Movie Review: Why Cocktail Needs More 1980s Respect.

Cocktail was released July 1988 by Touchstone Pictures.

Even though it was a top grossing film, 1988’s Cocktail is sometimes passed over when Tom Cruise movies are discussed, or even films from the decade. But is it a bad ’80s film?  I am no way saying it deserves to be placed aside the upper tier films like  Return Of The Jedi, Top Gun, Batman, or Raiders of The Lost Ark, but it should be argued into a second level film of one of the more entertaining flicks of the time. Not only is it an all time favorite film of mine, but let’s look at why the film should be looked at again in terms of one of the underrated flicks from the 1980s.

                                                                                                                             

  1. The Cast.

            Films are only as good as their actors, and Cocktail has several stars in it. Tom Cruise playing Brian Flanagan is not only the star (in name and character), but his character is 1980s. Coming out of the Army, Brian heads back to New York to conquer the world and “make a million” as he states in the film. After being turned down by all types of jobs, he stumbles into a local bar and works as a bartender. He gains success under the mentor of Doug Coughlin (played by  Bryan Brown) , a man with witty life rules and becomes his best friend. 

            The duo talks about making money and while Flanagan thinks, at first, the college degree is what makes someone successful, Coughlin scoffs at the education system and states the path to success is behind the bar in New York. After a dispute with Coughlin, Flanagan lands in Jamaica, where he meets Jordan, a waitress from New York on vacation, played by Elisabeth Shue, who comes off as likable from the very beginning with her attractive smile and charming personality.

elisabeth shue

            Without spoiling the film’s ending, the ’80s lifestyle attitude of achieving all the money one can, along with greed and a party lifestyle was what the decade was spotlighted on. Shue, coming off Adventures in Babysitting (you can read my review here in the archives by typing into the search engine), was also known as the love interest in The Karate Kid film in 1984, and after this went into the second and third films of Back To The Future. Yes, at the time she was cast as the girlfriend in most films, but she was in some of the great movies of the 1980s and helps make the film as wonderful with her humor throughout the film with some of her one liners.  Cruise was riding high at the time after Top Gun and The Color Of Money, and was Box Office gold at this time, so having a major star as the lead  character , stretching his acting skills  into the drama genre, was a another plus for the movie, with his female fans being attracted to the movie. Brown, Cruise, and Shue are also joined by Gina Gershon (who also went on to have a nice film career) and an appearance from  Paul Benedict from The Jeffersons fame.  One has to have a strong cast for the debate of a great film, and Cocktail check marks that box with a strong group of actors.

 

  1. The Music.

            The movies in the 1980s did not just have to have a great movie script, but many times the music in the film helped drive the success in sales. The Cocktail soundtrack is filled with songs from The Fabulous Thunderbirds (“Powerful Stuff”), Starship (“Wild Again”) and 1960s covers by current artists like John Mellencamp (who records a Buddy Holly cover of ” Rave On”). Two of the most famous songs were Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and ” Kokomo” by The Beach Boys, both which were number one hits in the U.S. and charted high worldwide. One can’t have a film that is partially on the beach without the legendary Beach Boys, and the music on the soundtrack is used throughout the film to help the scenes, either at a dance club or at the bar itself. The movie features a few other songs that was not on the release for added pleasure of the audience (how does not enjoy the bar singing along to Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love”?) , and  the soundtrack itself was near the top of the charts in many countries. The songs mix nicely in the film without being a distraction and mixes classic songs while being upgraded to not sound dated and makes the audience sing along during the viewing experience..

 

  1. The Film’s Morality Ending.

            Without giving away the ending of the film, the film is more than just a young kid wanting to score money and throwing bottles up in the air. Will young Flanagan get his money making the windfall of cash that he desires, or does he realize that money is not going to buy his happiness? One spoiler in the film is that Flanagan does end up dating a wealthy woman, as does Coughlin, but what happens to them when they do? Are they happy with chasing money over what is “true love” and “happiness” in life? 

            The movie may not have been written to be a morality play such as Faust, but the viewers are showcased to a look at  the 1980s ideals of what success is (especially for movie fans who did not grow up in the 1980s). 

