Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Written by Fumo Verde
Aloha, babies....this is Fumo with a local band called Seven Falls. Four guys pumpin' tunes straight out of Orange County, with more energy than all the cars and trucks parked on the 55, 57, and 22 freeways at rush hour. They have a sound that seems to combine the speed and quickness of Green Day with the catchy and playful lyrics of Sum 41. Combine these sounds together, and Seven Falls comes off raw and clever.
The energy can be felt in the first track, "Miss Connections". After its ripping guitar intro, the bass and drums jump in with just as much ferocity. The lyrics are simple and easy to sing along with as all of us have similar questions when it comes to relationships. Seven Falls is in touch with the thoughts and ideas of regular folks, i.e., their fans.
The energy level drops a little with "Breathe". It starts out very Green Dayish-sounding, with slowly building guitars and the singer’s voice sounding louder than the instruments that will soon over take him. "...out of state, out of mind, out of gas long ago" How many times have we all have felt like that…okay, just me, whatever. You would think due to the intro on this tune that the music would over run the singer, like it seems to do in most cases, but here the boys keep "Breathe" at the right level. They could have gone over the top, but they didn't.
"Rearview" starts off pretty raw, almost Iron Maiden-like with its dark chopping sound of bass and drums while the guitar’s high notes give off heavy metal rage. Although the song seems somewhat dark, the pure energy of the riffs and the drumbeats make you jump about and head-bang yourself into a migraine. It has that type of hard beat, but again, the lyrics come in clear, and the singer holds his range well. People who choose not to scream out their lyrics are a plus with me. Believe me, sometimes you need to scream the lyrics out, but Seven Falls opts not to on occasion. I like that.
If you want to hear more or learn more you can contact Seven Falls at either their website or their MySpace page. Here at the "Snobs" we like to support local bands and indecent films-- or at least I do.
Have a good 4th and be good citizens. Mahalo...FV.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Written by Fantasma el Rey
Willie Nelson. What more can I add to the biography of this country outlaw? As we all know Willie is a fellow country outlaw along with Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson; also lumped into this group is the legendary Johnny Cash, who became “too country now, for country” to quote Dale Watson, a personal favorite of mine. On these three Atlantic albums you can further see where and how this outlaw tag was placed upon Mr. Nelson. Although Willie will be the first one to have you call him just plain ol’ Willie. The three CDs are remastered and expanded versions of Nelson classics: Shotgun Willie, Phases and Stages and Live At The Texas Opry House; the set itself is a nice-looking package. The outer box, looks like it’s made of wood, the perfect place for hiding little treasures such as these CDs, while the booklet that comes with it is very informative and easy to read. Each CD is a reproduction of the original album cover, which is something that I have always found very cool and have always been drawn to.
Disk one is the masterful Shotgun Willie, which on the cover shows a smiling Willie’s face in both barrels of a shotgun, wonderful, a great in-your-face contradiction. The title track opens the disk and is a fun romp with sarcastic, witty lyrics about Shotgun Willie and other characters. “Biting on a bullet/ and pulling out all of his hair” if you listen you can catch the plucking sound of the dobro being played in the background, along with that last line. I particularly dig the horn section on this tune, very much in the Atlantic soul tradition; Honky tonk-soul, I guess it could be called.
Followed by what is now a Nelson staple “Whisky River”, which by the way, ghoulies, is not a Nelson-penned tune; sorry to burst anyone’s bubble here, but it is a song by the great and underrated Johnny Bush. The sound of the entire song is a tribute to songwriting and arrangement; you get the feel of a lazy river with ripples brushing up on the shore and a great drifting sensation. This piano-driven, honky-tonk, hardwood-floor number is an excellent choice for Willie’s vocals; he holds nothing back here. Add some bass dripping with funk and some exceptional guitar picking, and there you have it: a classic is born and delivered to the world.
“Sad Songs and Waltzes” and “Local Memory” showcase Willie’s songwriting skills. “Sad Songs” is about the state of the country music industry with lyrics that pack sting and wit. While “Local Memory” gives you a sense of locals headed back to the corner bar every night, to drink and think, or not think.
“Stay All Night” and “Bubbles In My Beer” are jump tunes written by those legends of western swing, Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan. These two solid senders are wild and will get you toe-tapping and longing to play in a jug band, while you clap along with the band. Seriously, y’all, nothing but a good time here. Shoot some rotgut whisky and you’re on your way to redneck heaven. That’s what I did, so join the fun.
The rest of the original album is rounded out by such wonderful tunes as “She’s Not For You” “So Much To Do” and “A Song For You”. This one is truly a masterpiece and sets the stage and the concept for his next album.
Phases and Stages is a concept album about a couple’s separation and their reemergence as individuals. Willie draws attention to key moments in the story by repeating the Phases and Stages theme throughout. The first five songs are from the women’s perspective, slow and contemplative. “Walking” and “(How Will I Know) I ‘m Falling In Love Again” are the two tracks that stand out most for me. The lyrics are strong and on “Walking” they made the women seem that way. While “How Will I Know” has her taking a solemn look at that sometimes sad question.
