Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Monday, May 27, 2019

HEY, AMERICA! “WHEN YOU GONNA WAKE UP?”

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SLOW TRAIN COMING
by Bob Dylan
released: 1979
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'GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY', the first song on BOB DYLAN’s 1979 Gospel offering, 'SLOW TRAIN COMING', begins with a metronome-like pounding on Pick Withers' drum. This single, regular beat gives the astute listener an impression of the hammering down of railroad ties. In other words, this is the slowly built but inexorably advancing train track that, once fully constructed, will make a Way for the arrival of a massive, powerful, and unstoppable Divine Force
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“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
(Isaiah 40:3; circa 740-701 B.C.)
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“Then they said to [John the Baptist] ... What do you say about yourself? He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the Way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(John 1:23; circa 80–93 A.D.)
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Just as John the Baptist was commissioned to prepare the Way for the first incarnation of Jesus – who came as a meek lamb of Salvation – it is the duty of “Christians” to prepare the Way for His Second Coming, which will be anything but meek, and which will come so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and with such force that the many dark-hearted will find their dark hearts fainting with fright. 'SLOW TRAIN COMING' by Bob Dylan is both a warning and a celebration – a locomotive’s whistle.
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Unlike so much contemporary Christian music which seems to whine 'n' wheeze, this collection includes some real A-kickin’, toe-stompin’, and finger-pointing tracks. Buoyed by the unique musical contributions of Mark Knopfler and Pick Withers of Dire Straits, the Muscle Shoals Horns Section, and Barry Beckett with his fiery organ, the arrangements spell trouble for anyone who comes looking for another “Oh, La, La, La” Gospel album. And the lyrics clearly display the familiarity that Ol’ Bob had gained with 'The Word Of God'.
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I recall an interview Zimmy did with some music rag journalist not long after the release of 'SLOW TRAIN COMING' (it was probably Rolling Stoned magazine). The writer asked Bob what his favorite part of The Bible was and he answered “Leviticus.” The journalist dutifully recorded it, never realizing that Bob was obviously pulling the old dog’s leg. But then Rolling Stoned writers have undoubtedly spent more time in the pages of the Communist Manifesto than they have in 'The Word Of God'. (I've always loved Dylan's his smart-aleck nature. Gotta love them Mensa-donkeys.)
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'SLOW TRAIN COMING' is not without its weaknesses: 'I BELIEVE IN YOU' has probably the most atrocious singing I have ever heard from a professional singer. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Bob was deliberately making a mockery of the song. The Reggae-influenced 'MAN GAVE NAMES TO ALL THE ANIMALS' is too long a piece to go without any musical break or tempo change. And the lyrics are overworked and sometimes too downright silly (“Great big furry back and furry hair”?!) to make the surprise payoff at the end worth the wait. And the slow closer, 'WHEN HE RETURNS', despite some heartfelt lyrics, kind of peters out (like Saint Peter at the trial of Jesus) on what is otherwise a really good record.
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'GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY'; 'PRECIOUS ANGEL'; and 'DO RIGHT TO ME, BABY' are all solid, but 'SLOW TRAIN'; 'GONNA CHANGE MY WAY OF THINKING'; and 'WHEN YOU GONNA WAKE UP?' all kick some serious heathen a$$! These are “Play-em-Loud-And-Disturb-The-Devil” cuts!
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And Ol’ Zimmy really knew the score:
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“Sister, lemme tell you about a vision I saw.
You were drawing water for your husband, you were suffering under the law.
You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammad in the same breath.
You never one time mentioned the Man who came and died a criminal’s death.”
(~ from 'Precious Angel')
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“In the home of the brave, Jefferson’s turnin’ over in his grave ...
But the enemy I see wears a cloak of decency.”
(~ from 'Slow Train')
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"God don’t make no promises that He don’t keep.
You got some big dreams, baby, but in order to dream you gotta still be asleep. ...
"Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all your thoughts.
Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissinger’s got you tied up in knots. ...
"You got unrighteous doctors dealing drugs that’ll never cure your ills.
When you gonna wake up? 
...
"Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools,
You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules. 
...
"Do you ever wonder just what God requires?
You think He’s an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires.”
(~ from 'When You Gonna Wake Up?')
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“Jesus said, Be ready,
For you know not the hour in which I come.
Jesus said, Be ready,
For you know not the hour in which I come.
He said, He who is not for Me is against me.
Just so you know where He’s coming from.”
(~ from 'Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking')
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Hey, America, it’s time to turn off your boob tube and study 'The Holy Book', because there’s a Train coming!
It may seem slow,
but it IS coming,
and sooner than you know.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

