Tom Dowd & the Language of Music Movie Review

Who's Tom Dowd? Even if you're a music nut, you're unlikely to have heard of the man, though he had an indelible effect on music in a dozen genres, all working behind the scenes.

Dowd (who died in 2002 after this documentary was completed) was a pioneering sound engineer who directly or indirectly influenced artists, bands, specific songs, and the technology underlying it all. Much of Tim Dowd & the Language of Music focuses on Dowd's pursuit of better mixing technologies. Getting started in the 1940s and 1950s, the state of the art was pathetic. Dowd's urging and Radio Shack handiness led directly to the invention of the eight-track mixer and mixing boards with sliders that could be operated by a single finger instead of dials that took a full hand to operate.

The documentary focuses on Dowd's reflections from half a century in the business, with frequent breaks to interview the celebrities he worked with, including Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, and a host of others. Their remembrances are remarkably vivid, enhanced with separate commentary from Dowd that gets incredibly specific, perhaps most so when Dowd walks us through a mix of Clapton's "Layla." If nothing else, you'll earn a new appreciation for the way music is produced.

The film takes a bizarre detour (in a good way) when it reveals Dowd's early work as part of, get this, the Manhattan Project. He was on site during the atomic bomb tests at Bikini and dropped out of college because he was 10 years ahead in the field of physics than they were teaching at the time. Really interesting stuff -- has little to do with music, but it enriches this special film quite a bit.

Now on DVD, the movie includes another 90 minutes of extra scenes and interviews not included in the final cut.

Comments

Tom Dowd & the Language of Music Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 2003

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