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The Soul Of The Midnight Special DVD Review

“The Soul Of The Midnight Special” offers up a treasure trove of music gems.

For those that don’t know, “The Midnight Special” was a music/variety TV series. In this new 10 disc, 2 volume DVD set from Time Life, viewers get to witness a whopping 132 performances of soul musicians from the beloved series from the years 1973-1980 (although there is a healthy dose of rock, funk and disco as well). Among the artists included here are: the Spinners, The O’Jays, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Stylistics, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, The Chi-Lites, Wilson Pickett, Sly and the Family Stone, Johnnie Taylor, Chuck Berry, Billy Preston, Al Wilson, Bill Withers, The Main Ingredient, Love Unlimited Orchestra, Berry White, Blue Magic, Bobby Womack, Kool and the Gang, Ohio Players, LaBelle, Earth,Wind and Fire, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Minnie Riperton, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, The Staple Singers, The Sylvers, George Benson, James Brown, The Brothers Johnson, The Miracles, The Manhattans, Hot Chocolate, Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, Thelma Houston, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Natalie Cole, Brick, Commodores, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Evelyn King, The Trammps, Chic,Peabo Bryson, Peaches and Herb, Earl Young, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, A Taste Of Honey, Teddy Pendergrass, Isaac Hayes, The Emotions, The Whispers, Ray, Goodman and Brown, Pointer Sisters, and The Temptations. Some of the artists and bands have multiple performances and or appear on numerous episodes.

In light of last week’s Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs list which featured many of the artists listed above (with Aretha and Marvin Gaye both in the top 10), it feels like the perfect time to be reviewing “The Soul Of The Midnight Special.” Looking back on the series (which was created by Burt Sugarman) now in 2021, it’s a veritable masterclass in music history. Not only do you get to see electric show stopping live performances, but you get to see some of the greatest artists and musicians of all time (many in their prime). 

It’s tough to single out which performances are my favorite as there are so many energizing performances spread throughout the set. With that said, I was quite partial to Ray Charles belting out “What’d I Say,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Superfly” from Curtis Mayfield, “Thank You” (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) by Sly and the Family Stone, “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, “Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown, “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, “Something He Can Feel” by Aretha Franklin, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, and “Brick House” by Commodores. Of course, that’s just scratching the surface of what all is on this set.

I think what I enjoyed the most is seeing what each artist and band brought to the stage. The stage itself had various creative set-ups! Really though, it was great to hear enchanting vocal harmonies, nifty dances, the vocal power of some of the greatest singers, the sparkling 70’s outfits, and the crowd responses and interactions. It makes you realize just how special live music really is and how much these fading music genres like soul and funk are missed.

Note: The Soul Of Midnight Special can be purchased here: https://timelife.com/products/the-soul-of-midnight-special

An 18 disc release is also available.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: Fullscreen. How do the episodes look? Basically, the episodes appear as they were shown on TV. The quality resembles that of a VHS but like most of these Time Life releases, it’s just nice to see these shows getting released on disc period.

Audio Track: Unspecified. How does it sound? Not the best but the audio is decent all things considered. 

Extras:
* A booklet featuring disc contents, photos, and written material about the show and performances on each disc.
* New bonus interviews with The O’Jays, Russell Thompkins Jr. from The Stylistics, Gladys Knight, Bobby Womack, Ted Mills of Blue Magic, Patti Labelle, Maurice White of Earth, Wind And Fire, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, George Benson, James Brown, Gerald Alston of The Manhattans, Thomas Houston, Lou Rawls, Earl Young of The Tramps,Teddy Pendergrass, Burt Sugarman, Quincy Jones and Robert “Kool” Bell.  Interviews tend to be in the 20 minute or longer range so the bonus content here is pretty significant!
* The crown jewel of the extra features is a 66 minute Marvin Gaye concert from the Atlanta Stadium on 8/5/1974. The 9 track concert really showcases the musician’s talent as a singer and a showman. 

September 20, 2021 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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