by George Wolf
In the last couple decades, documentaries such as Standing in the Shadows of Motown and the Oscar-winning 20 Feet from Stardom have given just due to the unknown musicians and singers who have long backed up our idols.
Director Denny Tedesco may have been first with the idea, though his debut doc The Wrecking Crew! endured years of delays until its 2008 release. Tedesco is back with Immediate Family, and while he’s still looking behind the musical scenes, his second feature boasts some important distinctions.
To start, it’s much more contemporary. This one features a trove of interviews that are not only recent, but feature musicians that are still highly relevant, such as Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Keith Richards, Lyle Lovett and more.
And secondly, for serious music fans (and even casual fans of a certain age), the names Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel and Danny “Kooch” Kortchmar may already be plenty familiar. As the film points out, that’s largely thanks to producers Peter Asher and Lou Adler, who in the 1970s decided to start featuring the names and faces of these longtime sidemen in the liner notes of the many albums they played on.
But even if you recognize these players, it’s still a kick to hear the superstars go into detail about how valuable they are, and to watch their specific grooves morph into fully produced classics.
It all follows a formula very similar to the one that made The Wrecking Crew! so irresistible, but with greatly improved production values that increase the immediacy along with the timeline.
Immediate Family ends up feeling like the next logical step in Tedesco’s musical journey. We get more great tunes, witness more important stages in the evolution of popular music, and spend some quality time with four more unique talents that are well worth getting to know better.