Concert Review: Santana with the Doobie Brothers

  • Santana /the Doobie Brothers
  • Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
  • July 11, 2019

50 years ago next month, over 400,000 people attended a little 3-day music festival known as Woodstock. One of the bands playing that weekend was led by a young man whose last name the band had adopted as theirs…Carlos Santana.

Tonight at Kansas City’s Sprint Center, the master guitarist entertained a packed house playing as powerfully as he did five decades ago, his skill and energy amazing for a man who turns 72 next week. After the show began with a video tribute to Woodstock, Mr. Santana and his highly talented group of musicians chose for their opening number “Soul Sacrifice.” The next two hours was a collection of hits (“Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman”) and album cuts. As the show progressed, opening band the Doobie Brothers joined Santana on stage for a rousing medley of “She’s Not There,” “Spill the Wine” and “Shotgun.” A highlight of the medley was the Doobie’s Tom Johnson and Mr. Santana trading wicked guitar riffs.

As the show progressed, the band continued to jam, extending some songs several minutes, which the crowd, their eyes fixed on Mr. Santana’s flying fingers, ate up. Another highlight occurred when the band took a brief break, allowing drummer Cindy Blackman Santana to bring the house down with a prolonged and entertaining drum solo.

Of course, the biggest song of the night was the multiple Grammy-award winning “Smooth,” which the audience sang along to with gusto. The show ended with Mr. Santana encouraging the audience to strive for peace and harmony. After the performance he gave, how could we refuse him.

SET LIST: Soul Sacrifice, Jin-go-lo-ba, Evil Ways / A Love Supreme, (Da Le) Yaleo, Put Your Lights On, She’s Not There / Spill the Wine / Shotgun, Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen, Oye Como Va, Hope You’re Feeling Better, Love of My Life, Breaking Down the Door, In Search of Mona Lisa, Maria Maria, Foo Foo, Corazon Espinado, Toussaint L’Ouverture. ENCORE: Are You Ready, Smooth, September / Love, Peace and Happiness.

Kansas City Theater Review: “CATS”

  • CATS
  • Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri
  • July 9, 2017

Back in the early 80s, when I was still trying to make a living as an actor, I spent many a day going on auditions. Any time I saw a casting call for a musical production, it always included four words: “Bring music. NO “MEMORY.” Which was kind of upsetting because, even today, I can sing the hell out of that song!

Opening on Broadway in 1981, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “CATS” won 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. And rightly so. Based on T. S. Elliot’s book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the show tells the story of a group of felines who meet once a year at the Jellicle Ball. One by one they tell their story, each one more fantastic then the previous.

The production at Starlight was fantastic. As the curtain rose, a bright moon hung over original production designer John Napier’s iconic junkyard set. Character after character took to the stage (and wandered among the audience), some of whom you know by name. My favorite “cat” has always been Rum Tum Tugger and, as portrayed by Mcgee Maddox, he was truly the cat of the walk. Other stand outs in the cast included Timothy Gulan, who plays three characters, including Gus the theater cat, TionGaston as Mistoffolee and Caitlin Bond as Victoria. Ms. Bond has the most stage time in the show and proves herself to be an amazing dancer. And of course, you can’t ignore Keri Rene Fuller, who has the role of Grizabella. It is she who sings “Memory” and her rendition, especially in Act II, brought tears to my eyes, rivaling previous renditions by two theater legends, Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley.

Two notes here for those seeing the show at Starlight. First, pay attention to the license plate nestled in the junkyard. The letters N A P are for set designer John Napier. The number 11A marks which show it’s from. 11A is modeled after set 11 with one big difference. It’s inflatable, making it easier for touring versions of the show to set it up. Second, this is one time where the video monitors on the top sides of the stage are useful, the close-ups provided allowing the audience to see the small and subtle facial expressions of the characters.

“CATS” was advertised as “now and forever” and, after running for 18 consecutive years (it is currently the 4th longest running show in Broadway history) that wasn’t far off. “CATS” runs at Starlight through July 14th. For tickets to this or later performances, please click HERE.

Theatre Review: “Flashdance: The Musical” @ Garden Theatre – Winter Garden, FL

“Flashdance the Musical” is a stage adaptation of the 1983 musical film “Flashdance”. The show features original music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Roth and Robert Cary. It originally had its world premiere in 2008 as part of a ten-month UK tour, followed by a London West End run in 2010. It also had a US tour in 2012-2014, but never made it to Broadway.

