Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rock's Behind The Scenes Heroes are profiled in "The Wrecking Crew"

California Dreaming. Good Vibrations. You've Lost That Lovin' FeelingBe My Baby. These are some of the most enduring & memorable songs of the rock era. But who really played on those records? A group of wonderful artists that became known as The Wrecking Crew, who were vital to the creation of these now classic songs. During the 50s & 60s, as rock & roll was on the rise, it was common practice to have session musicians lay down the studio tracks, and then the actual bands would play the songs on tour. Now, an engrossing documentary traces the history of these supremely talented musicians. The film features insightful, revealing & entertaining interviews with drummers Hal Blaine & Earl Palmer, bassist Carol Kaye, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and other members of this amazing cadre of players. There are also comments from Roger McGuinn, Brian Wilson, Micky Dolenz, Nancy Sinatra, Cher, Dick Clark and many others.

The movie has fascinating behind the scenes footage of The Wrecking Crew at work in the studio, and some great vintage performance clips. This is an elite group of musicians who were not mere sidemen, but helped come up with the sound & feel of well-remembered songs & albums such as The Beach Boys classic Pet Sounds. In fact, the segments on the sessions with Brian Wilson are some of the best in the film. It’s also a fascinating look at the Los Angeles based side of the recording industry during those halcyon days of the rock era. In addition, you get to see the members of the “crew” who went on to become stars in their own right, including Glenn Campbell & Leon Russell. Denny Tedesco, the son of iconic guitarist Tommy Tedesco, who passed away in 1997, directed the film. It's a wonderful & loving tribute to his father, as well as the rest of these fine musicians who helped provide the soundtrack of our lives.

If you’re a classic rock fan who has enjoyed other films about this era, such as Standing In The Shadows of Motown, 20 Feet From Stardom or Muscle Shoals, then this is essential viewing. It’s a compelling & powerful story that will really resonate with you. And it’s a unique & absorbing look at the creative process, detailing how music was recorded & produced back then. These artists weren’t just there for this era of rock history; they helped make that history. They’re the unsung heroes of rock & roll, and their stories really are worth seeing & hearing. The Wrecking Crew is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital streaming on sites such as Netflix. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX5BCgmr7tg. By the way, you can also see The Wrecking Crew depicted in the current Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, starring Paul Dano & John Cusack, which is also recommended. You can read my review of that film here: http://jveclectic.blogspot.com/2015/06/love-mercy-genius-of-brian-wilson.html.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle: A Tale of Love, Pain, Struggle & Redemption

Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle is a powerful novel about a love that transcends history and time. The narrator, who is never identified by name, has a horrific car accident in which most of his body is horribly burned. While he’s in the hospital, recovering in the burn unit, a mysterious woman named Marianne Engel visits him. She says it is not the first time he’s been burned. They’ve known & loved each other in previous lives, and she’s going to tell the story of their love affair to him. It seems that the narrator was a mercenary who was injured in battle & she was a nun who was assigned to heal his wounds. As he heals, she tells him not only their story, but also other stories & fables of love & redemption. When he is released, he moves in with her, and their relationship deepens. But both the narrator & Marianne are struggling with the their own deep seated issues & inner demons. Can their love be reborn & survive more challenges?

In addition to Marianne & the narrator, we are introduced to other interesting characters, including some of the staff at the burn unit, and Marianne’s agent & friend, Jack. All of their personal stories are interwoven with those of Marianne & the narrator. The supporting cast is particularly well developed, and have some interesting stories of their own. But the enigmatic Marianne may be the most intriguing character; she is a sculptor of gargoyles, and feels an intense, mystical connection with her work. And is that work taking over her life & soul? Is the narrator’s addiction to morphine (for pain) the first step in a descent into a personal hell? It’s not by accident that one of the books that is referenced most often in the narrative is Dante’s Inferno. I found that some of the best parts of the book are the tales that Marianne tells as the novel unfolds. They're wonderful stories of the triumph of love over adversity & good over evil.

This 2008 release was Davidson’s first novel, but he tells a compelling story, and has a great command of words & imagery. If you’re not a romantic, the prose may seem a bit over the top, but it works very well within the context of the story. The stories & fables set in the past are beautifully woven into the narrative, and are some of the best parts of the book. If you like a good story of love with a spiritual element, then do check out The Gargoyle. It's a novel that's somewhat unique for its genre, but still has all the best hallmarks of a good romantic story. The Gargoyle is available in stores & online. Here is a link to a short film made of one of the stories told by Marianne, related by author Davidson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBIsL6pwdo4.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back into the “Shadows” at Collinwood

The 2012 big screen remake of Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton & starring Johnny Depp wasn’t as successful as many fans had hoped, but the original show & its various spinoffs still have a legion of loyal followers. The Gothic horror soap originally ran from 1966-71; two feature films were released during the 1970s, as well as a short-lived primetime revival in the 1990s that starred Ben Cross, Roy Thinnes & Jean Simmons. There are still various conventions & fan gatherings devoted to the series, and novels, comic books & audio dramas featuring the characters continue to be published. One of the best books devoted to the history of Dark Shadows is Return To Collinwood by Kathyrn Leigh Scott & Jim Pierson. Scott portrayed Maggie Evans & Josette DuPres in the original series & the film House of Dark Shadows. Scott has written several previous books about the show, but this is the first volume that covers all the different versions of the series to date.

Return To Collinwood was published to tie in with the release of the Burton/Depp movie, and begins with a section by Scott relating her experiences filming a cameo for that production, along with co-stars Lara Parker, David Selby & Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins. The book also features Scott’s memories of shooting the original series, as well as an in-depth chapter by Darren Gross about 1970’s House of Dark Shadows & 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows, the two movie spinoffs of the series. There is also coverage of NBC's 1991 prime-time version; a reminisce by Parker, who played Angelique on the show, and information about the creation & production of the original audio dramas based on the series. Also included is a touching introduction by Frid, who passed away in 2012, and a poem by Selby, who played Quentin on the original show.

The many rare & behind the scenes photos from the various incarnations of the show provide a treasure trove for fans. The pictures include some wonderful shots of Lyndhurst Mansion in New York & Seaview Terrace in Rhode Island, the houses that stood in for the Collins family homes during the run of the original show & 1970s movies. Return To Collinwood is published by Pomegranate Press, an imprint that was started by Scott back in the 1990s to publish books about the series. Their output has since expanded to include some non Dark Shadows titles as well. If you’re even a casual fan, this lavish, well produced book offers the best overall coverage of the Dark Shadows phenomenon. It's an informative, enjoyable read and an affectionate tribute to creator/producer Dan Curtis' classic & fondly remembered series. You can order Return To Collinwood online at amazon and other retailers or go directly to the Pomegranate Press at http://pompress.com, where you can also find info on other books related to the series.