Book Review: “From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars” by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

“From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars”
Author: Virginia Hanlon Grohl
Da Capo Press
Hardcover 204 pages

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When Virginia Hanlon Grohl first saw her son perform in front of thousands of screaming fans she knew that rock stardom was meant to be for her son. And as Virginia watched her son’s star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children’s fame? Did they worry about their children’s livelihood and wellbeing in an industry fraught with drugs and other dangers? Did they encourage their children’s passions despite the odds against success, or attempt to dissuade them from their grandiose dreams? Do they remind their kids to pack a warm coat when they go on tour?

All those answers and more are contained in “From Cradle to Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars”. Over the course of the books 204 pages you get a unique behind the scenes look like never before. However not from the stars themselves but from their mothers! Yes that’s right their mothers. Along with author Hanlon Grohl own story of motherhood we hear from other moms including Verna Griffin (Dr. Dre), Janis Winehouse (Amy Winehouse), Hester Diamond (Mike D of the Beastie Boys) and Bettye Moses and Harriette Brown (mother & step mother of Zac Brown) as they recount the years before, during and after their sons and daughters became house hold names. I don’t recall a book like this ever being released which adds to the appeal because who is better to ask about those earlier childhood years than one’s own mom.

The candid firsthand accounts are what really kept me turning page after page. “From Cradle to Stage” is a fun, fast read unlike any biography I have come across before. While the book does a great job showcasing several mothers’ journeys its underlying story about the bond between parents and children is its greatest attribute. Not only is this a great read for parents but also for anyone looking for a different look at some of music’s biggest artists and the moms who impacted their lives.

Book Review “Nella the Princess Knight” by Christine Ricci

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Nella the Princess Knight” is the latest new animated preschool series to come out of Nick Jr. This show quickly became one of my 5 year old’s favorite series. The show is cheesy and drives me nuts personally but my girl loves it and that is all that matters to me. This is the first book in the “Nella the Princess Knight” series and tells the story of “Nella’s Unicorn Rescue”. Since receiving this book, it has become a staple for my daughter at bedtime. If your kids has discovered this show I would recommend the book for sure…and if you haven’t discovered the show my daughter would highly recommend it.

Keeping it with the family, the story is written by Christine Ricci, which is a curriculum consultant on Nick Jr. shows like “Blaze and the Monster Machines” and “Team Umizoomi”. The show is cute and works well for kids because it focuses on relationship development and positive messaging for preschoolers and promotes them to be courageous. That is a message that I want my daughter to have as she is soaking up everything around her and growing up. I look forward to future books from Random House Books for Young Readers and I hope they continue this series for “Nella the Princess Knight” for a while!

Book Review: “Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol”

“Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol”
Author: Steve Jones
Da Capo Press
Hardcover 308 pages

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol” recounts the life and times of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. Through the nihilistic songs, amphetamine-fueled music, and influential fashion that turned a one-time street urchin into a founding member of a genre-defining band “Lonely Boy” offers a truly in-depth portrait of one of punk’s founding fathers.

For anyone with even the smallest bit of knowledge related to Steve Jones and his band The Sex Pistols I don’t have to tell you what to expect from “Lonely Boy”. Sex, drugs and rock and roll it’s all here told directly from the man who lived and breathed it. Throughout the books 308 pages Jones takes the reader on a cringe worthy ride that starts off with detailed accounts of Jones traumatic childhood which was rout with abuse and neglect. As the book progresses the reader is treated to firsthand accounts of the early incarnation of The Sex Pistols and how it morphed into what the world would see as the band were made into the poster boys of punk rock for generations to come.

Not just your everyday run of the mill biography. “Lonely Boy” delves much deeper than other books in the genre. Jones forges straight on into rough waters as he recounts the events that would shape who he has become today. From the ups and downs his band The Sex Pistols created to his struggles with severe drug addiction this book is not for the queasy as it probably as real as one can get. At times I found the stories to wander and be a bit lengthy however pushing through there was always light at the end of the tunnel as each chapter blended nicely into the next. Also worth noting are the photos which are included in the book. Many of them were ones I had not seen before only adding to the books unique story and making “Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol” is a must read for any and all music fans.

