Sound: For all of the spectacle that went along with the thousands of innovative, new instruments showcased at this year's convention for the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), one of the highlights was more of a history lesson. On the final day of NAMM, many of us were treated to a private screening of Denny Tedesco's documentary The Wrecking Crew, which chronicled the most utilized session musicians who played on many of the most recognizable hits during the 1960's. Filmmaker Tedesco is also the son Tommy Tedesco, a guitarist who was one of the primary musicians from the so-called Wrecking Crew, and in the end this familial connection injected the documentary with a sentimental aspect that might evoke a few tears.
The purpose behind the screening was to raise funds for the film's distribution, which is still in limbo until over $200,000 is accrued. That being said, The Wrecking Crew is deserving of every penny. We probably all know by now that The Monkees didn't touch their instruments in the studio, but this was also the case for the Beach Boys (with the exception of Brian Wilson), The Mamas & Papas, The Byrds on Mr. Tambourine Man, and scores of others. It was The Wrecking Crew session players' amazing ability to learn songs within the course of a few hours (and sometimes a few minutes) that kept producers calling them back. The film provides a rich history of their entire body of work, which means the soundtrack for The Wrecking Crew is pretty phenomenal. // 10
Content: It would take up a good portion of the page naming every player included in The Wrecking Crew not even the players themselves can pinpoint an exact number of how many people were part of that elite group but some key names include guitarists Tedesco and Glen Campbell, bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Hal Blaine, and saxophonist Plas Johnson. The film gives the majority of the musicians time in the spotlight, allowing them the opportunity to still show off their chops 40 years later. Between the highly amusing anecdotes and the assortment of behind-the-scenes footage from sessions like the ones during the making of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (all which include excerpts from the recorded songs), the 95-minute film is enthralling.
The DVD version is floating around out there, but again, it still has not been officially distributed for financial reasons. Apparently the extras do include extended interviews from the main players as well as some of the musicians who weren't showcased quite as much in the film. The film itself contains a wild amount of information, footage, and musical excerpts, so one can imagine the extras would be icing on the cake. // 9
Production Quality: This is another case where you'll have to pop the film in your own DVD to probably get the full experience, but considering Tedesco's budget restraints, this labor of love is beautifully done. There's nothing too flashy about the documentary, but in the same breath there was nothing glitzy about the lives of these players who remain relatively unknown by the public to this day. The editing must have been laborious in itself between the TV clips, the audio from 1960's studio sessions, and then the wide variety of contemporary interviews with the likes of everyone from Cher to Nancy Sinatra to Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. // 9
Overall Impression: Rarely has a documentary been so satisfying in terms of musical content, historic anecdotes, and well, the knowledge that some of the most deserving session players are finally getting their due. It might be difficult to get your hands on a copy of The Wrecking Crew, which debuted at the SXSW Film Festival back in 2008, but keep your eyes open for its DVD release. It pains one to know that such a group of talented musicians often received no credit for playing on hits like Good Vibrations, which makes Denny Tedesco's efforts all the more deserving of notice. // 10