On the other side of the coin is the man’s point of view, and here one will notice that the songs are a bit more up-tempo as we see a man trying to keep moving on and deal with what he has gone done in his life. “Bloody Mary Morning” is a great country jump number with Willie’s laid-back vocals in full effect. This tune is a stomper cut from the mold of the good old-fashioned country shuffle beat. The rolling barrelhouse piano with aid from the banjo has that “flying down the highway” sound to it; a perfect compliment to the song’s lyrics. “I Still Can’t Believe Your Gone” and “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way” has our womanizing yahoo pondering the mistakes he has made, like why “you’re supposed to know that even with women on the side I love only you” doesn’t work.
On the second half, the intros are delivered with more force and power. As a whole, this is also one of Willie’s best and from these two Atlantic studio albums one can see the path that he was on and the direction he would take once he moved to Columbia records and released Red Headed Stranger.
The third disk in the set is a romping, stomping live recording that has Willie and the band jamming though songs from his two previous albums; songs that would become staples of his live shows for years to come, such as “Whiskey River”. The live versions of some of the songs from Phases and Stages are stronger and have more of a drive live. A true treat is a medley of classics penned by Willie, including “Crazy”, and others, George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care”. Some bonus tracks include versions of “Shotgun Willie” and “Bloody Mary Morning” done with an electric guitar.
Each disk contain a certain amount of bonus materials, which are good to have and nice to listen and compare to the alternate versions of songs; Shotgun Willie and Live have the most interesting of this bonus material. “Shotgun” has outtakes of songs that did not make it to the original album, but that are still strong, such as the rocking “I Gotta Have Something I Ain’t Got” and the slow ballad “I’m So Ashamed”. While the bonus material for Phases and Stages consists of all alternate versions of songs from the album, which is all right but some only have slight differences. When this is done on expanded CDs, it’s a good idea but does go over better with the more hardcore fans of the artist. Don’t get me wrong here because faced with the choice I’m buying the one with as much extras as possible; I’m just a nut like that.
Overall this three-disk set is worth a good solid listen and is something that I do look forward to hearing over again a few times. Shotgun Willie and Live at the Opry are the two disks I dig the most here and would be more enjoyable to hear more than once in their entirety. This box is a must for Nelson fans and very interesting for those that want to get an example of how Willie became the outlaw that he is respected as today.
Monday, June 26, 2006
For all my jazz lovin' katz and kittenz out there, here are two CDs, remastered and released from Prestige, that will get you in the mood to crawl into some dark, dank smoky nightclub (not in California, though) where you’ll sip on some slow gin, while some beatnik on stage pours his heart out through a brass instrument as he stands alone under a single red light. Miles Davis and John Coltrane are two masters of jazz. The way they play and the directions they go in vary greatly, but a rose by any other name is still a rose, and so is the jazz created by these two legends.
Even before Coltrane joined the Miles Davis Quintet back in 1955, Davis was known for his sound and arrangements, and how he pushed the boundaries of jazz (basically finding out that jazz really has no boundaries). Miles started off as a sideman for Eddie Randall's Blue Devils, where he met and was mentored by Clark Terry. While studying at Julliard, Miles played clubs in the city where he met people like Charlie Parker (Bird) and Coleman Hawkins. Coltrane, on the other hand, first played in a band during his enlistment with the U.S. Navy. He signed on with Dizzy Gillespie and became one of Dizzy's featured artists on his radio shows. Coltrane has been described as the best sax player in history, although he was known for being a "bop" sax player before he joined Miles in 1955. Unfortunately, neither CD has both of these greats playing together, but they are joined by other greats of the jazz sound.
On Walkin', Davis brings together his sextet that includes J.J Johnson on trombone, Lucky Thompson on tenor saxophone, Horace Silver on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. They play on the first three tracks on the disc: the title track, "Blue 'N' Boogie" and "Solar". "Walkin' " is a funked-up blues jam that the sextet gives a big band sound. The intro is played, then Miles lays down a solo followed by other solos and little jams.
Miles and his quintet, which is the sextet minus the trombone and the sax switched for an alto played by Dave Schildkraut, perform the last two tunes. Where "Walkin'" and "Blue 'N' Boogie" were up-tempo rhythms that let Miles explode with ferocity, "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "Love Me or Leave Me" are toned down only a few notches. The tempos are still upbeat and jumpy, with solos around the board.
Coltrane's Soultrane begins with a Dameron-Basie composition called "Good Bait". The sax starts it off with a little bit of bop that gives me the image of a spring hootenanny at a country fair. The band is comprised Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Arthur Taylor on drums. Whereas "Good Bait" seems to have the most upbeat rhythm, "Russian Lullaby" has the quickest tempo to it. Here, Coltrane rockets his sax to new levels, racing up and down the scales as Chambers and Garland jump in and out while Taylor drives hard with quick brush strokes that fuel Coltrane's rush.
The three middle tracks are where the album's soul resides. Here, deep blues are felt, and the rhythms and melodies are played out like a streetcar named “Desire”; the sadness, pain, love and hopes are felt in "You Say You Care", "I Want to Talk About You" and "Theme for Ernie".