Theatre Review: “The Book of Mormon”

Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

If you are a listener to our “Behind the Mikes” podcast (and if not, why aren’t you) you’ll recall that a few weeks ago we were talking about the most recent great original film musical. Not something like “Dreamgirls” or “Les Miserables,” which were translated from the Broadway stage, but a musical written just for the movies. The first one that popped into my mind was 1999’s “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.” From it’s opening song to it’s grand finale’, the film tells it’s story through virtually every style of music known to man. To say that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are talented would be an understatement. 12 years later, Parker and Stone teamed up with “Avenue Q” co-composer/co-lyricist Robert Lopez and have created one of the most entertaining and inspirational shows in Broadway history. “The Book of Mormon.”

In Utah a group of young men wait patiently. They have all spent months studying to go abroad to spread the word of God through their ministry, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Or, as they are more commonly referred to, the Mormons. As each pair of boys is named they learn their destinations. Japan. Norway. France. Exotic places all. Finally, only Elder Price (Gabe Gibbs), the highest regarded person in the group, and Elder Cunningham (Chad Burris), who is pretty much the opposite of Elder Price, are left. They soon find themselves teamed up and heading for beautiful….Africa. Two years in the jungles fighting aids and poverty. Woo hoo!

There isn’t a lot you can say for a musical that contains four letter words, Darth Vader and an image of a Hell that contains both Hitler AND Johnnie Cochran except this: IT’S BRILLIANT! The songs are both clever and catchy and the cast spectacular. Even the story, which many reading this may think mocks the Mormon faith, is uplifting. That’s a trifecta that very few shows ever hit.

As Elder Price, Gibbs brings a wide-eyed youthful joy to the role. He KNOWS that Heavenly Father is on his side. I was surprised to learn that Mr. Burris was actually the understudy for the actor scheduled to play Elder Cunningham. He was both funny and touching in his performance. And, if anyone ever decides to do a bio-pic on the late Chris Farley, I would hope that Burris would get an audition. He brings the kind of energy and innocence to the role as well as Farley ever did in his film performances. Other cast standouts include Bryce Charles (another stand-in) as Nabulungi and Sterling Jarvis as Mafala. The ensemble cast was also spot on, a tribute to the kind of shows that the Broadway Across America consistently bring to Kansas City.

Of course since, according to the show, the Garden of Eden IS located in Jackson County, Missouri, maybe the show got a little nudge from Heavenly Father!

The tour continues on through August 2017. Here are a list of it’s next few destinations:

December 13 – 18, 2016 Fayetteville
December 20 – 31, 2016 Dallas
January 3 – 15, 2017 Houston
January 17 – 22, 2017 Jacksonville
January 24 – 29, 2017 Ft. Meyers
January 31 – February 5, 2017 Greenville

Book Review “The Art of Moana”

Series: Art of
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
November 15, 2016

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Let me start with the fact that “Moana” is my favorite film of 2016. It is a beautiful movie with beautiful songs. The colors are just jaw-dropping and the design is a work of art. “The Art of Moana” is the latest title from Chronicle Books that dives into the stunning artwork going behind-the-scenes in “Moana” with some outstanding character designs, storyboards, colorscripts, and much more. If you loved this film then this book will only make you love it more

Official Film Premise: Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world ventured across the Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped—and no one today knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios, Moana is a CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui and together they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed adventure, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.

When I see that Chronicle is releasing a new Art of Book, I go wild because they really know how to put together an amazing book. I really enjoyed the exploration of what was or could have been in this book and how certain characters and aspects of the film have developed over the years. Other than just the photos, the text in the book delivers a nice story to complement them and educate you on the process as well. This movie is simply beautiful and the book is a perfect companion to the film.

New Book Series Ancient Aliens: Marradians and Anunnaki by Acclaimed Authors Ilil Arbel and Gary Morgenstein

WHO WERE THE MARRADIANS? 

FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE SHOCKING TRUTH BEHIND

THE EXTRATERRESTRIALS WHO CHANGED HUMANITY FOREVER 

NEW BOOK SERIES ANCIENT ALIENS: MARRADIANS AND ANUNNAKI  BY ACCLAIMED AUTHORS ILIL ARBEL AND GARY MORGENSTEIN  

NEW YORK – November 10, 2016 – Who were the Marradians? Long forgotten, these ancient aliens profoundly shaped humanity’s evolution through inter-breeding and advanced science and technology. It’s a story that’s been suppressed – until now.

The new book series Ancient Aliens: Marradians and Anunnaki from acclaimed exraterrestrial expert Ilil Arbel, Ph.D, and science fiction writer Gary Morgenstein will, for the very first time, reveal how the Marradians changed the course of mankind‘s history while battling their bitter rivals and cousins, the Anunnaki – with Earth the pawn in this galactic struggle.

Arbel and Morgenstein will use ancient texts and new research to finally bring to life the history, culture, traditions, religion, politics, food, science, technology, songs, sexual practices and customs of this previously obscure alien race, who’ve been misnamed The Grays by global intelligence services to hide the extraterrestrials‘ existence.

The first volume, Extraterrestrial Holidays, will teleport readers inside the worlds of the Marradians and Anunnaki through their holidays, from deity Cimric’s birthday, the Miracle of Egok the Cross-Limbed, the Sh‘ Holidays of Awe, as well as New Year’s and Breeding celebrations..

To blunt any attempts to subvert the truth, the authors are revealing select chapters before the official date of publication. The first selection, Ashar Marrad, about the Marradian day of thanks, will be available on November 15, 2016 at http://madmelsavestheworld.com/marradian-and-anunnaki-books/.

ILIL ARBEL is the author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books, including factual biographies of alien hybrids (descendants of Anunnaki), as well as extensive research on both the Anunnaki and the Marradians. In addition to biographies, memoirs, novels, mythology/folklore, and metaphysics, Arbel has contributed numerous short stories and articles on the subjects of natural history, personal histories, biography, health, education, social commentaries, and Judaic myths to many publications. Arbel has a Ph.D. in liberal arts and has lived and studied in Tel Aviv, Paris, and New York.

GARY MORGENSTEIN most recently wrote the critically acclaimed off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical The Anthem – Ayn Rand Meets Hunger Games. His plays range from A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx and Right on Target to Ponzi Man, and his novels include Jesse’s Girl, under option to actress Ksenia Solo’s (Orphan Black) production company OnFireFilms, Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. He is currently completing the first novel in his science fiction trilogy, set on the eve of the 22nd Century after the United States lost World War Three.

 

The popular sci-fi radio drama series, Mad Mel and the Marradians, is based on the stories of the Marradians and can be heard at madmelsavestheworld.com and iTunes.

Please visit us at @madmelsaves

For further information contact:

Gary Morgenstein/garythewriter1@gmail.com

 

 

Book Review: “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”

“Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”

Author: Laura Jane Grace w/ Dan Ozzi
Hachette Books
Hardcover 320

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Tranny” is the intimate story of Against Me!’s enigmatic founder, weaving narrative of the band’s history, as well as Grace’s, with dozens of never before seen entries from the piles of journals Grace kept. More than a typical music memoir about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll “Tranny” is an inside look at one of the most remarkable stories in the history of rock.

Like the in your face title suggests “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout” pulls no punches and is direct and extremely real in its approach. First time Author Laura Jane Grace paints a gritty picture of her unique journey not only through her transition from male to female but also the path her and her band mates took as they navigated a completely different type of transition being that of moving from small independent records labels to the major label markets. From an outsider looking this may seem like a no brainer however Grace does a great job of describing the bands hardships as it clearly was not all big checks, fancy cars and massive notoriety.

“Tranny” is a real life account of two very different types of transitions. The two run parallel with one another providing an interesting continuity which keeps the reader’s attention page after page. The realness taken from Grace’s journal entries do a tremendous job and showcasing the inter turmoil she felt not only as an artist in a changing music market but also on a direct personal level as it relates to her own internal and external transformation from male to female. You will be extremely hard pressed to find another story like that of Laura Jane Grace’s “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”.

