Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Battle Of The Network Stars

One of the greatest fake bands of all time!

Forget what you've heard, the 80's were a great time for old fashioned rock and roll music. Now forget that I said that. Just kidding, it's Summer time and what would be the celebratory season be without a classic Battle of the Bands? And what Battle of the Bands story would be complete without a tale of young people with no prior musical experience forming a band and winning a check for a whopping $100.00? No, we cannot let Summer pass us by without this staple of all modern media happening. So here we are, Battle of the Network Star Bands. The contestants vying for the all important check prize that will magically pay for a new bike, repairing the dent in your daddy's car door he doesn't know about yet, paying school tuition or making up the difference on the family mortgage are:

Jennie Lee and the Mystery - A multitalented all girl band led by dark haired singer Jennie Lee, her band takes on drugs, thugs and a Pretty Woman to reach for the top.

Cherry Bomb - The end of the world and talking ducks just add to the thunder of this sparkly all girl rock band.

Zack Attack - Hubris has no bounds when you're led by the fearsome Zack Morris, Bayside can't hold this major talent back.

The Barbusters - Probably the least funded of all these groups, this rockin' brother / sister act is definitely born in the USA.

Now you know the players, on with the Tale of the Tape!

Best Drummer:

Who lays the meanest beat in the 80's? Let's see, The Mystery has Mooch, a streetwise girl who can steal vans and manages to play out of time to her own drum beat. She's cute, but don't you tell her so or you'll get a knuckle sandwich! She's better than whatever girl they had for Cherry Bomb, she's plays her Casio looking electronic drum kit standing up a'la Rikki Rocket. Who played drums for The Barbusters? I have no idea. This could be a cakewalk for Mooch until she goes head to head with AC Slater, Bayside's resident football star who doesn't take any preppie crap. Plus I know a certain wife who likes Slater's Tv host winning ways. Extra Extra!

Winner: Mario Lopez (Zack Attack)

Zack Attack draws first blood!

Best Keyboards:

Did the Barbusters have a keyboard player? Jeez, tough going for the Barbusters so far. The Mystery picked up classically trained Nickie, the sensitive type that's hungry for the Mooch. Two easy eliminations right off the bat. Who does Zack Attack have? Screech! He'd win geek sympathy points until you realize it's Dustin Diamond, one of the least sympathetic child stars of all time in his adult form. Then Cherry Bomb goes and stacks the deck with Holly Robinson. She sings (such as the theme song to 21 Jump Street), she dances, she plays amazing keytar!

Winner: Holly Robinson (Cherry Bomb)

Best Bassist:

Now the competition gets fierce. First to go by the wayside is the other anonymous girl from Cherry Bomb, sure she looked all shiny with the Mad Max get up everyone else in the group had but memorable? No. The Barbusters finally get in the running thanks to Michael McKean, Spinal Tap's very own David St. Hubbins himself. McKean pumps up the bass for the Barbusters and proves himself worthy of One Wolf status. He gets a little heat thanks to Zack Attack's Lisa Turtle, the credit card baby with the heart of gold has an appeal but doesn't know one end of her instrument from the other. But hey, what does that matter? Because The Mystery's resident bassist who holds her left handed bass like a ladies handbag and just walked in with her Academy Award - stealing the prize like it was her best friend's wedding.

Winner: Julia Roberts (The Mystery)

Best Guitarist:

Now we're getting somewhere. I'm going to specify lead guitarist for this category to keep Joan Jett from being a shoo in. Because really, who can keep up with an original Runaway? Britta Phillips of The Mystery comes close, as the drug addled dog loving spitfire guitarist. She sings lead on "Mr. Big Stuff" and when you're not looking, transforms into international rock star Jem! She's truly outrageous, truly outrageous. Zack Morris tries to scheme his way into the competition but when faced with real talent like that, he's got nothin'. Too bad for Britta she's in the same category as one Mr. Alex P Keaton - Michael J Fox. He scorches up the fretboard in every seamy dive they could find. Fox could win it free and clear until a certain duck walks in with a guest solo supporting Cherry Bomb. Then Howard the Duck chomps on his cigar and says "Hey Michael J. Fox, I made out with your mom!" leaving Lea Thompson with the shame of explaining to Calvin why she may be on Maury soon with a water fowl. Yet you can't keep Michael J Fox down no matter what life throws at him and that's the secret of his success.

Winner: Michael J Fox (The Barbusters)

Best Lead Singer:

With Alex winning the guitar prize, can Mallory make it a Family Ties sweep fronting her band The Mystery? Justine Bateman brings new meaning to the phrase "hollow vocals" but darn it if she don't look purty banging that cowbell. Lea Thompson has all the right moves to take Bateman out with a better voice and a real love for animals. Zack and Kelly Kapowski may be "Friends Forever" but their love story can't compare to the all out power of Joan Jett. Finally in a category where she can cut loose for six days and nights now, Jett rocks down the house and takes no prisoners. The others never had a chance.

But wait! Ashton Kutcher just took the award and gave it to his Mom - I mean girlfriend, Demi Moore!! Moore comes out of nowhere with solid credentials (she's played a rock singer twice, once in No Small Affair and again in One Crazy Summer) and sultrily lip syncs to Fiona like nobody's business. And unlike Lea Thompson at least the Duckie she had sex with was human. Sorry Joan, you just got Punk'd.

