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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Wrecking Crew (Blu-ray)
The Wrecking Crew (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // PG // June 16, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted June 24, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Much in the vein of Standing in the Shadows of Motown and Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, The Wrecking Crew attempts to shed light on a little known corner of American music in the 1960s and 1970s with a relatively anonymous group of musicians that share the thread of some of the most memorable songs in music history. The education is to put things mildly, jaw-dropping.

For those unfamiliar with them, The Wrecking Crew are a group of studio and session musicians based in California during the 1960s and 1970s. They worked with the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, the Monkees, Frank Sinatra, the length and breadth of collaborators is amazing. They worked with Phil Spector, the record producer responsible for the notable "Wall of Sound" on albums with Tina Turner and a host of others. Some of the musicians in that group went on to successful careers of their own, like Leon Russell, Dr. John and perhaps most famously, Glen Campbell. The film does not look at the impact of the group or their individual successes, but focuses more on the breadth of work that was done over the decades.

The film was directed by Denny Tedesco, son of Tommy, perhaps the most prominent guitarist of the Wrecking Crew and the one most responsible for diving into the archives. Denny had initially decided to film a reunion of Tony, bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Hal Blaine and others, but the project became so involved, spanning over a decade, before the film was released in 2008 on the festival circuit. A Kickstarter and crowdfunding/donation campaign was launched in 2013 to secure music copyrights for the songs and for the film's theatrical release in 2015, and you can see how much of a labor of love it was for Denny to make. With a variety of vintage footage combined with the musicians in the modern era playing the songs in isolation before the entire song fades in over the speakers, the sheer volume and variety of work these folks had was breathtaking. Not many people could go from Sam Cooke to Herb Alpert to TV theme songs, but a lot of the people in the Wrecking Crew did just that.

There is a fair amount of candor too when it comes to some of the members in the band. Blaine discusses his financial troubles, the change over the years in California and in music is recalled, members of the band no longer around are recalled, and Denny talks about the love of his Dad and his sorrow in him not seeing the final product. It is frank but not overly so, it does not overstay any welcomes by telling you what a hard time it may have had.

However, by the same token the film is also more enamored with showing you just how much music the band was associated with rather than some of the nuances involved or signatures established by the musicians. To be clear, the film does some of it, but not enough for my liking. But it is not enough that it makes it a disappointing or incomplete film. Oddly enough, the volume of work is impressive and is amazing, but I think one could watch The Wrecking Crew and Standing in the Shadows of Motown and see what the differences between both films were from a storytelling perspective. Both are good (Motown is better if I had to pick between them), but in different ways.

The great things about documentaries like The Wrecking Crew along with some of the other documentaries I mentioned earlier, is that films like those scratch the surface when it comes to music within the 1960s and 1970s. So much good stuff came out and is either being discovered or re-appreciated by a far wider audience that the next story that comes out will be just as, if not more, impressive. The Wrecking Crew is a solid, impressive addition to the library of these stories, and the wider spotlight shone on the band of musicians is one that deserves to be seen by even more people than just this guy.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and using the AVC encode for high definition, The Wrecking Crew looks as good as can be. The film juggles a bunch of interview sources, some of it vintage, but looks like it would expect to look, with no banding, haloing or artifacts that would otherwise be inherent in the image. Film grain is definitely present though viewing and while not the prettiest girl at the dance, it's not here for its looks. As it stands, it looks fine.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround does as much justice to the music and the men who made it as you could expect. Everything sounds well-balanced, clear and powerful. The soundtrack doesn't employ the drums a lot, but the guitar, bass and piano all sound clear and dynamic. Interview subjects sound good and clear, and the music as strong as available. Not reference quality but considering the production values, sounds fine by me.

Extras:

Denny Tedesco put a TON of deleted footage on here, and there are three qualms I have with it, the play all option isn't complete, some of the segments include opening and closing titles, which is unnecessary, and there is a lot of stuff here. Not that a lot of footage is a bad thing, there just is not much rhyme or reason to how it's laid out, or things that Denny may want the viewer to see more than other stuff. In a way it's kind of like the music, you have to go through a lot to find a gem or two. "Songs" (59:28) looks at some of the things not in the film and some anecdotal and quite funny stories; "Themes" (36:47) gets into some of the grit surrounding Spector the producer, and "Musician Jokes" (6:24) are a rapidfire sequence of one-liners that many of the band recall.

The next several sections are grouped by instrument a band member played, but they include origin stories, anecdotes and other pieces of information. You have "Guitar" (1:00:18), "Engineers" (35:29), "Artists" (43:11) "Bass" (16:16), "Drums/Percussion" (23:27), "Piano" (55:51), "Producers/Arrangers" (45:17) and "Horns" (11:47). But then you have the reel of song credits (2:51) and assorted Dedications (2:05), along with a list of donors for the film's release (7:29). The trailer (2:27) completes things.

Final Thoughts:

If you have not heard of The Wrecking Crew and are any self-respecting fan of music, then The Wrecking Crew is required viewing for a deeper appreciation towards music history, with some interesting stories and some amazing interview subjects sharing praise over the same anonymous, soft-spoken, bunch of musicians, and the subtle feeling of a love a son has for his Dad can be felt while watching. Technically, it is quite good, and the wealth of interview footage here is amazing. Stuff like this is always welcomed on film, and anyone who likes music should see this.

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