“Flashdance: The Musical” premiered at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, FL on July 5th and will continue there until the 28th. When I attend a show, I try and stick around and listen to everyone’s comments when they leave. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts, which also helps me properly form my thoughts as a critic. Some of the comments, I heard was “felt like a high school production” and “lead girl couldn’t even dance”. I enjoyed the show for the most part but did agree with some of what I heard.

From discussing with my date, we decided we agreed with some of the comments we overhead. I do not feel like the actress that played Alex Owens was the best choice. Her profile said she was dancing for 17 years but she was definitely not great in my humble opinion. The ensemble cast stole the show for me and had the best dancers by far. As far as the high school production comment, the Garden Theatre might not have scene changes like Dr. Phillips Center but it has charm and delivered a good set for “Flashdance: The Musical”.

Official Synopsis: Dance like you’ve never danced before! FLASHDANCE: THE MUSICAL tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of 18-year-old Alex, a welder by day and ‘flashdancer’ by night, who dreams of becoming a professional dancer. When a romance complicates her ambitions, she harnesses it to drive her dreams.

The show was jam packed with the classic pop hits from the movie including “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “I Love Rock & Roll” and everyone’s favorite by Irene Cara, “Flashdance…What a Feeling.” I wasn’t a huge fan of the original songs from the show but when these classics came on, I perked up and definitely wasn’t the only one. Overall, I enjoyed the show. Ensemble dancing and supporting cast definitely delivered another winner for the Garden Theatre. Look forward to their next performance.

Once again, “Flashdance: The Musical” will be playing at the Garden Theatre from July 5th-28th, 2019. Support local theatre and buy tickets here: https://www.gardentheatre.org/play/flashdance-the-musical/

Concert Review: Rockstar Disrupt Festival, Syracuse, NY

Rockstar Disrupt Festival 2019

Thrice, The Used, Circa Survive, The Story So Far, Atreyu

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview, Syracuse, NY

Our score 3 out of 5 stars

The Rockstar Disrupt Festival made a stop in Syracuse, NY on July 2nd as part of the tours inaugural run featuring a variety of musical acts including Hyro the Hero, Andy Black, The Used and Thrice. Despite the event starting off under questionable skies it didn’t stop the bands or fans from giving their all over the course of the 7 plus hour event.  

Kicking of the day on the Festival Stage was the Texas based Hyro the Hero who performed a handful of songs of their latest album “Flagged Channel”. Though fans were still filling in the sprawling lake side venue the bands high energy and unique style of rap infused metal quickly grabbed people’s attention and set the stage perfectly for the day’s festivities. After checking out the various merchandise booths which were placed around the venue grounds we made another stop at the Festival stage where we took in performances by Memphis May Fire, Four Year Strong and Andy Black. All of which put on solid sets despite the muggy afternoon conditions. Sleeping with Sirens closed out the Festival stage lineup however it was hard to focus given the lineup which was about to be performing on the Main Stage. Veteran metal act Atreyu opened up the stage performing songs from their various albums including “Ex’s and Oh’s”, “Bleeding Mascara” and their cover of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”. The band sounded great and really got the crowd going again after a brief lull during stage changes caused the energy to dip. The Story So Far and Circa Survive would follow both turning in note worthy performances that had large portions of the audience dancing and singing along from beginning to end. The Used were up next performing a spattering of songs from their career including “Take It Away” “The Taste of Ink” and “Buried Myself Alive. Front-man Bert McCracken and company even included a cover of the Oasis song “Wonderwall” which made us question if a majority of the crowd were even alive when that song first debuted? Thrice would close out the night with an eleven song set including songs “The Artist in the Ambulance”, “In Exile” and “Black Honey” before closing out the evening with “The Earth Will Shake” from the bands 2005 album “Vheissu”.  Though the band members were all fairly stationary throughout the performance the crowd did not seem to mind as they loudly sang along to front-man Dustin Kensrues lyrics.

For those looking to fill the void left by the Warped Tour whose last full summer run was in 2018, Rockstar Disrupt Festival could be just! Yes the festival is much smaller and not hitting as many cities as its predecessor however the artist lineup is on par as are the various vendors and pop-ups. Probably the biggest selling point for us was the fact that you could actually see all the acts on the bill if you chose to. Having only two stages made for a much less stressful day and ensured you could everything. This feature alone makes the tour stand out above others with a similar design. Sure the tour has to contend with some growing pains and the various first year hiccups however with those things aside if you are looking for a full day of diverse music where you can actually see everything then we highly recommend the Rockstar Disrupt Festival.

