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Delightful film taps into Tower nostalgia

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“All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records” is a delightful piece of nostalgia that pays tribute to the famed record stores — and provides a compact history lesson about the ups and downs of the music recording business.

For many of those of a certain age, trips to Tower Records were as regular as jaunts to the grocery store, and this winning documentary taps into those memories. The stores themselves were nondescript, but inside there was a seemingly limitless selection of music — and a sense of discovery awaiting you in every aisle.

“All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records”

Not rated


Opens today at Kahala 8

The starof “All Things” is 90-year-old Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records, who comes off as approachable, fun-loving and impulsive, yet a big-picture kind of guy. In his business, he surrounds himself with friends and relatives, many of whom start out as store clerks and work their way up the ladder as Tower transforms from a Sacramento, Calif., strip-mall venture into a global enterprise.

Director Colin Hanks spins this oral history project by talking to numerous Tower figures, and he sprinkles in interviews with luminaries like Elton John (a standout), Bruce Springsteen and David Geffen. Hanks also assembles an impressive cache of archival footage, including interesting photos from Tower’s glory days.

From the first frame, we know that the Tower story will not end well, as the arrival of Napster, the iPod, etc. — coupled with some shaky internal business decisions — spells doom for the record company. This wistful undercurrent makes the film all the more powerful, particularly as Solomon pays a visit to Japan near the end.

Occasionally, “All Things” gets stuck in a groove of industry and business minutiae — a 10-minute trim would have made this film even better — but overall, this is an assured effort: informative, bittersweet, and appealing for both the young and the not-so-young.

Review by David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle

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