Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: 'The Wrecking Crew' DVD


No Rock & Roll education is complete without getting familiar with the rotating ensemble of session musicians now known as the Wrecking Crew. Guitarists Tommy Tedesco and Glen Campbell, drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, bassists Carol Kaye and Joe Osborn, saxophonist Plas Johnson, and pianist Leon Russell are just a few of the musicians who helped bring records for Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, The Monkees, The Byrds, Sonny and Cher, Nancy Sinatra, The Mamas and the Papas, and too many others to life. Since they rarely received any credits on the records they made, a documentary like Denny Tedesco’s (son of Tommy) The Wrecking Crew is long overdue.

And overdue it is. The younger Tedesco started work on this film in 1996, completed shooting in 2008, and was finally able to release it this year with the aid of a 2013 Kickstarter campaign. The age of the project is certainly detectable in the finished product. The interview footage is all full-screen with the only wide elements being still photos and certain pieces of archival footage. There’s none of the animation or stylish computer manipulation used in seemingly every contemporary pop doc. This is a straight-up, twentieth-century-style documentary full of shot-on-video talking heads. The filmmaker’s relationship with his subject also means that The Wrecking Crew is mostly celebratory. Nevertheless, we do get the gist of some member’s irritation with their lack of credits, being serious jazz musicians making records for The Association and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and seeing the rise of “album artists” reduce their workload in the late sixties. The Wrecking Crew is not a piece of audacious filmmaking, but its humble style is a very fitting way to tell the story of a group of musicians never known for their audacity.

The Wrecking Crew comes to DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment with a massive bundle of deleted scenes. While this kind of thing is mere filler on most discs, the scenes here actually fill out the story in essential ways. Despite being synonymous with the Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector receives very little attention in the proper film. The deleted scenes make up for this with pieces on his demanding working methods and his Christmas album, one of the most significant showcases for the Wrecking Crew’s talents. We also get deeper looks at the recordings of specific songs (guitarist Billy Strange tells a touching tale about cutting “Sloop John B.” that spotlights Brian Wilson’s generosity), how Beatlemania affected the crew, and insights from several major players missing from the proper film.

Get The Wrecking Crew on Amazon.com here:
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