Festival Stage:

Sleeping With Sirens

Andy Black

Four Year Strong

Memphis May Fire

Trophy Eyes

Juliet Simms

Hyro The Hero

Main Stage:

Thrice

The Used

Circa Survive

The Story So Far

Atreyu

Hookup Geek Film Review “Hotel Mumbai”

November 26 – 29, 2008 India experienced several of the most dramatic days in its history – the attack of the terrorist organization “Lashkar-e-Tayyiba” on Mumbai. The objectives were Victoria Station, the Oberoi Hotel, the police station, and the culmination was hostage drama at the Taj Mahal Hotel. These events became the basis of the thriller “Hotel Mumbai” directed by Anthony Maras.

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The plot

On November 26th a group of young people on boats are ferried to India. Their goal is to die, but to die by performing jihad – and “to avenge the poverty and misery that the infidels doomed them to.” One group attacks the station, the second – a cafe, and eventually a wave of chaos carries them into the luxury Taj Mahal hotel. The plot gathers other heroes – waiter Arzhun, chef Hemant Oberoi, rich architect David Duncan with wife, Russian oligarch Vasiliy Archevskiy and other guests.

The first impression

The film is watched smoothly from the very beginning: the authors were able to show the “brilliance and poverty of India”, walking side by side. The waiter Arzhun comes to work from a poor apartment in a glittering luxury hotel, the terrorists jump in good suits to the shore of a dirty Ganges to begin their mission in the name of a fanatical idea.

Actually, the drama of the characters here does not set off the real facts of the assault, when special forces from Delhi had to wait all day, the red-hot drama of the fight – which is transmitted through excellent camera work and sound. It was almost impossible for the authors to show them human, to reveal the motives of even armed fanatics, as is usual in Hollywood movies. Also in this movie, there is no traditional image of a superhero – the hero is everyone who has shown restraint and the ability to support others. This movie has short inserts also used in a real documentary.

The characters

The characters are quite diverse – from the terrorists, who are shown more likely to be victims of fanaticism and their general social situation, to characters that change during the film. As an example, the Russian businessman Vasiliy Archevskiy, performed by Jason Isaacs, cynically sorting out the cards of elite “call girls” in a restaurant, and use his knowledge of psychology to return the self-control to the survivals. The waiter Arzhun, also appears from the unexpected side organizing a departure of the guests to the safe place.

Conclusion

Almost the only complaint to this film is the fact that the artistic performance will never accurately convey the drama of real people, but in terms of the intensity, “Hotel Mumbai” perfectly conveys those red-hot and dramatic events that took the lives of 175 people.

Film Review: 30 for 30 – “The Good, the Bad, the Hungry”

  • ESPN 30 for 30 – THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE HUNGRY
  • Starring: Joey Chestnut, Takeru Kobiyashi and George Shea
  • Directed by: Nicole Lucas Haimes
  • Running time: 1 hr 17 mins
  • ESPN Films

As the 4th of July approaches, many Americans will head to their backyards and throw some hot dogs on the grill. I know I am. And, if I’m particularly hungry that day, I might eat 3 of them. Which would in no way get me invited to Coney Island to participate in the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest!

The contest has been going on since 1972, but it wasn’t until 2001, when a young Japanese man named Takeru Kobiyashi showed up and ate an amazing 50 hot dogs, with buns, in 12 minutes. He held the title for 5 years when, inspired by Kobiyashi’s success, a young man named Joey Chestnut took a chance at winning the coveted Championship Mustard Belt. He lost. Thus began an rivalry as intense as any in sports. And yes, Competitive Eating is a sport.

A very in-depth behind the scenes look at an event that draws 30,000 people annually, “The Good, the Bad, the Hungry” is another excellent film in ESPN’s 30 for 30 canon. Though I had certainly been aware of the annual Coney Island event, I was surprised to learn that competitive eating as a sport has long been recognized in Japan. We are introduced to early Kobiyashi gastronomic feats, like eating 19.6 pounds of food at one sitting. As the rivalry between Kobiyashi and Chestnut grows, so do the contests. I love me some Krystal hamburgers, but there is no way in hell I’m eating 97 of them. And their calorie intake isn’t the only thing that’s large. Chestnut has made six figures a year doing this.

