Tom Dowd & the Language of Music


Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    Music fans of every stripe should kill to see this film, one of the very best music documentaries in recent years.
  2. This wise and warm man, who died in 2002, is captured in all his glory by the remarkable documentary.
  3. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Dowd's graciousness and enthusiasm, and the enormous respect afforded him by industryites on record here, make this a thorough and satisfying acknowledgement of one man's unique contribution to popular music.
  4. 90
    Moormann's film transcends A&E hagiography, and Dowd's spry egoism and science-hipster joie de vivre provide piquant icing. Recalling trends, technical advances, artists, and landmark sessions (one where he suggests the rhythm for "Sunshine of Your Love"), Dowd conjures the excitement that helped coax so many iconic performances.
  5. It makes a convincing argument that Dowd's personal history is a kind of history of the 20th century itself, encompassing the era's art, science, commerce and politics.
  6. If there is one moment in The Language of Music that will thrill old rock fans, it's watching Dowd, his fluid hands moving with a surgeon's grace, remix for the film's benefit the 24-track sub-master of "Layla."
  7. 88
    The Language of Music hews strictly to its title, however. There isn't anything about Dowd's life outside music except for details of his work as a nuclear physicist at Columbia University, where he was a key part of the Manhattan Project research team that developed the atomic bomb during World War II.
  8. 80
    The documentary was shot on film, and Moormann's snappy editing and subtly moving camera match the energy of the jump-blues and roots-rock that Dowd loved.
  9. The man who emerges is a likable, unpretentious musical enthusiast and roll-up-your-sleeves problem-solver who apparently led a charmed life.
  10. Shows firsthand the appreciation and warmth from the musicians who worked with him.
  11. 80
    Moormann deserves credit, not only for choosing a wonderful and deserving subject for a film, but for doing him proud.
  12. Like its subject, the movie is a tad overzealous, but often fascinating and revealing.
  13. 75
    Sometimes it gets into arcane talk of equipment that makes more sense for a Berklee College of Music engineering class than for a mass-market movie -- but as a probing look at a really nice-guy genius in the studio world, it succeeds admirably.
  14. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Jim Fusilli
    Shows how a dedicated man ensured that great music could always be heard at its best.
  15. The correlation between music and math, if not explicit, is seldom documented with as much panache as Tom Dowd & the Language of Music.
  16. Mark Moormann's documentary tends to the worshipful, but Dowd, a charmer onscreen, was by all accounts just as appealing in real life.
  17. Moormann's reverential documentary, seven years in the making, is most successful as a self-narrated autobiography. It fails, however, to deliver a balanced portrait of the man's life and work.

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