Documentaries of reuniting musicians after a long time out of the spotlight have proven appealing in the past. One of these films, In search of the sugar man, even won an Oscar. There may not be a prize in sight for the latest variation on this theme, 40 years in the making: the magic musical film. And yet, this film by TV giant Lee Aronsohn should find a grateful audience when it kicks off a few theatrical engagements this month.
This will be true even for an audience that has never heard of Magic Music, the folk-rock group that drew audiences to Colorado in the early 1970s and retained an appeal for a band of diehards. One of the fans was Aronsohn, who heard them play while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. After college he moved to California and embarked on a career as a writer and then as a producer of television shows such as The boat of love, Brown murphy and two behemoths, Two and a half men and The Big Bang Theory. But the music stuck in his head and he decided to find out what had happened to the band members.
The bottom line
The concert doc in Reunion plays with enthusiasm.
Aronsohn decided to appear on camera as the narrator and guide of this nostalgic journey. He makes an endearing emcee as he recounts the impact of the music and his determination to bring the group together. As the group never made an album, it was difficult to find footage of their performances, but there were plenty of photographs, and Aronsohn hired Micah Brenner and a group of animators to recreate the turbulent history of Magic Music in clever illustrated interludes.
The musicians seemed to disdain fame and its attributes, although they were not immune to ego conflicts; in just a few years, the original band members dispersed and were replaced by new additions. After the band disbanded in 1975, they found themselves in different parts of the country. Some continued to play with other bands, while others eventually found work in completely unrelated fields. One of the original members, Lynn Poyar, died in 2011, but footage of him was recorded by one of his children, and Aronsohn was able to incorporate this with interviews he conducted with the others. members and some of their managers. Their own catchy tracks offer a seductive, if at times overly emphatic soundtrack.
Aronsohn said he wasn’t initially thinking of a reunion gig, but when he met the musicians and interviewed some of their fans in Boulder, he had the idea to encourage them to perform again. As the band members get together, we finally get a feel for their musical talents. George Cahill, known as “Tode”, is an extraordinarily gifted flautist reminiscent of Ian Anderson of the British band Jethro Tull. Although the group initially resisted the idea of having a drummer, the musician they eventually hired, Kevin Millburn, known as “The CW,” turned out to have an extraordinary singing voice as well as ‘a skill on the drums.
Still, the idea of bringing CW back for the reunion proved to be a particular challenge. He had parted on bad terms with the group manager over a drug deal that is never fully explained. CW had moved to Carson City, Nevada, and hadn’t spoken to any of the other band members in decades. But former enemies decided to bury the hatchet, and he joined the group. Everything did not go so well. One bass player was still bitter about being moved and refused to perform.
The reunion concert finally took place in November 2015 and brought together 800 people at a sold-out concert in Boulder. The heat in the auditorium will also affect the audience for this documentary. Beyond celebrating music, 40 years in the making: the magic musical film has something to say about the compromises and reconciliations that are part of aging, and it turns out to be a touching and calming reunion.
Director-Narrator: Lee Aronsohn
Producers: Fleur Saville, Jeff Jampol
Executive Producers: Lee Aronsohn, Lisa Haisha
Director of Photography: Dean Cornish
Publisher: Kyle Vorbach
Music: Magic music