Book Review “Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale”

Authors: Nick Nunziata, Mark Cotta Vaz
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Harper Design
Release Date: October 18, 2016

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

This seems to be the year of “Pan’s Labyrinth” getting a resurgence. The film is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary (can’t believe that it has been that long already). This film has been one of my favorites and one of the best from Guillermo Del Toro. When it comes to a visual eye, he is the man to deliver and this film is overloading with beauty and style. “Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale” gives us an exclusive look into the making of this wonderful modern marvel and does not disappoint. It also is stocked tight with a foreword by Guillermo Del Toro himself. I love his passion and it shows how much work and effort in each one of his films. This is a must owe book for any fan of “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

Official Premise: To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this acclaimed fantasy, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinthprovides the definitive account of the film’s creation. Written in close collaboration with the director, this volume covers everything from del Toro’s initial musings, through to the film’s haunting creature designs, the hugely challenging shoot, and the overwhelming critical and fan reaction upon the its release.

The book dives deep into the production of this amazing movie with some beautiful concept art and rare set photos. If you are looking for the ultimate behind-the-scenes look into Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth then look no further than this book! It is not just pretty photos though this book also has interviews with the film stars Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdu, and Doug Jones and also key players like producers Alfonso Cuarón and Bertha Navarro; and director of photography Guillermo Navarro. This film is a classic and this book represents it perfectly!

Book Review “The Art of Trolls”

Author: Jerry Schmitz
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Cameron + Company
Release Date: October 11, 2016

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

If you had seen the movie “Trolls”, it is colorful and a ton of fun! I know that the “Art of” book would have to be equally as filled with color and excitement to make me happy…and it was and more! Looking through this book each page explodes with energy and vivid color. I was cracking up as my 4 year old looked with me and was making comments on all the other designs for each character on whether she liked them or not. I was actually able to share this with her because she already knows and loves this film and its characters. Highly recommended if you enjoyed the film and looking for an inside look into the making of process

Official Premise: Based on the popular troll dolls created by Thomas Dam, Trolls is a 3-D computer-animated musical comedy from DreamWorks Animation, directed by Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After). Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is an upbeat, if slightly naïve, Troll who inherits her crown on the day her people face the first challenge that can’t be solved with a song or a hug. Accompanied by Branch (Justin Timberlake), they venture out on a quest that tests their strength. Full of playful designs, The Art of Trolls showcases hundreds of pieces of concept and production art to illustrate how DreamWorks’ team of talented artists created an enchanting reinterpretation of the Trolls phenomenon that has gripped popular culture for decades.

The author of the book is Jerry Schmitz, who is no stranger to Art of books. He has done previously “The Art and Making of the Peanuts Movie”, which coincidentally was another that I shared (and loved) with my daughter last year. He also authored “The Art of Shrek Forever After”, which is cool be because the director of “Trolls”, Mike Mitchell, also directed “Shrek Forever After”, so that is a cool connection between those titles and films. Jerry delivers a great combination of art and making of with this book and delivers a book that not only adults but also kids as well.

John Doe discusses his new album “The Westerner” and his book “Under the Big Black Sun”

(Photo Credit: Jim Herrington)

John Doe is a singer, songwriter, poet and actor. He is probably best known for his work with the seminal Los Angeles punk band X which formed in the mid 1970’s. 2016 has been a busy for year for Doe as earlier this year he released his first solo album in five years titled “The Westerner” along with a book chronicling the L.A. punk scene titled “Under the Big Black Sun”. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with John recently before his performance in Ithaca, NY about the idea behind his new album and what it was like revisiting the stories contained in his book.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “The Westerner”?

John Doe: My friend Michael Blake who wrote “Dances with Wolves” and several other books was like a brother to me. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and over time couldn’t remember anything. It bugged the hell out of him but we remained close through everything and I would always go up and visit him. We influenced each other a lot in art and writing. Howe Gelb and I were reconnecting around the same as I was writing songs about Michael and using him as a character. I like what Howe has done with different peoples sound as well as his own in Giant Sand. He has really refocused the sound coming out of the Tucson area. I wanted the songs to have space and reverb so working down there seemed like the natural way to go. I had the title “The Westerner” sort in my mind as someone sent me a Doors record. The Doors were also Michaels favorite band so I began looking up stuff on them and my connection with that band goes way back. I was searching the internet and found an image done for one of their record store day releases. Shepard Fairey is the artist who did the piece and he and I have been friends for some time so I asked if he would redo the piece for me and he said yes. The original photo was shot at the Rose Bud Reservation by Aaron Huey who has an organization called “Protect the Sacred”. This was one of Michael’s main charities so it was great to be able to tie all this stuff in with the album. The album is a tribute album but it’s not sad.