 

 

  1. It’s Just Fun To Watch.

            Cocktail isn’t just a drama piece, but it has humor (“Coughlin’s Laws” as mentioned before , and Shue’s Jordan character ‘s  one liners towards Coughlin) , along with dazzling scenes with Cruise and Brown showing off the fancy bar bottle tricks. There isn’t really a slow spot in the film, and the breath taking scenes of Jamaica adds to the background of the story. There are  sandy beaches, the beautiful waterfalls, along with the excitement of the hustle and bustle of New York and Toronto used for the city scenes. The connection between Doug and Brian brings an added friendship to the story between boss and employee that turns into being best friends. Even if one thinks my number three point is reading too much into the movie, it is a fun, overall ’80s watch. It’s not deep into politics (as say Cruise’s Born On The Fourth of July) , nor is it an outrageous journey like The Goonies, but Cocktail is just plain enjoyable.

 

Cocktail, to me is not only in my top 3 all time favorite films (I can separate choosing my FAVORITE films verses my picks of the  BEST films objectively), with The Wizard of Oz and Grease as my others in the top 3 favorites, but it combines a complete viewing experience with solid stars, acting , and a musical soundtrack that adds to the flavor of the film (and can argue the music is one of the co-stars in the movie). This is one film I never get tired of watching (and can quote many lines from it), and revisit it many times a year.

 

Childhood Classic CD Review: The Debut Of Trixter Got Lost in The Shuffle.

Trixter was released on May 1990 by MCA\Mechanic Records.
 

From time to time I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre, but may be on occasion. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com, or see all my published work at my online portfolio at llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

Some of my favorite albums came out during the year 1990, including the debut of Slaughter, The Damn Yankees and Nelson, along with great releases from Warrant and numerous pop and country acts I was listening to at the time.

            One band that really caught my eye, thanks to their MTV airplay was New Jersey’s Trixter. Although I didn’t get the full album for a few years later, I ran out and purchased the band’s cassette singles (remember them?) for the first three releases off the album. Years later, when I finally got the full album to listen to, it became one of my favorite albums of a debut band, and to this day, find it vastly underrated.

            The release starts off with “Line Of Fire.” This is a solid opener , with the powerful drum sounds of  Mark “Gus” Scott, along with production that has the familiar New Jersey sound, like Bon Jovi. Steve Brown’s guitar solo (along with his work on the whole album) is great, and the song speeds up at the end for a heavier feel added.

            “Heart of Steel” has strong backing vocals from the band, and singer Pete Loran’s vocals are smooth, along with him holding on to the one note into the guitar solo, shows his range. There is again, a big production sound to the track, along with dynamics on the song (not just straight out rock, but builds and goes to a softer side at times). There is definitely a Jovi influence on the song. This is an underrated song from the band’s work. Many forget that the members of the band were mainly in their teens to early 20s when this album was done, but the musicianship here is quality stuff.  This is a radio friendly style song with strong vocals, that I enjoy.

            “One In A Million” was the second single from the album. I was already a fan of the band by the time this song was released, having the first single already. I enjoy the single version better than the album cut, because when the song kicks in on the single, Loran lets out a shout in the high range that added to the song, which is missing on the album cut. When the band came out, my buddies were not into the glam rock bands (they were into Rush only). I loved the video, with the band playing on stage, with rehearsals added in. The simple overdone concept worked for me because they looked like a band that you wanted to hang out with (I also loved the cameo of  the Muppet drummer Animal puppet as well). Song wise, it had the theme of the narrator finding that special one who makes them feel like they can do anything. A simple theme, but a great pop/radio friendly song nonetheless.

            The third single, “Surrender,” comes in next. The video was very similar to a Skid Row concept that they used (another Jersey band). I also had the single from this song, and was shocked that this song didn’t do better. Was it bad timing, or what? Granted, it was not a five star ballad like other bands were putting out, but the uniqueness is what made me love it. The lyrics comparing the relationship to war, and the man decides to surrender was a fresh take on love ballads. I remember watching MTV for days, waiting to video record the video (just like I did on their other videos) because of the lack of airplay the band got here in Ohio on radio and the other video shows.

            “Give It To Me Good” was  the song (and video) that I first saw the band , and was hooked on this song. I didn’t always have the funds to buy every full album that I wanted, so many times I settled for the cassette singles to see if I liked the band’s B-sides, or was willing to spend the $3 for a single, and wait until I could pay the $7-$9 for the whole album. The only problem was some bands didn’t put a second song on them by this time, settling for only one song, or an instrumental version of them, which may be the reason I didn’t get the whole album until years later. The song, wasn’t just a rock song, but started out with a country feel (similar to bands Poco or Eagles) and then builds to where the drums kick in and the song rocks out.  To me, the song had a few genres mixed in, and the video (again) made it look like the guys in the band were fun to hang out with. I do remember years later, when the Grunge-era hit, my one buddy stated, comically, that Trixter was the original Grunge band, wearing flannel shirts in their videos before it was fashionable, which is something I always remember when I think of this band and my good friend (he passed away in 2019).

            “Only Young Once” has the lyrical theme of chasing your dreams to make it big, something these guys ended up doing. I like songs with this hope and encouragement to drive after your goals in life. The opening of the song (to me) has a Triumph style inspiration (like the song “Magic Power”). Bass player P.J. Farley can be more heard on this song, and once the song kicks in, it is just a fun listen.

            “Bad Girl” is not as radio friendly as some of the other songs on the album. The bass playing and Brown’s guitar work makes the song for me. Maybe the timing of the album is a factor too (not like these guys could have changed their birth dates), but this song may have fit better a few years earlier. There is a rawer sound to the song, and again, I could hear a Jovi influence on this song.

            “Always A Victim” is a song that lyrically is not as strong to me as the others on the album, but the musicianship is solid on here. Hearing this song again, the song structure reminded me of Dokken’s 1980s work. I still love Pete’s vocals throughout the release-he has an unique sound to his voice, which is another part I liked about the band. he didn’t sound like anyone else.

            “Play Rough” has a different style opening and playing than the other songs on the album. The breaks throughout the song gives the flavor to the song, and has a raw sound to it, where some of the other songs were heavy on production.  Steve’s guitar chugging playing during the verses is something different also. Some songs you can just tell are not singles and more B-sides, and this is one that I could see was not released as a single. I am not knocking the song, because I like it, but it wouldn’t fit on radio.

            “You’ll Never See Me Crying” is another song that would have fit a few years earlier in time. Drummer Scott carries this song, especially with the drum break after the guitar solo. Brown’s guitar work throughout his wonderful, and is a shame many don’t think of him when listing underrated debuts on records.

            “Ride The Whip”  takes the band away from just solid rock or radio friendly songs (much like “Give It To Me Good” introduction does), and combines a blues/ boogie style. The opening has a mellow starts (like Ratt’s “Way Cool Jr”) , and keeps a raw sound throughout the track. This is a song that shows the diverse skills of the band, mixing a harder Southern Rock style to there genre. I could picture seeing the band playing this song at a local bar, just jamming away.

            The final song is one of my favorites on the album. “On And On” is a ballad about chasing your dreams and not giving up, no matter how many times you get knocked down. We all at this time dreamed (especially us musicians) of moving out of small towns and making it big with our band, while others stated it was a pipe dream. This song of hope and determination is filled with great guitar work and a powerful drum sound.

            Trixter, for me, was an underground band where I lived in Columbiana, Ohio.  They didn’t get radio airplay, and if it wasn’t for my taping the videos the few times I saw them on MTV, I would not have been exposed to them. With the few cassette singles I had of them, they became a favorite of mine at the time. Years later, when I finally got a hold of the full album, it became one of my favorite guilty pleasure debuts. Many praise the second release of the band, “Hear!,” when it comes to the band’s body of work, but this first record is a vastly underrated record, filled with strong vocals, great guitar work, powerful drumming, and a mixture of rock, pop, and other genres mixed in.

Track List

1. Line of Fire 2.Heart of Steel 3. One In A Million  4. Surrender 5. Give It To Me Good 6. Only Young Once 7. Bad Girl 8. Always A Victim  9. Play Rough 10. You’ll Never See Me Cryin’ 11. Ride The Whip 12. On And On

Book Review: Meyer’s Latest Helps The People Pleasers

Cover copyright ©2021 by Hachette Book Group, INC

The latest from Joyce Meyer, titled authentically, uniquely, you (FaithWords, 2021), dives into the topic of Christians needing to avoid comparing themselves to others, along with people pleasing, but rather find who they are in God and being happy with that.

