The Soul Train Leaves The Station
After the dramatic finale to its pilot episode, American Soul returns for another slice of 1970s soul. After securing the rights for Gladys Knight, this week is all about the Soul Train as the show airs its first episode and prepares for the trials and tribulations to come.
While most of the story this episode takes part on the Soul Train set itself, complete with a serenading group of R&B tunes to groove to, it’s the characters around this show that really ignite the episode. Desperate to land executive sponsors to help finance the show, Don comes to the hard realization that this game may not be as easy as it first appears. To make matters worse, the record label warn don against allowing Gladys to sing any other song other than that approved by them. This poses a particularly interesting dilemma for Don who finds himself torn between artistic freedom and the constraints of his own position.
After their beautiful rendition of Smiling, Happy Faces last week, Simone and Kendall return this week one man light thanks to JT’s family demands and pressures. It doesn’t phase the duo too much though and after nailing their dance routine, they come undone by a saboteur in the ranks none too happy about their claim to fame. This bubbles over to the live show where a hot-headed Don Cornelius makes his thoughts heard loud and clear.
The third and final storyline this week doesn’t feature too heavily but does have the biggest impact. With Simone and Kendall’s father over in Vietnam, an early battle results in a catastrophic loss for the troops and a painful taste of what Vietnam must have been like for these brave men. This comes full circle late on when a bombshell is dropped and Kendall promises to head to Vietnam himself.
We close the show out this week with the gorgeous vocal talent of Kelly Rowland. Whilst her portrayal of Gladys Knight is good, it’s really the musical renditions that make her parts so appealing. slightly reworked with more of an acoustic edge, her rendition of Gladys’ Midnight Train To Georgia perfectly captures the bittersweet tones running through the back-end of this episode.
Ultimately its the music that keeps this one moving and in that respect, American Soul certainly delivers. Whilst the score itself is predictably melodramatic at times, the song choices and soul-infused soundtrack do well to counteract any issues here. It’s not perfect and some of the acting doesn’t quite crackle as well as it should but for the most part, American Soul is an enjoyable drama. Given the preview we receive for the rest of the season, it looks like we’re set for a pretty dramatic set of episodes to come!