Both of these CDs were well worth the time I spent testing them out, if ya' know what I mean. Miles has always been a favorite of mine since my buddy BCM first introduced me back in the late 80's. I am still new to Coltrane, so for me this was a great treasure to have. Shuggi-duggi, another close music pal, turned me on to Coltrane about five years ago and I have been a fan ever since. "Soultrane" has now cemented John Coltrane into my music library right next to my other cornerstone of music, Miles Davis. If you love jazz, you'll dig on these two discs, and if you're not a big jazz fan yet, then you need to listen to these and see what jazz is all about.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
The thought of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reuniting in a romantic fantasy, might make some people shudder, but surprisingly, it’s not the performances that caused this house to fall. Their performances as two tenants of a house on a lake who manage to contact each other through their mailbox while living in different times, though limited in dimension, are quite endearing. The problem with The Lake House is in the story. Not only do our lonely doctor (Bullock) and our frustrated architect (Reeves) fall far too easily into dealing with the magical mailbox that allows them to communicate though existing two years apart, but the key plot points and twists come at us as obviously as a runaway bus. Like watching a horror film, and screaming at the character not to go outside when she sees someone in the garage with an axe, you can’t help but wonder why our two main characters don’t react to the incredible situation like any normal person might. Making no attempt to figure the situation out, or do any investigation, they fall quite easily into a pen-pal relationship that leaves them standing at the mailbox with the anxiousness of a teenager waiting for a note from their first crush. The movie is not without good qualities: Reeves and Bullock manage performances that are intriguing, and the audience does care about them, unfortunately, the plot has the audience longing for them to get together not because they care, but because of the desire for the story to be over. One can’t help but know where this is going, and are left wishing the theatre were in the mailbox so that we might jump to the end of the film with much more Speed. The Lake House also has a wonderful soundtrack that compliments the relationship well, and a solid performance by Christopher Plummer as the estranged father of Reeves’ architect. Unfortunately, there are just not enough good things about The Lake House to warrant a tour; at least not one that lasts ninety-nine minutes. Recommendation: For more enjoyable exploits of our stars dealing with issues of time, rent Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Demolition Man.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Written by Tío Esqueleto
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, better known as British pop duo Pet Shop Boys, have been recording together, in one form or another, since a chance meeting in an electronics store in their native England back in 1981. It wasn’t until their eventual signing with Parlaphone Records in 1985, and the re-release of their breakthrough (and now signature) single, “West End Girls”, that the band first saw major success, selling 1.5 million copies worldwide.
Often viewed as a one-hit wonder here in the states, Pet Shop Boys are anything but. With a rampant fan base the world over rooted deeply in, but certainly not limited to, the gay community, and over 38 Top-40 singles in the UK, Pet Shop Boys have enjoyed fairly constant success (the usual peaks and valleys apply) throughout their always ambitious 25-year career. Chris Lowe’s synth-driven pop compositions ranging in everything from traditional classical, early New Wave and European disco, and contemporary House, Techno, and Electro are the unlikely, perfect companion to Tennant’s (undeniably British) wit and charm, his unique singing style, and (often poetic) flair for the English language, earning them a spot at the top, among fellow artists of the same cut: Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure, and O.M.D.
Fundamental is the boys’ 9th studio album (16th, if you count various remix, hits, and b-side compilations), continuing in a long tradition of to the point, one-word (Please, Actually, Behavior, Very, etc.) album titles. This time around they have enlisted the help of ‘80s producer extraordinaire, Trevor Horn, who the duo last worked with on the song “Left to My Own Device” from 1988’s Introspective, their compilation of 12” dance singles.
A founding member of The Buggles, Horn is responsible for the ‘80s smash and MTV catalyst, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” as well as being a founding member of Art of Noise. He also enjoyed a stint, albeit brief, as the lead singer for the band Yes on 1980’s Drama album. Horn has since gone on to produce the likes of Tom Jones, Tina Turner, LeAnn Rimes, and Belle and Sebastian, to name a few, but is most known for his work with Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the ‘80s, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Seal throughout the 1990s.With Fundamental, the marriage of Horn’s trademark orchestrals to Lowe’s usual disco delights is the perfect blend of producer-artist commerce, with either side taking center stage. It doesn’t sound overtly Trevor Horn, yet there is something setting it apart from the last few PSB releases, something ultimately different, yet very familiar. It runs the usual Pet Shop Boys gamut from traditional four-on-the-floor, club tracks to sweeping, lovelorn ballads to biting (this time political) anthems.
“Psychological”, the album’s opening track, is a sweet, little electro ditty, dark in its lyrical content and, in a word, paranoid. Not your usual Pet Shop fare, and certainly not indicative of the rest of the album, but a stellar opener nonetheless. The next track, however, “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show”, is a trademark PSB anthem about sense of belonging with the usual strings and lush synth chords you’ve come to expect, and a Xanadu feel throughout that would have any good E.L.O. fan questioning his whereabouts.