Winner: Demi Moore

With that surprise win the whole contest is up for grabs...

Best Manager / Mentor:

I don't remember The Barbusters having either a manager or mentor, just a disapproving Mom. Where's Elyse Keaton when you need her? Zack Attack has Mr Belding, let's face it though he was always the fall guy for Zack's shenanigans so he really couldn't do much. So we'll clear the room of sharp objects and breakables as two of George Lucas weakest lackeys go to battle. Cherry Bomb's Howard the Duck returns as Cherry Bomb's reason for being. They even wrote a song about the little space alien. Inspiring a band is important, it just isn't as important as inspiring others outside of the band. Jennie Lee and The Mystery has Qui Gon in their corner, a club owning burnt out songwriter who Jennie breathes new life into so he can write beautiful - er, I mean truly crappy songs like "Talk To Me". You hear that? That's the sound of a thousand terrible things headed this way...

Winner: Liam Neeson (The Mystery)

Jennie Lee and the Mystery pulls ahead. Nick would be so proud of his gal Mallory.

Best Signature Song:

Well, Zack Morris recently busted out "Friends Forever" 2009 style making his the most recent song in memory out of this bunch. Jennie Lee has the Stone's classic "Satisfaction" in her corner but the only satisfaction you might get out of it is when it ends. Cherry Bomb's got a theme for their "Howard The Duck" and I'll have to take some geek heat for owning the 45 of this back in the day. Can I hide behind saying Joe Walsh, Thomas Dolby and George Clinton had some involvement with the movie soundtrack? Nope, good thing the Barbusters are here because they come complete with an ass kickin' Springsteen song "Light of Day". One of my favorite songs from The Boss, "Light of Day" thunders along and even gets played by Springsteen himself sometimes.

Winner: "Light of Day" (The Barbusters)

Tie Breaker Round:

The Mystery and The Barbusters are tied! It's Alex versus Mallory in a fight to the finish. What could break this deadlock?

Well, if it was up to Michael Keaton I'm sure he'd implore his kids to share in a communal hippie sense. Then Elyse would bust out her acoustic guitar and start playing "Blowing In The Wind"...

We could end at a tie, until Michael J Fox pulls out the single greatest cinematic rock moment of the 80's. You know that sound you've been looking for? Well listen to this! (special bonus, this clip seems to be in a European language)

So the ultimate winner of the Battle of the Bands is The Barbusters!

Disclaimer: No actual prize exists for any persons real or fictitious. This post is intended solely for entertainment purposes, no contact with any said persons have ever been made. Any rebroadcast, retransmission or replay without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited. Must be 18 or older. Different taxation rules may apply in the states of Hawaii, Nebraska or Alaska. Limit of five Howard The Duck / Lea Thompson sex joke references per post. I mean, I know it was just a movie but she had to portray essentially a love scene with a Duck. A Duck!! A talking Duck, but still - A Duck!!! The things George Lucas can make you do for a career. I bet if the Star Wars series continued, we would have found out Yoda and Mon Mothma got freaky and are Han Solo's parents. You know, I don't think I've written anything quite this dorky since the 80's. Don't answer that. Rhetorical statement. No recording devices or flash photography allowed. You must be this tall to ride this ride. Do not leave any items inside your car that you do not wish to be stolen, we will not accept responsibility if your car is broken in to. Look both ways before crossing the street.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

10 minus 10 equals H2O

Hall and Oates are comin' at ya in 1985!

Been a little stumped for motivation on blogging at the moment, not that I can't think about things to blog about it's getting to actually typing something where I'm stuck. When I think about lack of motivation I think about that Hall & Oates hit "Say It Isn't So" which has some kind of lyric about motivation. Being the lyrical genius that I am, I can't quote the actual words but "motivation" was somewhere in there. I've been meaning to post about Hall & Oates, just didn't know what approach to take, so I've decided on listing my Top 10 Favorite Hall & Oates songs not to make the Top 10. Singles chart that is. Swimming pools, movie stars.

10. "It's A Laugh" from Along The Red Ledge (1978)

A few years before they found that perfect balance between rock and soul, they released this gem which went to #20 on the Billboard singles chart. That perfect balance is almost there though and "It's A Laugh" is sort of like a hit that got away in that if it had been released in the early 80's it probably would have done even better commercially. Although during their peak they could have belched on record and watched it fly up the charts. At any rate, I like the self aware sarcasm added to the tuneful pop, sax blasts and squalling guitars on this one.

9. "Gotta Lotta Nerve" from Voices (1980)

When someone does something mildly offensive, this song pops into my head ("Gotta Lotta Nerve / Gotta - Lotta") so I'm making this bouncy innocuous ditty number 9. At the time of their success people considered John Oates to be the equivalent of an Andrew Ridgley (i.e. useless car racing sidekicks who only serve a purpose for presenting an image as a duo). There's a reason that Hall's name comes first, he writes and sings lead on the majority of their stuff. Yet I notice when Daryl Hall does something solo it's often missing those soulful ooh - aah - whoop de do background vocals that are key to their ear snagging sound. Lesson here: never doubt the power of the porn star mustache!