In 2008, Kobiyashi and Chestnut tied, resulting in a 5-dog Overtime Period

What is amazing is that these two take their skill seriously. They train daily, everything from figuring out the right temperature of water to soak the buns in to training the various throat muscles to help swallow easier. We also learn about each one’s upbringing through conversations with their parents. While Chestnut’s parents are all for Joey’s achievements, Kobiyashi’s father is more subdued. Born after World War II, he notes that to him food is meant to be thankful for and appreciated. This doesn’t mean he isn’t proud of his son, of course,

Another thing noted are the cultural differences. Once Chestnut beats Kobiyashi, the Japanese man is shocked by the crowd’s sudden change. Where they had constantly cheered him, once defeated he is met with cheers of “USA! USA!” Not understanding American culture, his feelings are genuinely hurt.

I should add here that when he arrives in America, Kobiyashi is stunned at the size of some of the competitors. In Japan, most of the competitive eaters are thin. In fact, Kobiyashi only weighs 144 pounds and often celebrates his wins by pulling up his shirt and showing off his six-pack! If I won I’d be flashing a keg!

An entertaining film about an entertaining subject, grab a couple of hot dogs this week and pull up a seat in front of the television. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired enough to take Chestnut down nest year.

Film Review: “Ophelia”

  • OPHELIA
  • Starring: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts
  • Directed by: Claire McCarthy
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hr 54 mind
  • IFC 

There is nothing more spectacular, and scary than taking an epic work of theater, by Shakespeare no less, and turning it on its head by retelling it from a different perspective. This is the case with “Ophelia,” the doomed love interest of the equally doomed Danish prince, Hamlet. With a more modernesque musical score and friendly dialogue that lacks the thous and thees you would expect from Shakespeare, director Claire McCarthy (“The Waiting City”) takes us on a journey with an unexpected destination. 

As she floats with an eternal peace across face, our heroine Ophelia asks us in a voiceover if we know her story. Tired of no one knowing who she is, Ophelia tells us it is time we finally understand her. As such, she takes us back to when she was a dirty faced, rebellious little girl in Elsinore Castle who draws the fateful attention of Danish Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts). Turned into a lady-in-waiting, a grownup Ophelia (Daisy Ridley, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) enjoys the queen’s favor, but she is hen pecked mercilessly by the other ladies who all hold the distinction of being noble by birth. 

When Prince Hamlet (George MacKay, ’Where Hands Touch”) returns from school as a man, he is instantly smitten with Ophelia. However, “Ophelia” is still a Shakespearean tale despite the rewrite and the budding romance is complicated by the sudden death of King Hamlet and the subsequent quick marriage of Queen Gertrude and suspect number one, the deceased king’s brother, Claudius (Clive Owen) who ascends to Denmark’s throne. It proves to be too much for Prince Hamlet to bear and his wits begin to deteriorate. 

At the same time, Prince Hamlet becomes obsessed with Ophelia and the idea of marrying her, which comes to fruition but in secret. Secrets though are no stranger to her, who learns many from the witch Mechtild (Watts), Gertrude’s sister. Claudius comes to view Ophelia as dangerous while Prince Hamlet falls deeper into madness. And while it’s to be expected for people to die in droves, this enjoyable retelling of Shakespeare contains some delightful twists that makes it fresh and surprising. 

Based upon the 2008 novel of the same name by American author Lisa Klein (“Lady Macbeth’s Daughter”), “Ophelia” is a breath of fresh air. It’s daring. It’s imaginative. It doesn’t require Ridley to hold a light saber as she is given a chance to shine on the screen. While the depth of her emotional output is found wanting, she more than holds her own against a terrific dual performance by Watts. Owen is adequate as the diabolical Claudius and MacKay is just wide-eyed and stammers a lot with spittle spewing from his mouth. 

In the end, “Ophelia” is a definite must-see for anyone who loves Shakespeare or good theater in general.

Book Review “The Art of Toy Story 4”

“Toy Story” is a franchise that started Pixar and continues to win the hearts of audiences over 20 years. With the recent release of the latest installment, “Toy Story 4”, that means a new art of book has been released. I still have my “The Art of Toy Story 3” and was just looking through it recently, which is still one of my favorites. This book dives right into the movie and behind-the-scenes content including great concept art, landscapes and character development over the film’s development. If you are of fan of these book and the “Toy Story” franchise, I would definitely recommend checking this out!