From there, the album unfolds much like a typical Pet Shop Boys release. Overall, I would say it is better than recent efforts, Nightlife and Release, with one exception, the singles. “I’m With Stupid”, the album’s first major single, is a riff on Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair’s relationship with George W. Bush. While it is certainly the most Trevor Horn of all the tracks (second only to the 1:30 “God Willing”), relying too heavily on its political content, it falls short as a single, certainly radio friendly, but mediocre at best. Even more lackluster and predictable is the album’s second single, “Minimal”. Its reliance on an all-to-used (and, unfortunately, now cliché) vocoded chorus spelling out the word M-I-N-I-M-A-L and bad Ibiza-style synth line throughout are more than enough to overshadow what few good elements lie underneath. The right remix(er), however, could make all the difference. Compared to “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” from Nightlife or “Home and Dry” from Release, the singles from Fundamental, so far, leave something to be desired.
Having said that, there are plenty of wonderful “deep” cuts on this album to keep the fans coming back for more. The painfully applicable “I Made My Excuses and Left” is a brilliant account of running into one’s ex, while Chris’s bounce and Neil’s brains on “Twentieth Century” are more than enough to make up for a couple of lacking singles.
Pet Shop Boys are currently on tour in Europe and the UK with a North American leg kicking off in Montreal on October 10th. They hit the states on October 13th in Boston, continuing through November, finally ending in Los Angeles, before moving on to Mexico. On Friday, October 27th they will be at the Chicago Theatre in Chicago, and God willing, so will I.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Written by Fantasma el Rey
Olga’s third album Now Is The Time is the first time that I have been able to hear this amazing, sexy guitar slinger and vocalist. From just one spin of this disk, I got a sense of nearly everything this musician is about; from her voice to her backing band, which includes husband Jimbo Mathus, you can feel the love for what she is committed to doing. This love comes shinning though on this powerful country blues recording.
The disk opens with the title track and from the rumble of the first drum roll you can tell that this one is going to be good. The band, which can expand to seven instruments, comes together well here in one of its simpler forms. The bridge is a wonderful example of country blues done right, everyone complements each other well throughout the entire disk. The funky bass and guitar work set the tone for the rest of the album. Even Olga’s vocals blend perfectly with the sound of the band, as if just another instrument.
“Weary” is a jumping blues boogie, driven to madness by the backbeat of Paul Taylor and Steve Malcolm, while Jimbo again shows his mastery of the guitar. The tune is cut from the mold of blues rockers Canned Heat; “Weary” has the same vibe as their “On The Road Again”. Definitely a jam you can play over again while cruising down a long, lonely highway. While “Ain’t It A Shame” is a slower tune with a rolling sound provided by a solid drum kick and a “washtub” bass thump. Here Jimbo shows his mastery of string instruments in general, by playing the mandolin as Olga’s passionate vocals drive home lyrics such as “such a shame/ two people so deep in love/ can’t act like grown-ups”.
“What’s The Matter with The Mill” and “Stealin’” have the band playing in a 1930’s country/blues style, very similar to the same simple sound that can be found on Jimbo’s new album, old scool hot wings. Olga’s strong vocals get playful in these tracks as Jimbo and company sing alongside her.
“I Won’t Ask” is a solid rocker that has a soul/English-blues sound to it. Certainly a tune that would have found a place on the Billboard Top-Ten in the mid 1960s, with its groovy guitar and Memphis soul bass. The mixing of Olga’s vocals is perfect on this track, with just the right amount of distortion and feedback.
The country/soul of “Can You Forgive Me” make this track one of my favorites, Olga’s sweet yet strong vocals display a passion that shakes the soul and hits your heart as she repeats the title and asks for forgiveness.
On “Fool” and “Gotta Keep Moving” the band gets into some solid blues/funk with deep bass runs and a solid shuffle on the drums. Jimbo’s guitar picking is outstanding as usual and is a highlight of the CD.
The CD closes with a track that puts the spotlight on Olga’s vocals and Jimbo’s picking, “GDTRFB” (going down the road feeling bad). The song is a wonderful example of the fact that at times less can be more; a perfect blend of two guitars and two voices. At the beginning and end of this track we get a sample of Miss Olga’s very sexy speaking voice, complete with a light southern accent.
Now Is The Time is an entertaining slice of country blues, packed with style and flair, each entry has its own appeal. The band’s performance is solid throughout, tackling every style effectively and with ease, while Olga’s strong, passionate vocals weave it all together. This being her third album makes now the time for me to run out and find the fist two and hear what I’ve been missing out on. Needless to say that Olga has got a new fan in…
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Written by Fantsama el Rey
Monsters Are Waiting could definitely have some monster success waiting for them if luck and promotion serve them well. The band form a strong unit, combining elements of great alternative bands from the 1980s that one can clearly hear from just one spin of their debut CD. A solid danceable beat, steady bass drive and some razor sharp guitar hooks prove that these cats have the talent, as is evident on this entertaining, well-moving forty-two minute disk
Fascination opens with “Last Goodbye” giving us our first look at lead singer Annalee Fery’s wonderful vocals and excellent delivery, which are sublime, yet filled with attitude and strength. It stands out right away for its catchy guitar and bass opening, very reminiscent of work by New Order. The lyrics to this one hit me as well, with lines such as “it’s hard to admit it/ this could be are last goodbye/hearts are breaking/ don’t ask why” and “carried away/ thoughts of you / I can’t sleep tonight” which say plenty with just a few simple words.
