You may think it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a recording engineer, but Tom Dowd was a kind of rocket scientist: a nuclear physicist who, while still in college, was part of the Manhattan Pro

You may think it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a recording engineer, but Tom Dowd was a kind of rocket scientist: a nuclear physicist who, while still in college, was part of the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. After the war, his knowledge of nuclear physics was so advanced that it was pointless for him to return to school. Science's loss was music's gain. Director Mark Moorman's affectionate, smartly paced documentary about Dowd reveals a man gifted technically and musically. Dowd also had the warmth, empathy and taste to get the best performances out of mercurial talents, from John Coltrane and Eric Clapton to the Allman Brothers and Aretha Franklin. His Atlantic Records colleagues—Ahmet Ertegun, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler—are among those who testify to Dowd's abundant gifts. The archival material is illuminating and sometimes fascinating. And the core of the film—Dowd's own storytelling (he died at 77 in 2002)—is entertaining in its own right.—WR

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