Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Jas. Mathus & Knockdown South: old scool hot wings



Written by Fantasma el Rey


Creep with me, cats, as we slip back in time, to a day and place where music is simple and heartfelt. When it didn’t matter who was playing the music was what it was labeled. Black, white, country, blues or jug band; it was played on the porch, in the fields or in tumble-down distiller shacks. The words of Dave Alvin, roots-rock hero, come to mind “American Music”, plain and simply put. These are the sounds that would fire up a younger generation and launch a revolution in music, giving rise to the southern rockers of the '60s and '70s.

Jimbo Mathus, who hit commercial success with the band Squirrel Nut Zippers, along with a few friends from the Mississippi area, have perfectly captured the true sound of the early South on this new disc old scool hot wings. They cover a wide range of music that stems from Mississippi and surrounding states that grew from the sometimes hard southern life, while providing a very entertaining history of sorts.

Jimbo’s choice of musicians is excellent; he’s got everything from guitar and banjo pickers to washboard scrubbers and tuba pros. Two of his handpicked musicians, Luther and Cody Dickinson, I’ve had the pleasure to see live with their own band North Mississippi Allstars. These two young gents throw down good blues with the best of them, combining a modern sound with a very traditional one, which works well for them. Here, they are stripped down along with the rest of the musicians and still shine, the mark of a true professional.

Jimbo’s idea here is not far from the vision he shared with his pals in the Zippers, old time music kept alive by people who love to play it, the way it should be played, from the heart. Mathus and band come across as authentic and not like some revivalist or parody act, with silly songs or overproduction.

The songs are mostly traditional, genuine to the South, and sound very much that way. They are pieces of the past that come to life the more you hear them. Songs such as the Civil War classic “Dixie” and “Bullfrog Blues” rank among my all-time personal favorites. The first time I heard “Bullfrog Blues” was on a Canned Heat record and I fell in love with it then. On this recording, Mathus strips it back to its original boogie-blues sound. “Dixie”, for some reason has always haunted this “Redneck/Mexican Boy” and stood out in my mind, the song itself conjures up images of the old South and a way of life that seemed a million miles away from my suburban home. When I finally had a chance to see the South with my own eyes, the song only haunted me more, because of the strange feeling of home and comfort I felt there; it’s hard to explain and this isn’t the place to try to do so.

Having said that, it will come as no surprise that my favorite track on this disc is the Mathus-penned “Bright Sunny South”, where Jimbo’s lyrics and vocals remind me of my all-time favorite guitar slinger and songwriter Mr. Carl Perkins from Tiptonville, Tennessee. Although Perkins is known for his rocker “Blue Suede Shoes”, here I’m speaking of his slower songs of love and home, heartfelt and to the point.

And that’s what I hear on this disc, songs that bring to mind an image of the past yet of a time and place that still exist with a music that will never die as long as fine musicians such as Jimbo Mathus and the Dickinson brothers are around to play it and spread the word. Good job, gentlemen and the rest of Knockdown South. Through your vision and work it looks like the music of the South will rise again!

Monday, May 29, 2006

X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND



Written by Hombre Divertido


X-Men 3- The Last Stand Delivers…Too much of a good thing.

All the mutants are back and more, which makes for a very busy film.

In this installment of the X-men Franchise, a cure has been developed to rid the mutants of their powers. Using the Leech (Cameron Bright) who’s power is to remove that of other mutants, Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) Angel’s (Ben Foster) father, whose distress over his son’s mutant powers (Angel has bird like wings that allow him to fly) leads him to spearhead the project to offer and inflict the cure.

Ian McKellen once again gives a wonderful performance as Magneto who is out to rally the mutants and stop the cure. The X-men are out to stop Magneto, as we get little input as to their respective take on the cure.

The challenge of this film is the story. There is so much going on, some of which is unnecessary, that not only are we given a lot to follow, but also after the film, we are left wanting more. In some cases being left wanting more is a good thing, but not so in this case as it is character development and motivation that we are left wanting.

We are introduced to many new mutants. Too many. We get little or no back-story on these new characters, other than: This is what I can do; this is whose side I am on, now watch me do what I do.

One of the side stories is the return of Jean Grey (Famke Jensen) who we thought we had lost in the last film, and who should have stayed lost. There does not seem to be logic in her return other than to bog down this film, and kill off key characters. Now with the power to do pretty much whatever she wants, Jean seems to just stand around and watch the action.

We are also left without a well-defined government official character so prevalent in the first two films. Yes we have Angel’s dad (Murphy), but the establishment of that character, is nothing more than to show us that he is not happy that his son is a mutant. We had the government character in X-Men United in the portrayal of William Stryker by Brian Cox, but it was done with far superior detail.

On the plus side: We get some insight into the relationship of Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (McKellen) as well as more of Storm and Mystique (Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn).

So yes, this film has a lot of plusses, but we need a fourth installment simply to give us all that is missing from this film.

Bottom line: A fan of this series will enjoy this film, but a fan of films will see it as weak, and it is. It is the weakest of the three films. Less is more.

Recommendation: If you are a fan of The X-Men, then see this on the big screen. If you are not a fan, then wait for it to come out on DVD, and then rent the other two instead.

PS: If you do see it, make sure you stay till the end of the credits.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

THE DA VINCI CODE


Written by Hombre Divertido

I am one of the seventeen people who have not read the book (we have meetings). So other than the conversations and opening weekend sermon at the Church where I am an active member, and knowing that it is one of the most controversial novels of our time, I had little information about the story.

With that said; this is a good film.

Like Michael Jordan in basketball, Tom Hanks continues to take something that a select group of people in the world can do well, and make it look extremely easy. Hanks has the ability to play a character, who is obviously an expert in his field, and is thrown into a situation that puts the character out of his element or over his head, and make the audience feel like he is reacting like the average guy, while consistently reminding us that he is in control. He did this well in Castaway and Apollo 13, but is at his best here. The problem with such a gift is that many people will see this as a bland performance. Subtle is not Bland.

Late one evening, Louvre curator Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle) is murdered. Before he expires, the curator leaves a number of clues to the big secret. Summoned to the Louvre, Robert Langdon (Hanks) quickly comes under the suspicion of inspector Fache (Jean Reno).

As we watch Hanks’ portrayal of Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of symbology, weave his way through the maze of clues while being chased by police and others, we see both brilliance and vulnerability intertwined by a master at his craft. We can’t help but enjoy the ride.