AL: Was the idea to do a new solo album already in your thoughts prior to Michael becoming ill?

JD: Everything happened very organically. These days I sort of sit back and look at my watch and say “Holy shit it’s been 4 years since I made a new record” (Laughs). I always am writing bits and pieces of things but it just so happened that Michael was on my mind and I started to see how things were happening and I began tailoring things with what was going on. I loved the song Exene wrote called “Alone in Arizona”. It seemed to be kind of about Michael even though it really wasn’t. I am a big fan of Chan Marshall especially her albums “The Greatest” and “Sun”. I started doing the song “A Little Help” and realized it was similar to “The Greatest” and asked Chan if she would sing on it with me. With the song “Go Baby Go” I reached out to Debbie Harry as X had toured with Blondie and I had asked her before that if I ever had something I thought she would be good for would she do it. That song is a fun rock song and it worked out great. I am very fortunate that I am still around and that people want to come and play.

AL: Having been in the music industry for some time now aside from digitalization and the internet what has been the most notable change?

JD: MTV was really big when it first came out. All the other stuff out there I don’t really concern myself with. I have Instagram and my manager does Facebook so I have a small to moderate presence with social media but if people really want to see me then I think they should come out to show as I am generally hanging around. There is so much great music out there these days that it’s hard to rise above the static. Think of the old music business like an hour glass. You had the music at the top, at the pinching point was the business at the bottom was the public. Over time the shape of the industry changes to where now it’s square. There is just so much stuff flooding people ears these days.

AL: What can you tell us about your new book “Under the Big Black Sun”?

JD: Tom DeSavia who is the co-author and my sweet heart were both telling me that I should write a book. I thought it was going to be just too much work so I didn’t really pay attention to them. One day I had this brilliant idea about how the scene in L.A. was about community and collaboration. With that I knew that I wouldn’t have to write this book all by myself or suffer the pain if people didn’t like it I could just blame it on somebody else. (Laughs) I didn’t have to be the authority on things. I liked book such as “Please Kill Me” and “We Got the Neutron Bomb” however there is not a lot of fact checking that goes into oral histories. Los Angeles was sort of a romantic place in that era so I thought it was important to have it be its own character. I really feel that everything that is Los Angeles from the weather to the cars affected the way the music sounded. After Tom and I decided to do it we got a book deal and things became real. We got paid a pretty good advance and then we knew we really had to go through with it. We started getting people together and selecting topics based on what was important to that scene and what would make people care. The big one was it was that what happened was a cultural revolution. That was Exene’s big part of the book. Dave Alvin was part of the roots scene which got pulled into punk rock so he is the expert there so, that’s where he tells his story from. Robert Lopez was in a Latino band called The Zeroes. He was not out at this time but he was obviously gay so he was able to talk about that aspect of things. Jane Wiedlin talks about where people lived and how that played a role. By doing things this way we were able to give the book a much broader perspective.

AL: The book shines a light on the L.A. punk scene as it was/is often overshadowed by what was going on in New York and London around the same time. Can you tell us a little about that?

JD: I think at some point the media picked up on The Sex Pistols and few other bands that were young and/or un-experienced who said “Fuck You”. The media then said “Ok, Fuck you” which caused them to not cover things as much. When the L.A. scene finally came around about a year and a half later they possibly had enough images and maybe had made up their mind that we weren’t going to play ball. I think bands like Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones just wanted to be part of music and have a career. That’s what we wanted also. It wasn’t until the hardcore scene that people felt like they had been abandoned leading to bands doing things on their own. That’s when labels like SST started popping up. Everyone had sort of a chip on their shoulder and over time L.A. punk has started to carve out its own niche which has been good. Twenty or thirty years ago I would have probably been pretty bent out of shape about how the L.A. scene was looked upon but these days I couldn’t care less.

