Troubadours

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Troubadours
TAYLOR MADE Sweet Baby James, left, and Carole King remember the good ol' days.

Wow, the '60s sure were a bummer: riots, assassinations, Nam, that batch of brown acid going around at Woodstock. It was time to mellow out, and a new wave of singer-songwriters provided the soundtrack for the cultural hangover. Equal parts Dylan's confessional folk and chamomile tea, the music of artists like James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and others spoke about personal struggles and soothed burned-out hippies. These sensitive strummers coalesced around a Los Angeles club called the Troubadour---a former beatnik hangout that became ground zero for a musical shift.

Who wouldn't want an in-depth look at the place that gave birth to a scene? Director Morgan Neville, apparently, given the mess that Troubadours makes of that Angeleno hot spot's importance. The documentary offers some choice snippets of vintage performances, but arbitrarily toggling between James Taylor's and Carole King's backstories (while somehow giving Tapestry short shrift) and vague reminiscences of shaggy-haired glory days should not be mistaken for a 360-degree portrait. It's such a haphazard, absent-minded history lesson that you'd think the filmmakers had ingested some of the era's pharmaceuticals before concocting this tribute---which would explain including such wackadoo statements as "Nobody remembers Lester Bangs, but everybody remembers James Taylor." Actually, plenty of us fondly remember both. With any luck, we'll have forgotten this slovenly softrockumentary only moments after it ends.

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By: David Fear

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