Hanks leads a cast quite capable of keeping up with him including the always enjoyable Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, and Alfred Molina. Helping Langdon deal with his pursuers while he solves the puzzles is noted police cryptologist and gamine Sophie Neveu played quite satisfyingly by Audrey Tautou. Doing the lion’s share of the killing in the film is a self-flagellating albino monk played surprisingly effectively by Paul Bettany. Bettany has not made me cringe this much since I sat through Wimbledon.

Ron Howard directs, in what is virtually a no win situation, as trying to bring such popular literature to the screen often leads to unfair comparison. Nonetheless, the film is visually compelling, and aided well by the score of Hans Zimmer which is as subtle and effective as Hanks.

As I noted above, this is a good film. Not great, but good. We are encouraged to find that movie police, regardless of which side of the pond they are on, are inept. The change of pace in the last thirty minutes does seem a bit slow and anti-climatic. Sure, there are flaws, but it’s $9.00 well spent.

Recommendation: Let go of the book, and the fact that this fictional account does attempt to undermine the core values of Christianity, and sit back and enjoy an intense at times puzzle that is fun to solve.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

WAR OF THE WORLDS(2005)


Written by Hombre Divertido

To remake classic Science Fiction is always a daunting task, but one would certainly think that Steven Spielberg would be up to the challenge. One would think that.

The casting in the film is extremely distracting. Tom Cruise may be in his forties, but he does not look it. His ex-wife and son looked too old to be his family.

Continuity gaffes in films are even more distracting than poor casting. In one of the first scenes, divorced father Ray Ferrier (Cruise) pulls up at his house, parks his car in the driveway, and gets out to greet his kids who are arriving for the weekend. The next morning, when he finds out that his son has left with his car, he goes outside to verify that the car is gone, and appears to look at the wrong driveway.

Casting and gaffes aside, Spielberg does a great job of creating excitement and tension ala Jurassic Park very early in the film with state of the art special effects. That is until the ships appear. In the 1953 film we are dealing with flying ships. Spielberg uses skyscraper-sized three-legged machines, which looked hokey.

The tension created by the mass destruction of civilization and the fear generated amongst the people who managed to escape the body-melting death ray generated by the alien machines was definitely edge of the seat entertainment, but the constant use of the children in dangerous situations was gratuitous. The original 1953 version did not have children in the script, and kids in harm's way are not entertaining or necessary, however realistic it may be.

There is a nice homage to the 1953 version, at the end of the film when we get an all-too-brief shot of Ray’s father-in-law, played by actor Gene Barry, who starred in the original.

Recommendation: See it for the special effects. For a superior film, from a more simple time when they entertained us with good storytelling rather than special effects, rent the original.

Friday, May 26, 2006

DimeVision Vol. 1: That’s The Fun I Have



Written by Fantasma el Rey

DimeVision; It’s a cool title for this DVD and a good way to remember the legendary heavy metal guitarist, “Dimebag” Darrel Abbot, who was taken from the world by a crazed “fan” in December of 2004, at the age of 38. Abbot started his career with the heavy metal band Pantera and after that band's demise formed Damage Plan along with his brother, drummer, Vinnie Paul. Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell And Vulgar Display Of Power are considered some of heavy metals finest albums; for me it’s definitely Vulgar Display with classics such as “Mouth For War” and “Walk”, which is a true metal anthem for the masses. For those of you who actually follow my mad ramblings, it will come as no surprise, that I was introduced to this band by none other than that pillar of corruption (according to who you ask) my brother in law, Rob; may the metal gods bless him and his children.

DimeVision is a good disk for the casual fan and is a goldmine for those that truly adore the work of Dimebag Darrel. And before I go any further, I have to make this fact very clear; Dimebag is a master at what he does, his shredding on the guitar is seriously from another “dime”-mension. Loud, fast and insane is the best way to describe his guitar playing skills and his antics as this DVD shows.

The disk is a collection of footage that captures Dime in his everyday life and misadventures. There are some very good moments of Dime in his prime, scratch that, Dime was still in his prime when he was cut down way too early in his life. Most of the footage is from home videos and is a bit crude, but who the hell cares; it's heavy metal. The scenes are mostly in chronological order, with some rare shots of Dime and Pantera playing in small clubs, early in their career. Even at such a young age Dime was a wizard with his instrument of choice. A crowning moment is a young Pantera doing an excellent cover of Metallica's “Seek And Destroy”.

There are also a few really good photo montages of Dime with friends, family and fans; some of the pictures have him with members of other bands, such as Slayer and Metallica, as well as with younger musicians and contemporaries including Zakk Wylde, who consider him to be a master. Next to the live scenes of Dime jammin’ and shredding on one of his many famous guitars, these photo collages are the most enjoyable to see and they illustrate the effect that he had on the people that he knew.

Some of the stuff on this disk is simply insane. There are some very wacky moments, such as Dime and a pal of his burning the tire off a brand new truck. Keep in mind that most of Dime and friends shenanigans are drunken shenanigans. Throughout the whole thing there are fireworks galore; I do believe that Dime was sponsored by the Black Cat firework company. I mean, this guy uses these damn things constantly to wake people up from their drunken slumbers. He will randomly shoot them off wherever he is and it just doesn’t seem like a party to Dime if small pyrotechnics aren’t involved in some way.

Overall, DimeVision is enjoyable to watch. The only drawback is that at times it seems almost like a drunken, heavy metal version of MTV's Jackass. What makes it better is the fact that you get to see Dimebag and his bandmates do some steady rockin’, which is always a good thing. Dimebag Darrel was a positive force in heavy metal music and certainly one of its fan favorites. This DVD shows him in all his fun loving glory and reinforces the fact that the music world in general lost a great guitarist. This “bud's” for you, Dime!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

THE SENTINEL


Written by Hombre Divertido

Is this the Bizarro world where up is down, left is right, and hello is goodbye, or did Hollywood actually make a good suspense/action movie with no sex, foul language, or blood?

Ok, maybe a little blood, and a little intimacy, but by today’s poor standards, quite light.

Yes, there are plot points that are ridiculous (See the relationship that Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) is involved in). Yes, it was obvious who had “dunnit” as soon as he appeared on camera. Yes, David Breckinridge’s (Keifer Sutherland) inability to capture the suspect when the opportunity presented itself was completely out of character. Yes, the historical conflict between Garrison and Breckinridge conveniently disappears. Yes, normally these types of things are death to a film, but this movie overcomes a few bumps in the road by just being fun.

