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Music Reviews

Tom Keifer

Tom Keifer

The Way Life Goes (Deluxe Edition)

Cleopatra Records

I was the perfect age when Cinderella hit the scene. Night Songs was quintessential hair metal, with rocking tracks and the requisite power ballads. The switched things up on their sophomore effort. Long Cold Winter introduced the blues to an audience eager for something new, or rather something old. However, their third album, Heartbreak Station veered too far into the blues for the mainstream audience. And then grunge came along.

All of that is to say, Tom Keifer has learned from his past. I missed The Way Life Goes when it was initially released in 2013. The solo debut from the former Cinderella frontman was a pleasing mixture of throwback glam metal, grungy blues, and twangy country. “Solid Ground” kicks the album off with heavy rock rhythms, fast guitars, and that unmistakable Keifer scream. A bluesy riff drives “Cold Day In Hell” with solid harmonica playing punctuating the message being sent to people who try to take advantage of you. The trip to the country is realized in “Ask Me Yesterday,” with its acoustic sound and story of moving from being young and knowing everything, to growing up and realizing you don’t know anything. “Thick and Thin” is a rock ballad with a beautiful piano base that harkens back to the music video era. Things even get a little psychedelic with “Welcome To My Mind,” with a nice mix of effects and tricks to keep you on your toes.

The deluxe edition release includes all of the original songs, plus two new tracks – a studio version of the popular live cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends” and a new version of the Cinderella classic “Nobody’s Fool” featuring Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Both tracks are very well done and a fine addition to the re-release. There will also be a bonus DVD (that I did not get the opportunity to review) with music videos and a short documentary. Taken as a whole, this is a great package for those of us who missed the initial release. Is it a good deal for people who already own the original album? I can’t say, but they should probably look into it. The Way Life Goes was already a very good album filled with a diverse mix of music. If you missed it the first time, give the Deluxe Edition a shot.

www.tomkeifer.com

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Screen Reviews

A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood

A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood

Les Paul, Slash, Joe Perry, Buddy Guy

MVD Entertainment

In 2006 a group of amazing guitarists came together to pay tribute to a legend who inspired them and influenced countless other artists. Slash, Neil Schon, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Buddy Guy, Joe Perry, Joe Satriani and others played at Universal Studios in honor of Les Paul. Thankfully, this was before Les passed away in 2009, so he was able to appreciate the tribute.

The performances are amazing. Slash plays while Edgar Winter sings “Superstition”. Satriani shreds on “Satch Boogie”. Buddy Guy and Joe Perry collaborate on “Going Down”. Shayna Steele sings while Neil Schon tears “I Wanna Know You” up. Among the other performances, we even get to watch and listen to ninety-year-old Les play a few licks. While the performances shine, the real meat of the show is the documentary that the songs periodically interrupt. Mixing archival footage, performances, and photographs with contemporary interviews, we learn about just how influential Les Paul was to music. If he was just a guitar player, his place in history would be cemented. His techniques were innovative, combining country, jazz and blues with licks that had never been played before. Guitarists have been emulating him since his first album, and will be finding inspiration from his imitators for generations. Paul not only innovated guitar playing technique, he innovated the way guitars were built. He was a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar, and those stories are told by him during the documentary. The Gibson Les Paul series of guitars have become among the most sought after instruments in various genres of music. In addition to the instruments, Paul innovated in the recording studio. He pioneered both overdubbing (sound-on-sound) and multitrack recording.

Listening to artists and producers talk about how much he contributed to popular music was even more entertaining than watching the performances. From some of the clips being played under voiceover, it looks like there may have been an end of the show jam with several of the artists on stage at once. It would have been nice to see that on the video. That nitpick aside, If you want to see some legendary guitarists jam on some great songs, take a look at this show. But if you are at all interested in the history of music and one of the legends of the business, this is a must watch.

mvdb2b.com/s/ATributeToLesPaulLiveFromUniversalStudiosHollywood/MVD0392D

Categories
Music Reviews

Aubrey Logan

Aubrey Logan

Impossible

I first noticed Aubrey Logan as part of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, that group of talented musicians who cover new and modern songs in multiple classic styles. She has turned the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give it Away” into a mod Austin Powers groove, and “Ice Ice Baby” into a vintage jazz piece, providing vocals and trombone accompaniment. So when I saw that she was releasing a solo album, I was intrigued.

