Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adele - A Dazzling Sophomore Album...

British soul singer Adele, whose 2008 debut album 19 featured such well-received songs as "Chasing Pavements" and "Cold Shoulder" hits it out of the park with her sophomore disc, 21. The songs chronicle the singer's personal journey after a breakup. It's a confessional album filled with dazzling songs and emotional performances. Several producers, including Rick Rubin, Ryan Tedder and Paul Epworth guide her through such beautiful songs as "Someone Like You" and "Don't You Remember." Adele's vocals are heart-wrenching & tender, but have a toughness that shines through on tracks like the hit "Rolling in the Deep."

While the main style on display is soul, there are hints of jazz, rock & even country (a genre Adele has acknowledged as an influence in recent interviews). The songs are roughly structured to mirror the range of emotions Adele felt after her breakup. Tracks like "One And Only," "Set Fire To The Rain" and a tender cover of "Lovesong" by The Cure display her versatility. Adele wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the disc (except the aforementioned remake), and the lyrics display a maturity far beyond her 21 years. The introspective themes of these songs (and her amazing vocals) truly make you experience the pain, sadness and (finally) redemption that she feels as the disc comes to a close.

This is simply one of the best discs of the year., and it grows even better with repeated listens. Like many releases these days, a variety of retailers have different versions of the album (with live cuts, bonus tracks and the like), but the Amazon link to the main album is as follows: http://www.amazon.com/21-Adele/dp/B004EBT5CU. This is a must have for any fan of soulful, emotional music.

The artist's blog was a source for this review, and is worth a look as well: http://www.adele.tv/blog. And here's a link to a live performance of "Set Fire To The Rain." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pufx9Cq_TOQ&feature=related, from Later With Jools Holland.

Friday, May 20, 2011

An End of the World Playlist...

A Friday Playlist : The "Tomorrow's the End of the World" Edition. Since we're being told by some people that the end is coming on May 21, here are some tunes to spin for your end of the world party...

1. "The End of the World" by Skeeter Davis from The Essential Skeeter Davis
2. "It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by REM from Document
3. "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire from Anthology
4. "Until the End of the World" by U2 from Achtung Baby
5. "The End" by The Doors from The Doors
6. "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden from Superunkown
7. "Don't Fear The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult from Agents of Fortune
8. "The Stand" by The Alarm from Standards
9. "The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash from American IV
10. "When The World Ends" by The Dave Matthews Band from Everyday
11. "The Final Countdown" by Europe from The Final Countdown
12. "It's Not The End of The World?" by Super Furry Animals from Rings Around The World

I'm fairly sure we're all going to be here to enjoy many more movies, music & book posts (and everything else in life), so make up your own"end of the world party" playlist...:)

A Baker's Dozen Playlist...

Originally published as a "Baker's Dozen" Playlist for Friday 5/13/11, and re-posted due to technical diffiiculties:

1. “100 Yard Dash,” Raphael Saadiq. From the 2008 album The Way I See It. Funky, slinky retro-soul from the former Tony! Toni! Toné member and prolific R&B producer. Check out the whole album, it’s amazing.
2. “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” Death Cab for Cutie. An elegiac, moving song from the 2005 album Plans.
3. “Holiday,” Hayseed Dixie. From the 2005 album A Hot Piece of Grass. A bluegrass/rock cover of the Green Day tune, by a group that specializes in doing countrified versions of rock & roll songs in their unique style.
4. “Just To Walk That Little Girl Home,” Mink Deville. From Le Chat Blu (1980). A beautiful ballad co-written with legendary songwriter Doc Pomus. Wonderful song from an underrated performer.
5. “Ariel,” Dean Friedman. From his eponymous 1977 debut album. Fun, quirky song about a guy’s love for a girl who wears peasant blouses and likes getting high. Dig the Frankie Valli-esque choruses.
6. “Apologies,” Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. From the album This Is Somewhere (2007), a passionate track about the end of a relationship, from a band that is fast becoming one of my favorites. If you like Bonnie Raitt , Rory Block or Susan Tedeschi, you should check out Ms. Potter. The band's recent performance on PBS’ Live From The Artist’s Den was sensational.
7. “Colder Weather,” The Zac Brown Band. From You Get What You Give (2011). A powerful, emotional ballad. The band performed it live with James Taylor at The Academy of Country Music Awards show this year.
8. “Tighten Up,” The Black Keys, From the album Brothers (2010). A cool track with a nice hybrid of rock, soul & punk.
9. “The Unforgiven,” Metallica. From Metallica (1991) Metallic rocks. :) Nuff said.
10. “Your Time is Gonna Come,” Dread Zeppelin. From Un-Led-Ed (1990). Yes, an Elvis impersonator sings Zeppelin, with Rasta style backing. It works brilliantly. Even Robert Plant liked this one.
11. “Take Me To The Pilot (BBC Session),” Elton John. From the Deluxe, 2-disc edition of Elton John (1970). One of Elton’s best early tracks.
12. “Take The Highway,” The Marshall Tucker Band. From the album The Best Of The Marshall Tucker Band: The Capricorn Years (1994). Southern rock at its best from the Caldwell brothers.
13. “Poetry Man,” Phoebe Snow, Phoebe Snow (1974). And for the Baker’s Dozen bonus song, I’m going to recommend a track from Ms. Phoebe Snow, who we lost in April of this year. RIP Phoebe.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Thing....John Carpenter style....a lost classic or missed opportunity?

I just re-watched John Carpenter's The Thing, the filmmaker's 1982 remake of the science-fiction classic The Thing From Another World (1951). I hadn't seen the film since its original release, and wanted to re-assess it. Essentially, it's a horror story with a dash of science-fiction. Set at an Antarctic research station, the film stars Kurt Russell (a frequent Carpenter collaborator), Keith David and Wilford Brimley as members of a research team who are stalked by an alien creature who can assume the form of its' victims. The men are killed one by one, and no one knows who to trust, as the person standing next to you could be the creature rather than your friend & colleague. The remaining team members struggle to stop the creature before it can escape and find its way to civilization.

I remember that the movie was a failure at the box office back in 1982 (the summer of E.T.), and it's dark tone, gory special effects, and confusing plot turned off critics and audiences alike. Rob Bottin's groundbreaking creature effects were amazing, but their extreme nature turned off some viewers. Though it was creatively shot and well-made, the movie didn't catch on with fans like the year's other horror hit, Poltergiest. Carpenter was reportedly very disappointed by the film's poor critical reception and box office showing.

Seeing it for a second time, I did appreciate the effects & some of Carpenter's stylistic choices. But the dark, nihilistic tone of the movie is unrelenting, and it's sometimes hard to figure out what is going on, or who's who. The ending is also a bit too ambiguous, though an alternate climax was added for television broadcasts of the film. While the film has undergone something of a critical re-appraisal in recent years (and is now something of a cult favorite), I still think it's an admirable try that misses the mark. Check it out if you are a Carpenter fan, but if you're turned off by extreme gore, this isn't the film for you. The film is available on DVD, http://www.amazon.com/Thing-Collectors-Kurt-Russell/dp/B0002CHK1S/ref=pd_cp_d_0, and Blu-Ray: http://www.amazon.com/Thing-Blu-ray-Kurt-Russell/dp/B001CW7ZWG/ref=pd_cp_d_1, although the Blu-Ray version does omit some of the Special Features found on the DVD.

Source for this post:
Internet Movie Database: www.imdb.com

Movie Quote of the Day:
"I don't know what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is." Richard Masur as Clark in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Steve Forbert's Tunes

While he's best known for the hit "Romeo's Tune" from 1979's Jackrabbit Slim, Steve Forbert is a talented rocker with a knack for insightful lyrics, excellent songs, and great guitar playing. He's still actively recording and touring. A good place to start your listening pleasure is 1993's The Best Of Steve Forbert: What Kinda Guy? featuring 19 of his best songs up to that point. He's also got a more recent best of called Rock While I Can Rock: The Geffen Years, released in 2003. You can find his official website at:


 "Romeo's Tune" (recently covered by Keith Urban) is one of those songs you can't get out of your head once you hear it. But once you listen to some of his other songs, like "Going Down to Laurel," "It Isn't Gonna Be That Way," or "Song For Katrina," you'll have a new appreciation for this excellent, underrated artist. Here's a link to a performance of "Romeo's Tune" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE79UxDu7Xc