8. "Wait For Me" from Rock & Soul part 1 (1984)

Why the hell was there never a part 2? It's not like they didn't have enough hits to do a sequel. "Wait For Me" originally was released in 1979 from the X-Static album and went to #18 on the singles chart. For me, the studio version didn't exist until a few years back because I never heard it, what I heard was the live take at the end of H & O's first greatest hits package. And what a great live performance it is, from the count off at the start to those cascading heavy synths, Hall's plaintive vocal and Oates stinging guitar, "Wait For Me" is rock and soul brilliance. At the end of the song, Hall set the standard for blue eyed soul vocal runs that was so money that even he didn't know how money it was. His voice was extremely emotive and could display a full range of feeling. When Billy Vera did his blue eyed soul runs at the end of "At This Moment" a year or two later, people thought Vera was a Daryl Hall wanna be.

7. "Everywhere I Look" from Change Of Seasons (1990)

On the Change of Seasons record Hall and Oates realized they were too old to keep up with the burgeoning hip hop scene so they downplayed the soul and upped the rock / pop feel. But Hall's moussed up Breck girl hair can't lose all its soul, turning this breezy bit into a refreshing piece of fluff. I played this song heavily at the time. I should mention here that as good as they are live on tv or recorded live, when I've actually seen them live (twice, once in '85 and again in the 2000's) I find them kinda boring. The three minute magic of their radio hits are squashed in favor of extended arrangements and solos. Particularly in '85 when the 12" single was still a novelty, they basically did live performances of a 12" remix when playing which would just pummel the song hook on me for 5 minutes past when I stopped caring.

6. "Foolish Pride" from Three Hearts and the Happy Ending Machine (1986)

OK, this is actually from a Daryl Hall solo album produced by that sunglasses wearing guy in the Eurythmics-Dave Stewart. This was the one solo Hall song I've heard that effectively recreates Oates part, that stuttering chorus ("F-f-f-foolish / F-f-f-foolish foolish pride"). This was the second single from the record following the Top 10 "Dreamtime". Nice memories of living in Sacramento, my first apartment came with cable tv in the rent and there was this movie channel that would throw in videos like Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4 '86" or this one in between showings of Brother From Another Planet. When searching for this song on the internet, there's a You Tube clip of a girl singing along to this tune just last year. Of all the Daryl Hall songs to have legs, I didn't think this one would because it's so forgotten that ITunes doesn't have it. Go figure.

5. "Open All Night" from H2O (1983)

There's a definite late nite mood with the stately piano and the haunting chorus, this song got played a lot when the duo would make live appearances on tv. Daryl Hall tells his tale of woe about a girl cheating on him ("She was open all night"), a pretty cool put down to compare your cheatin' woman to a 7-Eleven. Yeah, I'll have an orange Slurpee, some Now & Laters and your girlfriend to go. Nobody screws over Daryl Hall, feel the wrath of the mousse.

4. "Downtown Life" from Ooh Yeah (1988)

If I remember right, I think this was written for the Eddie Murphy movie Beverly Hills Cop II but didn't make the soundtrack so it instead opened H&O's first album for Arista records. One of their most straight forward rock tracks, it was the third single from the Ooh Yeah album going to #31 on the charts. I love that classic Hall and Oates chorus backed with the sparkly synthesizer underneath, it gives that perfect image of an L.A. night with all the action, bright lights and sleaze you can handle. 80's style, of course.

3. "Head Above Water" from Private Eyes (1981)

Speaking of the rock side of the dynamic duo, "Head Above Water" rocked it out of the park. That racing verse line, slow building piano and AOR worthy chorus is pure dynamite. My second favorite song from this magnificent record (my fave was "Did It In A Minute"), "Head Above Water" is rock awesomeness. Not their most danceable song, geek spectacular that I am when I tried to learn dancing as a teenager I briefly tried to dance a little like Daryl Hall. I gave up on it quickly, I'll never get how he was able to convince others that random feet shifting and flailing arms wasn't just dancing but acceptable dancing (please see "Out of Touch" for details). That, sir, is charisma.

2. "Possession Obsession" from Big Bam Boom (1984)

John Oates useless? Don't even go there, Oates ability to dance all cat like on stage in between plucking a single note from his guitar every other beat cannot be disputed. He is soul brother #1 to Daryl Hall's histrionic hair pulling caterwauling. But seriously, Oates is essential to the duo's success even if he seems less talented than Hall. The laid back charm of this doo wop style pop sung by John Oates is inescapable, I was crushed, crushed I tell you when this was released as the 4th single from Big Bam Boom and did a measly #30 on the pop chart. Frickin' love this song. Gimmie gimmie.

1. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" from Voices (1980)

When I first started buying music, a tv program I watched a lot was reruns of the Midnight Special. On an appearance on that program, Hall & Oates played "Kiss On My List" and this cover of the classic Righteous Brothers song. But where the original had Phil murdering jailbird Spector's wall of sound, H&O stripped it down into a funky slice of...well, rock and soul. Sure they sound great together and its easy to tie the blue eyed soul duo thing together, yet what really makes this version click is the funky part where they start with "Baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you." The minute or so that follows is one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard. As it stands I like the whole song anyway, that part is just so amazing. The Midnight Special appearance is one of the most memorable tv performances for me in my life (even if they were lip synching). It's also one of the first songs I could not get out of my head with a crowbar after hearing it. I couldn't find the Midnight Special version on You Tube, so here's the regular video.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All Hail The King


Kevin James frantic loveable schlub act has been the highlight of a couple of movies in a supporting role. James makes his move into the lead in Paul Blart - Mall Cop, where he proves he really is the King of Queens.