Based on a novel by Gerald Petievich, with a screenplay by George Nolfi, Director Clark Johnson has created a dangerous world that you can’t help but want to be a part of. Being a secret service agent looks glamorous and exciting as long as you are wearing your bulletproof vest, which in this film, were apparently only handed out to the pivotal characters.

The characterizations are vivid though sometimes inconsistent. The action on the other hand is consistent and not overdone. The pace is perfect, for though you may know where they are going, trying to keep up holds your attention.

Bottom line: Brain candy is good sometimes, and this is a “Leave your brain in the car” movie at it’s best.

Recommendation: If you are going to see MI3, see this instead.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3


Written by Hombre Divertido

This is not a bad collection of scenes, but it is a movie lacking in continuity.

You can’t help but visualize the screening room, where some flunky mentions that the story is a little vague, and the producers snap back: “Who cares, we got Tom, and we’re blowing stuff up!”

Blow stuff up they do, but it is Philip Seymour Hoffman that the producers should be touting. His portrayal of the villainous Owen Davian steals this film. It’s him we want to see more of, not Tom.

Not that any of the performances are bad, just standard. Surprising, by the fact that Hollywood “It guy” JJ Abrams (Alias, Lost) co-wrote and is at the helm of this installment, is that we are left with the feeling that we’ve seen all this before.

How many times do you expect to fool us with the pulling off of the latex face? How many times can you point us left before we start to figure out that the real bad guy is standing to our right? How many times can we watch Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, get in and out of the “Impossible Mission” and still be interested? If the missions are indeed “Impossible” than how come they keep getting done?

“Who cares, we got Tom, and we’re blowing stuff up!”

Oh yeah. Sorry, I forgot.

As in the third installment of the Rambo series; this time it’s personal. Mr. Hunt first chooses to accept the Impossible Mission of rescuing one of his favorite trainees (A far too brief appearance by overly credited Keri Russell) and then is forced to rescue his fiancée (Michelle Monaghan) who Mr. Davian has turned his revenge-seeking evilness towards. Amidst all of this is the search for the “Rabbit’s foot”. A mysterious piece of equipment, that everyone seems to want, or at least not want others to have, and in an interesting writing choice, a piece of equipment that we the audience are never told exactly what it is.

Unfortunately, we eventually don’t care what the “Rabbit's Foot” is, nor do we care about the underdeveloped characters. We are pretty much left to care about how and what they are going to blow up next, and how cool is it going to look. In most cases it does look pretty good. The special effects are excellent.

Bottom line: If you’re gonna go on a fourth “Impossible Mission”, give us more character development, more Philip Seymour Hoffman, more Ving Rhames, more story, and less latex.

Recommendation: If you’ve seen everything else, there are worse ways to spend 126 minutes. I mean, they do have Tom, and they are blowing stuff up.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

POSEIDON



Written by Hombre Divertido


Unfortunately, the ship stays afloat a lot longer than the film.

When I heard that they were remaking the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure, and shortening the title to Poseidon, I had no idea they were taking adventure out of the film as well as the title.

Nineteen minutes were also cut from the running time. All 19 and more certainly should have been utilized for character development that might have given us reason to care about the new group of passengers aboard the capsized ocean liner.

Apparently a need for an antagonist other than the constantly rising water was not considered necessary, as the usually enjoyable-to-watch Kevin Dillon was killed off just as he was reaching his obnoxious worst. Dillon, giving a performance worthy of Richard Chamberlain in The Towering Inferno, begins a somewhat disjointed tirade, prompted by nothing, prior to being killed off by falling debris in a moment that anyone could see coming as easily as the wave.

The relationship between Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine, so enjoyable to watch and crucial to the success of the original, was non-existent between Josh Lucas and Kurt Russell, both of whom are wasted in this film. Though not as wasted as Richard Dreyfuss who plays a gay character that does nothing more than stand around and flail his arms. Dreyfuss wins the “What the Heck Did You Make This Movie For” award narrowly beating out the highly deserving Robin “I needed to make a mortgage payment” Williams in RV.

Credit must be given to the writer Mark Protosevich for at least keeping the giant wave rather than going with the terrorist explosions used in the much worse television telling of this waterlogged tale.

Though they did keep the wave, the technological advances over the 34 years between films should have resulted in far superior effects. Instead, we were subjected to computer-generated crud that must have made Irwin Allen smile gleefully.

This film is a snooze fest from start to finish that generates little excitement or interest.

Recommendation: Wait for it to come out on DVD, and then rent the original.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Marky Ramone: Start of the Century




Written by Fantasma el Rey

Marky Ramone is a definite punk rock legend, so of course I jumped at the chance to review this two-disk set. Disk one is a best of Marky and his band the Intruders, while disk two is a tribute to the band that he is best known to have played with, obviously The Ramones. Yet before he became a Ramone, Marc Bell spent some time with bands such as Wayne County and Richard Hell and The Voidoids.

Hell, a punk legend himself, in one story says that Marky finally left the band because he grew tired of “eating dog food”. Hell (who is know for being a bit difficult, no… eccentric that’s a better word, has more of a ring to it, eccentric; see what I mean.) at this time would only do gigs sporadically, or as lore would have it, when the rent was due. Another account of Marky’s departure is the simple fact that The Ramones drummer, Tommy was leaving the band, so bassist Dee Dee Ramone asked Marky to take his place. However you look at it, considering the punk rock scene, it was more than likely a result of both. So, join The Ramones he did and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history.

Marky’s wide range of influences made him a perfect fit for The Ramones; along with the others, he dug everything from 1950s rock ‘n’ roll to the girl groups of the early sixties. With The Ramones, as well as with The Intruders you can hear these influences come through in the music that both bands play. Although, that seems to be the case with any band that Marky plays with or has a hand in shaping the sound of.

On disk one of Start Of The Century, both versions of The Intruders (there are two different line-ups) have a traditional punk sound. Gritty, tense vocals weaved together with solid bass runs and loud, simple guitar riffs, while being held together by the superb drumming skills of Marky. Some of the standout tracks for me include a punked-up version of the Beatles' “Nowhere Man” and the piano-led, late ‘50s-styled rocker “Don’t Blame Me”, which has a great sax solo and guest vocals by Joan Jett. “Road Rage” is a fun number with a quirky sound that resembles “The Monster Mash.” Which reminds me that Marky did play on a version of said song for The Misfits' Jerry Only’s little record entitled Misfits: Project 1950. In fact, Marky played drums on that entire album and also played piano, which leads me to believe he may have played them on “Don’t Blame Me” as well. On “Man Of God” we even get to hear Marky do the lead vocals, which are all right, but his drumming is where it’s at.

