Film Reviews

Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music

(RLJ Entertainment)

400x400-75I had my early suspicions that Soundbreaking would only tell/reiterate parts of the story: All the parts we pretty much know or, as these days move forward to a bogus inauguration, remember with any pop agility. It was gonna be more Brian vs. The Beatles. Jimi. Sgt. Pepper. Phil Spector. Adele. Disco. Michael. MTV. Bowie. There’d be plenty of hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll taking credit for everything under the sun. Everything good and musical in this distraught world.

Rock ‘n’ roll does that a lot, in case you haven’t noticed. Taking credit for opening up the eyes and ears of the masses to the world. And in a lot of ways that’s right. But in a lot of ways, a lot went on before and in-between rock and its mutations. And since we’re talking cutting edge recording stories, why nothing about Teo Macero, the man who cut and edited seminal Miles Davis albums like In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, using techniques that predated looping and mash-ups by eons. Or George Avakian, who introduced the whole LP format, which rock than credits itself with perfecting the art of the long-player with, oh, pick your favorite disc. Where’s ‘Scratch’ Lee Perry, who invented dub? What about rock’s own Mickie Most, who produced the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Lulu, Donovan, Jeff Beck and a host more using such studio folk as Jimmy Page, Nicky Hopkins and John Paul Jones? Lord knows Zappa’s missing. Bob Theile? Rudy Van Geller? Laura Nyro?

Early in the eight hour, three DVD set, Sir George Martin, who, before his death, was one of the project’s overseers, discusses recording sound being over a century old, and that “…before 1965 all a producer did was take a photograph of what was happening in the studio. As recording technology evolved, we began to paint with sound.” Ok, cool. Then where are such sound painters as Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits? Where’s Patti Smith for chrissakes, and where oh where is Tom Wilson, who put a beat behind folk and made folk/rock? Is there any mention of Don Law, who produced Robert Johnson or Alan Lomax?

I’m not going to go on. You should get my beef by now, and if not, bludgeoning you with my trivial knowledge is akin to a Trumpian tweet. Redundant. Hapless. I will say, the old footage of Stevie Wonder surrounded by floor to ceiling synths recording “Living For The City,” “Superstition” and “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” is just awesome. Radiohead recording “Give Up the Ghost” is chilling. In truth, the whole story is told nicely. But it’s been told before. Let’s hear something new.

-Mike Jurkovic

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