Pick a Motown classic from the '60s, any Motown classic from the '60s, and chances are that guys like "Pistol" Allen, "Bongo" Brown, and James Jamerson played on it. Whether it was Marvin, Martha, or the Miracles singing the song, the music you hear was often made by a studio band knownor rather, unknownas the Funk Brothers. On DVD April 22, Shadows pays a long-overdue homage to the hugely influential but largely overlooked players who helped produce more No. 1 records than the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis combined.
Beginning with several man-on-the-street-style interviews (conducted, actually, with shoppers in record stores), Shadows drives home the idea that virtually no one knows who came up with that distinctive guitar riff on "My Girl," nor whose bass rhythms propelled "Baby Love." Almost all the music fans encountered here could only shrug their shoulders. It seems no one knows who backed Stevie Wonder; no one knows who actually played all those hits.
Perhaps making up for a lack of original period footage, the performance portions of Shadows pair contemporary Top-40 hit-makers like Joan Osborne and Ben Harper with the remaining Brothers. Along with interviews, these performances make up the bulk of the first of two Shadows discs. While Martha Reeves fans may not be thoroughly impressed with Osborne's washed-out, inhibited vocals on "Heat Wave," it's good to know the old cats behind her still have their chops. Their spirited performances and wide smiles convey a sense of prideand of validation at long last.
There's little to validate about Disney's animated Treasure Planet, which arrives April 29, along with its 1950 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. On the same date, if you're waiting to see X2, there's something called X-Men: The Legend of Wolverine, along with the Oscar-winning documentary Murder on a Sunday Morning. Two Weeks Notice also reaches DVD, as do a slew of old Zaitoichi samurai flicks. Warner Bros. backed down on a planned new deluxe Matrix set (sorry). Facets is issuing a five-disc set of Amos Gitai films, and Criterion's doing the same for Truffaut's entire Antoine Doinel cycle. Fellini fans will also seek out the 1950 Fellini rarity, The White Sheik.