The Wrecking Crew
2015, PG, 101 min. Directed by Denny Tedesco.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 27, 2015
Denny Tedesco’s film about the Wrecking Crew, a loose affiliate of West Coast session musicians who played on virtually every hit record of the Sixties and early Seventies, may seem like it follows in the footsteps of other recent documentary tributes to unsung artists like 2013’s Twenty Feet From Stardom and 2002’s Standing in the Shadows of Motown. In fact, Tedesco began filming this labor of love in 1996, when he first recorded his father, the late guitarist Tommy Tedesco, trading memories with fellow standout session players: drummer Hal Blaine, saxophonist Plas Johnson, and bassist Carol Kaye. Over the years, Tedesco interviewed other key players in the scene, including former Wrecking Crew members Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, producers Herb Alpert and Lou Adler, and musicians Cher and Brian Wilson. (You can glean how many years the project stretched out not just from the quality of tape and shifting hair styles, but also in the jarring footnote of how many of the interviewees have since passed or had failing health.) Tedesco fils then took the film on the festival circuit in 2008, but he’s spent the years since raising money to pay for the licensing of so many hit songs.
It was worth it: You don’t tell this story without the music, and the film borrows a lot of energy from the soundtrack’s regular bursts of the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, and Nancy Sinatra. (Graphic inserts, inspired by the Sixties surf aesthetic, also give the film bounce, but can’t hide its haphazard organization.) The film’s modus operandi – interspersing 20-second snippets of songs with slightly out-of-time talking-head clips – feels an awful lot like an infomercial for an especially rockin’ Time Life compact-disc collection, but a very watchable one, with its wealth of archival audio and visual footage and impressive collection of talent willing to stroll down memory lane. The subject itself – the musicians, the music – and the spirit of the thing – one son’s obvious devotion – transcend the film’s technical shortcomings.