The title track “Fascination” starts off with that heavy drumbeat that is subdued, yet steady and sounds as if it’s bubbling under, waiting to burst; which they do in the middle of the song, coming alive and moving to the front. Following the drums are more driving bass and guitar work, add Annalee’s vocals that start slow, low and then explode with some wonderful “aahh aahh”s and the track sends you spinning.
“Nobody” has the band mellowing out a bit, while losing none of their strength. On “Ha Ha” and “Don’t Go” the drums kick into overdrive and again have me foot-stomping and head-nodding. “Don’t Go” finds our heroine singing the title line with feeling and more hardcore attitude, giving us a sense that even though she’s asking someone not to go, she is still very strong and almost sarcastic.
“Christine” popped out at me because the bass and drum remind me of Pere Ubu’s “Life Stinks”, which is a punk rock classic. Again, Annalee’s vocal wanderings are very well placed at times through out this track. “Monsters” finds the band in a somewhat more playful vibe, beginning with a peppy guitar and more happy-sounding bass runs, complete with a marching drum kick; the vocals here are in high spirits as well. The tune gives off an almost sixties pop sound.
Overall, Fascination is a strong album that I haven’t found a weak point in yet. The length of the album and songs make it very enjoyable to spin over and over again, which any ghoulie that follows my ramblings will know as my mark of an exceptionally excellent recording, so I’m sure that says something in itself.
I have also had the opportunity to see Monsters Are Waiting live and had a blast. Interesting to note of the band in concert, is that halfway through their set the guitar and bass players will change instruments and still perform flawlessly. These cats are truly professional with the sound and style that they have chosen to play, drawing from past masters such as New Order, Stone Roses and the Pixies; when I saw them live, they even closed with a Stone Roses tune, “I Wanna Be Adored”. With luck, Monsters Are Waiting will find success in the modern rock field alongside other bands such as the Bravery and the Dead 60s with a similar “turn back the clock” sound.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Written by Fumo Verde
Studio One does it again with some great old school Reggae. Freddie McGregor, the internationally acclaimed, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter is presented here with some of his earliest tracks. Bobby Bobylon brings Freddie back to his beginnings with Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, this being the time when many Jamaicans were embracing Rasta and when Reggae was starting to explode. Here, McGregor shows how he kept in touch with the Jamaican public by writing great love songs and true-to-life cultural material. This new release has not only the ten original tracks but also eight additional singles.
Okay, you katz and kittenz, I'm gonna cut right into the meat of this awesome disc. "Bobby Bobylon" is the title track (#6) and it is my favorite right off the bat. The rhythm comes from the Jackie Mittoo's "One Step Beyond" instrumental, and lyrics like "...you brought us here in captivity and feed us with your brutality, turn your back on humanity..." reflect the roots of Rasta music and allow you to feel what Rasta and Reggae is all about. The liner notes stated that this version is previously unreleased. I dig when the liner notes give you a little history of where or how the song came about, and Studio One has done that plenty with this disc, which is a plus in Fumo's book. My other favorite song is "I'm a Revolutionist" and as you can tell by the title why, once again Rasta Roots is presented in all its glory. This track was first released as "I’m a Rasta" on the original 1976 release of the Bobby Bobylon LP.
This CD is a mix of strong, rebellious Reggae blast, groovin' Rocksteady beats and warm Caribbean love songs that are as soothing as the soft island breezes that blow through the night. The words of "Tomorrow is Today" strike a chord with those who have ever been in love. Other songs such as "We Need More Love" and "Wine of Violence" stress the points of love, kindness and social justice. "We Need More Love (in the Ghetto) " brings a melodic Rocksteady beat with a chorus of brass leading to the bridge. "Wine of Violence" was sung over Ernest Wilson's "Undying Love" rhythm and was covered by Freddie in 1987. The title is a biblical reference from Proverbs 4:17, For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. This song sounds like it was to remind Rastas to stay pure to their faith. "Rasta Man Camp" is another Rasta rally song with deep root drumbeats.
Now that I have learned of this great artist, I will definitely be picking up some more of his work. Bobby Bobylon is a must have for any Reggae collection and Freddie McGregor is up there with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear. His soulful voice flows along with rhythms as his lyrics give way to scenes and stories of what life looks like from the Jamaican point of view. This CD has just made its way into the rotation of my "usual suspects" that I seem to constantly bombard my neighbors with-- always play it loud-- and from now on, I will be picking up more from Mr. McGregor.
This is Fumo saying... Ire I and a rub-a-dub-dub.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift hits on all cylinders.
Take the Karate Kid Part II, replace the karate with cars, and you have The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Now that may sound like a bubblegum movie (Not life-impacting, but good while it lasts, then spit it out, and move on), and it is. That’s okay, because it knows it, and it works. This film is not out to fool anyone, nor is it out to win any awards. It’s fast cars, fast driving, big crashes, a pounding sound track, and beautiful women. Grab some popcorn, and enjoy the ride.
Not seeing the first two installments will not keep you from enjoying the majority of this film, though I can assume that the brief appearance of Vin Diesel in the final scene was an homage to the predecessors, and left me with enough curiosity to go out and rent them.