AL: Was there a present rivalry between the two coasts/scenes because of this?

JD: Sure. I think there was a healthy rivalry between New York and L.A. and L.A. and San Francisco but it wasn’t anything to wild. I do remember Exene getting into a fight with Handsome Dick from The Dictators once. (Laughs) What we loved about the whole thing was that almost all of those bands came out to Los Angeles to play at The Whiskey. We saw The Ramones, Blondie, The Damned, Television and a few others who played out our way regularly.

AL: What was it like for X when they would travel to the east coast?

JD: It was rough at first. Exene’s sister got us three shows in NYC in 1978 after we put out our first single. We basically drove from L.A. to New York with all of our gear, played three shows and then drove home. There is a little of that in the book but it was sort of a lukewarm reception. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein came to the shows at Studio 57 and later on we got to be pals with The Ramones. It took a little while because everyone thought L.A. was just swimming pools and Farrah Fawcett. You weren’t just given a Mercedes when you moved there. It was a pretty hard scramble. It was cheap to live there at the time though so there were a lot of young people with nothing to do but create stuff.

AL: What was it like revisiting a lot of the memories from that time period, especially the ones around the time of the death of Exene’s sister?

JD: That specific event wasn’t hard to dig into as I had experienced it so deeply in the beginning. It changed everything for Exene and by relation me too. It wasn’t too hard to look back. I don’t necessarily wish I had kept diaries or anything. It might have been good? You sort of start channeling towards a certain direction and things start to come back. I think it’s all about the details. I worked with everyone who wrote for the book and I always asked for more details. I think everyone was happy to tell their story and I was surprised by quite a few of them.

AL: With your current solo tour coming to end do you have planned for the coming year?

JD: The fortieth anniversary of X is coming up next year. We have the initial schedule which consists of around one hundred shows! Usually we do between thirty and fifty shows a year so this is quite a bit more. I think it’s great! Forty years ago we put a big investment into the bank of punk rock. At the time everyone though it was bullshit but we all have been able to make pretty good careers out of that initial investment. We are one of the few remaining punk bands from that time with its original members. Everyone is healthy now which is really great. We also will be looking to put out some live material and if Exene will write some more lyrics will put out some new songs as well. (Laughs)

Book Review: “I Am Brian Wilson”

“I Am Brian Wilson”
Author: Brian Wilson w/ Ben Greenman
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 307 pages

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

In October Da Capo press released “I Am Brian Wilson” the in-depth story of Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson. Together with writer Ben Greenman the enigmatic Wilson documents the poetic lyricism, inspiration and creativity behind his vast discography while at the same time showing a man who is over-time coming to terms with his past.

After reading just one chapter of “I Am Brian Wilson” I wanted more. Over the course of the books 307 pages Wilson and Greenman delve deeper than anyone has ever been as they recount the life and times of one of music’s most reclusive figures. This book is simply not a tell-all as it relates to the Beach Boys. Though that might disappoint some readers for others it will be a breath of fresh air and shine the light on a number of areas related to Wilson and his music. The writer is extremely candid about all subjects ranging to his relationships with Beach Boy members past and present, the failed and subsequent revival of the album “SMiLE” and also about his long struggle with mental illness. No stone is left unturned as the man who penned such classics as “I Get Around”, Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Good Vibrations” talks about some of his biggest insecurities and how he has been able to battle his internal demons during several rough patches in an effort to be able to keep doing what he loves to do.

You aren’t going to find any other story like that of Brian Wilson’s. Very rarely if ever will you find a person with Brian’s notoriety be as truthful and forth coming as he is in this book. “I Am Brian Wilson” is an emotional roller coaster for both the story teller and the reader making this one ride that is definitely worth the price of admission.

Book Review: Keith Morris’s “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”

“My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”
Author: Keith Morris w/ Jim Ruland
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 309 pages

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Keith Morris is known the world over as the real deal, a seminal figure in hardcore punk, revered by any fan of the genre. As a co-founding member of Black Flag and as the front man for the seminal west coast punk band Circle Jerks “My Damage” is a memoir that covers not only covers Keith’s forty-year history in music but also his struggles with his health and drug use, told straight through the eyes of someone who shared the stage with just about every major figure in the industry.