Disk two is Marky’s tribute to the band from which he takes his name, The Ramones. The disk has that fake recorded live sound, where you get Marky doing intros to songs and the crowd can be heard whistling and cheering, yet it just sounds too fake to be real. When he mentions some songs, the crowd’s response doesn’t change like it would at a true live performance. The band sounds great and does a good job of the task at hand. This line-up is again completely different from the previous two on disk one. They play some “tuff” versions of Ramones’ classics such as my favorite “53rd & 3rd,” “Havana Affair,” “Blitzkrieg Bop” as well as “Chinese Rocks” co-written by the aforementioned Richard Hell. Disk two is a solid collection of Ramones' tunes propelled by Marky’s drumming. And as a special treat they play “Happy Birthday”.

Both CDs are good examples of punk rock the way it should be played, at times loud, fast and hard, while on some tunes you can hear rocking sounds of the past; The twenty-eight tracks on disk one move very quickly, as do the eighteen on disk two. Marky shows that no matter what band he leads he holds them together very well; for a man who has been around the block quite a few times, his drumming still thunders loud and punk proud.

A special thank you is in order here, for a very good buddy of mine, who even in his youthfulness is a wealth of punk information. Through him, I have learned a lot more about this thing called "Punk" than I ever would have simply on my own; his CD collection as well as his books and magazines are a seemingly endless source of knowledge. The compilation disks he has put together for me are excellent examples of punk history and should be sold for twenty bucks a pop; seriously this cat makes a mean sample of punk. Thanks, Eric, never stop rockin’, brother!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Barry Manilow: Barry Manilow II & Even Now

Written by Fumo Verde

Hey, Fumo here with some newly remastered CDs from the man who writes "the songs that make the whle world sing". For those of you who may be smirking right now, you can cut it out. Barry Manilow is one of the world’s premier entertainers, and is an inductee of the "Songwriters Hall of Fame" and Rolling Stone has called him "The Showman of our Generation". Two of his most popular albums have been remastered digitally, Barry Manilow II and Even Now, and although I am not such a fan, my mom is. So this week the review will be a Q&A from Momma Verde.

FV: How long have you been listening to Barry?

MV: The first I had ever heard of Barry Manilow was with the TV commercials, you know Dr. Pepper, Band-Aid brand Band-Aids, the Oscar Meyer jingles, but it was your father who introduced me to the music of Manilow. Your father loved to dance, that's how he put himself through college. How come you never finished college, Fumo?

FV: Not now, Ma. Which of Barry's albums is your favorite?

MV: Even Now has to be one of my all time favorites. It has "Can't Smile Without You", "Where Do I Go From Here", and of course "Copacabana". These CDs definitely have a better sound than the 8-tracks we used to listen to, and the new CD of Even Now has a previously unreleased track called "I'm Comin' Home Again", which still shows that Barry-- even after all these years, can still write great songs. Not only does he write his own music but he produces and arranges it himself too.

FV: What about Barry Manilow II?

MV: That's another special one. It has "The Two of Us", which was the song your father and I loved to dance to. "My Baby Loves Me" and "It’s a Miracle" are also full-bodied songs. There is also a new unreleased track on this one too, "Good News" which I never heard before.

FV: I wonder why.... Full-bodied song?

MV: A song that makes your whole body feel good. "Mandy" is also on this CD. That was one of Barry's top songs. After your father died, it seemed as if that's all they played on the radio for a while. Not that that song had anything do you with your father, just hearing Barry's voice reminded me of your father.

FV: Have you ever seen Barry perform live?

MV: I'll be honest here, I never cared for the man's looks, but his voice was so incredible and his music so good, I loved to listen to him. Now, his act is polished and he seems to have gotten better with age. I hear he has a deal like Celine Dion, where he plays five nights a week in Vegas. I never wanted to see him before, but now, I really want to. You know my birthday is coming up.

FV: I know, Ma. I already got you a present.

MV: Tickets?

FV: No Ma, something else.

In conclusion, Barry Manilow is one of the world’s greatest performers and a songwriter who is a living legend. Behind his smile and under that one-of-a-kind voice, Manilow has the mind of a musical genius and his talent will out last most of the people who really love his work. "I Write the Songs" explains it well; here is a man who started out writing commercial jingles and has made his way up the ranks, from Broadway through the hellish business and bullshit know as the recording industry, all the while writing that "songs that make the whole world sing." Even now, teenage kids-- not all but some, have heard of Barry Manilow, if not his most famous song "Copacabana" starring Lola, she was a dancer.

Anyway if you’re a Manilow fan like my mom, then you will enjoy the newly remastered CDs that Barry Manilow and Arista Records have released. They bring a "fullness" to Barry's voice and let you hear how he would sound if you were at one of his shows. So Ma, take a hit, turn up the volume, and I'll spill a gin and tonic on you so you too can imagine that your right there front row with Barry Manilow.

This is Fumo Verde saying, "Goodnight, babies." Say "goodbye," Ma.

MV: Goodbye.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Best Of Poison: 20 Years of Rock


Written by Tío Esqueleto

L.A. based rockers, Poison, first burst onto the scene back in 1986. The four man, “Glam rock", outfit featuring Brett Michaels on Vocals, Bobby Dall on Bass, Ricky Rockett on Drums, and C.C. DeVille on Lead Guitar, cut their teeth playing in the now notorious rock clubs of the Sunset Strip. 1986 saw the release of their debut album, Look What The Cat Dragged In, and the rest, as they say, is history…

It is now, 20 years later, and Poison has just released the culmination of their lives work, The Best Of Poison: 20 Years of Rock. It follows the band from its beginnings as a Glam Rock phenomena out of Los Angeles with hits like "Talk Dirty To Me" and "I Want Action," to the band’s prime, selling out arenas, as an MTV staple during the hair-band era of the late 1980s, with singles like "Don’t Need Nothin’ But A Good Time," and the #1 ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," and even goes on to highlight hits from their lesser-known albums of the 1990s, which saw the band forced out of the limelight, as the music world made way for a new kind of rock music. Seattle-based “Grunge” rock seemed to come out of nowhere with the emergence of Nirvana, singlehandedly and unexpectedly ending the careers of countless, successful, bands of the time. Poison included….Well, kind of.

Call it what you want, '80s Metal, Hair Rock, Butt Metal, Glam Rock, Cheese Rock, or just Crap, but the pop metal stylings of the late 1980s, as with any good guilty pleasure, are beginning to see a comeback, with Poison at the forefront.