The movie itself is the latest in a long line of Die Hard knockoffs, this time out it's Die Hard in a mall with free running villians. It's all competently made and on it's own merits this is a one star movie. So what is there to recommend here?

It's all James. The early part of the movie moves slow, giving time for James to build up Blart as a likeable tool. On the job, he acts like a tough seasoned cop as he rides his segway around the mall. Outside of work, he's a lonely guy receiving emotional support from his daugther and mother.

This is all a set up for when the bad guys take the mall over. James launches into action as he rams, stumbles and fumbles to the rescue. Watchable whether he's being dragged by an elderly person in an electric cart, fighting women in Victoria Secrets or getting sh*t faced drunk at a bar with an incredible karaoke singer, James keeps all eyes on him. His performance makes the whole thing watchable. And the awesome 80's rock soundtrack helps too, including what may be the best usage of Survivor's "I Can't Hold Back" in a film.

Is Paul Blart Mall Cop great? Well, no. It's competent with a few highlights thanks to Kevin James. Like the segway he rides, Paul Blart rolls on with humor and some spectacle.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Waite Is Over

Englishman John Waite rocked the radio waves like nobody else! Wait, not this Waite...

...this Waite. That buzz cut, that synthesizer, surely John Waite is a brilliant New Wave artist. Or not.

John Waite. Troubadour. He owns a mansion and a yacht. My posting of "Head First" a few days ago has gotten me off my butt to write something about Mr. Waite. In the 80's John Waite was a voice I could identify with. His voice wasn't very strong and a little on the reedy side. In verse sections he would sort of talk sing. At times it would seem like he was singing to a different beat than the rest of the song. These traits would kill off the career of other singers, with John Waite it made him more distinct and the perfect embodiment of adolescence. Loud and awkward with a lot of soul.
As great as he is, in my opinion John Waite was never able to come up with a perfect single album. So I tended to remember Waite through single songs more than a complete record. Granted I didn't follow his career after 1991 so I don't know if he accomplished this feat later on. Before kicking into this post full gear, a disclaimer: I'm going to quote a lot of lyrics of Mr. Waite, but not necessarily the way he wrote them. It's going to be the way I remember them. I'm just too lazy to look up all these song lyrics and his words resonated with me a certain way even if I probably misunderstood them. Anyway, he did have recurring themes to his music, starting with:

Mr. Saturday Night

John Waite was great at the fast breakneck paced rocker, a song that would allow Waite to show what a cool party guy he is. Guitars would scream, keyboards would rollick as Waite breathlessly spat out his lyrics. On Ignition it was "White Heat" which had a slight punky edge to it. On Mask Of Smiles he had "No Brakes", which ironically was not on the album No Brakes. That album had my favorite of this style, "Saturday Night", because I'm a sucker for songs that use days of the week in the words. I think it went "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...SATURDAY NIGHT! Oh Yeah!" ( I couldn't find "Saturday Night" online, so here's "White Heat")

Neo, Are You The One?

In what may be a sign that we all really live in The Matrix, JW is obsessed with either being the One or finding the One. "She's The One" because he's the "Wild One" (which makes him Brando?) since he's part of "The Restless Ones". You can't spend all your time partying, you've got to be the One to find the One.

Heaven Is A 4 Letter Word

Once you've found the One, what do you do? If you're John Waite, you get hecka nasty. You show that girl "The Best Of What I Got" (awesome lyric alert! "Put my key / inside your door / feels so good"). To show he wasn't all horndog passion, he could get a little clinical like on "Act of Love" (You and I / Fit together / Like a hand and glove / It's just / an Act / of Love). But let's face it, particularly with Bad English JW liked to raunch and roll. Song titles like "Heaven is a 4 Letter Word" or "Rockin' Horse" didn't happen by accident. Nor did lyrics like "Laydown / stay down / for MY LOVE!" (from the correctly titled "Laydown"). But the best of JW's letters to Penthouse was when he was a Baby, I'm talkin' 'bout "Midnight Rendezvous". Put aside the fact that it is one of the best songs ever, with that killer drum pattern and blatantly Jon Cain driven chorus. At the tail end of the fade out John Waite yells to his lady love "Oooh I really wanna F*CK YOU!". Pure genius sneaking that one in sir. My hat is off to you.

These Times Are Hard For Lovers

My favorite kind of John Waite song, the all out melodic rocker. Songs in which backed by a big ass chorus and sturdy guitar riffs Waite would fret out his tortured soul over a girl. His time in Bad English was awesome for this, the hard charging "Forget Me Not" ("I will be your shadow, when you walk away / Forget Me Not / Forget Me Not / I will follow you until your dying day!!") or "Straight To Your Heart" In the summer of '87 I played "These Times Are Hard For Lovers" endlessly, that magic Desmond Child hook ringing in my ears. Because these times are hard. For lovers, that is. Part of what kicked off this post was finding a video for The Baby's "Turn and Walk Away" online. My favorite of this style for John? The "Layla" of the 80's, "Tears". Of all the girls I've had at my feet (that's some power trip to think you have a bunch of women at your feet by the way) you're the only one that can bring me to these TEARS! Then an epic guitar solo courtesy of Gary Myrick. No, wait a second, I just remembered the first John Waite I ever heard was even better. So nice it was released as a single twice (once for Ignition and then again as part of the Vision Quest soundtrack), "Change". People talkin', they say that you are leavin'. So unhappy DAH DAH DAH!...

