Thursday, June 30, 2011

While the Red Sox were beating the Phillies…

Sophie takes a nap.

Sophie 006

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt "All Wood and Doors"

All Wood & DoorsCrosby, Stills, Nash and Morrison: A Fantasia
5 Out Of 5 Stars

Sometime in the mid 60's, a young James Morrison was walking along the Sunset Strip in California, frustrated that his musical aspirations were constantly hitting a brick wall. A girlfriend invited him out to the Canyon to rest and mellow out, and she mentioned that she had a few musician friends hanging out with her. Maybe Jim would like to meet them? He agreed and hitched a ride into the hills.

Once he was there, Jim's lady-friend introduced him to her friend Graham. Jim was familiar with The Hollies and told Graham that he liked his stuff. Would he liked to hear some of his own material? When Graham agreed, Jim picked up a guitar and began a frenzied version of "Break On Through." Graham smiles, he likes this young kid's assertiveness. Then he has an idea. "Jim," he says, "slow it down a bit and maybe add a shuffle to it?" Jim thinks a moment, works the chording out in his mind and plays it like Graham suggests. Both Jim and Graham light up; this arrangement sounds incredible. Telling Graham he has a ballad he really likes and thinks would be huge if people heard it, Jim strums the opening portion of "Light My Fire."

A friend of Graham's, Stephen, likes what he's been hearing from across the room. He picks up his guitar and began picking out some sliding, blues lines. Morrison follows Stephen's lead and bends the song into a slow, folky blues song. All three like what they hear. "What else have you got," asks Stephen. Jim, delighted, pulls out a notebook filled with poetry and opens it to "Riders On The Storm." As Jim begins to play, Stephen begins to improvise the vocal line. Graham is so stoked that he pulls his third friend, David, in to listen. By the end of few hours, the four of them decide to form a collaborative and call is CMNS, their initials in alphabetical order. Stephen hits the record button on his brand new home reel-to-reel and the four of them begin to capture the moment. They even work up an incredible harmony arrangement to take "The End" to a new level.

Well, OK, this never happened. But if it DID, then somehow, James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt  found the reels. Like James' collaboration with John Batdorf did to The Rolling Stones on "All Wood and Stones," James and Cliff take The Doors' classic repertory and folk it out. The duo have an all star guest list that includes Timothy B Schmit of The Eagles, Peter Tork of The Monkees, Paul Barrere of Little Feat, Laurence Juber (who has played with Paul McCartney & Wings), and Chad Watson on Bass. Even more remarkable is that Doors members John Densmore and Robby Krieger pitch in. It was even Densmore's suggestion to Stanley to take on The Doors after he'd heard "All Wood and Stones."

With the blessing of the two Door-keepers, James and Cliff deliver a diverse and delightful reading of classics like the aforementioned songs, as well as classics like "People are Strange," "Crystal Ship" and "Touch Me." I love the way that the pair interchange vocal duties. Cliff is gruff and hardy, James is clear and full. They make great harmonies and trade leads. The guitar playing is wonderful (and having seen James live, up close, I can attest to his guitar prowess), and is captured in rich tone. With both the exceptional musicianship and full endorsement of the original creators, "All Wood and Doors" is how cover albums should be done.

All Wood & Stones   Backstage at the Resurrection 500 Miles: Blue Rock Sessions The Very Best of the Doors [US Version] Eternal Contradiction  Ripe for Distraction

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Amazon Book Reviews: Arvid Nelson "Rex Mundi Volume 1: The Gaurdian Of The Temple"

Rex Mundi Volume 1: The Guardian Of The Temple (v. 1)Who's the king of the whole wide world?
4 Out Of 5 Stars 

A friend of mine with a great comic store in SF (Hello, Whatever!) recommended Rex Mundi to me after we chatted about my love of older comics like Doc Savage and the earlier Batman stories. he certainly pegged me correctly, as Rex Mundi Vol 1 hooked me instantly. Writer Arvid Nelson concocted a search for the Holy Grail unlike one you've heard before, and artist Eric J created a rich and beautifully drawn alternate world.

In this world, France is the dominant power in Europe. In the USA, the Civil War ended in a draw, even if slave ships are not allowed in European Waters. Most importantly, Catholicism has an iron clad grip on how things are determines, and magic/sorcery has its own guild. The Inquisition is the highest law in the land, and their ruthless efficiency makes any sort of investigations difficult. In this world operates one Dr Julius Sauniere, a physician who seems to have taken the role of doctor to the downtrodden. When an old friend and priest tells Dr Sauniere that a mythical scroll that no-one short of the Pope knows about may have been stolen, and that a wicked form of sorcery may have been the culprit, the good Dr is drawn into the mystery.

Before you can say Indiana Jones, the Dr is being launched into a series of murders, political intrigue, and the very dangerous attention of the Inquisitor Guild. Dr Sauniere plays like a cross between Jones and The DaVinci Code (which, incidentally, was published after the first volume of Rex Mundi), with the added twist of the world operating in the 1930's but often reading like modern times. The story is similar to most of these kinds of religious mysteries, but the artwork is sublime. There's a lot of detail in every drawing, especially the historic features of Paris. I am now eager to start moving through the rest of the series.

One caveat that was very disappointing: the book's cover slipped from the spine on the first read. Poor quality manufacturing.