Comparable to disco before it, or even the various boy band crazes of the 1980s, Hair Metal, in hindsight, was a fad. As with most fads that have worn out their welcome, add a little time to heal, a dash of irony, and you have a bonafied comeback, and for some, a rediscovered and, now, guilty pleasure. Now, that’s not to say that all Disco or Pop Metal or Boy Bands originated as mindless, for profit, crap. Not true. In fact, most of these genres are born out of legitimacy. K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Motley Crue, New Edition, these are all credible examples of legitimate, top shelf, artists within the aforementioned sub genres of the pop machine. It is the mass marketing and eventual over saturation of copycat acts that leads to illegitimacy and, ultimately, failure for all.

Poison has managed to find a home at the very top of this second tier, the BEST of the BAD. Their infectious songs (I’ve woken up with "I Want Action" stuck in my head for six long days, now), and undeniable stage presence has secured them a spot right at the top, and it’s albums like this that keeps them there. Not new material for the lingering super-fan, but a Greatest Hits (their third in 10 years) for the legions of nostalgic sing-along fans. The album entered the Billboard charts at #17, a feat not many of their colleagues can boast, in recent years. I highly doubt a similar offering from, say, Warrant, or Cinderella, would chart nearly as high.

On June 13th, Poison will kick off a summer long Tour of North America in support of the new album, starting in Mankatu MN, and wrapping up in Atlanta GA on August 25th. The tour, sponsored by VH-1 Classic and Live Nation, will make 53 stops all together, with fellow '80s Glam rockers, Cinderella, as the show opener. A “Special Tour Edition” of The Best Of Poison: 20 Years of Rock will be released on May 23rd to comemerate this special event. This expanded CD will include a bonus, DVD, disc featuring various Poison videos, and a buy one get one free voucher for the summer tour.

So, buy the CD/DVD. Buy a ticket. Take a friend. (You’re going to need somebody to sing along with, buy you drinks, drive you home, and, possibly, blackmail sometime down the road…)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

T Bone Burnett: The True False Identity


Written by Fantasma el Rey

T Bone Burnett is a name that you may not recognize, even though I’m sure we’ve all heard something he has had a hand in creating. In the fourteen years since his last album, Burnett has been busy working on movie soundtracks and producing other artist’s albums. He has taken part in films such as Walk The Line, The Big Lebowski and has won a Grammy for his production of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Not only involved with major motion pictures, Burnett has collaborated on projects with some major musicians including the Wallflowers, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett. He has also teamed with the Coen brothers to form their own indie record label DMZ Records, which has so far released mostly soundtracks. Now T Bone has turned once again to his own music with a 40-track retrospective 20/20: The Essential T Bone Burnett and his new solo record The True False Identity.

T Bone's latest album has a dark, moody feel to it, which is a sound I’m drawn to like a moth to a flame. After a sample listen of “Zombieland,” sent to me by El Bicho, I was hooked and had to hear the rest of the CD.

The twelve tracks on The True False Identity are divided into two parts, six each, kind of like some bands would do in the old days with their vinyl L.P.s. The first six fall under the title “Art Of The State”, the next six “Poems Of The Evening.” The mood from the first to the second half doesn’t change much at all and the lyrics still ring with social and political sting; Burnett’s lyrics are filled with creative wordplay, so you have to listen and bring your own interpretations to the table.

“Zombieland” gets this disk off to a good start. With its heavy upright bass and slow drum thump, T Bone’s guitar slips in and out though the background rhythm, which is soaked in a New Orleans/Haitian voodoo vibe, complete with maracas and other shake and rattle instruments. As a matter of fact, the whole album has that mysterious vibe throughout.

“Palestine, Texas” is what sets this disk on fire for me. The drums kick out a steady rumble-drum-march sort of beat, which makes you want to stomp your feet, while the guitar soars and gets your head to thump in time with your foot. More steady bass work and this wonderful swirling sound that’ll make your head spin as you turn up the volume. Burnett’s rap-like vocal delivery of his Rat Pack inspired lyrics puts the icing on the cake and makes this track the one to watch. With the heavy beat Burnett shows that older folks can still crank out some very solid catchy tunes, without being pretentious or sound forced. “Seven Times Hotter Than Fire” keeps the momentum going, with its loud, straightforward rocking sound. This track brings to mind the primal/noisy sound of The White Stripes, making tracks two and three the power punch on this disk.

“There Would Be Hell To Pay” and “Every Time I Feel The Shift” slow the pace a little while highlighting Burnett’s songwriting abilities. In “Hell To Pay” we learn the fates of Curtis and Delia, another dark number that goes right to the heart. Whereas “Every Time I Feel The Shift,” focuses on the political issue of church and state, or rather faith and state and how the masses seem to forget what has gone before them in just a few years.

“I’m Going On A Long Journey Never To Return” has the most infectious and peppy feel to it, while its lyrical content remains on the darker side of relationships. T Bone’s straightforward, easygoing vocals are excellently showcased here. On the chorus, I’m reminded a little of Rodney Crowell.

The second half of the disc opens with “A Poem Of The Evening: Hollywood Mecca Of The Movies.” The guitar and bass slow down the tempo, allowing him to just speak the lyrics, while losing none of the intensity; T Bone’s piercing lyrics about the industry are delivered with a force that is intensified by the heavy slow drum thump behind him. On “Fear Country” Burnett’s vocals continue to cruise slow and low. The way the instruments come together in the middle of the song add to Burnett’s lyrics, giving off this odd sense of a city or nation on fire, the drums, both brushed and heavily struck, light guitar and bass swirl all around you, creating an air of doom.

“Baby Don’t You Say You Love Me” picks up the pace and gets you jumping once again. The bass gets drawn out and has that stretched rubber band sound, while the drums slow-to-mid tempo thump drives the tune forward, blending together well with the distorted guitar sounds.

“Blinded By The Darkness” brings up the faith/state/crime issue once more and asks who should judge between the laws of God and the laws of man. “Shaken, Rattled And Rolled” closes the album on a slow, somber note about “it all slipping away from me” and being “lost and detached,” yet it is fitting end to this dark and moody disk.

