The Best of Soul Train (3 DVD)

RIYL: ’70s soul, really bad fashion, Afro-Sheen

Prior to MTV (to say nothing of the network’s lack of acceptance for soul and rap music for half a decade or so) and BET, or for those of us who just didn’t have cable for a long time, “Soul Train” was the primary destination for soul music lovers looking to check out their favorite artists. Running for over three decades, just about everyone who was ever anyone in R&B or hip-hop stood on the hallowed “Soul Train” stage and performed as dozens of young, stylish dancers showed off their latest moves.

Time-Life has recently opened the “Soul Train” vaults and unleashed a nine-DVD set containing hours of performances, interviews and legendary routines, and even more recently, some of the all-time classic performances have been compiled onto the “Best of Soul Train” DVD.

This 3-disc set contains performances from some of the all-time greats of soul music, and almost all of them come from the show’s first few years, 1971-1979. (Stevie Wonder provides the only content coming from a later date, with a 1991 medley of his hits.) Although many of “Soul Train’s” guests lip-synched, this set is heavy on the rare live performances. They include a sweaty run through “That Lady” by the Isley Brothers, riveting performances of “Use Me” and “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers, an impromptu duet of “Ooh Baby Baby” by Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, and a performance by Barry White and a huge orchestra that must have required Don Cornelius’s production company to expand the Soul Train stage.

In addition to those performances, you get mimed but still incredible performances by the Jackson 5, the Commodores and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (featuring a frighteningly dressed Teddy Pendergrass). There’s also interview footage from those shows (worth the cost for the Marvin Gaye segment alone) as well as several dance routines that show how ahead of their time the Soul Train dancers were (in addition to how horrendous some of the fashions of the time were). You also get to see some of the groundbreaking commercials that ran during the Soul Train episodes, among the first ads to feature products geared exclusively towards a black audience. Bonus footage includes interviews with Soul Train creator/host Don Cornelius, the legendary Smokey Robinson, and Soul Train dancer-turned-Grammy winning singer Jody Watley.

As an admitted “Soul Train”-aholic, I’m hoping that eventually the highlights from every episode (up until the mid-Nineties, when I pretty much stopped watching) gets released. However, if you are a fan of soul music in any one of its incarnations, you need to have this DVD in your collection. So throw on your tightest bell-bottoms, pick your afro, and take a ride on the funkiest train in music history. As Don famously stated at the end of each episode, “you can bet your last money that it’s gonna be a stone gas, honey!”
(Time-Life 2010)


Talk Talk: Live at Montreux 1986

Is it just us, or is Talk Talk one of the most underrated bands of all time? Seriously, is there another band on the planet that had the growth trajectory over its first five albums that Talk Talk exhibited? (Your results may vary over the course of Talk Talk’s last two albums, but you cannot deny that they refused to do the same thing twice, come hell or high water.) This video catches the band both at their commercial peak (their third album, 1986’s The Colour of Spring) and on their last tour, playing Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival and bringing a small but packed house to its knees. Singer Mark Hollis was not one for small talk with the audience, or even doing much more than walking between the mic and the drum riser (or taking off his sunglasses, indoors), but when he starts singing, he shakes like a man possessed by the Holy Ghost, and with perfect pitch to boot. Even the band’s earlier, more synthesized fare is fleshed out by the eight-piece band, giving some unlikely songs a little welcome breathing room (“Call in the Night Boy” in particular). The set list is near-bulletproof – all the big hits, from “Talk Talk” to “Living in Another World” and “Life’s What You Make It” are here, along with their It’s My Life album in its entirety, save one song – though we wished that they had made room for “Happiness Is Easy” in the 14-song set. Then again, the band did what every great band does: they left us wanting more. This is a must-have for any fan of a criminally unappreciated band. (Eagle Vision)

Click to buy Talk Talk: Live at Montreux 1986


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