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The Joy of Easy Listening (2011)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary | Music  -  27 May 2011 (UK)
6.8
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In-depth documentary about the story of easy listening, a popular music that is often said to be made to be heard but not listened to. The film looks at easy listening's architects and ... See full summary »

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Richard Carpenter ...
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Richard Clayderman ...
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Tamara Conniff ...
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Marion Kaempfert ...
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James Last ...
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In-depth documentary about the story of easy listening, a popular music that is often said to be made to be heard but not listened to. The film looks at easy listening's architects and practitioners, its dangers and delights, and the mark it has left on modern life, from its emergence in the 1950s until its revival in the 1990s. Written by Anonymous

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Documentary | Music

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27 May 2011 (UK)  »

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User Reviews

 
Documentary Tracing the Origins and Development of a Popular Musical Form
14 September 2014 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Beginning in the post-1945 era, Chris Rodley's documentary traces the origins and growth of 'Easy Listening' - a frequently derided musical form that nonetheless proved a considerable money-spinner for the performers involved. Beginning with Percy Faith, and continuing with Ray Conniff, James Last and Burt Kaempfert, easy listening was identified with a non-threatening type of music, which removed the aggressive tone of many popular rock 'n roll songs and replaced them with strings. The Beatles' songs were given full easy listening treatment, so as to render them acceptable to those who might have been offended by the originals.

The documentary argues that easy listening reached its zenith in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when it was perceived as an alternative to what might be described as the seamy realities of the Flower Power, Vietnam and Nixon eras. Although orchestrators such as Conniff and Kaempfert had their own political beliefs, they preferred not to express them musically.

Despite numerous shifts in musical tastes over the subsequent four decades, easy listening refused to go away - with acts such as The Carpenters, Carly Simon, as well as older-established singers such as Neil Sedaka regularly hitting the top of the pop charts as well as the 'adult contemporary' charts organized by Billboard (their new and fancy name for easy listening). Pianists such as Richard Clayderman made millions with their particular brand of music; and continue to do so today.

As with any documentary of this kind, THE JOY OF EASY LISTENING had some notable omissions; I'd have liked to have seen more analysis of how Radio 2 was established as a replacement for the Light Programme on the BBC; in its early years at least, it catered specifically for easy listening audiences with programs such as "Sing Something Simple." Rodley's documentary also did not make sufficient distinction between easy listening and light music: the latter genre had been perennially popular both in Britain and the United States a long time before easy listening came on the scene (for example, with band-leaders such as Leroy Anderson). The two genres have gone in very different directions in recent years: light music in particular has achieved a legitimacy (with regular slots on BBC Radio 3), that it would seldom have enjoyed in the past.

Nonetheless THE JOY OF LIGHT MUSIC is a valuable piece of research, not least for the cast-list of interviewees it manages to assemble, including Last, Sedaka, Clayderman, Richard Carpenter, as well as the daughters of Conniff and Henry Mancini.


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