NUN TOO GOOD

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SISTER ACT
starring Whoopi Goldberg
1992
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This past November, I was in Reno, Nevada. Mrs. Van Owen, the shuttle driver who picked me up at the airport (women are always picking me up) pointed out the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral as she was pulling into my hotel's parking lot, and she said, "That's the church they used in the movie SISTER ACT." Had it been ANY other church, I would have thought: Great, now how much do the video poker machines pay out on four deuces here?
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But it just so happens that when I was in Reno on August 12, 2001, Jesus sent me to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral (although I'm not Catholic) where I was the only White person to be found in the pews, and where I observed a Catholic mass delivered entirely in Spanish. (The only Spanish I know is "Si", "No", and some words that Ricky Garcia called me in junior high school.) I kept thinking: Nice music, Lord, but why did You send me here? It wasn't until the mass ended, and I exited the church, that He revealed His purpose: On the steps of that very cathedral, Jesus, with a "miraclette", answered an important and troubling question that I'd been praying about for an entire month. (That's a story for another review.) So when my shuttle driver mentioned that particular church being used in the movie SISTER ACT, I determined to rent the 1992, WHOOPI GOLDBERG vehicle upon my return to Airheadzona. I'm back and I did.
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Now, I grew tired of Goldberg's sassy, mono-note shtick a long time ago ("You want me to do WHAT?! Uh-uh. You got the WRONG woman, fool!"), so I wasn't expecting much, and my expectations were met but not exceeded. I knew this thing was going to be nun too good when I saw Harvey Keitel mentioned in the opening credits. (I have a rule of thumb: "Avoid EVERYTHING with Harvey Keitel in it." But since there's an exception to almost every rule, I'll add, "except maybe TAXI DRIVER.")
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SISTER ACT's bad habits started immediately: It opens with a scene at "Saint Anne's Academy in 1968" (with the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral playing the part of Saint Anne's Academy in one brief shot. Boo! I rented THIS movie for THAT?) Here we find Deloris Van Cartier (later played by Goldberg) as a youngster being asked by a nun to name the apostles. She gives a "Fabulous" (but incorrect) answer. Cut to Van Cartier many years later performing as the leader in a girl group retro act at a Reno lounge, and showing great unhappiness at being ignored by the nearby boozers and gamblers. Is it really unusual for free entertainment on a casino floor to go scarcely noticed? Would this REALLY upset a longtime lounge singer? Wouldn't she be used to the lack of attention while on stage by now? It would be the norm; just another day, just another paycheck. We've got nonsense right out of the chute, I thought.
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The two-bit Reno nightclub singer, Van Cartier, accidentally witnesses her boyfriend, Vince LaRocca, orchestrate a young man's murder. (HARVEY KEITEL plays the evidently sight-challenged mobster. He couldn't find a more attractive two-bit nightclub singer in all of Reno? Please!) Now Van Cartier is (a soon-to-be nun) on the run.
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Until LaRocca's murder charge comes up for trial, Lieutenant Eddie Souther (BILL NUNN, who must have gotten the part based only on his last name) places Van Cartier in a convent under the Witness Protection Program. The hulking Nunn is horribly miscast and gives a downright embarrassing performance as a lawman. Trying to pass this guy off as a street-hardened, high-ranking law enforcement officer is like trying to pass off Garfield the cat as a police dog! Nunn plays most scenes with this goofy "oh-you-kid" grin. (Sit down, Lieutentant, before you hurt yourself!)
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Meanwhile, gangster LaRocca - awaiting his murder trial, yet incredibly free to roam the city (What? Did he have a "Get Out Of Jail" card tucked into his "violin case"?) - and his two un-intimidating, geriatric hitmen, are trying to locate Van Cartier to enunciate with gunfire their displeasure at her willingness to testify.
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In the convent, Van Cartier's life is adhering to the typical Hollywood formula - "the outcast finds her niche and makes good" paint-by-numbers kit. You know the gig! And we're treated to all the usual: Tough and/or cool street people in ridiculously exaggerated "tough and/or cool street people" costumes (how about just T-shirts and jeans, folks? You know, like REAL people on the street wear?); the gag where three guys simultaneously rush through a small opening and momentarily get stuck a la The Three Stooges (Har!-Har!-Har!); and of course, the obligatory and ubiquitous bit where the guys take it in the "family jewels" while the heroine makes good her escape. (The nutcracker shtick ceased to be fresh and funny about 1976, but they're still feeding it to us regularly because, you know, there's little genuine writing talent in Tinsel Town. Or haven't you noticed?)
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There are about 101 additional problems with this act, Sisters and Brothers, but there's no point in listing them all; it's not like you're going to pay attention to anything I say anyway. (The nuns fly to Reno to rescue Van Cartier because... uhm... there was no way to telephone Reno Law Enforcement? That's just a guess on my part. "Ain't nun of ya in the habit of keeping any spare change around, pray tell?")
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I did enjoy the clever musical arrangements, and Goldberg's prayer before supper at the convent was appropriately inappropriate. But I loved Mary Wickes in the minor role of Sister Mary Lazarus, the ancient but tough-as-General MacArthur nun. I thought she had the best lines in the movie. ("I liked my convent in Vancouver, out in the woods. It wasn't all modern like some of these newfangled convents. We didn't have electricity - cold water, bare feet - THOSE were nuns!... it was hell on earth. I loved it! This place is a Hilton.") You go, Sister! Discipline those Pillsbury Dough Boy-soft troops!
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Still, I can think of better uses for my time than watching SISTER ACT. (Sleeping, eating, reading, and writing a negative review of SISTER ACT all come immediately to mind.) Hey, I love a fun, stupid comedy (e.g., 'The Pink Panther Strikes Again' or 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail'), but because it actually asks us to accept as plausible its preposterous scenario, SISTER ACT is dumber than a lobotomized moron with paralyzed vocal cords. Making it, of course, the ideal movie for post-literate America. Whoopi!!
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(I hear what you're thinking: Why is he always knocking America? But I'm not! I'm always criticizing America, and there's a difference: 2 more syllables and 3 more letters!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Monday, May 20, 2019