On this CD you can hear T Bone Burnett’s influences, such as the Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley. Some of the songs sound as if they could have been recorded by Alan Lomax sixty-odd years ago in the deep South by old sharecroppers. At the same time the sounds are very modern and if you listen you can hear slight nods to some of most creative bands of their day from Portishead to Love and Rockets. Throw all these sounds into a Haitian Juju bag and shake it around, mix in some Dark Side Of The Moon wit and there you have the long-awaited new album by T Bone Burnett, The True False Identity. T Bone Burnett has put together a sound that is unique and enjoyable, adding three drummers on most of the tracks to the usual bass/guitar sound works masterfully. I for one am glad to have him back and I hope he continues to explore and push boundaries, turning out new records at a quicker pace.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

DESPERATELY SEEKING SEKA



Written by Fumo Verde

Back in the late '70s and early '80s the adult film industry was in it's golden age-- although it wasn't realized yet, and through that sexual revolution, certain stars rose to the top. One of these great goddesses of the silver screen was a woman named Seka, star of films like Blonde Fire and A Taste of Seka. This was a time when a porno actually had a plot and the people who made these films truly believed they were making a real movie-- just with some fucking. This was also the time before the big video boom, when porn movies held premieres, and the stars and directors walked down red carpets. During this time, Seka ruled supreme. She had worshipers by the millions, and just her name alone brought out fantasies in men of all ages. This is a documentary, but it's more of one man's adventure to find the woman, a woman named Seka.

Stefan Nylen is a journalist from Sweden, who as a young adult discovered the porn industry and its number one star at the time Seka. In this movie, he seeks her out to ask her questions about her career, her life, and why she stopped doing porn. The movie starts out with a thirty-second montage of porn clips featuring Seka. We are then whisked away to a porn convention in Las Vegas. Here Nylen interviews a few adult stars that worked with Seka, including a talk with Nina Hartley and Randy West. Neither of them gives real clues into who Seka was or why she stopped doing porn. From there he goes to L.A.-- mainly “the Valley". The San Bernardino Valley is where the porn industry settled and still lives today. Here he finds directors such as Al Goldstein and Bob Burns, who made some films starring the blond bombshell. These men give a little more insight to who Seka was, but not to why she stopped being a porn star.

Most of the interviews that Nylen gets shed little light on Seka, with the exception of Jane Hamilton, who worked with Seka on a few occasions and who gave her the best advice in her life, "if you don't want to do something or you feel uncomfortable, then don't do it…these guys are just happy to have you here." Hamilton is now a producer and director and since her beginning with porn in 1977, has made a great living from the industry. Her very first scene, a girl on girl, was with, of course, Seka.

From L.A., Nylen flies to Chicago, where Seka now lives with her husband and cats. Here is where he finally gets to meet his boyhood fantasy. Seka, whose real name is Dorothea Patton gives a great interview about how she started, what was happening at the time, and why she did finally stop making porn. She first stopped in 1985 after Careful He May Be Watching, but then made a comeback performance in 1993 in American Garter. She also discusses what it's like being a normal housewife.

This movie isn't about trying to find Seka as it a window into the porn industry of the '70s and '80s, and it sheds some light on what is happening now. The interview with Goldstein and Burns explained what it was like making films back then, as Scott Taylor, a current producer and director, explains what it's like now. Seka explains her life to Nylen with the same charismatic sense of humor that made her a star, and her reasons for quitting when she did are as simple as the reasons for her starting.

The extras on the disc are pretty cool, some extra interviews with Seka about what it was like working with John Holmes, and Ron Jeremy. And, for you total horndogs, yes there are some sex clips that pop out through out the movie. There are also little blurbs that pop up here and there and explain certain things to you as you go along. Unfortunately, they aren't easily read, and if you focus on them, you may miss out on what the person being interviewed is saying. I got tired of pausing it all the time just to read the blurb, but they did have insightful information that gives one the idea of how big the porn industry is in the U.S. and around the world.

Desperately Seeking Seka
is a fun little documentary for those of us who remember the golden age of porn and all it's freakiness, and the golden goddess with the one word name that could make anyone horny. Thank you Seka, for everything.

This is Fumo…stay horny, babies.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

KAL



Written by Fumo Verde


Here comes a sound that you probably haven't ever heard. They are called KAL and were formed by the brothers Ristic, Dushan, and Dragan. They are Romani Gypsies from Belgrade, Serbia who have blended their traditional Balkan Gypsy sounds with the more contemporary music of what they listened to in the clubs of Belgrade and Budapest. With energy to spare, KAL has an exotic sound all their own, and this self-titled CD packs 12 incredible tracks that bring you into the traveling troop of Gypsy life before turning around and booming you out into the stratosphere with hard beats that keep the party going.

The Ristics wanted to keep their traditional music alive, yet they were also influenced by the techno and house music that was thumping out of the discos in Eastern Europe. While growing up in central Serbia and feeling the repression that all Gypsies feel, they formed a band to bring to light the harshness and discrimination the Romani Gypsies felt after Yugoslavia was broken up when Tito fell. I don't speak Slavic or Gypsy let alone Romani Gypsy, so I can't understand what they are saying, but their groove is unstoppable.

"Duj Duj" is the first track, and it starts out with a single guitar and a double bass, that brings to mind images of Ali Baba and the forty thieves. Its percussion beats are hypnotic and the blending of the clarinet and the accordion create an aura of mysticism. The whole CD has that mystic root to it, the root of the Gypsies, the root of surviving. It’s followed by "Dvojka", which sounds like Gypsy-ska combined with whatever Dragan is singing. He creates a "Squirrel Nut Zipper" sound with a Gypsy scat halfway through the song.

"Boro Boro" is another hypnotic track that gives you the feel of the old caravan, as the sole voice sings out the cries of what could be anything. I figured it might have to do something with a lost burro, but like I said, they could be saying, "Kill you American pigdogs" and I honestly wouldn't know. The sound is sweet and the music has a trance-like rhythm, as does the whole album.

There are also a few “love songs,” I guess you could call them, or should I say "romantic" songs. "Djelem, Djelem" is one that seems to have a bit of a ‘70s soft-rock underbelly with Dragana Berakovic’s voice slowly caressing the words as she evokes the warm summer days on the Mediterranean coast. With the accordion joining in, all I can picture is stone white houses set upon rocky hills facing a blue sea.

KAL hired Mike Nielsen to produce, arrange, mix and find new beats for this album of 21st century Gypsy soul. Nielsen’s experience involves everything from mixing Dizzy Gillespie's live sound to working with Maori and other Turkish music as well as producing bands like Underworld, Jamiroquai and Natasha Atlas (She is another great sound coming out of that area of the world).