            The book starts off by stating that Christians need to love themselves first, or they will not receive all that God has for them in their walk. This love is not in an egotistical way (promoting yourself over someone else, or thinking that the Christian is better than someone), but to have a peace in knowing who they are, which will help all the other aspects in their life.

            The writing covers other topics such as defining what the term “being in Christ” and being “authentic” means, not only in Christianity, but learning about not letting the past define who you are, having a sincere heart, and having true, authentic friendships. Meyer also writes about who to associate with when it comes to people; even in the church there needs to be people to trust, and not to seek advice from the “ungodly.” She encourages people to look at what the Bible says about yourself, and not what others say or think  about you, as well as overcoming past mistakes.

            Meyer uses her own past stories for examples, as well as listing other notable people in the Bible and other successful people, like Walt Disney, Abe Lincoln, and Thomas Edison to encourage the reader on the topic of overcoming failures and setbacks in life.

            The writing has many good examples and covers many sub topics to help the reader with the major theme, such as making peace with oneself, to how to control emotions,  and looking at the types of temperaments a person has, using a book written by Tim LaHaye, along with dealing with rejection and several chapters on how to determine if, and how to escape being a people pleaser, which the subtitle at the top of the book explains in “Living Free From Comparison And The Need To Please.”

            This topic has been detailed in several books that I have reviewed this year (you can find other reviews by typing in “Christian Books” or “Self Help Books” in the search engine), and this is one of several from the year from Meyer (again, check the search engine). This is a topic that has been of interest of me for the past year , and the writing here is one of the better books on the topic. Unlike some of the other books from Meyer, this is straight forward and using Biblical text, not all personal opinions. Meyer also ignores the part at the end of the chapters of her recent books of having questions to ponder at the end of each chapter, rather going straight into the next section, which is more relevant for the subject matter. Several (the more enjoyable portions of the writing) deals with her statements that if someone doesn’t like the Christian, or their decisions, that is between the other person and God if the Christian is living by God’s words, as opposed to some Christians who state they can do whatever they want and have a “free pass” (my quote not the author’s) because God will forgive them. Meyer similarly digs deeper into this concept by looking at the differences between a counterfeit and real Christian, using the Bible text, without coming off judgmental. The idea of making mistakes is different than just knowingly going out and doing wrong things, which she writes that  “wickedness is different than weakness.”

            This book is recommended for all genders, not just females, who struggle with pleasing people or get caught up being near people who are not living the right standard of Christianity in the church. Although Meyer’s target focus is usually females, this book is non-gender, and has very little examples that target the female audiences and topics. Meyer may not be officially like Dr. Phil, but this is a text that Christians can use without having all the “wordly” psychological jargon put in.

            I have recently read another book where the writer using the same topic of being happy with who you are, but uses the fact that she does not have to change and God will like her whatever she does, which is not Biblical. Meyer has a good grasp on the Bible, and just puts the writings from it out there, without condemning the reader with her personal opinions. Meyer, at the end of the book, encourages the reader to re-read the book with a new focus once the first reading is done, to build up the Christian, and unlike some books, this will actually work, due to the topics being able to be looked at multiple times.

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

FaithWords is a division of the Hachette Book Group, INC.

authentically, uniquely, you (FaithWords, 2021) by Joyce Meyer ISBN: 978-1-5460-2634-1 (hardcover), 978-1-5460-2944-1 (large print), 978-1-5460-2635-8 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.faithwords.com.

For information on the author, visit: http://www.joycemeyer.org

The Overall

Pages: 240

Language: NONE

Geared For: Ages 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Self Help, Christianity, Non Fiction

Foregone Features: Why Hitchcock’s “Notorious” Makes It Hard To Root For One Person.

Foregone-That has gone before, past, previous.

This segment will feature some classic film reviews, similar to my Childhood Classics, which reviews music albums that have been passed over, and Tracking The Times, that deals with music home videos.

Notorious was released in the USA in 1946 by RKO Radio Pictures.

Released in the U.S. in 1946,  Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious is not just a wonderful piece of mystery, but adds depth to the characters involved that may get overlooked.