From page 1 to page 309 “My Damage” keeps the reader’s attention making this a hard book to put down. Through candid accounts of Black Flag/Circle Jerks front man Keith Morris’s early struggles within the Hermosa Beach community to the reincarnation of “FLAG” close to 40 years later the book covers immense ground in an easy to follow format which for readers who may not be as familiar with Morris’s work is a great feature. The books drive matches that of the author as it moves quickly and is unrelenting in details. No matter how edgy or unsettling the story may be Morris pulls no punches and tells the story as it was from his perspective. No phony names or reader friendly versions here folks.

The sheer realness of “My Damage” makes this book appealing to not only punk rock music fans but to readers looking for a candid takes-no prisoners approach to storytelling. Keith cuts out the unneeded drab and quickly gets to the guts of his life and his experiences in the music business. At times over shadowing those story is his struggles with drugs and alcohol which at several points made me question just how the author is still with us and able to recount his journey in detail he does. “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor” is a must read for biography and music fans.

Blu-ray Review “The Jungle Book (2016)”

Actors: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o
Directors: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Run Time: 106 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

I have to admit right off that I didn’t love this film. Before you jump, the visuals were amazing and at times it was almost difficult to see the line between real and CGI with the characters but I wasn’t grabbed in. I have the fonded appreciation for director Jon Favreau and his work. He updated this 50+ year old film with some outstanding technology but overall, the film feels too dark for me and doesn’t have that cheer of the original.
The voice cast is extremely strong here including Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Scarlet Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Garry Shandling and Giancarlo Esposito. These are some A-list names here and they all do a great job especially with Murray and Walken singing there respective tunes. So once again, I didn’t love this film but I did like it. I just was hoping to leave with more of a smile.

Official Premise: Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.

Despite my opinions on the film itself, the Blu-ray is nearly perfect. Since the visuals in the film are so outstanding it is only expected that the 1080p transfer would deliver it perfectly. From the CG characters to the landscapes there is so much detail through this film. From the water to the hair on the characters, it is all beautiful done and shows up amazing on Blu-ray. I would be curious to see how this looks on 3D Blu-ray. The same goes for the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 which delivers a wonderful experience with from the subtlest sounds to the massive battles. Kudos to John Debney’s score for delivering a very well-rounded score.

“The Jungle Book” doesn’t come jam-packed with extras but there is a solid making-of extra, two featurettes, and an audio commentary from director Favreau. Also a DVD copy of the film and a Digital HD code are included. The commentary track is very insightful. Favreau goes into depth on the production and delivers a highly recommended track, I appreciated the film a little more after listening to this track. “The Jungle Book Reimagined” runs just over 30 minutes and looks into the making-of the film from the visual effects to the voice casting etc. Lastly there are two quick featurettes included. The first is “I Am Mowgli” which focuses on casting Neel Sethi and the second is “King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer”, which break down the film’s key scene.

Book Review: Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”
Author: John Doe w/ Tom DeSavia and Friends
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 227 pages

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” was written by X vocalist/bassist John Doe along with help from Tom DeSavia and laundry list of who’s who from the late 70’s and early 80’s L.A. punk scene. For the first time in one place the true story of a scene often overlooked is told in all of its gritty and grimy detail by none other those who experienced it and by those who helped create it. This is not your typical memoir however as this book tells not only of how the scene began and developed but also how it went on to change music forever.

Before I get into my review of the book I want to point out that if you are unfamiliar with the scene this book documents or the bands that appear grab a copy of Penelope Spheeris film “The Decline of Western Civilization” as a majority of the people’s names and a lot of the places featured in the film coincide with those who are also in the book. After a very brief forward by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong we are quickly whisked back to the not so glamorous side of Los Angeles. Just a few brief years before hair metal would dominate the sun set strip bands like X, Black Flag and the Minute Men were the bands to go see. John Doe does a great job recounting his stories from this era with vivid detail and truthfulness that make you want to keep turning the page. As an added element to Doe’s story there is often even more colorful commentary provided by other musicians or friends who were there to experience everything as well. Not only does this add different angles to a previously told story but it fills in gaps with intricate firsthand accounts. For me this only pulled me further into the already captivating story. To go along with the stories there are several black and white photo sections which are chocked full of rare photos that by themselves are worth the price of the book.