SOME OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES “B” WESTERNS

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THE ROY ROGERS COLLECTION
Roy Rogers DVD Boxed Set
released: 2006
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A lot of folks don’t know that ROY ROGERS (Leonard Slye; 1911-1998) was born at approximately where 2nd base in Cincinnati’s old Riverfront Stadium would eventually be located. How American is that? It’s a wonder he didn’t emerge from the womb draped in The Stars And Stripes, holding aloft an apple pie still hot from “the oven” and whistling ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ (or ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’). Every time Pete Rose slid into 2nd base, ol’ Roy probably thought that the Reds had scored a run because Charlie Hustle was safe at “home.”
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Roy Rogers was one of my great heroes when I was a kid, and I can still recall the pride with which I wore my bright yellow raincoat with the black pictures printed on it of Roy (“King Of The Cowboys”), Trigger (“The Smartest Horse In The Movies"), and Dale Evans (“The Queen Of The West”). I even had a little schoolboy crush on Roy’s wife, Dale.
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These old “B” Westerns starring Roy were so wholesome and exuded such innocence that I can’t help saddling up from time to time with my old hero and revisiting a simpler, more pleasant bygone time that won’t be riding our way again. Heaven? Well, it can’t be much better than lounging around late on a Saturday morning in cotton flannel jamas, with hot coffee, and watching Roy round up rustlers. “Look out behind that rock, Roy!” Too late. Oh well, Roy will ultimately win the fight (even if he does consistently “fall” for that leg sweep trick) because the good guys and bad guys are always clearly delineated in “B” Westerns and the good guys always win. And what’s wrong wit dat?
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In 1990, my girlfriend and I self-published "CALAMITY CAT'S AND BLACK COLE KID'S UNCOMPLICATED GUIDE TO WESTERN MOVIES FOR THE SIMPLE-MINDED COWPERSON." It’s quite a collector’s item now; I’ve even heard of some copies selling for as much as ten cents! Calamity Cat and I saw every Western you can think of (and plenty that you can’t). On September 7, 1990, we drove out to the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, California, and since The Good Lord had taken a liking to us, we actually met Roy and Dale. I recognized that distinctive “double rolled” crown of his cowboy hat as he drove past in a van. “It’s him!” I yelled. “Cut him off at the pass!”, Calamity demanded. I was really going to attempt to box him into the parking lot with my car (Calamity and I were both temporarily insane), but he pulled over of his own volition.
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When Roy said he no longer signed autographs, Calamity and I were crushed. He added, “But we’ll be happy to have our picture taken with you.” Yeah, sure. We watched Roy work the crowd for awhile and then as someone started to hustle him off, he stopped and said, “Wait! You two wanted a picture, didn’t you?” We couldn’t believe it! He and Dale posed with us, and Roy insisted that a second shot be taken just in case the first one didn't turn out well. (I later tried to feed Trigger a handful of oats but he refused to take a bite as he was already stuffed.) We were so eager to see the pictures that Calamity and I went to a one-hour photo joint in Victorville and waited while the film was processed.
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Roy Rogers was probably the most famous of the old “singing cowboys”, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the “singing” part was just a movie production gimmick. Roy was a founding member of the renowned and influential Country-Western group THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS, and he had a d*mn fine voice and really knew how to swing. There was nothing “B” about Roy’s vocals! No, sir – he was the real McCoy when it came to music. And by all accounts, one of the nicest gentlemen in the history of Hollywood. (But then there’s never been a lot of competition in Tinsel Town in that department.)
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Although the audio/visual quality of some of these old prints is pretty ragged at times, you’re getting 20 of Roy’s classic Westerns (2 in Trucolor – which is something of a small fib) for a dern low price. Will you find a better deal anywhere? “Neigh.” Included is 1944's historic “COWBOY AND THE SENORITA” (the first time Roy and Dale appeared in a film together) and perennial favorites of the Roy Rogers fan clubs, “KING OF THE COWBOYS”, “ROBIN HOOD OF THE PECOS”, and “MY PAL TRIGGER” which chronicles the birth of Roy’s famous palomino.
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For this little wrangler, the inclusion of my three favorite R.R. pictures alone made this DVD worth the price:
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“HELDORADO” has Nevada Ranger Roy tracking counterfeiters in Las Vegas. It includes the quintessential old coot sidekick, GABBY HAYES (“Pershnickety females!”); the rubber-faced pre-Jim Carrey Jim Carrey, PAT BRADY, who sings the wonderfully comic “I’m A High-Strung Lad”; Roy’s great line when he rescues Dale from a locked refrigerator (I won’t spoil it); and concludes with an astounding shot of what downtown Las Vegas looked like in 1946!
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“BELLS OF SAN ANGELO” (1942, in Trucolor) has some great songs (including THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS doing “Lazy Day” and Brady’s manic antics over “Hot Lead.”)
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And I suppose my favorite is “UNDER CALIFORNIA STARS” (1948, in Trucolor) which in a sense is an archetypal “B” Western. It commemorated Roy’s 10th anniversary in motion pictures and he and THE SONS revisited “Dust”, the featured song in Roy’s very first movie. The story revolves around the kidnapping of Trigger, a lame little boy, Ted, and his scruffy ragamuffin dog named... what else?... “Tramp”. At one point, Trigger stomps on the face of a prostrated “inflatable” villain (HOO!-HOO!-HOO! Watch in slow motion for capital “B”, “B”ad special effect laughter) and this movie contains perhaps the meanest, most downright ornery thing Roy ever uttered on the silver screen... brace yourself now: “IT’S TOO BAD A KID LIKE TED HAD TO GET HIMSELF MIXED UP WITH A NO GOOD GUY LIKE YOU!” But don’t worry, Roy will eventually get Trigger back and get the best doctor in the country to heal Ted’s leg. Everything’s Gonna “B” OK (EGBOK).
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Unfortunately, the Mill Creek Entertainment company felt it necessary to display their logo in the bottom right corner of the screen every so often, but really, what does that matter? I mean, you’re viewing movies in which the good guys chase the bad guys on horseback around the very same rock formations from one movie to the next (watch them boulders, some of them are like recurring characters!)
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Nevertheless, mind your tongue around me! As I wrote in the out-of-print Western movie guide that Calamity Cat and I created: “Let me spell it out for you... I don’t give an armadillo’s tail in Texas what you think of his movies, but you best not say not nice things about MY Mr. Rogers when I’m around, lest your butt and my metal-tipped cowboy boots get acquainted!”
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Well, ‘Happy Trails To You’ until I review again.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Monday, March 25, 2019