Rex Mundi Volume 3: The Lost Kings (v. 3)  Rex Mundi Volume 2: The River Underground (v. 2) Rex Mundi #7 (Volume 1) Rex Mundi #8 (Volume 1)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Glee The Music "Volume 6, Season 2"

Glee: The Music, Volume 6 C'Mon, Bite The Big Apple
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Glee has become a reliable and predictable machine in the pop music productivity factory, which also means that the music tends to be reliably decent. I'm glad that the Nationals edition of the series has taken another turn towards Broadway, one of thew show's aspects I've found endearing. Along with three originals written for the cast, Volume 6 is the most diverse disc of the second season's offerings.

This disc encompasses the Fleetwood Mac episode, with ""Dreams," "Don't Stop," "Go Your Own Way" and "Songbird." (It also propelled the classic Rumours album to rechart at cool was that?) Gwyneth Paltrow, Christine Chenweth and Charice take their guest appearances and make standout appearances on Adele's "Turning Tables," Mac's "Dreams" and the new song (and the best of the three originals) "As Long As Your There," respectively. Speaking of Adele, Jonathan Groff (who was wasted in this season with an inconsequential part) does a dynamic return, pairing up with Rachel (Lea Michelle) for "Rolling In The Deep." While it doesn't out-do the original, it was a great pairing. The same can be said for Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," which is as perfect a pop song as you'll hear this year. The gang gets it right, because the song's message and exuberance would be near impossible to botch.

Still, it is the Broadway/Movie music that fairs the best. Curt (Chris Colfer) lets loose on "As If We Never Said Goodbye" (from "Sunset Blvd), Rachel lets her Streisand out with "My Man" and a light-hearted "Bella Note" (from Disney's "Lady And The Tramp") now makes me wonder if a Disney tribute would be outside the show's realm of episode probabilities. Lastly, it was the New Directions' covering "Pure Imagination" that was this season's bona fide tearjerker. Along with Kenny Loggins' cover, the Glee version now is my favorite recording of that song.

Glee: The Music, Volume 5  Glee: The Music presents The Warblers Matthew Morrison [ Exclusive Version] Rumours

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: David Broza "Night Songs: The Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt"

Night Dawn: Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt Twilight With Townes
3 Out Of 5 Stars
I have been a fan of David Broza for quite some time, including seeing him perform. He's an Israeli folk singer with a husky, sensual voice who's a major star over sees and a cult following stateside. He's done albums in English, Spanish and Hebrew, and "Night Dawn" is his first English Language album in many years. It comes with its own peculiar back story. As it turns out, Broza was a close friend of the late Townes Van Zandt, whose best known songs include the classic "Pancho and Lefty." Prior to his death, Van Zandt had approached Broza about working on an album with Townes' lyrics and David's music, but Van Zandt passed before the project came to fruition. These were the last lyrics/poems Van Zandt had written.

Broza held on to the lyrics, which at one time were being considered for an all-star tribute to Townes where other luminaries would each take a poem and complete a song. That project sputtered and stalled and never came to be, and finally, in 2010, Broza approached Van Zandt's family/estate about completing the album he and Townes had started in 1994. "Night Dawn" is the result, and it's a pretty good effort. There are some nice fits, like "Soul to Soul" and "Night Dawn/Silver Dollar." Broza's guitar style as a flamenco man doesn't always match the sadness in Van Zandt's words, like the divorce of "Southern Cross" and or a downer like "The Deer" (with this couplet "hard times lead, worse times follow...").

For the most part, "Night Dawn" is a good match between kindred spirits. Broza's rich voice infuses the words with the kind of emotional weight of Townes' intent. Like Steve Earle's tribute of Van Zandt covers ("Townes"), Broza shows and obvious deep love for his friend and the music he was entrusted with. While the quality of the songs is a little uneven, the heart is in the right place.

 Things Will Be Better: The Best of David Broza Townes Anthology 1968-1979

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Monday, June 20, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Radiohead "King of Limbs"

The King of Limbs I'm such a tease, you're such a flirt
4 Out of 5 Stars

Having long ago given up on anything resembling predictability, Radiohead comes back into weirdo-land with "King of Limbs." Harkening back to "Kid A" and "Amnesiac," this album twiddles the knobs and dials to play with sonic textures, loops, and affectations. An occasional melody or snippet of lyric will take a swing at you from time to time, but for the most part, Thom Yorke and company have issued a chilly album that offers the occasional feel of familiarity, but utterly refuses to offer anything warm.

This is a bit of a surprise given that "In Rainbows" seemed to poke through with an occasional bit of humanity. "Lotus Flower" offers the closest approximation to expression. More often than not, though, "King of Limbs" is Radiohead playing with structures. Jonny Greenwood's stuttering guitar chatters more than it sings, which leaves the atmospherics to make up for the lost parts. Added moments of stings and horn (in particular, "Codex") sometimes fill the void, just as often it is Yorke's high cry of a vocal.

His repeated loop of "don't help me, don't hurt me" under "Give Up The Ghost" makes the most haunting moment on a Radiohead album since "Ok Computer," which makes me wonder. If Radiohead went to this much trouble to be so distant and cold, why sing something that lingers in the mind so much? This is why "King of Limbs" still matters. Radiohead still chill, but they do so in a manner that is hard to turn away from. And it's why I'll still keep listening to them because you're never all the certain as to what will pop out of the headphones when you start the music.

OK Computer  In Rainbows The Bends Kid A Hail to the Thief The Best of Pablo Honey The Eraser