3 posts categorized "Music Documentary"

February 16, 2020


MadeThe industrial city of Sheffield, England was the birthplace for the electronic pop explosion of cool post punk bands such as "Vice Versa," "The Human League," "Heaven 17," "ABC,” and "Cabaret Voltaire."

Slick style and a rejection of cultural limitations at hand, these daring musicians created a utopian attitude of romanticized clarity and precision. 

Cabaret Voltaire

Songs pulse, heat up, and grow on an international level in a bastion of fearless creativity. Here is an essential chapter of musical history brought to relevant life and context in fun documentary.   

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In this enthusiastic, if brief documentary (it clocks in at only 52 minutes), filmmaker Eve Wood charts the lineage of musicians whose music inspired modern-day bands such as "Stereolab," "Ladytron," "Client," and "Peaches."

Made In Sheffield

Through insightful interviews with band members (such as Phil Oakey of The Human League), and rare live performance footage, "Made In Sheffield" fills an essential period that linked Punk to the British New Wave with bands intent on destroying rock music.


Interview subjects such as the late John Peel, The Human League’s Phil Oakey and Ian Craig Marsh, and music critic Andy Gill shed light on the indispensable influence of Sheffield’s electronic music scene. This thrilling documentary is an important film for any serious music lover to learn about the origins of a time and place where musical creativity ran wild. Perhaps the best thing about this essential documentary is that it might inspire new audiences to discover this music, and perhaps be inspired to create original music of their own.


Not rated. 52 mins.Four Stars


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February 15, 2020


Echo_in_the_canyonThis beautiful musical performance/documentary love letter to Los Angeles’s mid ‘60s Laurel Canyon music scene that gave rise to The Association, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, and The Mamas and the Papas is an addictive musical journey. Jakob Dylan proves the perfect unobtrusive guide through L.A.'s prolific utopian Laurel Canyon musical scene that existed between 1965 to 1967. I’ve watched this doc 8 times, and will gladly watch it again anytime.

Michelle Phillips

Jacques Demy’s underseen L.A.-set 1969 romantic drama “Model Shop” serves as inspiration for Jakob Dylan (a revelation as the band leader for a concert with a rotating group of co-singers that include Jade Castrinos, Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Beck, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones) to interview the musicians who created such classics as “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “Never My Love.” Tingles run up your spine. 

Echo petty

Jakob's cool-hang interviews with the likes of pop music royalty as Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Roger McGuinn, and Lou Adler allow for some hilarious tales told outside of school. Jakob Dylan’s subtle sense of humor get nice traction with Brian Wilson when discussing a song’s key. Jakob offers to “get out the capos.” Funny musician humor, I know, but I love it. Jakob Dylan is as unpretentious as they come  


Recording sessions as historic Los Angeles recording studios where great artists have recorded countless hits segue into Jakob Dylan’s live concert celebrating Laurel Canyon’s 50-year anniversary. The briefly utopic community of musicians who gravitated to Laurel Canyon created a Niagara of poetic pop songs turning folk music into rock ‘n’ roll. This is a groovy movie about a brilliant period of music that flourished before its awe-inspiring flight came to an inevitable end. This is a really fun movie to savor. My only complaint is that they didn't feature another four or five songs.


Sidebar: Although it's never brought up in the film, the Laurel Canyon music was a direct outgrowth of Bossa Nova. Bossa's utopian romanticism came out of João Gilberto's Sinatra-inspired idea to soften samba into a more romantic ballad-based style. The early '60s period of Bossa Nova's explosive popularity in the country occurred prior to a movement of young musicians to turn up the heat on folk music and make it rock with the same attention to songwriting that Gilberto and Jobim utilized for their timeless songs. "Never My Love" meet "The Girl From Ipanema."

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Rated PG-13 — 88 mins. Five Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

January 07, 2016


Bossa Nova

Some of the world’s most emotionally seductive music receives a proper soup-to-nuts account of its history, beginning in Copacabana, in the late ‘50s by a close-knit group of university students and local musicians. The music spread to Rio de Janeiro where it thrived in the early ‘60s under the care a very special collection of like-minded musicians with a knack for harmony and rhythm. You may have to watch the movie a few times to keep track of Bossa Nova’s early contributors and inventors, and oh what a pleasure that experience will be.

Made in 2005 by Paulo Thiago, “This is Bossa Nova” (“Coisa Mais Linda: Historias e Casos da Bossa Nova”) is enjoying a much-deserved re-release at the moment. Here is a golden opportunity to explore the distinctly seductive music that took the world by storm at a high point in Brazilian culture.

Bossa Nova means “new trend.” The music’s foundation in feminism, poetry, and socialist ideals comes through in a welcoming exchange of musical ideas that generated such modern standards as “Black Orpheus,” Desafinado,” “One Note Samba,” and “How Insensitive.”

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Legendary Bossa Nova innovators Roberto Menescal and Carlos Lyra revisit the oceanside spots where they developed and played their reinterpretation of Samba, which came to be known as bossa nova. The elderly statesmen of the form are a delight to behold as they chat about the people and places that created the music they still love to play.

Interview sequences segue into performances of bossa nova songs outside of the regular American canon. A lovely duet of “Voce d Eu” arrives like a gentle summer breeze of romantic harmony and lovely phrasing.

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Nara Leao’s role as Bossa Nova’s muse finds Roberto Menescal revisiting her beach-facing apartment where Leao’s lovely comportment and singing voice inspired her flock of Copacabana composers and musicians that included Johnny Alf and Vinicius de Moraes.

Personal anecdotes about such Bossa luminaries as Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim, Baden Powell, Silvinha Telles, and Bene Nunes, find resonance in modern performances of Bossa standards by the likes of Roberto Menescal, Paulo Jobim, and Wanda Sa. There’s as much music as there is discussion. What a treat.

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Exceptional archive footage of historic performances by Bossa Nova originators speaks volumes about the mindset of the congenial musicians who pioneered the movement. A 1960 New York City apartment performance of “One Note Samba” between Gerry Mulligan and Tom Jobim (the song’s author) displays an exact example of the complexity of Jobim’s phrasing. An historic televised duet performance, between Frank Sinatra and Jobim, of “Girl From Ipanema” is exquisite.

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The filmmakers compensate for set demands, of covering a laundry list of influential bossa nova artists, by frequently letting the music speak for itself. This is an essential music documentary that deserves to be returned to every few years by anyone in love with Bossa. The pure delight of hearing Bossa Nova played on nylon-stringed guitars by veteran masters of the music, is more than sufficient reason to learn about this relatively young music’s vibrant history. If there was ever a music that could stop wars, Bossa Nova is it. You just can’t get enough.


Not Rated. 126 mins.

4 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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