SASS 'N' ATTITUDE & BANDAGED PAIN

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[This review originally appeared at BigBitch.com on 2006, May 24.] 
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RICKIE LEE JONES
by Rickie Lee Jones
released: 1979
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In 1979, Rickie Lee Jones released what was probably the most fully-realized and self-assured debut album by any singer of any genre at any time. No other vocalist ever broke from the starting gate with this much aplomb, looseness and "If you don't like it, you can hit the road, Jack" attitude. In a sense, this was both a blessing and a curse: she made it obvious immediately that she was a prodigiously talented songwriter who put her songs over with a finely-tuned, stylistic sauciness and a broken-hearted sincerity. But at the same time, she set the bar so high with her self-titled 'RICKIE LEE JONES' that subsequent disappointment was almost inevitable.
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It was a different world at the tail end of the '70s: originality was still a desirable trait in new artists being developed (unlike the current situation where the new bands and performers seem like nothing more nor less than Xerox copies of last year's hottest model), and I was a 20-year-old looking squarely at a future full of pristine promise (unaware that the best I'd ever do is write semi-appreciated reviews for a then unimaginable Internet shopping site).
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When Rickie Lee Jones released her second collection, 'PIRATES', I initially thought it eclipsed her brilliant debut (I used to sniff Amyl Nitrite while tripping out over Steve Gadd's quirky drumming on the track, 'We Belong Together'), but in hindsight, I realize that the further she went with sonic exploration into highly personal expression, the further she drifted from really making that human connection with her listeners over a shared emotional understanding.
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But on 'RICKIE LEE JONES', with its Jazzy arrangements and stellar musicianship, her poetry was conveyed through exaggerated (and perhaps just a trace too-mannered), flouncy, bohemian sass 'n' attitude upbeat numbers, or ultra-sensitive, lost 'n' lonely ballads of bandaged pain that strike right at the heart.
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In the SASS 'N' ATTITUDE department there's...
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NIGHT TRAIN:
"Swing low, Saint Cadillac / Tearin' down the alley" 
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YOUNG BLOOD:
"But she ain't running / She's walking a little slow / And she ain't crying / She's just singin' a little low / They say this city will make you dirty but you look alright / You feel real pretty when he's holding you tight / City will make you mean but that's the makeup on your face / Love will wash you clean in the night's disgrace"
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DANNY'S ALL-STAR JOINT:
"You can't break the rules until you know how to play the game / But if you just want to have a little fun / You can mention my name" 
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WEASEL AND THE WHITE BOYS COOL:
"You dancin' in the welfare line, Sal / Actin' like some jerk-off fool / When we could lay out eatin' peaches on the beaches / A weasel in a White boys cool" 
(And I can personally recall a time when I did eat a peach on Venice Beach- the superfunky L.A. hotspot where Rickie first developed these songs in the beer bars and bistros along the boardwalk while dogs went airborne over the sand to snag Frisbees in flight and the carnival of human wackiness paraded under the California sun.)
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But even in many of Rickie's thumpin', bumpin', hip-grindin' upbeat numbers, a trace of her melancholy muse can be found: Consider this line from the aforementioned YOUNG BLOOD:

"Keep a third eye watching behind you / You never know when you're making a memory / They will wish they were here together again, someday." 
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You won't feel the full impact of that sentiment until you are in your mid-forties, but you'll really understand it then.
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In the BANDAGED PAIN department there's...
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ON SATURDAY AFTERNOONS IN 1963:
"The most as you'll ever go / Is back where you used to know / If grownups could laugh this slow"
(If you can't detect two or three worlds in that lyric, then you'd better just stick with the crude pseudo-machismo of your Eminem and Insane Clown Posse.)
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THE LAST CHANCE TEXACO:
"There was this block-busted blonde / He loved her free parts and labor / But she broke down and died / And threw all the rods he gave her / But this one ain't fuel-injected / Her plug's disconnected / She gets scared and she stalls / She just needs a man, that's all"
(This song contains the greatest automotive imagery ever penned. Too bad for you, Springsteen!)
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COOLSVILLE:
"I and Bragger and Junior Lee / That's the way we always thought it would be / In the Winston lips of September / How we met / Decked out like aces / We'd beat anybody's bet / Cuz we was Coolsville"
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COMPANY:
"I'll see you in another life now, baby / I'll free you in my dreams / But when I reach across the galaxy / I will miss your company" 
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Me 'n' the boys were cruisin' the 405 freeway on our way to see Rickie Lee Jones perform at The Universal Amphitheater in 1983. We were all singin' in Tiburon (our permanently topless, 1963 Cadillac), when I realized that I had forgotten the glasses I'd recently begun wearing at night to compensate for my nearsightedness. Rickie was in fine vocal form that night, but she appeared to me like just a greyish, blurry form on the stage. While goin' home that evening, all the boys could talk about was how she had performed braless in a sheer, see-through blouse. I never did determine whether they were serious or just teasing the myopic maroon in the backseat.
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If you want to hear some authentic art from the 1970s, some street-smart, toe-tappin' jive-rock and moving poetry that you can hum along with, then let 'RICKIE LEE JONES' keep you COMPANY. In the song AFTER HOURS (Twelve Bars Past Goodnight), Rickie sings, "Say goodnight, America / The world still loves a dreamer." And here in 2006, I'm still dreaming that someday I'll find my misplaced glasses and then SEE if I can write something more worthwhile than a bunch of semi-appreciated product reviews for an Internet shopping site. Wish me luck, America.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIG-- er... BLASPHEMY