Back On His Feet Again

With all that partying and heartbreak there had to be a softer side to the man. Maybe even a sappy side. The guy who famously rejected the uber power ballad "Open Arms" for being too syrupy when Jon Cain presented it to him in The Babys, John Waite is best known for his rock ballads. Whether he's "Back On My Feet Again" or with you "Every Step Of The Way", in music dude is not a commitment phobe. His numero uno in this category, his piece de resistance', is Bad English (or from what I just wrote Bad French?) "When I See You Smile". Because when I see you smile, I can FACE THE WORLD!!! Oh, whoa. I can do anything. Certainly Dianne Warren's most Zen moment (and Waite would dip into that Warren well again with "The Time Alone With You", not to mention the wonderfully sarcastic "Don't Lose Any Sleep"). That's the price of love baby. a .99 cent download. See, you can put a price on love. How did I get by without this? Everytime I think of you, it always turns out GOOD!

Welcome To Paradise

Despite all that commitment and frettin', in song John Waite's relationships with women would crash and burn. What was left after that? Sadness and loneliness with a hint of poetic self awareness. "Sometimes" from Rover's Return has one of my favorite JW hooks, ("Sometimes / yyoouuuu dooonnn'tttt kno-ow") to express that longing. But the money in the bank shot for JW sadness is the appropriately titled Mask of Smiles record, you know the one with the cover where he has his translucent hands covering his face like some kind of alien from V the miniseries? One of my favorite memories was a long time ago giving someone a ride home from work and when he heard the lyric in "Welcome To Paradise" comparing New York to burning Rome he said he was from New York and that was a great metaphor. On that same album is his greatest ode to the lonely hearts club that is not "Missing You", it's "The Choice". The quiet, pensive drifting feel of that song just kills. ("The Choice" isn't online, so here's "Welcome To Paradise" instead).

Love In The Movies

Remember the big deal when John Waite did some acting on a network tv show about models? I forget what the show was called, what was it Paper Dolls? I can't remember. John Waite's music made for great movie moments, even if I can't remember the titles of a lot of those films. There was some I think National Lampoon in College kind of movie that used "Tears" to great effect while some character walked through the quad at night. "Change" was featured in Vision Quest and got a brand spankin' new video clip in the process. Days of Thunder had "Deal For Life", because that's what you do when you get in a car with Tom Cruise. Tango and Cash had "The Best of What I Got" at the end title credits. I went nuts when I heard "Woman's Touch" in Jim Belushi's bar scene of The Principal. Yet the song that really grabbed me was "If Anyone Had A Heart" from the About Last Night... soundtrack. Cinematic romance in all its shoulder padded electronic drum glory. Back when Demi Moore wasn't surgically modified and all the girls swooned for Rob "Youngblood" Lowe. Such great memories of the summer of '86 for me as I played that 45 after graduating high school. Good times.

Missing You

And yet for most people, understandably, John Waite boils down to one song: "Missing You". The ultimate expression of drum machine synthesizer longing, John Waite's stream of consciousness verses (something about electric clouds or a storm that's raging in my soul tonite) was a #1 smash in 1984. This song was inescapable in '84, playing all over the place and on Friday Night Videos with amazing frequency. It was hard not to get sick of this one, particularly since a school dances we'd get the 10 minute remix. This is back when a 12" remix consisted of three minutes of the regular song, then the chorus repeated in chopped up bits through an echo chamber, followed by the synth line disappearing and reappearing while these same echoey bits flew in and out as the metronome like beat plows on. At least that's how I remember it, I put the original remix below but haven't played it. Watch it turn out to be really good. Crazy memory!

After a few years I was able to hear "Missing You" more objectively and naturally loved the crap out of it. Canny guy he is, JW has rerecorded this song over and over to try to give people a reason to buy his later stuff. This would be a waste but one of his remakes was a duet with my favorite Country singer, Alison Krauss.

See, with John Waite you get the whole sha-bang. Artistry. Commercialism. Really bad covers of Marvin Gaye songs ("Ain't That Peculiar"). Through it all, you know you can count on JW to go into everything "Head First"! (to close out, here's The Babys with "Turn and Walk Away")

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Total Eclipse Of The...

I was going to do an entirely different post until I came across this literal video version of the Bonnie Tyler cheesetastic epic "Total Eclipse Of The Heart". I got a few chuckles out of this one, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Summer In Prog


I may have used that title before so if I'm recyclying at least I'm saving the planet. Dream Theater has returned with yet another disc stacked with solos on top of solos on top of solos, this time called Black Clouds and Silver Linings. When last we left our intrepid prog metallurgists, DT aimed for head throbbing dark muscular metal on 2007's Systematic Chaos. I had to play this one a lot to get a fix on it and get past my natural bias to say "Hey, it's Dream Theater it's automatically the best thing ever made by man or nature!" After shaking that off, I was able to give a clear headed review:

First the good stuff. Every DT album has its own character and this is one of their proggiest. Long stretches of time pass by between James LaBrie's singing and/or ominous spoken word stuff. In those intervals virtuoso guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess tear it up, trading solos as the rhythm develops and shifts behind them. The result is much like the first disc to their 2002 effort Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence where there are about six 10 minute songs. Drummer Mike Portnoy and bassist John Myung are in fine form and are given plenty of space to stretch out as well.

