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USA 2015
Directed by
Denny Tedesco
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

The Wrecking Crew

Synopsis: Six years in a row in the late 60s and early 70s Billboard's Record of the Year featured backing musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. Often their names were not even mentioned on the recordings. This is their story.

Where do I begin to give a sense of the wealth of music and musicians featured in this movie? For those not in the know, back in the early rock-n-roll era, when famous artists recorded, session musicians were brought in to do the backing. These guys provided the backbeat, the memorable guitar riffs, and often the heart and soul of so many hits, yet they went unrecognised, the songs being attributed to performers such as Cher, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Ricki Nelson, The Mamas and The Papas.

Though dozens of musos came and went in the group known as The Wrecking Crew, several featured in this doco were stalwarts, with hundreds of recordings to their names.  Drummer Hal Blaine played on more hit records than any other drummer in the rock era. The only woman in the crew, Carol Kaye, was considered one of the top rock bass guitarists ever. Jazz drummer Earl Palmer is considered one of the greatest session drummers ever, while guitarist Tommy Tedesco, the director’s father, was the impetus for the film being made in the first place.

More than 30 musicians are featured in this film, and one of the director’s favourite format is to have them sitting around a table just shooting the breeze and reminiscing. This creates a warm intimate feeling and a sense of just how extraordinary, exhausting and exciting life must have been back in those heady days, when they worked round the clock and saw more of each other than of their families. Interspersed with the session musos talking, are varied scenes of the many recording sessions and film clips that the crew were involved with, as well as present-day musings of artists like Glen Campbell who once also played with the Crew then went on to have a solo career. Now in their golden years, folks like pop trumpeter Herb Albert and Nancy Sinatra also reminisce on working with the Crew.

For music lovers, and especially baby boomers who adored the mainstream music of the era, this film is a veritable feast – of music, of information, and of nostalgia - as well as being a testament to the expertise and magic of these exceptional backing musicians. It is also redolent with the love Denny Tedesco had for his father.

I can’t help but compare this with two other films in the same genre: Twenty Feet from Stardom about the back-up singers to many pop classics and Standing in the Shadows of Motown about the Funk Brothers who created the legendary Motown sound. Both of these were structurally more cohesive as films. Wrecking Crew tends to flit around from one thing to another, in and out of time eras, and at times is almost overwhelming in the density of its content. But the enjoyment I got from it nears the full bottle – it is unmissable for lovers of the era and music history, and for anyone wanting to simply revel in the brilliance of  the unsung heroes of a bygone era of pop music.




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