DVD Review: The Soul of The Midnight Special



Did you know that back in the 1970s, television stations used to go off the air overnight? For many stations, they’d run a patriotic clip with the National Anthem and shut off the antenna after The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. They’d turn the station back on with the early morning Farm Report. Burt Sugarman realized that there were plenty of people who didn’t go to bed after Ed McMahon rolled off the sofa. And he had the perfect concept for people who were home in the wee hours of Friday. During the late summer of 1972, Burt produced The Midnight Special. The show provided 90 minutes of concert performances from the hottest acts of it’s time after Johnny Carson went off the air. What made The Midnight Special special was that bands really did play unlike the miming that took place on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. The people in the audience were being treated to a real show. The people at home had a reason to stay up late. Or at least have something good to watch while recovering from their Friday night partying. The Soul of The Midnight Special contains some of the best soul music that took place on the stage from the start in 1972 until 1976.

These are not complete episodes of The Midnight Special since the show mixed musical genres and even had stand up comics. You’re getting over 60 performances in what is best appreciated as a killer mixtape with the video thrown into mix. You can put one of these discs into the player and have the perfect funky soundtrack for the evening. There are so many great moments from artists at their peak. Plus you get to see their amazing stage costumes. I’d nearly forgotten how funky The Ohio Players looked as they did “Fire.” So many of the legends of this time are on the stage including James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, Al Green, Barry White and Sly and the Family Stone. Since these are live performances, you’re getting a big sense of what it take for them to get into the groove. You get Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind” while later Gladys Knight & the Pips launch into “Midnight Train to Georgia.” My personal favorites including Curtis Mayfield singing tracks off Super Fly. There are introductions for hosts such as Helen Reddy, Mac Davis, James Brown and world famous DJ Wolfman Jack.

The Soul of The Midnight Special is the perfect soundtrack for a night when you want to get silky smooth and piping hot on a chilly night. This collection of performances is just the perfect way to end the night when you’re up late on a Friday.

Here’s the list of all the bands and songs on the 5 DVDs:

DISC 1
from 1972
“Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” Spinners
“I’ll Be Around” Spinners
“Back Stabbers” The O’Jays
“Love Train” The O’Jays
“Georgia on My Mind” Ray Charles
“Neither One of Us” (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) Gladys Knight & the Pips
“Takes Two to Tango” Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin
“I Heard It through the Grapevine” Gladys Knight & the Pips
“What’d I Say” Ray Charles
“Betcha by Golly, Wow” The Stylistics
“Break Up to Make Up” The Stylistics
“I’m Stone in Love with You” The Stylistics
“One Of A Kind” (Love Affair) Spinners
“Back to the World” Curtis Mayfield
“Tired of Being Alone” Al Green
“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” Al Green

DISC 2
from 1973 & 1974
“In the Midnight Hour” Wilson Pickett
“Freddie’s Dead” (Theme from “Superfly”) Curtis Mayfield
“Oh Girl” The Chi-Lites
“The Thrill Is Gone” Gladys Knight and B. B. King
“Midnight Train to Georgia” Gladys Knight & the Pips
“Stand!” Sly & the Family Stone
“I Want to Take You Higher” Sly & the Family Stone
“Thank You” (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) Sly & the Family Stone
“Dance to the Music” Sly & the Family Stone
“Who’s Making Love” Johnnie Taylor
“Johnny B. Goode” Chuck Berry
“Will It Go Round in Circles” Billy Preston
“Superfly” Curtis Mayfield
“Show and Tell” Al Wilson
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” The Stylistics

DISC 3
from 1974
“Ain’t No Sunshine” Bill Withers
“Lean on Me” Bill Withers
“Let’s Stay Together” Al Green
“Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” Barry White
“Put Your Hands Together” The O’Jays
“Sunshine” The O’Jays
“Lookin’ For a Love” Bobby Womack
“Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” Barry White
“Sideshow” Blue Magic
“Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” The Main Ingredient
“Everybody Plays the Fool” The Main Ingredient
“Love’s Theme” Love Unlimited Orchestra
“You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” Barry White
“I’m Still in Love with You” Al Green

DISC 4
from 1974 & 1975
“Hollywood Swinging” Kool & the Gang
“Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” Gladys Knight & the Pips
“Jungle Boogie” Kool & the Gang
“Sadie” Spinners
“Then Came You” Spinners & Joni Sledge
“Fire” Ohio Players
“Skin Tight” Ohio Players
“Lady Marmalade” LaBelle
“Devotion” Earth, Wind & Fire
“Bad Luck” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
“The Love I Lost” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
“Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” Sharon Paige and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
“Lovin’ You” Minnie Riperton
“Inside My Love” Minnie Riperton

DISC 5
from 1975 & 1976
“Sweet Thing” Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
“Once You Get Started” Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
“Love Rollercoaster: Ohio Players
“Honey: Ohio Players
“Let’s Do It Again” The Staple Singers
“Respect Yourself” The Staple Singers
“Boogie Fever” The Sylvers
“This Masquerade” George Benson
“Sex Machine” James Brown
“Get Up Offa That Thing” James Brown
“Cold Sweat/Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” James Brown
“I’ll Be Good to You” The Brothers Johnson
“Love Machine” The Miracles
“Kiss and Say Goodbye” The Manhattans

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot and edited on standard definition video back in the 1970s. For the most part things look fine. You’ll be able to see the funky fresh wardrobes of James Brown and the Ohio Players. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are great for the music.

Bonus Interviews:
The O’Jays (22:14) has them talk about being part of such a diverse line up on the show. He enjoyed that the show allowed them to try to new material.

Russell Thompkins Jr., The Stylistics (24:46) discusses their dance moves.

Gladys Knight (38:40) goes deep with her in her career and how the show impacted it.

Bobby Womack (25:09) goes into what he feels is Soul music.

Ted Mills, Blue Magic (10:44) calls The Midnight Special the greatest show on television back then.

Patti LaBelle (8:10) gets into her meaning of Soul music. She expects her spirit lifted by your music to show if you have soul.

Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire (9:45) talks of being exposed to all types of music in Memphis.

Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff (32:36) speak about what it took them to be successful in the music business.

Gerald Alston, The Manhattans (21:23) goes into getting meet Wolfman Jack.

George Benson (8:51) talks about how his stepfather introduced to playing guitar.

James Brown (4:41) talks about Aretha Franklin.

Time Life present The Soul of The Midnight Special. Created by: Burt Sugarman. Starring: James Brown, Barry White, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight, Wolfman Jack and Helen Reddy. Boxset Contents: 5 DVDs. Released: October 5, 2020.

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