The songs are pretty good, the highlights for me are the magnificent power ballad "Wither" and the heartfelt "The Best of Times". "Wither" is old school power balladry, sort of like "Forsaken" from Systematic Chaos taken to the next level. "The Best of Times" starts off slowly and then picks up in the midsection before descending into an inspired, majestic guitar solo.

One of the things I like about DT is that they wear their influences on their sleeve, it's not unusual to hear direct lifts from Metallica or Queen in their stuff. On Black Clouds... they don't lift anything, this is the most original sounding recording I've heard from them. It sounds entirely like Dream Theater and nobody else. They also tackle some different moods with the scary aesthetics of "A Nightmare to Remember" or the regal "The Count of Tuscany". A pretty strong accomplishment.

Despite these advancements, my overall impression is that this is a good Dream Theater album. It's not a great one, one of the dangers of going more prog is that if every second isn't magic my attention meanders which happens a few times here (particularly on the draggy single "A Rite Of Passage"). A slight feeling of stagnation takes place even with the push for new ideas, once they hit a certain groove in their songs it can get a little predictable.
There are more magic moments than not and since I like them so much I'm gonna play this to death anyway. It's just having heard plenty of their other albums, I know they have the ability to pack a disc (or two discs) with stellar songs and performances from beginning to end. They tried hard here, just missed the mark for me. Still an awesome band though. Maybe it will grow on me more as I continue to play it.
One last note, an unintentionally funny part takes place in "The Count of Tuscany" where the song goes on and on about this Count and how he doesn't want to die and tell people about my family this and that...then talking as the Count the singer goes "Wait a minute Man, it's not supposed to be this way!!!" May not be a word for word transcription, after all the pompous drama that precedes it I find that lyric way funny.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Unidentified Flying Awesome

This song has been stuck in my head lately, I've been toying with the idea of expanding my car CD collection to have some 70's and early 90's Arena Rock. The 70's was where Arena Rock was born, it was still a little rough and crunchy - not completely streamlined. So here's a KRQR Double Shot of 70's Arena Rock. In this corner, weighing in with one Schenker, UFO! "Too Hot Too Handle" is just repeating endlessly in my mind. In the opposing corner, the challenger, weighing in with a Waite, The Babys! A little "Head First" for ya, the one time I saw John Waite perform Neal Schon went onstage to play on this killer track.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Starlog Memories

I lived for this magazine!

For most of my life I've been a fan of science fiction, it started with watching Star Trek reruns and grew from there. One of my favorite past times as a kid was reading Starlog magazine, the magazine that had all the information I was looking for on the latest in sci fi news. I've blogged about Star Trek before and it's a given that it's my favorite sci fi tv series of all time so here it is, my Top 10 Favorite childhood sci fi - minus Star Trek.

10. Ark II (1976)

You know what, I can't remember anything about this show other than that vehicle. I thought the vehicle was cool. I know I watched this show a lot, after all this time that's all I can remember though.

9. Exo-man (1977)

What if you had the ability to become an indestructible vibrator? Would you do it? (Huh huh, I said "do it"). In the case of a scientist who becomes paralyzed and must fight the forces of evil, the decision is ad hoc. Exoman was a dull, dull tv movie about a ridiculously slow armored man yet I watched it every time it showed up on tv.

8. Gemini Man (1976)

A short lived series about a man who could turn invisible for a few seconds at a time, Gemini Man showed off the spectacular high tech instrument known as the digital watch. After this show, I never looked at digital watches again and seeing them in timer mode pops this program in my mind each time.

7. Space Academy (1977 - 1979)

For some reason I kept thinking James Doohan was on this program, on You Tube it's Mr. Smith from Lost in Space which just shows how shot my memory is. Anyway, for Saturday morning sci fi this program could not be topped. Plus the blond girl was cute (and I think she used to do a lot of tv programs at the time) and Brian Tochi was there to represent!

6. Logan's Run (1977)

Before he was saving lives as the trailer livin' doctor in the parking lot on Trapper John M.D., Gregory Harrison was taking lives as the Logan in the tv adaptation of Logan's Run. To be a Sandman on the run (Runner!) with a beautiful blond (they sure favored blond women in sci fi back then) and a faithful android. I so wanted one of those guns with the flame that shoots out the sides when fired.

5. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979 - 1981)

In 1987 astronaut Buck Rogers was frozen in space until he was found centuries later. In the future, Earth is a computerized society where everyone androids do all the thinking down to the piloting of fighters in combat. Humans are just along for the ride. What the 25th Century needed was a 20th Century man to show them 'ol fashioned American gumption. Buck brought turning off the autopilot and turning on the disco dancing just when mankind needed it most. Later, he Captained a 2001 Space Odyssey kind of ship with his best bud, the feathery alien Hawk. And through it all, red hot Erin Gray took tight shiny suits to new heights. Buda-Buda-way to go Buck!