Page 4-5 John Lee, digital painting [Bo Peep & Woody]

Official Synopsis: With a story that’s spanned more than 20 years, the adventures of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the gang have captured the hearts of millions. The Art of Toy Story 4 invites readers to explore the next installment of Pixar’s beloved franchise through never-before-seen concept art, character studies, process animation, storyboards, colorscripts, and more. Featuring exclusive interviews with the production team on the making of the film and insights into their creative vision, The Art of Toy Story 4 reveals the vivid imagination that brought this story to life.

“The Art of Toy Story 4” kicks off with a solid introduction from Josh Cooley, who actually directed “Toy Story 4”. Josh also directed “Riley’s First Date”, which was a short film following the film “Inside Out”. He also worked as a story artist on the Academy Award®-winning films The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Up, and Golden Globe®-winning Cars, and served as the story supervisor on Academy Award®-winning Inside Out. I personally was a bigger fan of “Toy Story 3” in terms of favorite films in the franchise but I do feel like he gives a lot of heart to “Toy Story 4” and delivers a solid film.

Pages 108-109 John Lee, digital painting [Buzz at amusement park]

Closing out the book there is a great foreword from the incomparable Annie Potts, who voices ‘Bo Peep’ in “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2”, and returns in “Toy Story 4”. She has appeared in numerous feature films including the “Ghostbusters” franchise, Pretty in Pink, and Corvette Summer for which she received a Golden Globe Award nomination. I enjoyed this foreword and it is a great ending to the book given great insight into the role and her involvement with the film. Overall the book is another hit for Chronicle Books, they have been extremely consistent with their “Art of” books and never disappoint.

Pages 124-125 Deanna Marsigliese, digital [Bunny concept art]

Film Review: “Yesterday”

YESTERDAY

  • Starring:  Hirish Patel, Lily James and Ed Sheeran
  • Directed by:  Danny Boyle
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 56 mins
  • Universal

Dear Readers – If you would please indulge me:

AN OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD CURTIS – Sir, in the trailer for your 2003 film “Love Actually,” you include a scene of Andrew Lincoln holding up a card to Kiera Knightley which reads HELLO FATSO.  This scene is NOT in the film.  What did that mean?  I know her character liked sweets.  Did her husband complain she was getting a fat arse???  If Richard Curtis is reading this, or if anyone knows the answer, please reply to me via this website.  Thank you.  We now return to your scheduled review.

I’m 58 years old.  I grew up with the Beatles.  The very first record I ever purchased was “Hello/Goodbye.”   I wept when John Lennon died.  So to imagine a world where the Beatles and their music never existed would be horrible to me.  But it works out well for Jack Malik (Patel) an aspiring musician who, despite having some talent, cannot make it into the music business.  After a disappointing gig he announces to his manager Ellie (James) that he’s hanging up the guitar and going back to teaching.  Unable to talk him out of it, Ellie watches as Jack pedals his bicycle into the night.  However, soon their lives will change forever.

Directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), “Yesterday” is a lot like the Beatles songs that fill the soundtrack – an emotional rollercoaster.  After an accident with a bus, Jack gets out of the hospital to discover that things are different.  When he asks for a Coke he is given quizzical looks.  When he plays the song “Yesterday” to Ellie and her friends, they are amazed by the song, asking him when he wrote it.  He tells them that it was a song by the Beatles, but only gets blank stares.  When he Googles “the Beatles” on the Internet, he is directed to the bugs.  Curious, he tries other bands and is relieved that the Rolling Stones are still around.  He is even more relieved when he learns that the band Oasis isn’t.  Realizing the situation, he begins performing Beatles songs and soon catches the ear of musician Ed Sheeran, who challenges Jack to a spontaneous song writing contest.  10 minutes later, Sheeran delivers a sweet song about love.  Jack counters with “The Long and Winding Road.”  Boom!  Mic drop!

Patel is very strong as Jack.  He has a pleasant enough voice and, when he sings from the Beatles catalog, he isn’t just covering the songs, he invests an emotional weight into them, as if he HAD written them.  When he performs “Help” in front of a huge crowd, he’s literally begging for someone to help him get off of the rollercoaster he has found himself on.  James and Sheeran are also quite good, with Sheeran having fun at his own expense, even going so far as to suggest that Jack rename “Hey Jude” as “Hey Dude,” which apparently he finds cooler.

The film also packs an emotion punch with a scene that had many in the audience, myself including, tearing up.  Boyle’s direction is brisk and screenwriter Curtis is at the top of his game.  And you can never go wrong with a soundtrack consisting of 17 of the Beatles’ greatest songs.  As John Lennon sang in Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all!”