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LIVES OF THE MASTER: The Rest Of The Jesus Story
by Glenn Sanderfur
published: 1988
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Let's be clear about two things right from the start:
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1) By REINCARNATION we mean the concept that a soul might activate more than one human body at different times. This is commonly confused with SOUL TRANSMIGRATION which theorizes that souls can inhabit the bodies of dogs, cats, and other animals, and even ostensibly inanimate objects such as rocks and raindrops. There is much evidence to support the former belief and not a shred of evidence to support the latter.
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2) Despite the vehement denouncing of it by contemporary Christian theologians, REINCARNATION is a Biblically-sound belief that is prevalent throughout both Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. There are a great many Bible verses that allude to reincarnation, and some Bible passages even remain unintelligible until the moment reincarnation is applied to them.
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The idea that Jesus Himself may have incarnated multiple times will seem a greater blasphemy to most Christians than reincarnation in general. And although I don't personally take a hard and fast position on this, I do lean heavily toward it. The idea seems to be implied in several Biblical passages. For instance: "Though He (Jesus) was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." (Hebrews 5:8) This seems to hint at earlier lifetimes in which The Son suffered as a result of disobedience and from those sufferings He learned obedience. Based on what we learn of Jesus from The Bible, one could accurately say that Jesus suffered as a result of His obedience to God, but it would NOT be correct to say that He learned obedience by suffering, because from His earliest Childhood we see Him being obedient to God's Will. ("Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" --Luke 2:49) At no point was He disobedient. And so Hebrews 5:8 seems to imply AT LEAST one earlier lifetime for Jesus.
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It's hard not to appreciate the humility and simplicity of Glenn Sanderfur's writing in 'LIVES OF THE MASTER' and the research that he shares. The book makes compelling arguments and the sheer amount of evidence that Sanderfur presents will surprise a great many readers. There is more than ample food for thought in these pages. But there is also a downside:
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For many people the reincarnation concept becomes a stumbling block. Reincarnation is the patience of God in action (as I like to refer to it) and like all Divine Laws, the system works whether one is aware of its existence or not. Reincarnation is sometimes turned into a false idol by students who make too much of it and lose sight of the fact that what one does with their present circumstances is far more important than learning how they arrived at their present circumstances. Reincarnation can be very helpful, but it can also be misunderstood and misapplied, becoming detrimental to spiritually immature individuals.
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Much of the information in 'LIVES OF THE MASTER' is derived from pseudepigraphic writings. My limited study of the pseudepigrapha leads me to believe that those texts were justifiably not canonized. Another source of information is the Edgar Cayce readings which have proven to be both accurate and (often) inaccurate.
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I was once so dedicated to the Cayce readings that I even visited Edgar Cayce's hometown and gravesite in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. But decades of study led me to the conclusion that the readings sometimes originated from highly "questionable" sources. One reading actually admits this! (*See my review for 'The Edgar Cayce Companion' by Ernest Frejer, titled, 'Danger! You Are Skating On Thin Ice', posted at Amazon.com on 2004, July 25th.)
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In a few chapters, Sanderfur quotes Manly Hall as an authority. Manly Hall was a prolific Masonic writer and, like other "adepts" in the Masonic Order, was a luciferian.
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"When the Mason learns that the key to the warrior on the block is the proper application of the dynamo of living power, he has learned the mystery of his craft. The seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands", Manly wrote in 'Lost Keys Of Freemasonry'.
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In his book 'Twelve World Teachers', which is quoted from several times in 'Lives Of The Master', Hall doubts the crucifixion of Jesus and states that, "in a sense the Last Supper concluded the ministry". This exhibits such a woefully inadequate understanding of (if not a deliberate deception about) the Messianic mission of Jesus, that quoting ANY passages from Hall's book casts Sanderfur's book in a very bad light! And whereas contemporary Christianity suffers from nearsightedness and a rigid, confining theology, the New Age movement is dangerously occultic at best, and downright luciferian at worst. For this reason, I recommend Glenn Sanderfur's 'LIVES OF THE MASTER', but I do so very, very cautiously.
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This book may be helpful to you "if you are willing to receive it" and have "ears to hear". But it could also be a hindrance to your Spiritual development and lead you down a very dark path. Honestly, I strongly suggest that you pray about it. Too often I have used my "reasoning" ability to make decisions and later regretted them. But whenever I have gone to The Father or His Son, Yeshua, with a question, and then waited patiently for the answer, I have NEVER been led astray. Should you read 'LIVES OF THE MASTER'? Don't ask me. Ask the ONE who knows!
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

