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Music Documentary

Songs from 'The Wrecking Crew'

by Barry Walters

Songs from 'The Wrecking Crew'

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Years after wowing film festival audiences in 2008, one of pop music's greatest documentaries is finally hitting theaters. Written and produced by Denny Tedesco to commemorate his late father, Tommy Tedesco, The Wrecking Crew tells the story of Los Angeles session musicians of the '60s and '70s who played on some of pop's most popular and beloved records. It's taken this long to acquire and pay for the rights to use several dozen hits like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "California Dreamin'," but Tedesco's labor of love more than gets the job done.

Like_ 20 Feet from Stardom_ and Standing in the Shadows of Motown, The Wrecking Crew tells the behind-the-scenes story of musical underdogs who get their long-deserved moment in the spotlight. Akin to Motown's Funk Brothers, L.A.'s Wrecking Crew weren't a band per se, but they similarly fleshed out the recordings of many singers, and sometimes even replaced actual bands in the studio. The Monkees weren't the only ensemble whose hits they enlivened: The Beach Boys, The Association, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, even The Byrds on "Mr. Tambourine Man" benefitted from their extraordinary chops.

Former Crew members Glen Campbell and Leon Russell both become famous on the level of their former employers. But the stories of lesser-known players like Tedesco, Carol Kaye (the bassist favored by Brian Wilson), Hal Blaine (the drummer who appeared on six consecutive Record of the Year Grammy winners), and several others are just as fascinating. The scene where bassist Joe Osborn re-creates his jaw-dropping performance on the Fifth Dimension's "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" proves these cats could wail just as well as rock's superstars -- and often bettered them.

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