Kansas City Theater Review: “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”

  • BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL
  • Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri
  • June 24, 2019

REVIEW BY J.R. DEETER

An amazing thing happened as I watched “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” this past Tuesday evening at Starlight.  I realized that the songs being played had been some of my favorites, starting from childhood.

  Opening at Carnegie Hall, circa 1971, King (played beautifully by Sarah Bockel) sings “So Far Away,” which takes us back to the beginning of the story of the rise of one of pop music’s icons.  It’s 1958 and 16-year old Carole has found her way to the offices of one “Donnie” Kirshner hoping to sell him a song she has written.  Kirshner likes what he hears and signs her up.  He teams her with an aspiring lyricist named Gerry Goffin and soon the hits begin to flow.  Songs like “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof” and “The Locomotion” are soon climbing the charts.  The partnership soon becomes much more and King and Goffin marry. 

But they weren’t the only ones toiling in the Brill Building.  We also meet Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who created such hits as “Walking in the Rain,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”   Eventually, Carole and Gerry’s love fades and, when she discovers Goffin is cheating on her, King and her children leave New York for California.  She begins writing new songs, using the highs and lows of her own life as inspiration.  History is made when King, now singing her own songs, releases the album “Tapestry,” still one of the biggest selling albums of all time.  

The performances across the board were excellent, with stand-out work delivered by Dylan S. Wallach (Goffin), Alison Whitehurst as Ms. Weil and Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann.  The musical ensemble was also quite entertaining, portraying such 60’s performers and groups like The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva and The Righteous Brothers.   “Beaufiul” runs at Starlight through Sunday, June 30th.  For information and tickets for these shows, or future performances, please click HERE.

Album Review: Soundgarden “Down On The Upside” Anniversary LP

“Down On The Upside” 35th Anniversary Vinyl

Soundgarden

AM Records

Producer: Soundgarden

Co-Producer: Adam Kasper

2 LP’s

Tracks: 16

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Soundgarden’s Platinum selling 1996 release “Down On The Upside” is the latest album from the bands catalog to be included in the Seattle natives 35 year Anniversary Collection. The third in a series of vinyl releases commemorating the bands career the 16 track, 2 LP set is being pressed on limited edition 180 gram colored vinyl and comes packaged in a full color, dual gatefold sleeve complete with album liner notes.

Though this is not the first time “Down On The Upside” has appeared on vinyl it is certainly the brightest. Right away listeners will notice the heavy weight, 180 gram, limited edition Orange and Purple marble pressings which play host to some of Sound Garden’s biggest hits of the mid 90’s. Listeners will obviously want to check out “Pretty Noose”, “Blow Up The Outside World” and “Burden In My Hand” but I also would recommend “Rhinosaur” and “Dusty” as well. Visually the release pulls out all the stops as the orange and purple vinyl feature subtle marble swirls which look really cool when spinning on your turntable. The gatefold packaging is also nicely done and is printed on heavy weight card stock fitting of a special release.

Though the album is nice to look at I found it to be pretty lax in the listening dept. The sound quality was ok but it was certainly dated and could have benefited from a remix and re-master. In 1997 the band released a greatest hits compilation including the songs “Karaoke” and “Bleed Together” which we outtakes from the “Down On The Upside” sessions however, neither of those songs were included here making for a big miss in my book. The last disappointment was the fact that no digital download codes were included thus making it slightly difficult to listen on the go. If you purchased a copy of this record upon its initial release then I say stick with that and skip over this re-release but, if this is an album that has been on your list to pick up now is a great time while it is available in a limited edition release.       

Track Listing:

1.) Pretty Noose

2.) Rhinosaur

3.) Zero Chance

4.) Dusty

5.) Ty Cobb

6.) Blow Up The Outside World

7.) Burden In My Hand

8.) Never Named

9.) Applebite

10.) Never The Machine Forever

11.) Tighter and Tighter

12.) No Attention

13.) Switch Opens

14.) Overfloater

15.) An Unkind

16.) Boot Camp

Film Review: “Loopers: the Caddie’s Long Walk”

  • LOOPERS: THE CADDIE’S LONG WALK
  • Narrated by: Bill Murray
  • Directed by: Jason Baffa
  • Rated: PG
  • Running time: 1 hr 16 mins
  • Gravitas Ventures

One of my many jobs as a teenager in Tampa involved getting up early on Saturdays and walking the few blocks to the Palma Ceia Country Club. The earlier the better. There those of us that assembled would hang out around the clubhouse and ask arriving golfers if we could carry their bags. On a good morning, you could end up with $10 (including tip) for four hours work. That’s right, I’ll admit it. I was a looper.