4. The Man From Atlantis (1977)

Patrick Duffy is known to most people as Bobby Ewing of Dallas, to me he is the Man from Atlantis aka Aquaman without paying trademark rights. He can breathe underwater and swim like a dolphin! Inspiring a generation of kids like me to attempt to do the same in tribute to the aquatic hero. Swim like a dolphin that is. I wonder if he got a laugh out of watching kids do humping motions in the deep end of the pool across America.

3. Six Million Dollar Man / The Bionic Woman (tie) (1974 - 1978)

Because The Bionic Woman was a spinoff of the Six Million Dollar Man I considered them to be more or less the same program. Lee Majors in his red jumpsuit squinty eyed glory was Colonel Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive because he refused to eject from a test flight everyone including him could see was going wrong. Col. Austin lost his legs, right arm and eye in the crash. Fortunately, for the price of what would now be some kids party on MTV's My Sweet Sixteen, they could rebuild him. I was a huge fan of both programs, to this day you can run in slow motion making that Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Da-Na-Na-Na sound and people in my age group will know what it means. And going down that rotating tunnel from the Bigfoot episode during the Universal Studios tour was a total headtrip. I wonder if that's still there?

2. Battlestar Galactica (1978 - 1979)

Frak Frak frickin' Frak, it's the original Battlestar Galactica. Back when Apollo was a fire fighter, Starbuck was Face and Adama sold dog food. And Boomer was a cool black man instead of an Asian Cylon woman (he was my favorite character on the show, had a level head and took care of business). While the remake series has become one of the most critically acclaimed sci fi shows I've witnessed, it can't beat the charm of the hokey old 70's show for me. Maybe it was the Star Wars knockoff special effects. Maybe it was the pseudo Egyptian clothing. Maybe it was going to the actual movie theater to see it on the silver screen with rumbling audio. Because the Vipers flew more like jet fighters than the Star Wars X Wings, I liked them a little bit more. And you can't beat the thrill of that launch tube! And I think the over attention that Frak has received is a bunch of Feldacarb.

1. Space 1999 (1975 - 1977)

Was there any doubt? I've blogged about this fantastic slice of British made science fiction before. In 1999 the moon is blasted out of Earth orbit by a nuclear accident, sending the occupants of Moonbase Alpha hurtling through space. Surrounded by a mostly British crew, American Commander Koenig leads the team through all kinds of space craziness. The original costume design of polyester outfits with bell bottom pants, huge plastic belts and a colored zippered sleeve is burned in my mind as the height of fashion. I totally had the horseshoe shaped laser gun toy that shot plastic rings at people. Back in the 70's it was Ok to make toys that could choke small children (My Battlestar Galactica Viper shot a small red missle that could choke a kid out too). Ah, the good old days.

Hard to believe this post started because I was reminiscing about The Tales Of The Gold Monkey series with Stephen Collins. Jack!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Turn It Loose

Yesterday we went down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where we belong to have fun and catch the 6:30 performance of the one, the only, Loverboy! Or Lovermen. Or Graying Lovermen in the case of some of them. It was a fairly big crowd that assembled for this free show (there was a second show at 8:30) as they appeared on the Boardwalk for the first time. Even with the cooling weather, there were enough people around to keep the temperature warm and the band perform on a stage set on the beach was awesome.

The set list:

Synth intro - Notorious - Lucky Ones - Take Me To The Top / Riders Of The Storm - I'm Alive - Hot Girls In Love - Turn Me Loose - Working For The Weekend

I saw Loverboy in 1986 and saw they were a band that thrived in a live setting. With all of the surviving original members intact, that has not changed as they plowed through their 45 minute set with gusto. It kicked off with Doug Johnson doing a bit of synthesizer while the announcer welcomed the band as he peeled off a number of swerving licks that sounded like perfect 1981. The brief solo allowed the other band members to take the stage and led into one of only two songs performed to date past 1983, "Notorious".

"Notorious", a barreling jam co-written with Bon Jovi, got the party started and each band member got a brief solo in place of the extended harmonica part on the recorded version. It immediately brought the energy up and established that they have not lost their chops. Drummer Matt Frenette remains a demon on the skins as he pounded through this bar band rocker.

They dipped into some of their arena sized funk for "Lucky Ones", I got a kick out of watching keyboardist Johnson in the verses where all he had to do was press one keyboard periodically to create a splashing woosh sound. Later in the song he whipped out more classic shiny synthesizer cascades recalling those sweaty arenas from their hey day. It was also cool to see the sign language interpreter lady on the side of the stage groove as she signed lyrics like "Every Mother's nightmare, every school boy's dream" or "With a beautiful girl everything's prearranged."

The band went with more from the Get Lucky album by kicking into the slow burning "Take Me To The Top". Lead singer Mike Reno showed that while he has aged, his voice hasn't (or style, dude still wears a headband). His voice still had the youthful edge and elastic range of two decades ago. Guitarist Paul Dean was a live wire throughout the show, changing up riffs and fills from the recorded version to give the band a dirtier feel. And Johnson took advantage of the midsection to show off his saxophone skills as well as a jazzy breakdown on the keys. Then surprisingly the jazz section shifted into part of The Doors "Riders Of The Storm". It played perfectly on the sandy beach with the ocean water lapping on the shore.

With the tempo slowed down Reno introduced a new song, the upbeat "I'm Alive". I thought it was pretty good but needed a slightly stronger chorus to really get people going. Still, Reno was able to work the crowd to get into it.

Displaying their arena rock veteran status, Reno then did the classic divide-the-audience-by-seating-or-gender-shout-out (in this case gender) before kicking into a barn burning "Hot Girls In Love". Paul Dean tore it up on this one as the crowd bounced beach balls adding to the party atmosphere.

While "Turn Me Loose" has been a popular song of theirs, it seems to have become bigger post 80's because it got a huge reaction from the audience. Bassist Ken Sinnaeve dug into the funky bass line as the crowd sang along with the lyrics. Loved the awesome headless bass!

Citing that the Boardwalk wanted to keep their sets shorter than normal, Loverboy drummer Matt Frenette hit the cowbell three times to launch into "Working For The Weekend". Their best known song, the audience (which included me) of course went nuts.

And that was the end of the show. Great pictures courtesy of my wife the Bunny who did a great job, particularly since I mis-identified Paul Dean early on (I didn't know there were two grey haired guys in the band). I've got to give a shout out to Loverboy, at a stage where a lot of bands don't have original members and phone in their performances they stand out. Not only is this group 4/5ths of the originals, they play like a band that enjoys live performance. They interact with the crowd, have full commitment to what they're doing and aren't afraid to rock out. This was part of a great trip we took together to Santa Cruz. If you have a chance to see Loverboy, I definitely recommend it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry

Anna Faris is the only thing funny about House Bunny.

Pineapple Express Rating:

House Bunny Rating:

This song title popped in my head when I thought of some of the comedies I saw recently on DVD. They say comedy is the most difficult type of movie to do. After watching these two, I believe they are right.

Pineapple Express is a stoner comedy that received strong reviews last summer so I checked it out. And I can't see what the big deal was. It was mildly amusing, the actors were in good form and it didn't look like a low budget film. And that was about it. Danny McBride and James Franco were the highlights as low level drug dealers. McBride has that rambling sharp wit and Franco channeled Tommy Chong for his blissed out pot hazed demeanor. Seth Rogan does that exasperated pop culture citing thang he does. The only real surprise was Rosie Perez, totally watchable as the crooked cop and answers the question of whatever happened to her. Most of the jokes and outrageous situations fell flat with me until the very end, where the good guys sit at a diner and talk about their misadventures. Listening to them talk about it was much better than actually watching it and was probably the pitch that got the movie made in the first place. Pineapple Express is a Pineapple Bomb.

It was better than the House Bunny, the latest Legally Blonde knockoff this time featuring Anna Faris as a Playboy Mansion hanger on that gets booted out and winds up the den mother to a failing college sorority. The plot is thinner than Anna Faris herself and in a weird way she comes across as a supporting actress in her own movie with all the focus on the sorority sisters. That's too bad because even though Anna Faris is a one trick pony with that ditz-on-steroids schtick she does, I like that schtick and she provides the only laughs in the whole deal. My favorite part is when a sorority sister announces a plan and says something like "and hence we'll do yada yada yada" and Faris follows up with an earnest wide eyed expression and says "Yeah! Hence!"

I didn't even finish watching House Bunny, I had to stop the pain. As Lindsey Buckingham once said, not too funny is it?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Big Shot Of Whiskey


and a half

This week I've been playing Dave Matthews Band's recent release Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King after doing that post about their albums. Listening to all that DMB put me in the mood to hear some new stuff from them. The album is dedicated and features playing from their late saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, who is the Groogrux King that's being referenced in the title from what I understand. So there's definite emotional power in the record, but how does it sound?

After spending much of the 21st Century trying to augment their sound with producers, Big Whiskey is the most natural DMB release in some time. Not to say it wasn't produced, Rob Cavillo (Green Day) boosts the punch of the their grooves to hit harder than normal. The virtuoso instrumentation and synergistic jams are well represented, the band seems at their loosest and vibrant point in the recorded work since 1998. Understandably, the songs have to do with death, mourning and questioning why life is the way it is. What's surprising is instead of striking a depressing tone like The Lillywhite Sessions, the vibe moves between melancholy and bright.

And Matthew's delivers some of his hookiest material in a while. For me the highlight is the rambunctious "Why I Am" with it's fast paced beat and catchy slowed down chorus. The lead single "Funny The Way It Is" caught on with me more this week, the lyrics about somebody going hungry while someone else is going out to eat and how someones heartbreak can be someone elses favorite song rung true. "Alligator Pie" highlight's the group's musical interplay while "You and Me" brings the disc to a light close.

Guitarist Tim Reynolds has a good measure of presence on this album, adding some bristling solos to compete with the horns and violins in the DMB arsenal. The band's performance is strong, so strong that even lifting the Cameo "Word Up" riff in "Shake Like A Monkey" comes across as inventive.

Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King is a very good Dave Matthews Band disc, the material is up to par with some highlights and their performance is spot on. For me, this is their best album since Under The Table And Dreaming, the band sounds as sharp as ever. It is sad that a band member has passed away, presenting an album this strong featuring the sax playing at the beginning and end of the disc provides a good memoriam to their fallen comrade.