Impossible did not disappoint.

The album starts off with a soulful and tragic tale of a woman whose heart is broken right before a trip (“Crying on the Airplane”). It should be illegal for a sad song to be so catchy. Logan wails while her backing band tears up the Stax-inspired tune. After that emotional roller coaster, you think it’s more of the same with “Pity Party,” but they throw you a curve ball with a jazzy song that is actually about getting over a break-up. “Pistol” was picked to be the first single, and it was a damn good choice. It starts with a funky groove, then Logan’s trombone kicks in. While previously her voice has been alternating between sad and cheery, sultry is the only descriptor for the way she sings these verses. The chorus, on the other hand, transitions into full ahead pop star sing-along. If radio play was still a thing, this would be in heavy rotation for the next few months.

The rest of the album continues to span genres, with torch songs, pop tunes, more jazz, and a couple of cover tunes. “California Dreamin'” features Casey Abrams, and gives an almost gospel feel to the classic. While their vocals deliver the emotion of the lyrics better than any previous version, the trombone break in the middle feels out of place. “You Can’t Touch This” is a scat-inspired re-imagining of the MC Hammer hit, and will definitely raise a few eyebrows. Despite the best efforts of the talented performers, something about the song doesn’t click. Perhaps it is because it is so identified with the original artist, including several shout outs to him in the lyrics.

Often you will see a review that says, “there is something here for everyone.” Well, since there really isn’t any country on this album, I guess that isn’t the case here. But Impossible is quite an eclectic collection of songs. Do yourself a favor, and check out “Pistol” at Aubrey Logan’s website or YouTube. Listen to it through good headphones or speakers, not laptop speakers or one earbud. If that whets your appetite, pick up Impossible.

www.aubreylogan.com

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Print Reviews

Sh*t My President Says

Sh*t My President Says

by Shannon Wheeler

Top Shelf Comix

Shannon Wheeler has tackled God (Apocrypha Now ), so now he has decided to tackle a man who seems to think he is a god. Wheeler has taken it upon himself to try and bring some meaning to the odd, rambling, often contradictory social media missives of the man who has found himself in the White House. From his very first Tweet about appearing on Letterman in 2009, to tweets from just a couple of months ago after the inauguration, Wheeler illustrates the text while highlighting the subtext.

Instead of the ranting blowhard he presented to his followers during his campaign speeches, Wheeler draws Trump as a child. Often seen in a tantrum, other times curious, and occasionally even trying to be helpful, young Donnie never quite seems to realize the ramifications of his words. This is funny at first, as he is only a reality TV personality. But it becomes worrisome during the campaign and downright scary after the election.

That fear is why, overall, I can’t say that I enjoyed Sh*t My President Says. I see it as an important work, chronicling these missives for historical purposes. But until we know how this experiment ends, I am having trouble finding any joy or humor in what he says, no matter how well it is illustrated. And it is illustrated well. The black and white line drawings of not only Trump but of Obama, Putin, and even a confused Kristen Stewart give breadth and depth to the world that he inhabits. In addition to the tweets, Wheeler often includes other quotes, like the ones from his sons contradicting his claims of no Russian ties, or obvious facts that undercut his current tweet. I recommend Sh*t My President Says, not because of its comedic potential, but because of its ability to frame a sadly important communication channel in perspective. Here’s hoping that Wheeler only gets a few more volumes of this project.

www.topshelfcomix.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Rhino Bucket

Rhino Bucket

The Last Real Rock N’ Roll

Acetate Records

Rhino Bucket was one of those bands that got lost in the shuffle of later ’80s/early ’90s rock bands. They weren’t a hair band, nor were they grunge. They weren’t heavy enough to be considered metal or fast enough to be thrash. They played hard rock n’ roll, and they played it well. The most often used comparison, and in fact the one my friend Jeff used to get me to listen to them, was “Bon Scott-era AC/DC.” You can’t help but hear Scott in lead vocalist Georg Dolivo’s gravelly growls. I was hooked instantly, and bought the first two albums. I rejoiced when they appeared on the Wayne’s World soundtrack, hoping that would equal more mainstream attention for the band. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Their follow-up release, Pain extended the AC/DC comparisons by bringing their former drummer Simon Wright on board, but still no mainstream success. After that, the band went on a hiatus for several years, from 1996-2001. Since then, Acetate Records has released three original albums and two compilations, while the band has been touring non-stop.

Which brings us to today and The Last Real Rock N’ Roll. That title is a bold statement, but the band does a damn fine job justifying it. Just like their early work, the album is chock full of anthemic rockers, with crunchy riffs and pounding drums. In fact, halfway through the opening track “Hello Citizens”, I stopped playback, removed my earbuds and restarted the album on my home theater receiver with the full-sized speakers blaring. This is a record to be listened to at high volume, on a quality stereo, with the windows open (or rolled down) while you (and preferably a few friends) sing along. That is what rock n’ roll is all about, and Rhino Bucket has captured it. While several of the songs fit the classic three-power-chord rocker formula, a few stand out as different. While not breaking any molds, they flirt with escaping the mold a bit. The aforementioned opening track, while not a political opus like “American Idiot,” can definitely be seen as a rallying cry for the burgeoning resistance movement – “Hello citizens, gather ’round. It’s a revolution! Join us now!” Closing out the album with church bells ringing, “The Devil You Know” skews heavier, nearing early Black Sabbath territory. However, I think my favorite track is “Last Call” where the band harkens back to even earlier rock with an organ and female back-up singers. If you can resist singing along to this, you should probably check your pulse. If you remember Rhino Bucket from the early ’90s and wondered what happened to them, or if you just miss good old-fashioned hard rock n’ roll, give The Last Real Rock N’ Roll a listen.

www.rhinobucket.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

The Burningmoore Deaths

The Burningmoore Deaths

directed by Jonathan Williams

starring Geoff Tate

MVD Entertainment

There are two hooks that might get you to watch The Burningmoore Deaths. The first is that it stars former Queensryche lead singer Geoff Tate. The second is the way in which it is filmed — a combination of faux documentary and found footage. I don’t know if either hook alone justifies the curiosity, but combined it was enough to get me to press play.

The movie starts out with the faux documentary, detailing the horrific murders that happened in 2005, and the fact that the father who perpetrated them had escaped capture for years. After this retrospective, we are told there have been more murders. Instead of archival footage and interviews, we are suddenly part of the filming of a new home improvement show, where the goal is to renovate a house in a nearby town on an abandoned Army base. What could possibly go wrong?

The first twenty minutes are spent on the retrospective, while the next twenty minutes are spent getting to know the cast of Gettin’ Hammered, a delightfully quirky group of contractors and television production personnel. After that, the killings begin! The conceit allows for static cameras to be placed in every room of the house, resulting in murders being witnessed, but often in the shadows or just off screen, so folks who are not into gore should be ok watching it.

And what of the other hook? Well, Mr. Tate gets to serve triple duty, not only as the father-turned-murderer, but also as the narrator of the documentary, and performer of the song over the end titles. His main role as the antagonist is a silent one, which allowed him to also be the narrator. But his intense facial expressions in the footage from the various cameras, along with his menacing physicality, translate into an effective horror movie villain.

While there are a few plot holes, my main complaint revolves around a possible motive/reason for his actions early in the film that is never followed up on after his reappearance. Perhaps this was an oversight by screenwriters J. Andrew Colletti and Jonathan Williams, or the follow-up was lost during filming by Williams (who also directed and edited). Despite that quibble, The Burningmoore Deaths is an interesting take on several horror movie tropes and well worth your time. Note: Apparently this film was originally released in 2010 as The Burningmoore Incident, and while it is spelled Burningmoore on the DVD and the credits, the website and promotional materials spell it Burningmore with one ‘o’.

mvdshop.com/products/burningmore-deaths-the-dvd

Categories
Music Reviews

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory

ADA Music

For the Celtic punk band’s ninth album, the Dropkick Murphys do indeed tell stories. Sometimes they are melancholy, sometimes tragic, and as expected, sometimes hilarious. They do it all with a musical flair that sometimes evokes The Clash and other times The Beatles, but always with their signature Celtic spin.

The biggest surprise to me was finding a version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel on here. It turns out that after leaving yet another overdose wake, singer/bassist Ken Casey was struck when this song came up in a random rotation in his car. The chorus, “Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone,” struck him as illustrative of the struggle and how you don’t have to do it alone. This version maintains that evocative feeling, while updating the track to fit in seamlessly with the Murphys’ catalog.

As expected from an album with “Pain” in the title, we get some songs dealing with addiction. They look at what it takes to pick yourself up after a fall in “Paying My Way,” while “Rebels With a Cause” puts the spotlight on the street kids who often seem invisible to us. But it’s not all doom and gloom, because it’s the Murphys. Nostalgia reigns supreme in “Sandlot” as they guys reminisce about their youthful indiscretions, while a new drinking song is birthed in “I Had a Hat” wherein Casey’s hat goes missing during a wake, and he intends to get it back. Even the most serious subject matter can be dealt with positively. “4-15-13” pays tribute to the victims and heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing, but not as a dirge. The band keeps the tempo strong as they celebrate that even though we are all different, we are all in this together.

My two favorite short stories are “First Class Loser” and “Kicked to the Curb.” The former is a treatise on dealing with that one guy we all know, whether family, friend, or friend of a friend, who is “everything that you despise.” The latter is an up tempo breakup song as only the Murphys can bring us – “I ain’t got no money; I spent it all on you. I ain’t got no money, honey; I don’t know what to do. / I ain’t got no girl; she kicked me to the curb. I ain’t got no honey, and she took all my money. / I shake my fist at the sky; I smash my head on the wall. It doesn’t change a goddamn thing, ’cause I’ve gone and lost it all. / So come on Sally, whatcha gonna do? Break my heart and leave me, for another fool.”

11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory definitely delivers on the title. The songs range from bleak to bouncy, reminiscent to rebellious. Die-hard fans of the band will snatch this up immediately, but if you have never heard the Dropkick Murphys before, or you have only heard them on a soundtrack, do yourself a favor and check this out.

www.dropkickmurphys.com

Categories
Music Reviews

She & Him

She & Him

Christmas Party

Columbia

Five years after A Very She & Him Christmas, Zoey Deschanel and M. Ward are back with another selection of holiday tunes suitable for coffee shops and sedate gatherings. Zoey takes center stage on most of the album, but Ward shines providing counterpoint on “The Coldest Night of the Year.” In addition, The Chapin Sisters and Jenny Lewis provide vocal assists throughout the album, while Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) provides drums on all tracks.
As far as I am concerned, “All I Want For Christmas” is worth the purchase price of the album all by itself. Zoey’s voice perfectly fits with the production, bringing a Leslie Gore/Ronnie Spector vibe to the Mariah Carey modern classic. “Happy Holiday” is served up as a bouncy jazz number, with a prominent bass line. “Must Be Santa” is a bit of a disappointment. It is fine on its own, but doesn’t stand out. The again, to me, everyone else pales after hearing the Brave Combo version. The really surprising take is listening to Ward slow down “Run, Run Rudolph,” a track that begs for an up tempo treatment. When it started slow, I figured it would kick in at the chorus, or the second verse, but it never did.

I expected a solo performance from Zoey accompanied by nothing but a ukulele. And while we do get it, it is not “Mele Kalikimaka,” the Hawaiian Christmas song. Instead, it is the closing track, “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” commonly associated with Chipmunks. Oddly, it works as a lullaby, and the Hawaiian track still has an island feel to it.

Ok, by now everyone reading this already has an opinion on She & Him. Their second mixed bag of Christmas songs will do nothing to sway that opinion. If you are a fan of their retro arrangements and breathy vocals, you will gladly play this at your holiday gatherings. If you find everything associated with Zoey Deschanel to be annoyingly cute and twee, you can safely pass on this.

www.sheandhim.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

Back In Time

Back In Time

directed by Jason Aron

starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

MVD Entertainment

As a product of The ’80s, a love of Back to the Future is practically a requirement for me. And it is there, to be sure. I appreciate all of the performances, from Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd all the way down to James Tolkan as the Principal. But I have always admired the stories I heard about the making of the film, and the first of its kind making of the back-to-back sequels. That is why I was excited to watch Back in Time.