Full of interesting golf history and some fun interviews, “Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk” is an interesting take on what was once seen as a menial job that has blossomed into a handsome way to make a living for some. The film looks at golf, and it’s caddies, in both Scotland (the birthplace of the game) and here in the states. We visit the world famous St. Andrews course, founded in 1552! That’s right, golf has been around for over 400-years. The history of the caddie is also explored, running from the three basic caddie rules (Show Up, Keep Up, Shut Up) to the origins of the name looper (a round of 18 holes was called a loop). We also get a glimpse at some of the more famous caddies to ever carry a bag, including the caddies that worked at Augusta National, home of the Masters. I found it ironic that these young men were so vital to a golfer’s success, yet theirs were the only black faces on the course until Lee Elder played there in 1975 (blacks were not allowed to join the club until 1991).

A particularly poignant sequence examines the relationship between golfer and caddie. Living as I do in Kansas City, I was happy to see local boy made good Tom Watson talk about the two-plus decades he spent with his caddie, Bruce Edwards. The men remained friends until Edwards passed away in 2004 from ALS. We also meet other well known caddies, like Steve Williams (Tiger Woods’ ex-caddie) and Carl Jackson, who caddied for Ben Crenshaw in almost 40 tournaments in their partnership.

The film is narrated by former looper Bill Murray, who immortalized the caddie as Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack.” Murray relates some of his own experiences as well as narrates, lending his particular sense of humor to the film.

With the beginning of summer upon us, before you head out to the course give “Loopers” a look. And watch out for those kids hanging out in front of the clubhouse!

Kansas City Theater Review: “HAMILTON”

“Hamilton”
Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
June 19, 2019

Sometimes when you get too excited about seeing a show, you leave the theater wondering what all of the hub-bub was about. I was very fortunate to see “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway right after it opened and I was blown away! On the other hand, my only memory of seeing “Starlight Express” was that I noticed (and intercepted) Andrew Lloyd Webber heading towards the men’s room and got him to autograph my Playbill. It’s been almost 4 years since HAMILTON opened on Broadway and you’ll have to have been on Mars to have not heard about it. So while I was looking forward to seeing it, I went in wondering whether or not my fondest memory would be spotting Lin-Manuel Miranda in the lobby. Happy to announce that I was NOT disappointed.

© Joan Marcus – 2018

If you’re familiar with the name Alexander Hamilton, it’s probably because he’s the face on the $10 bill. In reality, he was much more. As an orphan he traveled to the colonies and earned an education. In his adventures he meets Aaron Burr and their lives continue to intertwine literally to the end. In between he falls in love, fights for Independence and devises a treasury system that is still in use. And the stories and songs behind these achievements make learning as much fun as an old episode of “Schoolhouse Rock.”

Joseph Morales is Alexander Hamilton. © Joan Marcus – 2018

A few years ago, Jimmy Kimmel informed show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda that he was a national treasure. He may have been selling him short. HAMILTON is an amazing combination of sight and sound telling familiar stories in a new way. The cast on this tour is amazing. As Hamilton, Joseph Morales runs the emotional gambit of joy and sorrow. His Hamilton is at first naive, eager to learn but by the end jaded from all he has seen. Marcus Choi is first rate as George Washington, portrayed here not as an independent leader but one who needed help in becoming the Father of our Country. Kyle Scatliffe does double duty as both French General Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Act 2 begins with what is essentially a rap battle between Jefferson and Hamilton and Mr. Scatliffe caps his words with, quite possibly, the first mic drop in history. But to me the standout performance belongs to Nik Walker, who portrays Aaron Burr. Always seeming to be on the wrong side of major events, Burr holds the distinction of being the only Vice-President to kill a man while in office, sadly an honor that kept him off the ticket when Jefferson ran for reelection. In fact, this show could have easily been called “Burr.” Mr. Walker gives the show an extra burst of energy whenever he is on stage and his performance of the song “The Room Where It Happened” vaulted that song to my list of all-time favorite show tunes.

Nik Walker is Aaron Burr. © Joan Marcus -2018

HAMILTON plays in Kansas City through July 7. For ticket information on this stop of the tour and later cities, click HERE.

