Brian Eno, 1971‚ 1977: The Man Who Fell to Earth. color & b/w. 154 min. Sexy Intellectual Prods., dist. by Music Video Distributors, 800-888-0486; www.mvdb2b.com. 2011. DVD UPC 823564524894. $19.95. MUSIC
Originally the sound manipulator for the band Roxy Music, Brian Eno displayed an odd appearance that earned him space on stage when the group hit the UK’s glam scene in 1971. Eno freely confessed not to be an actual musician, though he did eventually master the complex VCS 3 synthesizer. When he left the band in 1973, deeply in debt, he fell back on his avant-garde art school theories and began creating tape-recorded feedback loops, sometimes with chance experiments determining the content. This approach evolved into ambient music, upon which his reputation largely rests, along with some production work, notably with David Bowie. This fascinating documentary is largely narrated by half a dozen writers who have covered or reviewed Eno; his only verbal contributions are a few older snippets. VERDICT This two-and-a-half-hour examination of a fragment of the career of a musician most non‚ music nerds have probably never heard of is a fairly specialized film. People who know of Eno are likely to be passionate, though, so academic and larger public libraries will want to add this.‚ John Hiett, Iowa City P.L.
Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. color. 108+ min. Lev Anderson & Chris Metzler, dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9780781512937. $99.95; acad. libs. $295. Public performance; home version. Spark: Cinema Guild. $29.95. MUSIC
The band Fishbone occupies a unique place in contemporary music. Started by a group of African American junior high school friends in 1979 in South Central Los Angeles, the band pioneered a ska/reggae/heavy metal/punk fusion that was straight from space. Combined with an exuberant stage presence by front man Angelo Moore and anchored by the amazing bass playing of Norwood Fisher, Fishbone produced a unique sound in a segregated genre. This film, narrated by Laurence Fishburne, serves as both history and love letter to the band, with cameos by admirers Gwen Stefani, Ice-T, Flea, George Clinton, and Tim Robbins. Although the band has achieved legendary status among aficionados, the lack of chart success and internal pressures have led to repeated cycles of disintegration and resurrection, with the band’s struggles well documented here. Fishbone still plays‚ an EP Crazy Glue was released in fall 2011‚ but the tours are limited, and the crowds are small. VERDICT This film provides a compelling relationship narrative and a fascinating glimpse into the Los Angeles punk rock party. Recommended for fans of the genre and students of popular music’s byways.‚ Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
Rejoice & Shout. color. 115+ min. Don McGlynn, Deep Rivers Films, dist. by Magnolia Pictures, www.magpictures.com. 2011. DVD UPC 876964001458. $26.98. Closed-captioned. Rated: PG. MUSIC
A joyful noise from start to finish, Rejoice & Shout packs in 200 years of American gospel from plantation call and response, spirituals, and early hymns to quartets of four-part harmony, blues, swing, and rap and hip-hop. Covering the legends of the genre and brimful of stunning archival footage and historic recordings, this film will satisfy current fans of gospel and make believers of the uninitiated. Performers include the Swan Silvertones, the Clara Ward Singers, Rev. James Cleveland, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and many, many more. Those interviewed include Ira Tucker from the Dixie Hummingbirds, Mavis Staples, Smokey Robinson, Marie Knight, and Andraé Crouch. Director McGlynn has done a stellar job; it’s hard to imagine any gospel collection being more definitive. VERDICT This film should be in every collection; once seen, it will be watched again and again. Rejoice, indeed.‚ Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
This Time: A Musical Documentary. color. 111+ min. Victor Mignatti, Inspiration 101 LLC & Village Art Picture, dist. by Transit Media, 800-343-5540; www.transitmedia.net. 2011. DVD UPC 884501460538. $85; acad. libs. $175; public performance; home version $21.95. MUSIC
Contrary to what one might expect from a documentary directed, edited, and filmed by one person, Mignatti’s film is as slick and polished as it is knowing and entertaining. Chronicled are a few of the unsung masters of music recording, performing, writing, and producing, the 99 percent whose reward is mostly artistic. The legendary Sweet Inspirations, who worked with everyone from Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, regroup to record and promote a new CD. Longtime Manhattan performer and recording artist Bobby Belfry continues his work despite the dwindling number of piano bars. He is the rare cabaret artist (he doesn’t like that label) who writes most of his own work. His complaints of still singing in the same bar week after week or small audiences come across as a bit whiny compared to what the Sweet Inspirations and others have been through. These are the stories of the true survivors, still working and not forgotten. Bonus features include the Inspirations’ inside stories of performing with Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and many others. VERDICT Highly recommended for those who love music and the many talents behind it.‚ Gerald A. Notaro, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg