Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Brian Wilson Songwriter 1969-1982 DVD

The Film:

New to DVD is the second in a series of "Brian Wilson Songwriter" DVDs from the awkwardly-named "Sexy Intellectual" label.

As with the previous volume (covering 1962 to 1969), the first impression that it's one of those cheapie European documentaries using "critical review" as an excuse to use the most possible archival audio and video without paying any licensing fees is actually largely incorrect.

What we have is a series of interviews from numerous collaborators and other interested parties discussing Brian's songwriting and, to a lesser degree, the history of the Beach Boys during this period of time.

A healthy mixture of biographers (Peter Ames Carlin, Dominic Priore), collaborators (David Sandler, Steven Kalinich), studio associates (Stephen Desper, Earle Mankey), and assorted others give some interesting insights into this period in Brian's life. To the production's credit, they forego too much awkward sound-alike music or stock/public domain footage and focus mostly on interviews and discussion.

For fans of the group's deep catalog, this volume is probably more interesting than the first, as it delves into the 70's, including Brian's work with American Spring. The discussion pretty much stops at 1978, however, and rushes through 1979 through 1982 in the last ten minutes or so. So we get a healthy amount of discussion of albums up through "Love You", but then we simply get a quick mention of how awful "MIU" is, followed by a quick wrap-up.

The most interesting stories and anecdotes come from of course those who actually worked with Brian writing and recording. These folks are relatively frank about Brian's condition and the conditions within the group. But biographers Carlin and Priore also are used to good effect here, giving us the broad implications of what was going on with Brian and the group at this time, and summing up the general consensus of fans and critics to the degree that such a thing can be summed up.

Video Quality:

This program is presented in an anamorphically-enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The quality is as would be expected. The modern-day interviews look just fine for the most part, while various archival footage varies widely (a lot of re-used footage from "An American Band" and "Endless Harmony" can be seen).

Audio Quality:

Again, as would be expected, the audio is just fine in terms of the modern-day interviews. Nothing much else to report here. A solid stereo mix.


We get a three "featurettes" which are basically just excised scenes that could have easily made their way into the actual main program. Fred Vail discusses his odd unreleased Brian-helmed country album, and we also get a bit of additonal "musicology."

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