When all is said and done, KAL has a great sound that transcends through the generations and brings about the new soul of Gypsy music while holding onto the old traditions. The blended sounds mirror the spirit of the Gypsy. The fire has been rekindled and the young Gypsies have grown up, bringing a new perspective to the old stories, so join KAL and travel where ever the road takes you with a new band of Gypsies.

Hang loose, babies..........FV.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute To Cole Porter


Written by Ladron de Tebeos

Greeting, all you fine and wonderful folks who’ve decided to stop looking at porn for five minutes and tune in to my little review. Today’s topic of conversation is a 2-disc special edition of Red Hot + Blue, which if you remember, was originally issued in 1990 as a Tribute To Cole Porter that created massive media attention for AIDS relief and became the first release in a 15-album series. It featured such world-class artists as U2, Annie Lennox, Tom Waits, and Sinead O’Connor, and such acclaimed directors as Wim Wenders, Alex Cox, and Jonathan Demme, and is now finally being released with the care that it deserves. An eclectic musical homage to the legendary songwriter Cole Porter, it went platinum, spent 24 weeks on the Billboard charts, and generated $3 million dollars for AIDS charities worldwide, but its companion piece, a VHS collection of music videos, (you remember VHS, don’t ya?) was somewhat relegated to the background. That changes with the 2-disc Special Edition package of Red Hot + Blue, which contains all the music videos on a DVD and the remastered album on a CD together.

The assemblage is in the form of a television special that promotes AIDS education and support, which is rather appropriate being that this is the reason the Red Hot project was kicked off in the first place (and all of the proceeds of the DVD still go to that cause). The program does get a bit preachy, along the line though, with lectures from such personages as Richard Gere and John Malkovich, who looked as uncomfortable as your father, persistently advising use of a condom. I had to fast forward through him (sorry, John).

Several of the videos (most notably the rap versions of songs, such as Neneh Cherry's “I've Got U Under My Skin”) bring the message into the lyrics of the songs themselves. One of the videos, directed by John Pellington is The Jungle Brothers' rendition of “I Get a Kick Out of You” that cleverly incorporates latex into many of its visuals, underlining the theme without being overtly obvious.

The AIDS theme is carried on in several other videos, such as the most political contribution, Erasure's “Too Darn Hot”, incorporating then-current protest movements such as ACT-UP, (No, I don’t remember them,) while running AIDS factoids across the bottom of the screen. Several of these caught me by surprise, such as the facts that the U.S. and South Africa are the only two industrialized countries to deny healthcare to people without money and that the U.S. spends more money on defense in one hour than we spend on health care in one year. I haven’t looked these up myself, so don’t write me any pissy e-mails if either of those turn out to be wrong. One of the more touching videos is k.d. lang's “So in Love”, directed by Percy Adlon, which takes a look at the everyday struggles of dealing with the disease in a loved one through the simple expression of lang doing her laundry.

Although most of the videos dodge expressions of male homosexuality, Jimmy Somerville’s “From This Moment On” directed by Steve McLean, embraces it wholeheartedly; there’s men rolling around and groping all over the place, so I had to fast forward through this too (sorry, Jimmy), but at least this is certainly a highlight of honesty in the program.

Several notable directors are along for the ride: Jim Jarmusch gives “It's All Right with Me” by Tom Waits a strange hyper activity despite using slow motion, heightening the already disturbing vibe of Waits' rendition. It’s like watching Tom run around drunk for four minutes, highly entertaining. Neil Jordan presents Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues as a nightclub show for “Miss Otis Regrets/Just One of Those Things”.

On the whole, however, the videos are somewhat lacking in originality or in adding extra dimension to the music. Wenders directs U2’s version of “Night and Day” and both the song and the video do absolutely nothing interesting, it’s like both the director and the band decided to phone it in. The rest of the videos all too often are rather literal or bland, though the presentation of Sinead O'Connor as an ersatz Veronica Lake on “You Do Something to Me” is undeniably inspired (and may I say, she looks pretty hot with hair).

That said, however, the music still holds up very well, with only a few slow moments: the dull and synthy “Do I Love You?” by Aztec Camera being the biggest pain to sit through. (fast-forwarded through that too; sorry, Aztec) Most of the songs have an undeniable energy, with some great favorites being Salif Keita's tribalized version of “Begin the Beguine”, the unlikely duo of Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry showing these young kids how it's done by rocking out to an energetic version of “Well, Did You Evah?” Plus, there's no going wrong with Porter's “In The Still of The Night”, and The Neville Brothers do a nice, if rather uninspired, rendition of it. The finale is the touching rendition of “Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Annie Lennox, seen tearfully watching old home movies. It's quite emotional, doubling the effect of the music to give a palpable sense of loss that drives the entire project. Even with the shortcomings of some of the videos, still a very worthwhile disc with messages that still need to be spread.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gumball 3000: 6 Days in May



Written by Fumo Verde

The Gumball 3000 is a six-day race that hits three countries, France, Spain, and Morocco, over two continents, Europe and Africa 'case you couldn't figure that one out, and takes place over 3000 miles. It features 192 super-expensive, tricked-out cars and has loads of characters who drive them.

Director Ruben Fleischer was one of eight cameramen that covered the event along with help from some mounted cams that were put in a few of the cars. This isn't a movie like Cannonball Run; it's a documentary that covers the race in May 2004. Everything you see here is real. There are no stunt drivers or stunt cars. This shit is the real deal.

At first, when El Bicho asked me to do this, I thought it would be pretty mundane, but right from the intro, I could tell this documentary would be like no other. The cast of lunatics participating in this race range includes European playboys, Saudi Princes, super models such as Jodie Kidd, actors like Adrian Brody, and even regular working-class stiffs like plumbers Ben James and Tim Masterson. Ben and Tim, unlike almost everybody else, scrapped all the money they had just to get here, and for them like the rest, this race was going to be a real adventure.

The show starts somewhere in the race, where, on a busy, two-lane road, that's one lane going one way and the other lane going the other, a Porsche is weaving in and out of traffic, passing on both the left and right shoulder lanes. A rally driver shouts, "This guy is fucking crazy!" as the cameraman in the back tries to follow the Porsche as it darts away. Then the intro starts. Here you get introduced to some of the competitors, mainly the ones the camera guys ride with.

During registration is when Fleischer tries to figure out who he wants to ride with during this race. Instantly, you come across a host of wily characters who, if for only but a brief moment, make you laugh. Kim Schmitz, a huge man in height and girth, is the "evil German genius". He is really full of himself and has a diabolical sense of humor. Big Black, an actor and professional bodyguard rides with pro skater Rob Dyrdek; the adventure these guys have is comedy in itself.