This documentary is not just an exploration of the films themselves, but also a look at the cult and culture that has grown up around them. Approximately the first third of the documentary focuses on the making of the original film. The two main hurdles were finding the right studio to produce a time travel movie, and finding the right lead actor. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had written a script that everyone in Hollywood loved, but no one would take a chance on producing. The tale of eventual production is fascinating, as is the often-told tale of replacing Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox. Talking heads are present for both of the tales, with the primaries – Gale and Zemeckis, Spielberg, Fox, along with other actors and studio folks. But the best talking heads are the people who were inspired by the script and performances, especially Dan Harmon (creator of Community and Rick and Morty) who outlines how flawed the “perfect script” is from a technical perspective, while still extolling how well it works.

The rest of the documentary splits its time between a cursory review of the sequel filming, an in-depth look at the DeLorean Time Machine, and the fandom that has grown from the initial film into conventions, cosplay, music, charity fundraising, and technological innovation. Again, talking heads guide the story, with super fans explaining how much the movie and characters have meant to them. Fans worked and restored the original Time Machine at Universal Studios from a decrepit state into a display “better than the original.” Fans travel around the country raising money for Parkinson’s Disease. Fans used the visions of the future to develop real hoverboards, of a sort.

On the whole, Back in Time is a good love letter to not only Back to the Future but to the entire culture. Some things are missing, of course. While we hear about Eric Stoltz, we don’t get to hear from him. Nothing is mentioned of Crispin Glover and the controversy surrounding the replacement of him as George McFly. The sequels get short shrift, especially the third film, as Part 2 got some time as they talked about how accurate the portrayal of the future turned out. If Marty McFly and Doc Brown were a large part of your youth, take a return visit to Hill Valley with this documentary and catch up with some old friends.

backintimefilm.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation

Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation

directed by Eric Zala

Rolling Boulder Films

Days after writing my review for Raiders!, I was lamenting that I would probably never see the fan film that the documentary was based on. Due to the vagaries of intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights, and large corporations, I was sure that there would never be a formal release of the Adaptation. The only way I would be able to see it would be at a convention or film festival, and according to the RaidersGuys website, their tour was not coming to Memphis. Imagine my surprise when that weekend, I noticed a Facebook post from the Indie Memphis Film Festival about a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation at their youth film festival. It was a perfect fit. I bought tickets immediately.

The Adaptation is everything I expected – low quality video, poor audio, impressive visual/special effects, and a whole lot of heart. The amount of care put into this fan film made over seven summers in the Eighties is phenomenal. The sets are detailed. The costumes range between comical and fantastic. The acting… well, the acting is a bunch of teenagers with no training. It’s adorable and silly, most of the time. But some of the scenes, especially between Chris Strompolous as Indy and Angela Rodriguez as Marion, are surprisingly powerful. As a fan, you know what is coming, and are pleasantly surprised at the gravity portrayed.

As noted in the Raiders! review, there was one scene that was never finished when they were kids. SPOILER Warning for Raiders! – They did complete the infamous Airplane Scene a couple of years ago and integrated it into the Adaptation. The jarring change from 4:3 grainy home video to 16:9 high definition digital is one thing, but the change from teenagers to actors twenty five years later is amazing. It’s a true testament to the heart of the film makers that the primary actors all returned for the new scene – Indy, Marion, Belloq, and Dietrich – and that the chemistry between them was still present. The sets and props are top notch this time around, and the special effects and pyrotechnics are spectacular. So much so, that I was worried the rest of the film would be a let down. I needn’t have worried. After switching back to the home video footage, we still have the impressive truck scene, the scenes on Katanga’s boat and the German “U-Boat”, and of course, the special effects laden climax with the Ark.

All told, this was a very fun movie to watch, especially with an audience. There was laughter, groans, and thunderous applause. Afterwards, Chris (Indy/Producer) and Eric Zala (Belloq/Director) held a Q&A session for the audience and stayed around for a meet and greet afterwards. This was the second to last stop on their current tour, but keep an eye out on their website for future dates. The Adaptation is an important film. It shows what is possible, even far away from Hollywood, if no one tells you that something can’t be done. These kids had very little in the way of resources, but they had spare time, passion, and support from their friends and family. They also had very limited entertainment options back then. No constant distractions from the Internet, tablets, and smart phones. This boredom led to creativity. This creativity has stuck with them their entire lives. Parents, teachers, and anyone with kids in their lives can use this to inspire the next generation of artists. And now The Adaptation is available on DVD at the RaidersGuys website. Sure, it’s not the same as seeing it with a theater full of fans, along with the star and director, but it’s still a memorable experience.

www.raidersguys.com