MGF Reviews The Funk Brothers – Live in Orlando CD/DVD

The Funk Brothers – Live in Orlando
Eagle Rock Entertainment (6/3/08)
Soul / R&B

The Funk Brothers – Live in Orlando [DVD]
Eagle Rock Entertainment (6/17/08)
95 minutes

If you’ve never heard of The Funk Brothers, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re not alone. For over decade, Eddie Willis, Bob Babbitt and Uriel Jones performed much of the production work that was masterminded by legendary producer Berry Gordy, forming the foundation of that ubiquitous Motown sound, back in its heyday.

Much of their work was performed in anonymity (or, as the trio referred to it, in “the snake pit” of the demanding Gordy) but their contributions to this seminal era were finally celebrated in the 2002 film Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Live in Orlando was filmed this past New Year’s Eve, and while the recorded portion for the CD and DVD releases (released separately) is entirely cover material, the end results are unmistakably Motown.

Their version of “Signed, Sealed & Delivered” is syrupy smooth with just enough spin to almost make it their own. Meanwhile, tracks like “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave” and “Dancing in the Street” just explode from the stage with a frenetic energy that belies the longevity of these entertainers.

The back-to-back performances of “Higher and Higher” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” build to a wonderful climax over the course of a 90-minute evening that flies by for any old-school heads still left out there.

On the DVD, there are interviews with Willis, Babbitt and Jones that shed a lot of light on how they coped with having the glory go to so many of the acts they made famous. Unfortunately, there’s not much more in the way of extras, but their intimate performance in front of an appreciative crowd show that living history doesn’t always need an addendum.

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