From cover to cover Doe and DeSavia and crew nail it. Aside from actually being around during this specific time I don’t think you could get any closer nor could it be anymore real. There were a few times when I wished Doe had kept going from his perspective as sometimes when the story teller switched you were in a sense re-reading some of what was just told however, that aside “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” is a great book for not only punk rock fans and music but for those wanting to learn about a period of time in Los Angeles that isn’t sugar coated with all the normal glitz and glamour LaLa Land is often associated.

Comic Book Review Writing Tips and Tricks

Comic books are becoming more and more popular nowadays. Several decades ago, a comic book was treated like meaningless trash whereas it contained pictures and short portions of text about superheroes, ghosts, common people, etc. The majority of comics were produced for children. Apparently, the choice of comic books is enormous. One can find books about scouts, animals, Vikings, schoolchildren, supernatural creatures and others. Without doubt, the most famous and successful comics are about superheroes and their adventures. Modern comic books are no longer treated carelessly. They belong to the specific combination of art and literature. They possess a specific name – graphic novels. The most prominent producers of graphic novels employ the best artists and scriptwriters who make their comics captive, absorbing, curious and uncommon. Every comic book contains its offbeat plot and characters. Most often, graphic novels are periodical. There are specific main characters who experience various adventures in every new edition. As might be expected, young people are interested in comic books and they make them a part of their life.

Whenever you want to review a graphic novel for high school, college or blog, you should get to know how to do it beneficially. Firstly, you should prepare for this process practically. Read several different comic books in order to catch their structure, motives, plot, strong and weak sides. You should understand the nature of a graphic novel. Secondly, you should read your specific comic book planned for analysis. It is important to read other editions of this chosen series of graphic novels in order to learn about its characters, the core motives, ideas and peculiarities. Needless to say but many situations and motives repeat in every edition. It is vital to notice them and mention them in your comic book review. In brief, you ought to study the entire world of DC comics if you review a specific graphic novel about Batman, Superman or Flash. It is impossible to grab the main idea of these books if you do not know about the foundational connections between its characters.

You cannot prepare a worthy and imposing graphic novel review if you do not write about the author and illustrator of the specific comic book. If you review a comic book about Iron Man, Spider-Man or the X-Men, you will definitely need to mention Stan Lee, the creator of the majority of Marvel Comics superheroes. Say a few words about his achievements, career and impact on the development of the specific series of graphic novels. Illustrators are extremely important for this industry. No one will buy a comic book if there are no fascinating, magnificent and authentic images in it. Very often, people purchase these books in order to possess it like an album. They treat it as a form of art. Thus, you cannot omit an illustrator in your review. He makes the indigenous ‘appearance’ of a comic book. Above all things, you should mention the title of the chosen edition, its date of publication, format and ISBN number. This basic information will help one find the required edition in the Internet or library.

Now you ought to analyze the plot of the selected graphic novel. It is smart to divide the plot into two levels. The first level denotes the main characters and events of the story. Of course, you must not reveal the most newsworthy details and the ending of the story. The second level refers to the problems and major ideas hidden in the comic book. For instance, when you write about Superman, you can write how he protects the world and how he would influence our life if he lived in the real world.

The quality of writing and artwork are two paramount elements of your review. You should analyze the conflict of the specific novel and evaluate its resolution. You should say whether the author has managed to make a gripping and affecting plot or not. Is the plot unpredictable? What can you say about its crucial moments? Then, you need to pay attention to the illustrations that can be found in the comic book. Say about the artistic style. Illustrators apply cartoon-like, manga and realistic styles. They definitely influence the general perception of a book. What are the dominant colors of your particular graphic novel? Do you like it?

Bear in mind that your review is subjective. You cannot impose your point of view on other readers and fans whereas they like these comic books regardless of how you criticize them. Therefore, prepare to receive negative feedback and comments of your readers if you place your graphic novel review on your blog.

If you need professional book review assistance from academic experts, you should visit this paper writing service – SmartWritingService.com.