By Robert Ham
To save you some of the grunt work of tracking down concert films and musician documentaries amidst Hollywood blockbusters and 12 seasons of Murder, She Wrote, here’s a look at the most noteworthy music-related titles newly available to stream online.
Sing Sing Thanksgiving – available on Hulu
This loosely rendered documentary from 1974 takes viewers inside the walls of Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York on the occasion of a holiday concert featuring blues icon B.B. King, folk singers Joan Baez and Mimi Farina, and the Voices of East Harlem community choir. The performances are the draw, but what sticks with you are the interviews with the inmates, a motley crew struggling to maintain their humanity and connection with the outside world.
How To Grow A Band – available on Hulu
One of the biggest announcements of the year has been the return of GRAMMY-award winning country act Nickel Creek. It’s the perfect time to check out this documentary, which highlights mandolin player Chris Thile’s efforts to get a new project, the Punch Brothers, off the ground. The film is as warm and inviting as the music, while also offering some unblinking insight into the struggles and glory of creative process.
A Night With Lou Reed – available on Hulu
The late Lou Reed churned out some of his finest solo work in the early ‘80s, using the furious wonder of Robert Quine’s guitar work and the rubbery yet sturdy foundation of bassist Fernando Saunders to help bring to life the near masterpiece albums The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts. This 1983 film finds that same lineup at New York’s The Bottom Line, bringing to life songs from those two LPs and a handful of jaw-dropping renditions of Velvet Underground classics.
Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell To Earth – available on Fandor
Director Ed Haynes made a wise decision, deciding to narrow the focus of this documentary on Brian Eno to the six-year stretch in the ‘70s that found the beloved producer and musician go from founding the glam pop group Roxy Music and exploring early ambient work to collaborating with David Bowie and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp in the studio. And it boasts a wealth of archival footage and thoughtful interviews from critics like Robert Christgau and David Toop.
American Hardcore – available on Crackle
Just now deciding to explore the history of punk rock? You could do no better than to dive headfirst into this documentary that explores the stateside explosion of the hardcore scene starting in 1979. Inspired by Steven Blush’s book of the same name, the film features the ragged faces of many of punk rock’s founding fathers and mothers, and plenty of invigorating live footage that will either inspire you to take up an instrument or get into the mosh pit.
Also New To Streaming:
The acclaimed 2010 documentary on the life of The Band’s Levon Helm, Aint In It For My Health
Thank God It’s Friday, the disco-era novelty starring Donna Summer, Jeff Goldblum, and The Commodores.
The oft referenced, but never duplicated film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar