 - The Video Collection (UK) 1990, 56 minutes.

This is a compilation of clips of various sources. Not a documentary, so you get the full length of each clip, which is nice. Most clips are live, not much lip synching to the record, which is also nice. However, most clips have been shown elsewhere. For some reason, there are some filmed soul reviews that keep being released on video, while others which we know exist are never used. Some of the frequently used sources are the Stax/Volt review in London 67, with the MG's/Mar Kays backing up, the Motown TAMI TV show, and Britain's Ready Steady Go TV series. Some of the yet to be released sources are the legendary The Beat! 1966 syndicated soul music series, Britain's Top of the Pops series, and the Motown review at the Apollo.

Anyway, the good clips on this compilation are Arthur Conley doing Sweet soul music at the London Stax/Volt review, Sam & Dave - Hold on I'm coming, same show, Joe Tex - Skinny legs and all, a TV live performance with a 9 piece horn section - a real gem, Marvin Gaye - Can I get a witness and The Miracles - You've really got a hold on me , both from the TAMI show, and Rufus Thomas Walking the Dog on Ready Steady Go with a superb local backing band (the Ram Jam band??). Also a James Brown TV live performance of Prisoner of love, backed by the legendary band with the two drummers and the Famous Flames doing backup vocals. Somehow there are strings which are not seen, can I be wrong about this being live? don't think so.

Also interesting to see Clarence Carter lip-synching Patches - mainly because I've never seen him before on video.

Some of the inferior clips - Sex machine by JB, sometimes in the 70's I guess, The Four Tops doing a bad 70's version of Reach out I'll be there - on Soul Train? - and two clips from the Soul to Soul festival in Ghana - Wilson Pickett doing In the midnight hour - that live 1971 version is somewhat less connvincing than the record- the Wicked was probably by then tired of doing Midnight hour for six years night after night - and the same goes for River deep mountain high by Ike & Tina Turner, on the same stage - too fast, too frantic.

Soul Power Volume 2- The Video Collection (UK) 1990, 56 minutes.

More of the same - generally same sources as Volume 1. Wilson Pickett does Land of 1000 dances in Ghana, the performance (as in Midnight Hour) is not immaculate, but the response of the crowd adds a lot of excitement. James Brown does a live It's a man's man's world on a TV show, Sam & Dave do You don't know like I know in England, an outstanding performance, to me the dynamic duo were probably the best live soul show ever, but sadly that clip is edited. Marvin Gaye does hitchhike live on the TAMI show - great clip! You can also learn how to do the hitch hike - get that silly Macarena out of your life. Also great is the Bar Kays clip, they do a live performance of a track that is shown on video as "Soul finger jam", but is actually "Give everybody some". Otis does Try a little tenderness on the England Stax/Volt review - I prefer the American TV version with the Bar Kays (that's on the Otis video that's to be reviewed in the future). Also clips by Janis Joplin (I would prefer to see Erma Franklin, wonder if there's any video of her anywhere), Ike Hayes doing Shaft, I never could understand the soulfulness of that tune, if there is any, and some other curious stuff like the Checkmates Inc. lip synching to Black Pearl on TV. A late 70's James Brown does "It's too funky in here" - not my cup of soul tea. Bottom line: Whoever made these two Soul Power volumes was not a soul connoisseur, but still they contain some video gems.


TV programs - not (yet?) commercially available

Atlantic - the Independent Years - Channel 4 (UK) TV, 1993, 100 minutes.

In sharp contrast with the above reviewed BBC tape, this program is a labor of love. Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, the two hip-to-the-tip intellectuals who dominated Atlantic records for the major part of the era covered by this program, tell their story of love for real black music. Time and again they stress how they had to convince their recording stars not to be self conscious about their soul singing tradition. As kids in Turkey, brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun had a radio they sneaked into bed tuned to the BBC, and they were staying up at nights listening to the Jazz hits of the 30's. When they had the good luck to come to live in Washington DC, after their father was appointed Turkish ambassador to the US, they got a chance to fulfill their own American dream - start a record label that would understand Black American music much better than any other native-American owned label - with either black or white ownership. Thus they were involved, probably playing a major role in two musical revolutions: the R&B come Rock & Roll revolution of the 50's, and through their affiliation with Stax and Fame, the Soul Music revolution of the 60's. It is no coincidence that Atlantic was the brainchild of non-native Americans - to this day it seems that R&B and soul is better respected and appreciated outside the USA than by its own general white public.

The program includes a lot of live footage. Performants include Ruth Brown, the Clovers, Ray Charles, the Coasters, The Drifters, Ivory Hoe Hunter, Lavern Baker, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Aretha, etc, interviews include Don Covay, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Estelle Axton (the AX of Stax), John Gary Williams (of the Mad Lads), Roger Hawkins (the legendary Fame drummer) amongst others. The bottom line: a wonderful program, probably the best R&B/Soul documentary ever done.


The Story of Stax Records - ARTE (France) TV program 1994 - 60 minutes

A documentary in French, lots of interviews in English (Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton, Rufus Thomas, Sam Moore, William Bell, Jerry Wexler, Andrew Love, Wayne Jackson, Al Bell, Mavis Staples), performances of various sources from Otis, William Bell (1994 performance of You don't miss your water with just piano backing by Marvell Thomas - amazing, spine tingling performance), Rufus Thomas at the WattsStax festival with about 100,000 people doing the Funky chicken, The Staple Singers on a funny beach video clip to Respect yourself, Isaac Hayes. Too bad Johnnie Taylor does not get an interview or a video clip - just a few seconds of I am somebody on the soundtrack from this Stax mainman. Anyway, this an excellent documentary.


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