The Best of Soul Train is available as a single-disc, three-disc, and a nine-disc set. The three-disc set was made available for review.
Growing up as a member of the Gen X generation, I saw many Saturday morning shows come and go, but there seemed to be two constants through the years: American Bandstand and Soul Train, two music-based programs featuring appearances by then-current artists and the kids who listened and danced to their work. Bandstand came first in 1952, and then Soul Train, hosted by producer Don Cornelius, followed in 1971 with a specific focus on black music, such as R&B and soul. New episodes were produced until 2006. The vast majority of the material collected here is from the 1970s with only one segment from another decade: Steve Wonder's appearance from Episode 671 aired September 21, 1991. Some of the video footage exhibits wear and minor damage. Some of the clips, but not many, are cut short.
The line-up is star-studded and predominantly male featuring the likes of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, The Jackson 5, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and Barry White to name a few. Some artists sing live and others lip-synch. The difference in the power of the performances is very noticeable. The best example of this is when Aretha Franklin lip-synchs "I Was Made For You" then later in the same episode (#314, airdate December 1, 1979) she plays piano and is joined by Smokey Robinson for a smoldering duet of his "Ooo Baby Baby" that is so much better. All three Marvin Gaye "performances" (#89, airdate February 16, 1974) are unfortunately lip-synched, but it's funny to watch him because it's so obvious as he doesn’t always hold the microphone near his mouth.
The show was well known for its dancers, and they reveal the changes in fashion and dance styles throughout the years more than the musicians do. Making clear their importance, a number of the "Soul Train Line" segments are included in the set. As a part of the show, a number of times the Soul Train Dancers get to ask the artists questions, though some kids blow their opportunity by asking the musicians foolish things like what their sign is.