In this outing, our perpetually-in-trouble hero (Lucas Black who possesses a Wahlberg type quality) crashes his car, surprisingly the writers only have him break the camel's back metaphorically, and he gets shipped off to live with his career Navy dad in, you guessed it, Tokyo. He adapts amazingly fast, because this film is not about character or story development. It’s about driving fast and wrecking cars, and it takes him one day to get himself into exactly that. What he is not able to adapt to is what the locals call “drifting,” which is a style of driving where the car slides. During that first race, he meets a girl, gets a job, makes friends and enemies, all while drifting a car into just about everything possible. Now that’s a screenplay!
Yes, it would have been interesting to get a bit of insight into the business that our villain and his uncle were in. Yes, some of the direction did not allow us to fully appreciate the bigger car races, but neither of these things kept the film from being an enjoyable escape. All the positive aspects including no nudity, and only one scene with foul language, far out weighed the few minuses.
Recommendation: If you are looking to dive into a pool with a lot of depth, this is not the one for you, but if you are okay with kicking back in the kiddie pool for a few hours, than rush fast and furiously to Tokyo Drift for some of the best brain candy of the movie season thus far.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
No No Nacho!
Jack Black is like a caged animal in his new film Nacho Libre. Not because he takes on the role of a wannabe professional wrestler with great intensity and ferociousness, but because he is restrained by a weak script and plodding direction. Both of which can be blamed on Co-writer and Director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite).
Anyone who saw Orange County knows that Jack Black is quite capable of playing an outrageous character, and we get brief glimpses of his skill in this film; unfortunately far too brief.
It is as if he is breaking free of the cage near the end of the film as he begins singing in the locker room. Then, he has to go wrestle. Actually they both do. Nacho with the villain in the film, and Jack with the script and direction.
It is obvious that Jared Hess is going for the same type of subdued story and characterizations that he delivered so beautifully in Napoleon Dynamite, but he is missing so much, as are we the audience.
Hess does not have the supporting cast that he had in ND. He does not have the wonderfully woven storylines, or the interesting characters surrounding his lead. What he does have is unexplored supporting characters, and a one-dimensional story that never goes anywhere. The music is as complementing to the film as it was in ND, so if you like a film with an interesting sound track, well…no, just say no.
Recommendation: For a more enjoyable experience with Jack Black, rent the 2002 film Orange County. For a more enjoyable film about wrestling, rent the 2000 film Ready to Rumble. For a more enjoyable Jared Hess film, rent Napoleon Dynamite. Enjoy the triple feature with some Nachos rather than seeing Nacho Libre.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Written by Fumo Verde
While I have already given The Long Road Home CD an A+, John Fogerty in concert is a sight to see, and this DVD footage sure lets you do that. On September 15, 2005, John and his band (Not CCR) stepped out on stage to play an old fashioned rock concert, and in doing so, he brought back the enlightened soul of what rock 'n roll used to be in its heyday of the late 60's/early 70's -- with out all the hallucinogens. Fogerty has been and will always be someone who speaks his mind and speaks out about the wrongs and injustices that he encounters through his travels. He also knows how to write and play a good rock song. On this DVD you get a lot of both.
All the songs that are on the CD are on the DVD, so nothing gets left out. Most of Fogerty's music is pretty politically charged, since most of it was written during the Vietnam era, but a lot of what he said back then resonates true today. Just before he plays "Deja Vu" Fogerty says, "Most of you are much to young to remember a time in America culture called 'Vietnam.' I was in the army at that time...Sorry to say that we're doing the same damn thing all over again. This song is called 'Deja Vu' and I sing for families." But this isn't some political rally; it a good old rock concert, and there is plenty of rock to go around.
As for visuals, the camera work is great. It focuses not only on John, but the band and the audience as well. Nothing fancy. Nothing you couldn't do on your PC or Mac with some good software. If I want to see weird shit happen on the screen while I'm watching a concert, I'll eat some ‘shrooms. On this DVD, the camera guys were all over the place filming the show and the crowd’s reaction, which is what you want to see when watching Fogerty. Like his songs, there's no shenanigans, no bullshit, its right there in front of you, plain as can be. They kept it simple, and why not, it’s what works.
The crowd, as you will see, vary in generations, from old hippies to young punks--if that's what they are still called-- but all have one thing in common, the songs that the man on the stage is belting out. It can be hard sometimes, sitting in your "entertainment room" trying to make it feel like you are really at the show, but this DVD does a pretty good job in getting you in the mood. Once again, I found myself bouncing out of my chair here and there, and when "Fortunate Son" came on, like the crowd, my energy level jumped and I grabbed my air-guitar and rocked myself into frenzy. Fogerty's music has that way about it.
This DVD brings John into your home and if you are a Fogerty/CCR fan, you will dig this concert. For years, John had to put up with all that legal crap, but now he's back out on the scene, and this tour started it off. For him, it has been "a long road home" to get back to where he loves to be, on stage, performing in front of his fans. If you are one and you haven't seen him live, or even if you have, this DVD is worth the price of admission.
