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All Things Must Pass (2015)

MVD
DVD Released: 9/13/2016

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/17/2016

The worst party about getting older is, well, feeling older. No matter how "hip" or "now" one attempts to be, there are always going to be things which feel too modern or simply alien. However, this feeling of disconnection can be eased if one can find others who share certain memories of the past. It may not help one to feel any more anchored to current trends, but knowing that there are other people who went through or enjoyed things that you experienced is a good feeling. As a teenager, I loved frequenting the record store (sometimes stores) in the mall. Pre-Internet, one had to actually go into the store to learn about upcoming releases and to peruse the shelves. It was exciting to be there on Tuesday to pick up a new release or to scout the older item for a possible purchase. When it comes to how we buy music, times have certainly changed, but All Things Must Pass shows that I wasn't alone in my love of record stores.

All Things Must Pass explores the history of Tower Records. Store founder Russ Solomon helps to navigate this story, describing how he and his father began selling records in his father's Sacramento, California drugstore in the 1960s. He eventually opened a store next door called Tower Record Mart which focused on music. From there, Solomon opened a large store in Sacramento, with the goal of having the world's largest record store. The store was a success, so Tower expanded to San Francisco and Los Angeles (where Elton John would shop on a regular basis). The staff at Tower, who essentially partied all day, were having a great time, as the company expanded overseas. Tower continued to open more and more stores, with no end in site. Then came the 1990s with the proliferation of low-cost mass merchandisers and something called the Internet. And this was when the party at Tower came to an end.

This documentary comes from Colin Hanks who apparently wants to continue following in his father's footsteps by going behind the camera. I don't know if his celebrity was involved, but Hanks has certainly gotten access a lot of big players from Tower. Along with found Russ Solomon, we get his son, Mike Solomon, who was a big part of the company, and record music executive Jim Urie. Solomon is the focus of the piece, outlining each change, good or bad, in the store's history. Perhaps more importantly, we hear from a handful of Tower employees, most of who began their careers working behind the counter or in the stockroom, and worked their way up into executive positions. These speakers are quite candid when they discuss environment at Tower, which involved a lot fo hard work, but a great deal of excess as well. When the story comes to Tower's demise, we can genuinely feel their emotions. (Although, let's be honest, how lucky were they to work in a record store for 30 years?)

Along with corralling these interviewees, Hanks has clearly done his homework, as the film is filled with news stories on Tower, as well as in-house promotional videos and dozens of photos. I did not grow up in an area which had Tower Records, although I had certainly heard of the franchise, so I did learn a lot from the documentary. However, I also found it oddly lacking in passion. It's not uncommon for a documentary filmmaker to remain somewhat disconnected from the material, but I wanted to know why Hanks had chosen this material. Did he frequent the Los Angeles store? Is he a big music fan or collector? As this is his first feature-length documentary, he's done a fantastic job of telling the story (in chronological order, thank God), and the editing is top-notch, but I don't know why he chose this topic. Also, I had expected to get a better sense of what Tower meant to those outside of the stores. We do hear from Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and Dave Grohl (who actually worked at Tower). Now, there's no doubt that those are three heavy-hitters, but what about average music fans? How did the loss of these store affect them?

Of course, those last few comments are simply nitpicking, as All Things Must Pass does a fine job of telling two stories. First, it essays a time in America (and the rest of the world) when it was a treat to visit a record store to not only buy your favorite music, but discover new music as well. (I fondly remember making friends with a clerk at Record Bar who pointed me in the direction of things as diverse as The Replacements to White Lion.) It also gives a very honest portrayal of a company which didn't know when to cut its losses (literally) and simply got too big to adjust to changes in the marketplace. All Things Must Pass certainly made me nostalgic for record stores, while showing that the passion for music still lives on.

All Things Must Pass never addressed the mutton chops on DVD courtesy of MVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials, save for the archived footage used throughout the movie, but that's not the fault of this transfer. The colors look fine and the modern interview footage is nicely detailed. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, the audio consists of the interviews, but, as one would expect, we do get rock music as well, and this often fills the speakers.

The All Things Must Pass DVD contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long