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““Sound City” and “Tom Dowd & The Language of Music” – 2 Documentary Movies That Inspire, Educate, & Entertain”

Recently I was very lucky to have been given a set of music documentaries to borrow from a very close musician friend of mine who knows my broad taste in music and music history. I personally fair to steer a bit all over the place in genre, history, and continent when it comes to my tastes (and career) in music and rightfully state this as I essentially love any and all good music (and creative art and culture) from just about anywhere from anytime from around the world. Now when a good story accompanies this music (or other creative format), I’m ALWAYS, like some many people, that much more drawn in. In the case of the two music documentaries “Sound City” and “Tom Dowd & The Language of Music”, the stories in both are COMPLETELY AMAZING and are literally two of the best music related movies I’ve personally seen in years. Both tales are COMPLETELY unique in that so much history, not just musically but socially and culturally, is inside each film. Anyone, musician or not, will walk away inspired and informed by the central figures and stories of these two films and, more than likely, will discover they have ALREADY been inspired as the history involved in each movie encompasses the very fabric of the entire span of American music and it’s intertwined affect on American society and pop culture as a whole.

Sound City


Sound City Pic 1

This movie came out this year (via Roswell Films, 2013) and is directed by musician/rock icon Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame) and tells the story of San Fernando Valley-based recording studio Sound City. It has an all-star, who’s who of Rock and Pop icons who have recorded numerous classic albums each telling their own histories along side of Grohl’s incredibly detailed direction of the story of this legendary studio.


Sound City Pic 2
Dave Grohl with film crew on set.

Artists featured in the film who have recorded at Sound City include Fleetwood Mac (who were essentially created at Sound City!), Neil Young, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield, Pat Benatar, Barry Manilow, REO Speedwagon, Fear, Metallica, Slipknot, and Nirvana JUST TO NAME A FEW! Importantly here is Nirvana having recorded their then groundbreaking, now-classic album “Nevermind” as this was Dave Grohl induction into the walls of Sound City.

Sound City Pic 3
Dave Grohl (on the right) showing Lindsey Buckingham the Neve recording console.

As the story in the film plays out, it is Grohl’s idea behind the film to purchase the legendary, one-of-a-kind original Neve mixing board (originally designed by audio wizard Rupert Neve who’s interviewed in the film!) at Sound City that was behind the sound and the hits of the studio and re-unite an all-star cast of Sound City alumni to pay a musical tribute with new recordings done on this console that is relocated to Dave Grohl’s own personal studio.

Sound City Pic 4
Dave Grohl (on guitar) in his studio with drumming legend Jim Keltner and others.

“Sound City” is a tale of constant inspiration around every corner as the story unfolds in showcasing the music industry and it’s constant high’s and low’s, how music used to be made and how it’s made now (for both good and bad), all yielding top name performer after performer, both old and new, to guide the viewer through, as according to Dave Grohl, “the truth, the craft, and the integrity of Rock & Roll”.

For more info, insight, and where to purchase this movie go here.

See the trailer to “Sound City” here.

Recently the high-end audio equipment retailer Vintage King put up two YouTube videos of going into Fairfax Recording Studios (owned and operated by engineer/producer Kevin Augunas who is featured briefly in “Sound City”) that is now located at the original Sound City location. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (and free!) viewing here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).


Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music

Tom Dowd Pic 1

This film came out in 2003 (via Language of Music Films, 2003) and is directed and produced by Mark Moormann and tells the incredibly amazing story of musician/engineer/producer Tom Dowd. Having started as an engineer in the early history of fabled record label Atlantic Records, Tom Dowd’s career in the music industry is truly one for the ages. He spanned, and helped pioneer, multiple genres of music from Jazz, R&B and Funk, to Classic Rock, Southern Rock, and Hard Rock, all the entire time staying utterly relevant to the constantly shifting music industry around him.

Tom Dowd Pic 2
Tom Dowd (on left) with Rod Stewart.

The scope of artist featured and mentioned in this movie that Tom Dowd has either recorded or produced is a stunning who’s who of each musical genre they come from. Be it John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, or Ornette Coleman from Jazz, to Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding from R&B, to Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers Band (this is literally only naming a FEW!), EVERYONE has only the highest praise for Tom Dowd and his personality and professionalism for his rolls in their lives and careers. This all simply comes down to the fact that the viewer of this film cannot miss Tom Dowd’s infectious personality, inspiring spirit, and brilliant intellectualism that all fully inform his incredible stories as he guides you through his career’s history.

Tom Dowd Pic 3
Tom Dowd (on left) with Ray Charles.

As this film progresses, on top of the who’s who of artists that come forward about Tom’s history and importance in their lives and in the music industry, another side of what is showcased in this film are the numerous technical achievements Tom Dowd brought to recording technology as a whole (introducing faders instead of knobs to be used on a mixing console for instance!). His inventions and modifications to devices used throughout ALL recording studios around the world are priceless and only add to another layer of intrigue inside of this man’s incredible story.

Tom Dowd Pic 4
Tom Dowd in the studio.

“Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music” is a film and story of the power of one person who can, and did, go on to inspire so many by being the best they could be at all times with anyone no matter the circumstances. Tom Dowd truly is a one-of-a-kind not only as the acclaimed musician/engineer/producer he would go on to be, but also as the person and human being he always naturally just was. His down-to-earth spirit will most certainly be inspiring to anyone, musician or not, in watching him tell in his own words “The Language Of Music”.

For more info, insight, and where to purchase this movie go here.

See the trailer to “Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music here.

Published in LA Music Scene

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