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Rhino presents
Soul to Soul (1971)

"This is where it all comes from / Where the rhythm will turn you on."
- Tina Turner

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: February 11, 2005

Stars: Wilson Pickett, Ike Turner, Tina Turner, The Staple Singers, Carlos Santana
Director: Dennis Sanders

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: August 24, 2004
UPC: 603497032723
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+A- A-

DVD Review

You know you've got a scorching r-&b show on your hands when the Ike and Tina Turner Revue aren't even the headliners. This film documents the concert put on in Ghana by some of the brightest lights in American music, in March 1971; it's part concert film, part travelogue, part act of cultural mediation, and all filled with great, great music. With a couple of exceptions, all of the Americans performing at the concert are of African descent, and this trip to West Africa was, they felt, a homecoming of sorts; what's fascinating about the movie is the duality of that. That is, in some respects there's an obvious cultural affinity between the Americans and the Africans; at others, the Americans are as fascinated and intrigued and lacking in knowledge about the country they're visiting as would any of their countrymen of any ethnic heritage.

At times, the sense you get is that any new experience is going to be foreign to you if you're really, really famous, and at the time it's hard to think of people more famous than Tina Turner and Wilson Pickett. (Pickett seems to be the most popular and most beloved for the African audiences.) The event sort of feels like the musical equivalent and cultural precursor to the Rumble in the Jungle, the 1974 heavyweight fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali held in Zaire, and documented in When We Were Kings—both events combine a frankly Western cultural event in an African context, with the principal participants being American blacks seeking out and newly taking pride in their African heritage. The performers are gracious and inquisitive about the world they're seeing for the first time; still, it's obvious that many of the local customs are unfamiliar, and Ike and Tina Turner, for instance, visiting an African village, wear looks of wonder, confusion, awe and inspiration; a few minutes later, you see those same looks on the faces of the Africans when Pickett performs In the Midnight Hour.

What's nice, too, is that this isn't a sanitized, made-for-tourism version of Africa; one of the principal topics of conversation, in fact, is the complicity of black Africans in the slave trade, those who made their livings by selling their own into bondage. The documentary does well cutting back and forth between performance and sociology, and whatever your cultural condition or background, and whatever continent you're from, for a lot of this you can just sit back and enjoy the music. Carlos Santana is in fine form, as are the Staple Singers; Tina Turner burns it up, especially on River Deep, Mountain High, and if you've seen What's Love Got to Do With It, you're sort of waiting for the smoldering Ike to explode, or will be wondering just what happened when they got off stage. Best of all, though, is probably Pickett, who giddily invites some members of the audience on stage to dance with him; his final number, Land of 1000 Dances, is glorious.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1971 footage frequently looks washed out and grainy, but it's been transferred with care; this is never going to look studio perfect, but this was obviously labored over, and the work shows.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both audio options sound fine, though there's a good deal of hiss; which one you go with probably depends on your audio set-up at home, but if you're tricked out for it, the 5.1 mix sounds atmospheric and rich.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
1 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Mavis Staples with Rob Bowman (track one); Les McCann and Kevin Griffin, with Rob Bowman (track two) Tom Mosk, David Peck and Jon Kanis, with Rob Bowman (track three); Ike Turner, Michael Shrieve, Obo Addy, Kevin Griffin and Les McCann, with Rob Bowm
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying audio CD
  2. photo gallery
  3. accompanying booklet
Extras Review: Four (!) full commentary tracks provide all kinds of context and tidbits; it's a whole lot to listen to, but each one has its virtues, and all are hosted by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Rob Bowman. On the first, Bowman facilitates the conversation with Mavis Staples, of the Staple Singers, who fondly remembers the project; without a doubt, she says, Pickett got the biggest reception. Especially noteworthy for her was a proposition from an African tribal chief: "I would like for you to be my wife #4." (Staples politely declined.) Bowman performs emcee chores again on the second commentary, with Les McCann and Kevin Griffin of Voices of East Harlem, one of the groups featured in the film; the three of them seem to be have a rollicking good time, cracking up one another, and reflecting on the movie and concert coming just at the beginning of a newly discovered cultural Afrocentrism among American blacks. (There's also some video footage [14m:03s] of the track being recorded.)

Bowman welcomes three of the film's producers for track three—Tom Mosk was one of the producers on the picture back in the day, and David Peck and Jon Kanis oversaw the reissue. They discuss the genesis of the project, and how the concert came together and on such an enormous scale is a great story—over 100,000 Ghanaians attended. They also give a blow-by-blow on how the film came back from the dead and to DVD. (There's video footage [08m:37s] from this one, too.) And finally, batting cleanup, Bowman presides over reminiscences from a handful of performers: Griffin and McCann are back for this one, and there's intermittent commentary from Ike Turner, Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, and Obo Addy, a Ghanaian percussionist who performed with the Americans. They seem to have been all recorded separately, though, so there's not much group rapport to be found on this one.

There's also a bonus performance (05m:44s) of Ike and Tina Turner ripping it up on I've Been Loving You Too Long," and Ike provides commentary on this, too, concerning where the song would have fit in to one of their sets. A Photo Gallery on the DVD features 47 images, featuring location snapshots and pages of the original program. An accompanying booklet features an extended essay on the concert by Bowman; it's full of fascinating details and trivia, and some great pictures, too. And last but certainly not least, an accompanying audio CD features highlights from the film, balancing, as the movie does, familiar Western tunes (In the Midnight Hour, Ooh Poo Pah Doo) with numbers from some of the African performers. Crank it up.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

A rocking cross-cultural event lovingly restored and decked out with extras for this DVD release.

 


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