Here is a question. I’ll hire you to make a documentary on any subject in the world. What would you choose? Some may choose a subject that gives them access to a world they have dreamed of being a part of, perhaps discovering the lifestyle of the rich or going to an exotic place. I think most of us would chase away a memory from our youth. That was the case with Emmy-nominated writer-producer Lee Aronsohn, and he tracked down ’70s folk group Magic Music.
Aronsohn’s documentary 40 years in the making: the magic musical film documents (for posterity) the obscure band Magic Music from the Boulder Revolution in Colorado in the 60s and 70s. Its doc is broken down into three parts: the band’s short but tumultuous career; what has happened to the group since its separation; and Aronsohn’s attempt to reunite the boys for a reunion concert.
The first moments of The Magic Music Film recalls Christopher Guest’s fake documentary A mighty windexcept it’s a true story. Original fans recount the impact Magic Music had on their lives and how awesome the band was in the ’70s. Aronsohn also appears on camera with a testimonial about the effect their music had on the life of a stoner student. . Although Magic Music never produced an album, the memory of their music has lived on in his adult life, career and family.
“… five foreigners who met in a college campus free speech yard and just started playing together.” “
Then we are introduced to music, and the music is good, no it’s great. You might not be a fan of folk, but its sound is instantly captivating, melodic, and complex. Magic Music was five strangers who met in a college campus free speech yard and just started playing together. Their music is accompanied by strong lyrics of peace and protest for its time, creating the magnificent blend of violin, mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass and haunting vocals. This group who loved to play and they quickly became close friends. So much so that they lived together in a van during the cold Colorado winters.
Magic Music features Chris “Spoons” Daniels, guitarist Will “Wilbur” Luckey, George “Tode” Cahill, Rob “Poonah” Galloway and percussionist Kevin “CW” Milburn. Destined for success, they couldn’t quite make a recording deal. Magic Music imploded for many reasons, from trivial demands, a CCR-type slave recording contract to differences in the type of band they wanted to be. Somehow, this group of five random guys, formed from a chance encounter, all with different futures in mind, ultimately couldn’t find any common ground in the area of the music.
The disappearance of the group was inevitable. As with any break-up, the break-up is rarely amicable. Some members pursued successful careers as studio musicians, while others took a liking to the music business. On the one hand, it was money, drugs and a bad deal that led to his demise.
“… maybe these guys better never get there.”
Today, the shelves are filled with documentaries about group breakups and awkward reunions. If there was a reason to see 40 years in the making: the magic musical film is for his music. Constantly playing in the background, you will understand how good this group was, how such a good group could never be successful and how the dynamics of the group destroyed it. Although, at the end of the day you conclude that these guys might be better off never getting there.
But there are still more reasons to keep watching. Music apart, 40 years in the making: the magic musical film is a story of forgiveness and fellowship. The road to forgiveness has not been easy. There are still some hard and painful feelings, but at some point everyone has to let go of the past and move on. While serving as a piece of nostalgia, it’s a sentimental flick for Aronsohn, and you can see his pride at the end of not just the final film, but getting a few Magic Music members to talk to each other.
Aronsohn brings great production value to his doc. It is beautiful to watch. Let’s face it, Colorado is a beautiful state (and I’m from California). It effectively contrasts the landscape of the 1960s with today’s Colorado. He effectively uses the little stock footage and photos he owned and created the moving photos we see so much in documents today. He effortlessly moves from chapter to chapter, never exceeding his welcome.
40 years in the making: the magic musical film (2018) Directed by Lee Aronsohn. With Chris Daniels, Will Luckey, George Cahill, Rob Galloway, Kevin Milburn.
8 out of 10 stars