This is Fumo...I must go "Run Through the Jungle".
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
These Cars Drag.
In the new Pixar/Disney Film Cars, we are introduced to Lightning McQueen, the hotshot rookie on the tour. Lightning is on his way to a big race in California, when an unusual turn of events lands him in the small town of Radiator Springs. There he learns some important lessons. We the audience learn the important lesson that Radiator Springs is where movies go to die.
There are certainly aspects of this film you can’t ignore:
Visually it is fantastic. Pixar outdid themselves here.
The attention to detail is amazing. The subtle automobile references throughout the film are incredible fun.
The similarities in the story to the 1991 Michael J. Fox vehicle Doc Hollywood are unavoidable.
The vocal casting was wonderful with few exceptions.
The major exception to the wonderful casting is Owen Wilson as Lightning, who played the role with far too little energy.
The most critical aspect that you cannot ignore is that somewhere along the line, Pixar forgot how to make movies funny. Toy Story 2 was brilliant. Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. had their humorous moments. The Incredibles continued the no-laughs slide, and Cars, though it starts with promise, just bogs itself down, as Lightning gets bogged down in Radiator Springs. Larry the Cable Guy as the voice of the local tow truck Mater (Tow Mater), and the always-brilliant Tony Shalhoub as Luigi the tire salesman manage a few chuckles, but not enough to save the majority of this film.
Interestingly, once our hero gets out of Radiator Springs, and back on the track, so does the film. Unfortunately, the film is virtually over at this point.
The target audience is unclear here. I attended the movie with three women (I try to keep it under five during the week). The 10-year-old said it was not funny. The 17-year-old said it was too long. Their mom (Whose age I am smart enough not to mention) said it was too slow. It is obvious that very young children will enjoy this, but Pixar used to make movies that would make both adults and children laugh. They obviously still can, because the Pixar short film “One Man Band” preceded Cars, and it met all the previously mentioned requirements, as did the credits of Cars. So we know they can still do it, but for whatever reason, they don’t.
Recommendation: So we know you can go see Cars, but for the many reasons mentioned above, you shouldn’t. Unless you’re taking your children, in which case, get there in time for the short film, and make sure you stay for the credits. I recommend you bring a portable DVD player, and when Lightning gets to Radiator Springs, pop in Toy Story or it’s superior sequel, and enjoy the films.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
It is usually enjoyable to sit with a friend and reminisce. Though it is fun to recall pleasant memories, remembering them is never as fun as when you were living them. The same can be said for watching The Omen (2006). Though it is fun to watch, it is not as pleasant as when we first experienced it.
Remakes are always a gamble, and after the disaster that is Poseidon, the outlook was not positive, but launching a film about the Antichrist on June 6th, 2006 was a marketing opportunity too good to pass up.
Though it fails in comparison to the original1976 hit, which had a sneak preview on June 6th 1976, this remake, which stars Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, and is directed by John Moore, is worth your movie-going dollar and 110 minutes of your life. Especially if you like those jarring “Boo” moments in scary movies. For it is several of these moments that have been added to the story, and have the audience hanging from the ceiling far more than the original, that allow this film to succeed.
Other than those new shocking moments, and some inconsistent setup points at the start of the film that are more likely to get the audience talking to each other than watching the film, the remake generally stays true to the original story.
Where it is lacking is in the performances and sheer continuity. Unfortunately, you will find yourself recalling the original and it’s superiority when you should be watching the current version. You will also find yourself looking for what is missing which in this case is the depth: depth of story and the depth of the performances so crucial to the original.
Though Liv Schrieber and Julia Stiles are adequate, they are one dimensional as the new parents of Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). No one deserves to be compared to Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, but you cannot escape the fact that their performances drew the audience in far more than the current cast. A more unfavorable comparison is that of David Warner, playing a tabloid photographer in the original, and David Thewlis in the same role in the new film. Warner's characterization in the original captured the intense motivation that drew our attention far superiorly when compared to that of Thewlis. In defense of Mr. Thewlis, the script did not help his cause, as the relationship between our intrepid photographer, and the worried father was not established nearly as well this time out.
Though the portrayal of the antichrist Damien by Seamus Davey-Patrick worked well, which I’m sure made his parents quite proud, due to the script and the fact that the role is based primarily on the young actors ability to look evil, he was not able to capture the mood generated by Harvey Stephens 30 years ago.
One performance that is fun to watch is that of Mia Farrow once again dealing with a demonic child. This time as Damian’s nanny Mrs. Blaylock, she is over-the-top creepy. Though a different interpretation than that of Billie Whitelaw in the original, the slant Farrow takes is an enjoyable aspect of this new production. There are other enjoyable aspects as well. The music is certainly as haunting and as intense as the original, as is the over all look of the film.
Recommendation: Remakes are rarely as good as the original, and though this one fails in comparison, it stands fairly well on it’s own. If you have not seen the original, you will likely enjoy this film. If you have seen the original, and like being scared by moments that make you jump, you may enjoy this film. Either way, rent the original after you see the new one, for a truly enjoyable one-two punch.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
If you asked someone to describe a break up, you would probably hear the words awkward and uncomfortable.