The race starts off in Paris at noon, with a short stop at the first checkpoint at a place called Mas Du Clos, a private racetrack in Southern France. This is only a temporary stop, as the competitors find out that they have to still drive another seven hours to get to Madrid, Spain, the second check point to end the first leg of the tour. At this point, the drivers have been on the road for 25 hours.

In the Spanish port of Marbella a ferry picks up the drivers and their vehicles. This, I found out while watching the directors cut, was a private ferry for the racers only. This boat takes them to Africa and to the country of Morocco. Here, with the King of Morocco's blessings, the drivers go ape shit, hitting speeds of 210 miles an hour with nothing but kids on bikes and wild donkeys to pass by. The next checkpoint is in Casablanca, at Rick's Cafe. From there it's on to Marrakech, then the town of Fez, where the ferry takes the racers back to Spain.

Back in Spain, it's a race to Barcelona, but now the Spanish police are gunning for the Gumballers, arresting anyone with numbers and DC stickers on their cars. The drive through Spain is full of surprises pulled by both the cops to catch the Gumballers and by the Gumballers to sneak away. The final leg of the race takes the drivers from Spain back to France, where the race ends in the seaside city of Cannes just in time for the Film Festival.

This isn't some wacky race with bar fights and boobs poppin' out of bras, not that there is anything wrong with that. Instead, it's a hard-core endurance test that pushes the envelope, not only for the cars, but for the drivers as well. It has its laughs because Fleischer choose good characters to follow, but it has its dragging points too. There were some really interesting people that I wish we could have seen more of, and there were drivers who I wish Ruben hadn't wasted time on. Mostly it's a super-charged flick that will leave you wanting to get out of your house and either head out on a long road trip or do donuts in the parking lot of your local grocery store.

I said that this was the real deal, right? How can you be certain, Fumo? Well, in Morocco, on the way back to the city of Fez, a passenger in one of the other cars caught on tape how dangerous this race can be. The camera is shooting from a car doing 120 mph, which you can see on their GPS system. At the same time, two guys in a red Viper are maybe 45 to 50 seconds a head of the car with the camera. Within a heartbeat, the Viper, probably doing 150 to 160 mph, hits a bump and goes flying off the road in a 90-degree turn from the direction it was heading in, only to be demolished as it tumbled for about 350 yards, just missing some kids with their donkey and cart. The driver, by the grace of the Gods, only suffered some minor injuries, while his passenger walked away clean. Amazing considering that they were in a convertible.

Through the sheer determination of these folks, one could see why people come back to race in the Gumball every year. It's an event that brings its competitors to the edge of their own envelopes and Ruben Fleischer catches this moment in one hell of a style.

The extras include a director's commentary, which is kind of boring, and that's because Ruben didn't really want to speak, and an interview with Maximillion Cooper, the man who brought created and hosts the race.

Gumball 3000: 6 Days in May rates as a good documentary that not only informs you about this race, but gives you a good laugh, brings about excitement and puts you on the edge of your seat at times wondering what will happen around the next turn.

This is Fumo Verde--the Fast and the Furious don't have shit on the Gumballers.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Joey DeFrancesco: Organic Vibes



Written by Fantasma el Rey

It’s Tuesday 8:00 A.M., I hop into my car and pop in this jazz disc I’ve been slated to review; I read the cover, Joey DeFrancesco Organic Vibes. At first I’m thinking gourd shakers and hollowed-out tree stumps for drums, but as “The Tackle” kicks up, I hear what the title means. The track takes off quick with a vibraphone (vibes) intro by Bobby Hutcherson while the rest of the band are hot on his heels; George Coleman and Ron Blake blast in with saxophones, crashing in next to them on the drums is Byron Landham, and rounding out the band are Jake Langley guitar and Mr. DeFrancesco himself on the Hammond B-3 organ. “Little B’s Poem”, with a sweet-sounding flute opening, keeps the momentum going; by the end of the track I’m grooving and finger poppin’ (that means I like it).

“I Thought About You” slows down quite a bit, but that’s all right because I’ll drive slower. I dig the groove; this jam is perfect for the remaining short cruise down the boulevard. As I pull into the parking stall, I realize that I’ve only heard a third of this album on a twenty-five minute drive. Then, in my mind’s eye, pops up that picture of my pal Fumo from The Masked Movie Snobs masthead saying, “Wha’d ya expect? It’s jazz, baby”. In fact, it’s good jazz and like all good jazz it can not be rushed. These aren’t three-minute pop songs manufactured to get the teenies up and shaking that “thang”; these are works of love and art, a true craft. Anyway, I’ll have to continue on the drive home or later, which is cool because that last tune has put me in a mellow mood, and I can start the workday feeling like some jazz-bo “hepster”.

Well so much for a mellow workday. It’s Wednesday and the drive home is where I pick back up, not that I’ve been at work for the whole time but...on with the review.

“Somewhere in the Night” and “Down the Hatch” continue in the same mellow vain; both solid tunes but track six sticks out more for me. “Speak Low” starts with a slow sax intro. It rapidly changes tempo and begins to jump but then slows right back down, only to pick up again; repeating this pattern for the remainder of the track, which has the band on fire. I swear that’s smoke coming from the CD player, but I drive on riding this jazz roller coaster down Pacific Coast Highway, the royal road. As the track flies along, I fly right with it past the light I was supposed to turn on. Oh well, more time for jazz. With horns blaring and drums thumping, this is definitely the stand-out cut on this album and my favorite track; a true tribute to masters of the past like Lionel Hampton or my Pop’s favorite, The Jazz Crusaders.

“JeNeane’s Dream” and “My Foolish Heart” are two slow songs with a light, easy feeling and the band is back in a mellow mood; which is fine with me, because it snaps me out of that driving mad frenzy, allowing me to get me home safely, always a plus. “Colleen” is the mid-tempo tune that closes out this CD and has the band taking their turns at solos, giving us one last listen at their talents and at how good they truly are.

Joey DeFrancesco has put together a tight, solid band, and turned out a great album; it shows in the way they play, feeding off one another and following the music where it takes them; again, the way jazz should be. This is one disk I know I’ll be playing for a while; maybe I should take it out of the car though. Who am I kidding? It’ll be on constantly for at least another week, and I’ll be spinning “Speak Low” over and over again. So clear the decks! Here comes Fantasma el jazz-bo!