Toronto Film Review: ‘David Foster: Off the Record’

Variety | 9/19/2019 | Owen Gleiberman
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By the early 1970s, as the counterculture was dissolving and reconfiguring, there were new pop-star archetypes on the horizon that we still tend to think of — the glam rocker, the sensitive singer-songwriter, the hair-band metal strutter, the prog-rock wizard, the belting pop chanteuse, the punk rocker. But there was another figure of the era who, for a while, was every bit as present but a little less in-your-face, not to mention a lot less respectable: the soft-rock geek, with his too-square-to-be-hip leisure suits and his blow-dried mullet parted in the middle and his caressingly sentimental piano chords and his almost sleazy sincerity. This was, and is, a figure out of a Will Ferrell movie — not “Anchorman” but “Soft Rock Star.” He was Eric Carmen, he was Stephen Bishop, he was Gilbert O. Sullivan, he was the grinning resplendent king of them all, Barry Manilow.

David Foster, the subject of the new documentary “David Foster: Off the Record,” was one of those people: a post-hippie easy-listening avatar of have-you-ever-been-mellow pop. With Foster, though, there was a crucial difference. Born in British Columbia in 1949, he had a brief, hapless fling with rock ‘n’ roll (he was in a band of geeks who, in the late ‘60s, played back-up for Chuck Berry), and after moving to L.A. in 1972 he formed early AOR bands like Skylark, who had a Top 10 hit with “Wildflower,” and the tellingly named Airplay. But when his career as a pop star failed to pan out, it didn’t take long for him to become a sought-after session musician and, ultimately, a record producer.

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Toronto Film Review: 'David Foster: Off the Record'

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As a kid, Foster learned to play every instrument and was a wizard on the piano. But what he brought...
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