MARTERIE = THUMBS UP / AIRHEADZONANS = THUMBS DOWN

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[Originally posted at Amazon.com on 2005, July 18.]
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THE BEST OF RALPH MARTERIE: The Mercury Years
Ralph Marterie
released: 1996
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Ralph Marterie is one of those musicians / arrangers who have been largely and unjustly forgotten by the public. In Marterie's case, I think it can be partially attributed to the time period in which most of his best known music was cut.
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The 25 tracks collected here span the years 1951 through 1958, with most of them falling into the first half of that decade. This puts him right on the cusp where the dog days of the Big Band Swing era had significantly given way to Rock 'N' Roll's infancy. You can hear that transition occurring in many of Marterie's numbers. And it makes for some interesting listening.
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Due to some imaginative playing from myriad instruments that swing easily, much of this material manages to present the illusion of an improvisational approach confined within tightly arranged structures (only one track makes it all the way to the three minute mark). But there's plenty here that should be appreciated by both Jazz fans and early Rock 'N' Roll devotees. Marterie's sound is unique in that he combines Swing components (trumpet and multiple saxophones) with classical instrumentation (strings) and also employs a front and center electric guitar at times. And he occasionally pulls it all together over drumming that exhibits a nearly R&B rhythmic style. (Of course, as Rock 'N' Roll took shape, the strings would get the heave-ho, the reeds would be pared down to a single sax, and the guitar would gain prominence.) It was that pronounced beat on several numbers (CARAVAN; SKOKIAAN; DRY MARTERIE; IN A PERSIAN MARKET; and TRICKY) that undoubtedly endeared Marterie to my Mom and others from her generation who stayed in shape via the dance floor.
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This is not to say that everything on THE BEST OF RALPH MARTERIE falls into this upbeat, danceable category. There is also some "sweet" Swing; some Harry James-like trumpet workouts; a few melancholic, sentimental ballads; and a couple of feisty, baritone sax rumblers. All in all, a nice mix of some good stuffs. I don't play this album often, but every time I do, I wind up asking myself why I don't.
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It occurs to me that it's been quite a few reviews since I've poked fun at Arizonans. So, if you'll indulge me here - although it's entirely irrelevant to this review - I'd like to correct that oversight now:
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I kid you not, these folks is D-U-U-U-MB! Case in point: The day before yesterday, I was driving to a wide spot in the road called Rock Springs to pick up some pies. A lady up there is famous for her pies (we like the Tennessee Lemon and the Jack Daniels Pecan) which they advertise as being "WORTH THE DRIVE FROM ANYWHERE." This was probably true before gas went above $2. a gallon, but if you hail from East of the muddy Mississippi, you may want to settle for something baked closer to home. But I digress from my digression...
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So, I'm going North out of Phoenix on I-17 when traffic slows to a crawl. For a couple of miles I'm constantly shifting back and forth between 2nd and 3rd gears, and expecting to find a brush fire or an accident up ahead. But no, the disturbance was caused by an electronic highway sign stating, "Extreme Fire Conditions - See
www.azfireprevention.com" or some such nonsense. The Airheadzonans were slowing down to read this sign (visible for more than half of a mile) with its earthshaking news. Well, duh! It's July and we live in the middle of a desert where it's only 114 degrees in the shade every day!
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I'm convinced that when I moved to Airheadzona, the state's collective I.Q. was doubled. And keep in mind that I ain't none too bright my-damn-self! (I mean, I DID move here, didn't I?) I'm sure that my anti-Arizona comments are responsible for some of my "Unhelpful" votes, but if they think that's going to stop me, then they're just plain... well... you know.
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Thanks for tolerating my tangent, and enjoy the tunes!
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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RAZING RAISING ARIZONA

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RAISING ARIZONA
directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
released: 1987
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Now, don’t y'all get me wrong, I enjoys me an offbeat comedy as much as the next person. Heck, I myself am as “offbeat” as it gets this side o’ the cuckoo’s nest. And, yeah, I chuckled two, maybe three times during the course of this 90-minute movie. But that ain’t a good laughs-to-minutes ratio, boys ‘n’ girls. Problem is, I prefer my offbeat comedies to be funny. ...Yeah, I’m funny that way.
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I s’pose I can see why some o' the people of Airheadzona might think this is a great comedy. After all, Airheadzona's collective I.Q. rating is commensurate with its average temperature during the dog days of Summer. But what excuse does the rest o’ yous have?
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Not to worry - I’m a-gonna buy each and every one o’ yous a REAL, fully-developed Sense O’Humor for Christmas this year. (Provided The Comedy Store has ‘em on sale. I doesn't like to pay me full price!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

WHORRIBLY HUMOROUS!

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PARLIAMENT OF WHORES
by P.J. O'Rourke
published: 1991
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“It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.”

~ P.J. O’Rourke
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Once upon a time, oh, about a year ago, I was on the john, with my P.J. bottoms loitering around my ankles, and minding my own “business.” I had one of my Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers in my lap (Uncle John and the john were just made for each other) and I was reading a page that contained a lot of funny remarks related to politics. I noticed that the several excerpts that had been penned by one P.J. O’ROURKE elicited the greatest laughs from me, so I determined to find out just who this P.J. was and where he’d been my whole life. After a little Ammyland surfing, I purchased his book PARLIAMENT OF WHORES.
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Just last week, I was on an America West flight to Northern Nevada. At the airport, after taking everything from me that one could never commandeer an airplane with, and making me remove my belt and shoes and self-respect, the powers that be somehow let me waltz onto the plane with PARLIAMENT OF WHORES -- a very dangerous book. I mean, had I begun reading aloud, I could have convulsed the pilots, the flight crew, and the air marshal with laughter and taken control of Flight #522.
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Instead, I read silently to myself, and laughed out loud every thirty seconds or so. This aroused the curiosity of the woman sitting next to me who asked what I was reading. I said, “Parliament Of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke” but somehow what she heard was, “Will you tell me your life story?” So she proceeded to tell me how she had gotten married at Lake Tahoe and bred dogs for a living. Or maybe it was that she earned her bread at Lake Tahoe and had married a dog. To be honest, I wasn’t paying that much attention, but merely trying to nod and smile when I thought it was appropriate, and stealing another sentence or two from O’Rourke’s book every time she paused between chapters in her oral autobiography. (She did offer me her little bag of pretzels, so at least I got something from her besides an earache.)
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PALIAMENT OF WHORES is P.J.’s 1991 account of a journalist’s inside look at politics and how it affects American Life. And trust me, it’s no laughing matter, which is exactly why we must laught at it. It’s laugh or go postal, but since the postal service is tied to the federal government, it’s better that we laugh.