If you asked me to describe The Break-Up, the new film directed by Peyton Reed (Bring it on, Down With Love) and starring Jennifer Aniston, and Vince Vaughn who also co-wrote and produced, I would also use the words awkward and uncomfortable. I would use the words contrived and unfunny as well. Not good for a film billed as a romantic comedy. Not much romance in a break-up. Not much comedy in The Break-Up.
People in the midst of a break-up would most likely say that they can’t wait for it to be over. People in the midst of The Break-Up would most likely say the same thing.
This movie is painful to watch.
Jennifer Aniston plays Brooke opposite Vaughn’s Gary. A couple living together, and not getting along. After seeing how they met, and a montage of pictures of them together, we are thrown into an evening in which our couple is preparing for a dinner party. This horribly directed sequence, which includes amateur camera operation during a scene in their kitchen, results in an end of the evening fight, and Brooke announcing that it is over. Oh, if only it had been.
Brooke proceeds to try every method ever learned in junior high school to fix things, while Gary does nothing but go out of his way to irritate Brooke, and the audience.
Hopefully, Aniston and Vaughn have more chemistry in their relationship off-screen than they were able to generate in this disaster.
A huge part of the problem is the script. It paints our two lead characters as totally inept people when it comes to a relationship. No communication, no understanding. These people are never on the same page whether they are in the relationship or out. Possibly believable if they were in high school, but not fathomable here. Based on the lead characters, the direction, and the script, a better title for the film would have been Clueless, but it was already taken.
Now maybe part of the problem is Vince Vaughn. He plays awkward very well, but he seems to play it in everything. Be it Wedding Crashers, Old School, Return to Paradise, etc. He is one-dimensional. Now, sometimes that dimension fits the movie as in the 1998 film A Cool Dry Place, but often he just seems out of place or as if he is phoning it in as in the 2004 film Dodgeball. In this outing, awkward works in certain situations, but Vaughn’s portrayal of Gary appears insensitive and unaware.
Aniston does well with what she has, and I am not referring to her attempts to show cleavage. She displays range here that we have not seen from her. Unfortunately, her character is ridiculous, and that will likely reflect on the performance with a lot of people.
As the co-writer of the story, but not the original script, I imagine Vaughn was going for a "When Harry Met Sally" type of relationship that hits the rocks. Perhaps that is what they were going for, but this film hits the rocks before it got started.
With all that said, the saddest part has yet to be mentioned. This film has an all-star supporting cast that is simply wasted. Never has a who’s who of character actors including Joey Lauren Adams, Cole Hauser, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Judy Davis, Justin Long, Vincent D’Onofrio, and John Michael Higgins, ever been so underutilized. Our brief exposure to these characters is the best part of the film.
Have you ever heard someone say that being in a bad relationship is better than being alone?
Recommendation: Spend time in a bad relationship or alone instead of seeing this film.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Written by Fumo Verde
Who is Alison Ray? I have been asking myself that same question. She’s a young woman with a pretty face and soothing voice. I think this is her debut CD, but since I couldn't find anything on her, I have to assume so. The music on Downside Up has a rustic, rock ‘n’ roll sound, which Ray's voice matches nicely. She has a mixed sound about her, kind of like a Melissa Etheridge crashes into Britney Spears, singing about heartaches and good times lost.
Eleven tracks make up this disc; some have, or try to have, a hard rock edge. The others have a "feel good pop" sound that you can hear on the mainstream radio station; you know the ones that play more commercials than music.
The first track "Does the DJ Know" sets the tone of the CD. It’s about a DJ who plays a song that gets her excited and makes her want to jump all over the guy. It has simple guitar riffs and easy drum beats. Nothing to complex or anything to make you say wow. The next track is "Wonderful Day", where she wonders if the guy who she wants to jump on wants to jump on her just as much-- and if so, then that will be the “wonderful day".
"Dirty Little Secret" (D.L.S.) is the fourth track, and this one has a little darker tone to it. As you can guess by the title Miss Alison seems to have found out that her love is cheating on her. Once again, the music is straightforward. Nothing stands out. The guitars really don't have any solos and are used strictly to bridge Ray’s singing. On "Love is the Thing" you get the feeling that no matter how much shit Alison has gone through, she still has hope in love. (That’s nice.)
The closing track is "Nothing Short of Beautiful". Ray lets you know that the world around you is beautiful, and no matter what happens, sooner or later things will turn up for you. The music sounds like it wants to blast through but is kept under control, so Alison can perform. For her first CD, Downside Up sounds like any teen pop album that is out there now, being played at junior high dances across the country.
I guess that if you are a young girl, between the ages of 13 and 17 you might want to pick this CD up, but it would behoove you to invest you cash in to something that will stay with you for a long time, such as Aretha Franklin, or Bonnie Raitt, or even Alanis Morrisette (she has toned it down over the years--I liked it when she was pissed off.) Maybe that's what Alison Ray needs to do: get pissed off and then write it out.
By the time I put this CD through the Fumo Listing Test, I had lost interest more times than a tweeker watching c-span. For a debut CD, this one falls short of really sticking around. Let me know if you ever hear of this girl on the radio, I'll make sure to block out that station.