Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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SHINDIG! PRESENTS MOTOR CITY MAGIC (1991)

****

With Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and others.
Original footage directed by Dean Whitmore;
compilation directed by Artie Ripp.
(Rhino Home Video, b&w, 30 mins.)

SHINDIG! PRESENTS FRAT PARTY (1991)

***

With the Kingsmen, the Sir Douglas Quintet, the Isley Brothers, and others.
Original footage directed by Dean Whitmore;
compilation directed by Artie Ripp.
(Rhino Home Video, b&w, 30 mins.)

SHINDIG! PRESENTS JACKIE WILSON (1991)

***

With Jackie Wilson.
Original footage directed by Dean Whitmore;
compilation directed by Artie Ripp.
(Rhino Home Video, b&w, 30 mins.)

By Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell

Shindig! was the most innovative of the mid-'60s TV shows dedicated to the proposition that there was rock and roll after Dick Clark. With a live band featuring organist Billy Preston, weekly Righteous Brothers features, and dancers who broke new ground simply by frugging in prime time, it helped create a generation. And while they look a little tackier than we remembered, its kinescopes remain a key repository of a musical moment that never got its share of visual documentation. Shindig! has been criticized for shortchanging black music, but the well-groomed, minutely choreographed Motown roster fit in perfectly. Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" isn't as intense as the TAMI Show version, but stands out anyway. The Temptations are eternal, Marvin Gaye is subtle, and Diana Ross works on her charisma. Not one of these 10 selections flags.

Conceptually, Frat Party is the hodgepodge you might fear. Zsa Zsa Gabor's "High Heel Sneakers" is lousy camp and Dobie Gray's "The In Crowd" short on the latest steps. But nuggets and surprises predominate. Roy Head flips and swivels through "Treat Her Right" as if he knows he'll never have a hit again. A young Doug Sahm mugs and rolls his eyes as if his consciousness was permanently altered 20 minutes before showtime. And the only problem with the Isley Brothers' instant rev-up is that it gives way to the credits.

The legendary Jackie Wilson, who's knocked our socks off in two '50s clips, had already calcified some by these performances. At times he seems jaded, rote. But usually his professionalism is a triumph in itself. And when the material is classic--on "Baby Workout," or a "Whole Lot of Shakin'" he shares with Jerry Lee--so is he.

Video Review, Feb. 1992