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An obligation for aspiring musicians and those of a well-acquainted musical nature
One of the greatest unsung treasures of the United States has to be Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, which recorded dozens of artists' hits beginning to 1969 and possessing the energy and following to continue doing it in 2011. This is a surprising feature because of the inherent primitiveness of the recording studio, as we're told, which has a very "secondhand" look, completer with brown-shag carpeting fit for a Volkswagen bus, cheap Velour couches, and other hand-me-down items. Yet what it's arguably most famous for, besides being the home of a dozen dozen records is housing an enormous custom-made soundboard made by engineer Rupert Neve, which was purchased by Sound City owners Joe Gottfried and Tom Skeeter for $76,000. We're told Gottfried's house, at the time, cost only $38,000.
The film, made by Foo Fighters-founded Dave Grohl, begins with a wordless intro of Grohl setting up the recording studio, getting ready to play, before introducing us to the wealth of history, insight, facts, memories, and legends associated with Sound City. Every artist in the 1970's and 1980's came to record at Sound City, not just because of its simplicity, but because it was known to have a terrific design to it which purified vocals and made electrifying sound quality for its singers' records. Kansas, Slayer, REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham Nicks, Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield, Neil Young, Pat Benatar, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Barry Manilow, etc were all caught under the Sound City spell, and another huge quality for them that attracted the singers to the lure of the studio was the fact that Gottfried and Skeeter genuinely cared about the music they were putting out. They weren't in it for the power, they weren't in it for their health, they weren't in it for the glory of anything at all, and they sure weren't in it for the wealth.
The first half of the documentary involves the singers that made Sound City what it was. In-depth interviews with Stevie Nicks, recalling her days with Buckingham Nicks along with Lindsey Buckingham, and Rick Springfield smiling and remembering his fame for his anthem "Jessie's Girl," yet choking up remembering how he left Gottfried to pursue another manager. Of all the interviews, I loved Springfield's the most. Not only a cherishable music talent, Springfield is a collective and inspiring talker who is less about the narcissism and more about the deep and flavorful memories he has treasured for years.
The second half of the documentary concerns the depressing end of analog recording and the introduction of computers, synthesizes, and heavy machinery other than the soundboard that began to dominate the music business. We see how computers killed the traditional star of the music industry, when high-tech equipment moved from the level of desirable to easily obtainable, which gave many musicians popularity for work that was more than half adjusted thanks to technological advances. I can assume the issue back in the day for musicians who felt they had something to share with the world was they had the heart and drive, but they lacked the materials essential for recognition and success. Today, anyone can easily get the materials, but do they possess that heart and drive that makes them deserve to be heard? Of course, this discussion can easily transcend to the debate of whether the internet and computers was a good or bad invention. Personally, it was an amazing invention, one of the most important the human race has ever seen. The sad thing about it was it made many, many unique things very common. Writing? Whatever. You can easily build a blog from the ground up by using a popular website as your footing. Music? Whatever. There are sites like Band Camp to release your works. Good luck standing out.
But I digress. The third half focuses on several artists, including Paul McCartney, performing, practicing, and simply rocking-out at Sound City, embracing the loud, boldness of the music and the cutting riffs of the music through its impenetrable walls. This is what, I assume, some people came for. I certainly didn't, but I did anything but discourage it.
Sound City is a documentary, that I dare say, needed to be made. It depicts a more primitive era in the music industry, when things were more wholesome and less barbaric. When social stunts and outrage attires were secondary stories, with the music being performed at the foreground. If we're losing our moral compass anywhere in the world, it's in the mainstream pop/rap music, where artists like Beyonce, Chief Keef, Ke$ha, and Nicki Minaj can recite their frothy, commercialized music that lacks soul and heart. It becomes a depressing reality when you hear the terrific anthems from yesteryear in this documentary (such as "Landslide" or "Time for Me to Fly") and begin to wish for songs like those again, you question, have we really advanced as much as we thought in some areas?
Directed by: Dave Grohl.
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