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P.J. says, “I have tried to present a factual – data-filled, at any rate – account of how this government works. Which is complicated by the fact that it doesn’t.” But if you think a journalist should instead be writing about things that are more relevant and of greater interest to most Americans, P.J. did promise in the Acknowledgments that his next book was going to be about “Madonna’s Illegitimate UFO Diet To Cure AIDS And Find Elvis.”
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On page 103, O’Rourke confesses that he is “a real Republican” but then adds, “unlike some current presidents of the United States I could name.” That unnamed “presidents” he referred to was, of course, George H. W. Bush. Now it’s his equally un-Republican son, George W. Bush, who occupies The White House, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the Bush.
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But don’t let the fact that P.J. is a Republican dissuade you from reading PARLIAMENT OF WHORES if you happen to be a Democrat because Ol’ P.J. absolutely grills EVERYONE in this laugh-out-loud book. And why not? The federal government has taken it upon itself to warn the nation that undercooked eggs and meat are unhealthy. And is raw government any better for us? It too deserves a good grilling, and P.J. is just the chef to do it!
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Now, I can’t say that P.J. never misses the nail’s head and hits his own thumb. For example, on page 78 he states that the Supreme Court opening a session with “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is surprisingly sloppy reporting coming from a man who makes his living with words. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And that’s what the Constitution, in its entirety, has to say about religion. So, when did the Supreme Court become Congress? And since when is stating, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” the establishment of a law? (And has anybody informed God that He is now bound by law to do these things?)
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On page 119, P.J. questions the wisdom of the illegality of recreational drugs. I think keeping these chemicals out of the hands (and arms, and lungs) of as many people as possible is indeed wise. The only exception being those funny smelling “cigarettes” which my buddy at work, The Great L.C., and I agree should be treated in like manner as alcohol, for they have, if anything, even less potential for harm: Put 10 guys into a room with loud music and bottles and bottles of booze, and it’s a sure  bet that before the evening is over, one (or more) of those guys will get roughed up. But put the same 10 guys into the same room with the same loud music, and replace the booze with “wacky weed” and the only things that are gonna get roughed up are bags of potato chips.
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But other than these rare disagreements, I found PALIAMENT OF WHORES to be wickedly accurate and whorribly humorous. Wait’ll you read the suggestions the author makes for reducing federal expenditures ('O’Rourke’s Circumcision and Budget Liposuction'), and the way he dissects the Special Interest Groups ('The Original Barrel Of Monkeys That Nothing Is More Fun Than'). This thing is simply a howl from one end to the other; the funniest book I’ve read in a very long time. Heck, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read at ANY time! It’s “seriously funny” like Mark Twain. And I am no more ashamed to have PARLIAMENT OF WHORES standing in my bookcase between The Declaration Of Independence and 'The Heritage Guide To The Constitution' than I am to have Twain’s 'ROUGHING IT' standing between 'Saloons Of The Old West' and 'I Married Wyatt Earp'. Aw, well, you know what I mean.
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In the final analysis – after his study of how our government works [sic] – O’Rourke concludes that what we suspected all along is true: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Nevertheless, watching P.J. T.P. the U.S. is the best cry you’ll ever laugh. I’ll be voting P.J. for President in 2008, even though he’s too smart to run... except away.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Friday, October 26, 2018

THE UNDISCOVERED INDIGO SOUL

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ON THE BLUE SIDE
by Hank Crawford & Jimmy McGriff
released: 1990
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I'm shocked and disappointed to find that here in late 2004, I'm the first person to submit a review [*at Amazon.com*] for this excellent album. I bought ON THE BLUE SIDE shortly after its release and I've probably heard it well over a hundred times. This wasn't the first collaboration between HANK CRAWFORD & JIMMY McGriff -- just the best!
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I'm an inveterate whistler. I catch myself unconsciously whistling all the time, and almost always it's either 'Sunshine Of Your Love', 'Keep On Loving You', 'Bumpin' On Sunset', 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', or 'ANY DAY NOW' from this collection. My gosh, I've been whistling 'Any Day Now' for 14 years!
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This is an exciting and soulful 4-piece band which features the Bluesy but always swinging alto sax of CRAWFORD, which dances over McGRIFF's thick washes of Hammond B-3 Organ chords - chords which suddenly and frequently transform into popping, red-hot, electrically-charged riffing! It is McGRIFF who keeps this music grooving with an addictive, stylistically Jazzy R&B mood. He's a vastly talented musician whose keyboard technique makes him a peer of other notable B-3 masters such as Jimmy Smith, Bill Doggett, and Booker T. Jones.
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Not to be overlooked, however, is the much employed Wes Montgomery-influenced guitar work of JIMMY PONDER, whose imaginative playing punctuates the undulating, snake-like rhythms with purple, pinpoint notes that both heighten and release the musical tension. Man, this is great stuffs! It gets under the skin and just COMPELS the body to move! It seems that some people don't have an aural affinity for the organ sound. That's a real puzzlement to me because I don't just HEAR the B-3, I FEEL it!
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These instrumental pieces that make up ON THE BLUE SIDE are rhythmically-structured pieces that are danceable, and yet they contain plenty of space for the exciting, improvisational interplay that Jazz fans listen for.
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ON THE BLUE SIDE may be one of my more frequently spun discs, but you know, I didn't have to share this treasure with ya. I could-a kept Hank's and 'Jimmy's Groove' thang all to myself. I could-a taken the attitude that if you don't already know, that's 'Tuff' for you! I could-a said to myself, "Stephen" (that's what I occasionally call myself), "only one person is lucky enough to listen to ON THE BLUE SIDE, and 'You're The One'!" But I couldn't act so selfishly. Instead, I brought you on board with me. I hope you appreciate this review. 'Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You'?
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

1959: Frankie Would Say, “IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR!”

