If you are reading this because you are even remotely interested in the sound, music and/or musicians of the Fender Rhodes era, I can simply say: buy this book! You will not regret it, guaranteed. It is a treasure trove of marvelous memories from a decade that is increasingly seen as the highpoint of recorded sound.
The Rhodes was the mid-point between pure analog keyboards and synthesizers, with very touch-sensitive keys and tines that remain unmatched by any synth to this day. That direct interface between musician and music is what made and makes its sound so special, and this book and blu-ray shows why that is and how it came to be.
The blu-ray film has many sweet moments, such as Manzarek playing Riders On The Storm while explaining why The Doors didn't need a bassist, Hancock rocking Headhunters riffs, Corea doing his thing on one of the best sounding Rhodes in the film---they all sound different, a key to their charm (or maddening variability, some techs would say), Duke being Duke in all his good-natured glory, and so many other keyboard masters sitting in their home studio with their beloved Rhodes and explaining why it's still one of a kind.
My only issue with the BD is the minimal extras (surely there was tons of footage on the floor of the boys playing their favorite riffs), and that the doc is only two hours. But the interviews are great, and there is a panoply of legendary musicians here.
The core of this project, however, are the lengthy interviews in the book. There is a LOT of fabulous info here, everything you could want to know about the history of the Rhodes, pretty much. Harold Rhodes was a very cool dude, and his tales and those of his Fender compatriots are fascinating and a real time capsule of what the industry was like. The CBS era, a controversial thing for those of us who worship the pre-CBS blackface amps and better-made early Strats and Teles, is explored in depth. Steve Grom, Mike Peterson, Steve Woodyard and especially John McLaren Sr. make clear how it all went down, and they are really nice fellows who are fun to "listen" to. It's also unique and welcome to hear from the guys who made an instrument; the behind the scenes stories are a real education about the instrument biz.
Then we get the real meat here, dozens of the best modern key players detailing their love of the Rhodes sound and feel. ALL of these interviews have some gold in them, and some, like Duke and Chick, are pure joy to read. If you grew up as a music lover in the '60s and '70s like I did, that Rhodes sound is part of your DNA, and these guys are the ones who put it there. So many of the best tunes of that era feature the Rhodes as the key sonic element, and that becomes more obvious the more players you read about here.
The only minor issues I had with this project were the proof reading in the book; there are far too many musicians whose names are misspelled, and many typos; for a book of this print quality they should have gone the extra mile with fact checkers and better editing. That's a real disappointment (certainly for the guys whose names are mangled!). The other is the rather annoying insistence of the authors of including pictures of themselves with their heroes with almost every interview! Come on, boys, this book is about them and the Rhodes, not you. One tires of seeing their fanboy faces every few pages, and it takes some class away from what is otherwise a near-perfect tribute to this instrument and its geniuses.
My only other qualm is the lack of mention of Bill Evans. His vastly underrated Rhodes album, From Left To Right, is some of the best Rhodes music ever made, and he deserved more mention here. Check that record out; it's Rhodes heaven.
But all told, this is a definite must-have for any fan of the Rhodes tone, or these players, or '70s music in general. The laid back and very melodic vibe of that decade was obviously inspired and shaped by the sound of the Rhodes, a very deep fact once you get your head around how vital the Rhodes feel was to so many of the best groups of that period: rock, jazz, pop and otherwise. And at 31 clams for both the book and blu-ray, it's a great deal. This will go out of print soon enough, so grab your copy while you can. You'll go back to it often when you hear yet another old tune that starts with that shimmering, chiming beauty of the Rhodes tone, and you want to learn more about just why that sound is so hauntingly special.
But the main thing I want to say in closing is thank you to Harold Rhodes! His love of music and dedication to helping wounded soldiers learn to play it is what made the Rhodes come into being, and I feel that the love he had for those men and for music lies at the heart of what we hear in the Rhodes sound: warmth, care, sensitivity, and the magic that only music played from the soul can bring to our lives.