MVD Visual // 2011 // 139 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // October 22nd, 2011
"The joke back then was that there were people who didn't know that Paul had been in a band before Wings." -- writer Peter Ames Carlin
Among other things, the Beatles breakup in 1970 meant that two powerful songwriters -- Paul McCartney and John Lennon -- were on the loose. Composing Outside the Beatles: Lennon and McCartney, 1973-1980 tracks the careers of both men through the '70s.
The general angle of Composing Outside The Beatles is that McCartney fared better in the post-Beatles world by going after popularity with Wings -- the band he formed with his wife Linda, Denny Laine of the Moody Blues, and a number of other people who came and went -- while Lennon's artistic ambitions were less successful.
Whether you agree with the conclusion or not, Composing Outside The Beatles does a good job of outlining Lennon's and McCartney's work and presenting its case. It generally gets closer to McCartney's life, thanks to contributions from Laine and Wings drummer Denny Seiwell, but manages to show how a rough patch in Lennon's marriage to Yoko Ono affected his music -- and led to a reunion with McCartney. Music videos and concert clips are plentiful, excerpted to give viewers reminders of songs such as McCartney's "My Love," "Live and Let Die," "Band on the Run," and "Coming Up," and Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" and "Woman." Comments from critics and acquaintances help present a rounded picture of the artists' decade.
Composing is a little long, clocking in at over two hours, but it rarely bogs down. It's apparently a three-part television documentary released as one long unit on DVD; it would have been helpful to keep any divisions so viewers could watch at their own pace. I also noticed that there's another volume available on Amazon.com.
As you'd expect, picture quality varies widely, depending on the clips. It's an all-regions disc. Some extra Laine comments, particularly on his "friendly competition" with McCartney, and contributor bios are included. The DVD box gives a rundown of the contributors so you know who's who among the talking heads.
What struck me as most interesting was that I knew a lot of their work after the Beatles, but hadn't really put it into context before seeing Composing Outside the Beatles. The songs become part of a storyline of two men's lives, rather than just isolated oldies on the radio.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated