Sunday, July 24, 2016

A "Hot" Songs Playlist

In honor of the steamy weather we've been having, here's a "hot" summer songs playlist. Try to stay cool, everybody! Feel free to add more songs in the comments section!

1.     The Heat Is On by Glenn Frey
2.     Hot Hot Hot by Buster Poindexter
3.     Hot Child in the City by Nick Gilder
4.     Hot Stuff by Donna Summer
5.     Summer in The City by The Lovin’ Spoonful
6.     Hot Love, Cold World by Bob Welch
7.     Hot Fun In The Summertime by Sly & The Family Stone
8.     Heat of the Moment by Asia
9.     Heatwave by Martha & The Vandellas
10.  The Boys of Summer by Don Henley
11.  Hot Blooded by Foreigner
12.  In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry
13.  Too Hot by Kool & The Gang
14.  Hot N’ Cold by Katy Perry
15.  Some Like it Hot by The Power Station
16.  Hot in the City by Billy Idol
17.  Hot in Here by Nelly
18.  Hot Legs by Rod Stewart
19.  I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen
20.  Disco Inferno by The Trammps
21.  Hang Fire by The Rolling Stones
22.  Fire by The Pointer Sisters
23.  Summer by War
24.  Hot Summer Nights by Night
25.  Summertime, Summertime by The Jamies
26. California Girls by The Beach Boys
27. Wipeout by The Surfaris
28. Summer Nights by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
29. Soak Up The Sun by Sheryl Crow
30. Summertime by Billy Stewart
31. Under The Boardwalk by The Drifters
32. Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
33. Hot for Teacher by Van Halen
34. Cruel Summer by Bananarama
35. Burnin' For You - Blue Oyster Cult
36. Hot Line - The Sylvers
37. Fire - Ohio Players
38. The Fire Down Below - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
39. Fire Woman - The Cult
40. Summer Breeze - Seals & Crofts

Monday, July 18, 2016

Eric Burdon Roars At Town Center Park

As Eric Burdon walked onto the stage at Hamden’s Town Center Park for his performance on Friday, June 15, the band was playing the intro to “Spill The Wine” his flavorful 1970 hit with War. Burdon launched into the song, and from then on it was a musical journey through his catalog of hits with The Animals, as well as a couple of surprises. His gruff, bluesy voice is still powerful, if a bit rough at times. The early part of the set featured deeper cuts like “When I Was Young” and “Monterey,” as well as a more recent Burdon penned tune called “Bo Diddley Special.” Burdon also did some interesting covers, including the Ian Drury & The Blockhead’s new wave track “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” and a very cool version of singer-songwriter Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” originally a hit for Three Dog Night. He also did a tribute to the late David Bowie, performing “Space Oddity” in a medley with The Animals 1968 psychedelic opus “Sky Pilot.”

But it was the latter part of the show that brought the crowd to their feet, as Burdon and the band grooved into the hit “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, which was followed by “Don’t Bring Me Down” and, of course, the classic “House of the Rising Sun.” After that, it seemed the all too brief concert was over, but the group returned for an encore which included “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” and a rousing version of the Sam & Dave classic “Hold On, I’m Comin” to climax the show. The talented band, including Davey Allen on piano, Johnzo West on guitar and Ruben Salinas on sax, were excellent, and had some powerful interplay with Burdon. Kudos also go out to local rockers The Doug Wahlberg Band, who opened the show with an excellent set of tasty, guitar driven rock & roll. All in all, it was an entertaining, enjoyable night of music.

Set list:
Spill the Wine
When I Was Young
Bo Diddley Special
In the Pines (Leadbelly cover)
Mama Told Me Not to Come (Randy Newman cover)             
Space Oddity / Sky Pilot (Bowie tribute)
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (Ian Drury & The Blockheads cover)
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Don't Bring Me Down
The House of the Rising Sun

We've Gotta Get Out of This Place                 
It's My Life
Hold On, I'm Comin'

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Game's Two Different Eras

Graham Moore’s novel The Sherlockian (2011) is an excellent “what if?” historical mystery. As a society of Holmes scholars called The Baker Street Irregulars gathers at their annual meeting, one of their members is found dead. The victim, Alex Cale, had found a previously missing portion of Arthur Conan Doyle’s diary, and was about to present his findings to the group; but the diary is now missing, and Alex has been murdered. Newly inducted member Harold White investigates Alex’s death, and finds out there’s more to the story than just a missing diary.

Author Moore alternates this present day story with a tale set in Victorian London; Holmes’ creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, has killed off his famous detective in a tale entitled “The Final Problem,” and a firestorm of public controversy is the result.  Readers blame Doyle for depriving them of new stories starring their hero. When Doyle receives a letter bomb, Scotland Yard does little to solve the crime. The author starts his own investigation, aided by his friend, Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula). As they follow the trail of clues, Doyle finds himself trying to solve the murders of several young women involved in the cause of women’s suffrage.

Moore guides the parallel stories to a satisfying conclusion, and provides his own answers to some questions that have intrigued literary scholars over the years. Why did Doyle resurrect his famous creation after killing him off a few years earlier? What was contained in the missing portion of the author’s diary, and did it have any bearing on Doyle’s decision? This neat, well-plotted tale is a lot of fun for mystery buffs. The author does a great job balancing the two stories, and throws in a lot of Holmes trivia & period detail for fans. It's a fast-moving, well-written mystery tale.

The Sherlockian is an entertaining journey; the reader becomes as invested in Harold’s modern day quest as we do in Doyle’s investigation in the past. And Moore makes some neat observations on just how much fans treasure their favorite characters, and their unwavering devotion to (and belief in) them. It’s part historical thriller, part modern day literary thriller, and an enjoyable read. With the resurgence of interest in the Holmes canon due to the BBC's successful Sherlock series, now's a good time to check out some other adventures related to the deerstalker wearing detective. By the way, Moore also wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for the 2014 film The Imitation Game, which starred Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. His new novel, The Last Days of Night, will be published later this summer.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Godzilla's Part Of An "All Out Attack"

If you grew up as a monster loving kid during the late 60s and the early 70s (in the New York area), you probably remember programs like Chiller Theater and Creature Features. These shows would showcase old horror, fantasy and science fiction films (some classic and some not so classic), and you’d sit down with your popcorn and snacks for some sci-fi, horror, or monster movie fun. In those pre-streaming, pre-cable/satellite and pre-VHS/DVD days, these shows would likely be your only chance to see your favorite genre films. You could do an entire article on those shows alone, many of them regional in nature, with different "hosts" like The Creep or Zacherle. Those shows are where I first got to see the one and only Godzilla's fantastic film adventures.

You remember the Big G, don't you? The giant lizard (resembling a T-Rex) was awakened as a result of nuclear testing. He started out as a destructive force that would stomp through Tokyo, wreaking havoc and breathing radioactive fire. The original film, Gojira (1954) was re-cut with footage featuring Raymond Burr and released here in 1955 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the version we all remember from countless TV showings. In subsequent films in the series, such as 1968's Destroy All Monsters, he turned into a good guy, and teamed up with other giant monsters like Rodan and Mothra against threats like Ghidorah (the three headed-dragon) who was often controlled by evil aliens out to invade the earth. These films became a genre all their own, called kaiju movies. Toho has produced 28 films in the series over the years (the less said about the 1998 American remake with Matthew Broderick, the better). In 2004, they temporarily retired the character after the release of Godzilla: Final Wars. 

Today, I’d like to look at one of the later films in the Toho series: 2001’s Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. This is an interesting re-invention of the kaiju concept, co-written and directed by Shusuke Kaneko. In the mid 90s, he directed a well-regarded trilogy of films starring Gamera, that giant turtle who's "a friend to all children," originally created as a competitor to Godzilla by rival studio Daiei in the 1960s. Kaneko was brought in by Toho to re-energize the Godzilla series. Essentially, his film ignores all of the sequels, and is a direct follow-up to the original movie. As the film opens, strange events, including the destruction of a U.S. nuclear sub, lead the Japan Self-Defense forces to believe that Godzilla has returned. Everyone believed that Godzilla was destroyed back in 1954. But evidence of Godzilla (and other giant creatures) begins to pile up, and Japan prepares for another attack by these monsters. The clever twist here is that Godzilla is the villain, and more of a dark, elemental force of destruction, closer to his portrayal in the original film. While he is still the product of nuclear testing, he is also an amalgam of the tormented souls of WWII victims, which is his true source of power.

Meanwhile, Mothra, Baragon and Ghidorah (here re-cast as a good guy) are introduced as the Guardian Monsters, ancient creatures who can be awakened to defeat great threats to humanity like Godzilla. The guardians team up to take on our favorite fire-breathing monster, who's on a terrifying rampage through Japan. Of course, the expected free for all melees occur, and our heroes (both monster and human) must work together to defeat this meaner, tougher Godzilla. The monster battles are exciting and well staged, and the mystical origin given to the creatures adds a new wrinkle to the story. The human characters, including an Admiral in the Self-Defense Forces, and his daughter Yuri, a reporter for a reality TV show, are more involved in the proceedings than usual for these stories. This time, Godzilla is more dangerous than ever. Can he be stopped?

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is an action-filled and well produced entry in the long running series. It delighted the ten year old kid still inside me, and I’m sure it’ll be enjoyed by monster fans of allergies. It’s available on DVD and Blu-ray, though, sadly, there are no extras. You can choose to watch the film with an English dubbed audio track, or in Japanese with English subtitles. Fans can also check out Classic Media’s DVD re-releases of several of the earlier Godzilla films, including Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) and Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965). These discs are highly recommended, and feature both the original Japanese versions of the films as well as the American cuts, along with commentaries and featurettes. Godzilla is still going strong on the big screen as well: Godzilla, a successful American re-make/re-imagining of the character, directed by Gareth Edwards, was released in 2014, and a sequel to that film is in the works. And this summer, Toho is releasing their first Godzilla film since Final Wars, entitled Godzilla: Resurgence. So there's a lot more Godzilla stomping our way.