CD Review: Baroness “Gold & Grey”

“Gold & Grey”

Baroness

Abraxan Hymns

Producer: David Fridmann

Tracks: 17

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Heavy Metal band Baroness returns with their fifth studio album titled “Gold & Grey”. The album which was released on June 14th is the follow to the bands popular 2015 release “Purple”. Featuring 17 brand new tracks from the Georgia based group and produced by David Fridmann “Gold & Grey” is the first release via the bands own Abraxan Hymns label. The release is also the first to feature guitarist Gina Gleason who joined the group in 2017 after the departure of Peter Adams.

Right from the start “Gold & Grey” showcases why Baroness is at the fore front of progressive heavy metal. With tracks like “Front Toward Enemy” and “I’m Already Gone” laying the foundation in the albums opening minutes with thick over driven guitars and singer John Baizley’s signature soaring vocals listeners are quickly immersed in a bevy of sonic goodness. As the album progresses so does the diverseness of texture and tones. Tracks like “Tourniquet” and “Blankets of Ash” feature spacey vocals and layered acoustic guitars while the songs “I’d Do Anything” and “Emmett-Radiating Light” feature piano rich sound scapes which seep deep in to your inner core making for a nice mixture of dark and light.   

The latest offering from Baroness takes listeners on a musical vacation that some may never want to come back from. Brimming over with emotional subject matter and robust instrumentation “Gold & Grey” is another notch in Baroness’s musical belt. The addition of guitarist Gina Gleason I feel has really taken the band to the next level. Not only does Gleason’s playing compliment the band nicely but so do her backing vocals which compliment Baizley’s leads. Despite “Gold & Grey” having a few too many slow moments for my liking the songs that weren’t balls to the wall rockers were still enjoyable making this an album I would certainly recommend checking out.

Track Listing:

1.) Front Toward Enemy

2.) I’m Already Gone

3.) Seasons

4.) Sevens

5.) Tourniquet

6.) Anchors Lament

7.) Throw Me an Anchor

8.) I’d Do Anything

9.) Blanket of Ash

10.) Emmett- Radiating Light

11.) Cold-Blooded Angels

12.) Crooked Mile

13.) Broken Halo

14.) Can Oscura

15.) Borderlines

16.) Assault on East falls

17.) Pale Sun

CD Review: Bad Religion “Age of Unreason”

“Age of Unreason”

Bad Religion

Epitaph

Producer: Carlos de la Garza

Tracks: 14

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Punk Rock God Fathers Bad Religion have just released their seventeenth studio album titled “Age of Unreason” The album is being released vie Epitaph Records and features 14 brand new tracks which were produced by Carlos de la Garza. This is the bands first release since 2013’s “True North” marking the longest gap between albums in the bands history.  “Age of Reason” is also the first album to feature guitarist Mike Dimkich and drummer Jamie Miller.

Bad Religion is a band that holds a special place in my musical heart as they were one of the first punk bands me and my friends really got into. 1994’s “Stranger Than Fiction” was often the soundtrack to our skateboard adventures as were many of the bands subsequent releases. Needless to say the bands activity has been on my radar for quite some time so when it was finally announced that “Age of Reason” was going to be released after a seven year recording hiatus the album quickly moved to the top of my listening queue. Tracks such as “My Sanity”, “The Age of Reason” and “The Old Regime” are classic BR through in through as all three feature the bands signature fast paced drumming, intermittent guitar soloing  topped off by vocalist Greg Graffin’s thought provoking lyrics. Songs such as “Lose Your Head”, “Candidate” and “Downfall” show the band stretching their legs a little bit as they experiment with a variety of beats and tones giving the album a nice balance of familiarity and freshness.
 
From beginning to end I found Bad Religion’s “Age of Reason” to be a fun and energetic listen. Even after a couple of consecutive listens  I still found myself going back and listening to some of the previously noted tracks as I just couldn’t get enough. Does the release have the rawness of albums like “Suffer” or “No Control”?  Not so much. However, the band, its fans and the world as a whole are in a completely different place than they were in the late eighties and early nineties. “Age of Reason” is classic Bad Religion with a modern twist which listeners new both new and old will enjoy time and time again.

TRACK LISTING

1.) Chaos From Within

2.) My Sanity

3.) Do The Paranoid Style

4.) The Approach

5.) Lose Your Head

6.) End of History

7.) The Age of Unreason

8.) Candidate

9.) Faces of Grief

10.) Old Regime

11.) Big Black Dog

12.) Downfall

13.) Since Now

14.) What Tomorrow Brings