Soundbreaking: live stories of recorded music

Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music [Blu-ray]

First of all, while this eight-part series aired in November on PBS stations (in a version modified for vulgarity - there are acoustic signals) it was not a PBS production in itself. It was created by an independent company "Higher Ground" for transmission both in the UK and on PBS. It took us 5 years to produce and a few more years to find a "home". It was an expensive production that required many interviews (some new ones, few from the archives) and music licenses.

The DVD and the Bluray for home viewing were published by RLJ, on its cultural footprint: Athena. All 8 episodes (which last about 54 minutes each) are on three discs along with 30 minutes of "extra footage" and a 20-page booklet of comments from people like George Benson, Tony Bennett, Eric Clapton and two pages of Executive Producer Sir George Martin. There is also a four-page "list" of artists and songs for each episode, so you can find them. But this is a documentary and so you will not hear any COMPLETE song - obviously not enough time. There are over 150 interviews here, not seen before.

The footage includes a fairly long piece about how to play drums with Ringo Starr explaining how his drum set is different from other drumming methods. There is Les Paul (from an old interview he explains (again) how he invented the electric guitar.

As a 78rpm record player collector (in addition to Lps, cassettes and CDS), I was surprised to see some false steps in the last installment on recording technologies. The narrator (Dermot Mulroney) explains that - in 1947 - Peter Goldmark (non-credit) invested the LP record and that the RCA executor David Sarnoff challenged his staff to find a different long playing format. They came with the 45-inch 45-inch RPM disc. So, what do the directors do to show a record of 45 laps? They play a 45 of Rosemary Clooney on a COLUMBIA 45 clearly marked a few years later! Actually that last episode that goes from the wax cylinder to the MP3, is an excellent educational tool for those too young to remember them (despite some other informative errors). But how can I not even remember the 8-track tape, which was the first portable music for cars (before the cassette)?

There are rising episodes of Hip Hop, the use of Session Men, the rise of MTV and music videos and more. Some little coverage is given to pop singers like Sinatra and Crosby - and practically nothing classical or "world" music - with more emphasis on pop (like Madonna and Amy Winehouse) and rock. There are many non-musicians interviewed - often listed as "music historians" - but - no more than one or two were musical journalists familiar to me. (and I'm a music journalist). But those interviewed generally sounded as if they had been informed.

There is an ongoing PBS series planned on the American "Roots Music" titled "American Epic". It was partially completed in 2015 for its debut in 2016. A shortened version has toured film festivals. Now there is hope that it will air in spring 2017. I hope so. But, as we can see how long it takes to get the "Soundbreaking" series to the public, we can only hope.

This is a DVD / BD that belongs to every school or college library and you missed PBS (or you want to see it again - without editing), I can recommend buying the physical product. It's not perfect, but something like that probably will not happen again, unless Ken Burns decides to do a similar project. His Country Music documentary is scheduled for 2018!

I hope you found this review both informative and useful.