Soooooouuuuuullllll Train! I’m as white as they come, but I loved this show in its heyday. I was 12 when it premiered in 1970. It was a window into a culture as smooth and brash in its musicality and vernacular as it was in its dyn-o-mite dancing and day-glo fashion. Don Cornelius was the serene ruler of this kingdom, speaking in a voice both sonorous and mellifluous, wearing royal silk shirts and maroon velveteen suits, not a hair out of place in his afro crown. I tuned in both to groove to the great songs and to make myself just a bit hipper, and my own record collection, bellbottoms, wide lapels, and platform shoes were evidence of my devotion to the music and the people who produced it.
There is no way this 3-DVD set, with its wide array of stars and 50 great songs spread over five hours, could deserve less than the highest rating, even if the mastering were second rate. But the audio and video reproduction are excellent; Time-Life knows its stuff. And there are more than three hours of extras consisting primarily of lengthy retrospective interviews with such figures as the imperturbable Don Cornelius and the voluble Smokey Robinson.
This wonderful compilation is a priceless sampler of the 1970s and a who’s who of classic soul, from the Queen to the Godfather. Among others, you’ll find represented Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, The Isley Brothers, The O’Jays, The Commodores, Sly Stone, Barry White, Bill Withers, Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Curtis Mayfield, and Jaaaaaaaaaames Brown! “The Best of Soul Train” needs a star in its rating for every star on the DVDs!
Two cautions: The Spinners, The Chi-Lites, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Stylistics do not appear on this set, despite what the product description claims, and some of the performers lip-sync. A complete list of the contents:
The Isley Brothers – “That Lady” / “Live It Up” / “Summer Breeze”
Barry White – “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe” / “What Am I Gonna Do with You” / “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything”
Love Unlimited Orchestra – “Love’s Theme”
Marvin Gaye – “Come Get to This” / “Distant Lover” / “Let’s Get It On”
Sly & The Family Stone – “I Want to Take You Higher” / “Dance to the Music”
Gladys Knight & The Pips – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
The O’Jays – “Backstabbers”
Aretha Franklin – “Rock Steady”
Interviews with Don Cornelius, Smokey Robinson, and Brian McKnight
Bill Withers – “Use Me” / “Lean on Me”
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”
Commodores – “Still” / “Three Times a Lady” / “Sail On”
Curtis Mayfield – “Pusherman” / “Superfly”
War – “Cisco Kid”
The Main Ingredient – “Everybody Plays the Fool”
James Brown – “Get on the Good Foot” / “Try Me” / “Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine” / “Super Bad”
Interviews with Don Cornelius, Cuba Gooding, Sr., and Eric Casem
Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour / Sir Duke / I Wish / These Three Words” (medley)
Aretha Franklin – “I Was Made for You”
Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson – “Ooo Baby Baby”
Teddy Pendergrass – “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me” / “I Don’t Love You Anymore”
Lou Rawls – “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” / “From Now On”
L.T.D. – “Love Ballad”
The Jackson Five – “I Want You Back” / “Corner of the Sky” / “Lookin’ Through the Windows”
Jermaine Jackson – “Daddy’s Home”
Interviews with Smokey Robinson, Jody Watley, and Clarence Avant
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Amazing that they can include so many great soul artists on this DVD set, but inexplicably FAIL to include by far the BEST live Soul Train performance ever: AL GREEN’s mighty, gospel workout HERE I AM from 73! This is criminal – esp since an amazing snippet from this exact performance is featured on VH1 Classic’s recent SOUL TRAIN: THE HIPPEST TRIP IN AMERICA doc that aired to promote this same DVD box set! Ironically, you’d probably do better to just DVR the VH1 doc, since it also takes time to feature what really drew fans to the show week after week for decades: THE DANCERS and the DANCE LINE! Cmon, to cut all that priceless footage out misses the entire selling point of the seminal show itself. Also, if you’re just featuring performances, why not feature any artists from the 80s or 90s (I believe PRINCE appeared on the show for the firt time ever in ’94 on his “Gold Experience” era?) and/or groups actually SPAWNED by Soul Train itself, i.e. no SHALAMAR? no JERMAINE STEWART? Really?! I could go on & on, as I’m a huge Soul Train fan, but, sadly, I won’t be buying this.
Just featured performances from the show…you’re lucky if you run into a Soul Train line or a regular dance sequence from the show. I’d rather DVR a full episode on Centric! Very disappointed.