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NOVA BOSSA: Red Hot On Verve
by Assorted Artists
released: 1996
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If you have read my review for the album [link> 'Bossa Nova For Lovers' then you know that I’ve only just recently discovered that I’ve been in love with Bossa Nova for pretty much my entire life without ever knowing it. (And if you haven’t read that review, I’d like to know why not! I mean, if you’re not hanging on my every word, then I’m just going to stop nailing them up there. ;o)
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I purchased two Bossa Nova collections as soon as I realized that “Bossa Nova” was the name of the musical genre that my heart has been carrying around for the past 43 years. (I do catch on, but slowly.) I acquired the aforementioned set because I’m a real “lover” -- yeah, bring it on ladies! (But I’m a “fighter”, too, so watch yer step, dude!) And I simultaneously bought “NOVA BOSSA: RED HOT ON VERVE”, and danged if I can tell ya which one I like best, because they’re both Boss! I might prefer this collection overall, only by the slimmest margin, but “For Lovers” includes Astrud Gilberto’s “The Shadow Of Your Smile”, and without that song in my collection, my smile would be turned upside down. :o(
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I found John Carlin’s liner notes included with this compact disc to be very informative, so I’m copying them below:
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“Brazilian music is American music. It comes from the same multicultural fusion that spawned blues, jazz, salsa, reggae and rock. In Brazil it is called samba. Samba fused three sounds that thrived in Rio de Janeiro at the end of the 19th century: West African polyrhythms, Portuguese melodies, and Native American chants. [*By chants were you aware that I’m part Mohawk Indian? I want 40 acres of land and a jackass! Oh wait, I’M the jackass.*]

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"This potent combination was turned into a classic myth by the poet Vinicius de Moraes, whose play [link> “Black Orpheus” brought Afrocentric Brazilian culture and samba to international attention. In the well-known film version, Orpheus dies for love, but his artistic spirit lives on in a young boy who picks up Orpheus’ guitar and plays his song to make the sun rise. The beauty of the music makes the film’s heavy-handed theme credible. Orpheus’ song, “A Felicidade”, composed by a young Antonio Carlos Jobim, comes out of samba culture while effortlessly introducing something new and even more beautiful to the world. That sound later became known as bossa nova, the new wave. It was created by Jobim and de Moraes along with the great singer/guitarist Joao Gilberto. Inspired by samba, along with the sophistication of Debussy and Cole Porter, Jobim began writing simple, beautiful songs that suggested, but were never burdened by their eccentric harmonies, asymmetrical structures and abstract thoughts.
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“Within a few years, American jazz musicians like Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz began to sample these new exotic songs. By 1962, Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema” performed by Getz with Joao Gilberto and his wife Astrud, on the Verve label, became the biggest hit in the U.S., the year before the Beatles arrived. [*According to my Billboard book, it was '64.*] The success of the song and the bossa beat created a pop formula capitalized upon by Astrud, Sergio Mendes, Walter Wanderley and others throughout the mid-Sixties. At the same time, Jobim and Gilberto – as well as musicians like the Tamba Trio, Edu Lobo, Baden Powell and Marcos Valle – continued to refine bossa and samba into one of the finest means of expression in the world of pop music.
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“By the late ‘60s, a new generation of artists began to emerge in Brazil from the Afrocentric northeastern state of Bahia. Led by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, they merged bossa with rock by adding more aggressive beats and avoiding romantic lyrics. This new movement, called tropicalismo, demonstrated the continued vitality of Brazilian music and that samba, like the blues, grew from the multicultural character of the Americas to become one of the great art forms of the 20th century.”
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~ John Carlin
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I saw the movie “BLACK ORPHEUS” in the late ‘80s because I tremendously enjoyed Vince Guaraldi’s song “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, which I knew had first appeared on his album titled, “Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus.” I don’t recall being much impressed with the movie back then, but seeing it a second time is suddenly a priority for me. (“NOVA BOSSA: RED HOT ON VERVE” begins with Jobim’s “A Felicidade” taken directly from the 1959 “BLACK ORPHEUS” soundtrack. I feel it’s spoiled a bit by the voices and various other audio portions of the film’s soundtrack, but historically, it’s still the perfect opening for a Bossa Nova set. And I can’t tell you how cool I think it is that Bossa Nova was introduced to the world at large in the same year that I entered into it.)
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The so-called “Interludes” on this set are merely 15-30 second snippets of drums, ocean and street sounds, etc. I’m not sure what their purpose is, and I could have done without them, thank you very much. But they don’t diminish my listening pleasure because the tunes are simply Mmmm-Mmmm Good! I swear, I love Bossa Nova. My only wish is that some of the tracks were extended: it seems that no sooner has a particular rhythm and melody enveloped me and begun carving grooves into my heart and soul than it comes to an end and we’re off to the next delicious slice of Bossa Nova. Oh well, “Leave ‘em wanting more” is the old entertainment maxim.
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I dig every song on “NOVA BOSSA: RED HOT ON VERVE”, although Caetano Veloso’s “Superbacana” is pretty goofy. Why do I see The Brady Bunch in my mind when that one plays? No, seriously, why? But this is a funky Fun Fiesta; less Saudade than the 'Bossa Nova For Lovers' disc, which is perfectly fine with me because now I have a Bossa Nova concert for both moods. If you too have a heart for Bossa Nova, I can guarantee your satisfaction with this first-class set.

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And speaking of the heart, always remember what that great Brazilian pianist Yoey O’Dogherty once said to a group of budding Bossa Nova musicians in 1963: “Listen with your heart, speak with your fingers, and love with your -- HEY! Who took my beer?”
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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