            The film stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, two actors who already were cast in a Hitchcock film; Grant in 1941’s Suspicion, and Bergman in 1945’s Spellbound. The story involves United States agent T.R. Devlin (Grant) who gets Alicia Huberman (Bergman) to help them spy on a Nazi group. Huberman’s father was a German criminal and she is asked to get inside the organization by seducing a former lover in Alex Sebastian, played by Claude Rains.  Towards the beginning of the film, Huberman and Devlin fall for each other, which gets their assignment more complicated, because Devlin’s jealousy towards how well Alicia acts like she is in love with Sebastian. Alicia, as mentioned many times in the  film, has a history of using men, along with being a well known party person with a wild life and a promiscuous past.

            The film isn’t just a normal love triangle with the two stars having good chemistry, but the fact that these two main characters are flawed adds to the watching experience in trying to determine which character you want to root for.  Even though Rains isn’t as personable as Grant may be on screen, the audience may feel the most for him after falling twice for Alicia and getting burned again, even though he is supposed to be a hated Nazi supporter. And let’s not give Grant’s Devlin a pass either; he constantly reminds Alicia about her past antics with men and her constant drinking  (with an added  judgmental tone), yet gets angered when she does such a good job in letting Sebastian believe she is in love with him. Adding to the evilness in the film is Sebastian’s mother , played by Leopoldine Konstantin,  that brings four ruthless characters (not counting the several men who attend the business meetings at Sebastian’s house).

            Hitchcock doesn’t just give the audience a standardized Nazi evil spy film. One can argue that the most sympathetic character is Rains’. He is the character that possibly is truly in love with Alicia, without giving her a constant reminder of her past, which Devlin mentions earlier in the film when Alicia states ” You don’t think a woman can change? ” and he replies “Sure, change is fun, for awhile. ” Another scene at a race track he replies , “A man doesn’t tell a woman what to do; she tells herself. You almost had me believing in that little hokey-pokey miracle of yours, that a woman like you could change her spots.” 

            Sebastian does end up having a diabolical plan with his mother (NO SPOILERS HERE), that does change the audiences’ view that he is an innocent person in the matter besides being jealous of Devlin (Devlin is still a Nazi supporter), but even at the last scene of the film, one has to  look into the flawed villain as not just an evil person altogether, trying to show his love for the girl he twice falls in love with, as where Devlin looks at the relationship as one of him doing duty to his country, but gets mad when Alicia does what she is told in acting like she is in love with Sebastian. It’s the old adage that “you can’t have it both ways.

            When  Hitchcock’s films are discussed, many point out the mystery/horror aspect in them, but many forget some of the romance added into it. Sure, many know Rebecca,  but even there , the main character in Maxim de Winter is not very emotional throughout the film, which the audience is on the side of the young innocent second wife in Joan Fontaine. Here, can one truly cheer for any of the characters in the movie? Is the audience supposed to cheer for Devlin, who seems to not care about Alicia at first, besides a James Bond type fling, and is constantly belittling Alicia’s lifestyle, or does the audience feel sympathy for Alicia, who drinks and doesn’t care about the way her relationships with men happen and is looking for a good time in life before meeting Devlin? And, again, one can’t truly hate Sebastian , even though his loyalty to the evil Nazis doesn’t make him a humanitarian (nor the business he is involved in), but the fact that he is trying to love someone who doesn’t love him back.

            The signature film shots from Hitchcock is also pleasant here, with overhead shots, showing the back of Grant in his opening scenes to give the audience a chance to get ready to first see one of Hollywood’s big stars, to sideways shots of Devlin seemingly from the eyes of Alicia while hung over. One great series of shots involves Alicia hiding a key to the wine cellar in Sebastian’s house at a party, which adds to the suspense of the secret agent/spy motif.

             Notorious is a film with three big stars in Rains, Grant, and  the camera friendly Bergman, and  is an enjoyable film ride that will make the audience question their own loyalty to the characters, while being engaged in a love triangle that doesn’t stop until the ending credit. Although a success when it came out, this is a film that needs to be mentioned more in the Hitchcock filmography.

Tribute To The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts: A Local Drummer’s Experience

My musical journey with The Rolling Stones is unique to say the least. Sure, I knew their hit song, 1965’s  “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” from listening to that era’s songs as a young junior high/teenager in the 1980s, and of course at the time “Start Me Up” was big on the radio in the ’80s while blasted on MTV. Back then there was the notion that you could only be a Beatles fan or a Stones fan (which ironically I chose The Beach Boys) . Call it immaturity or whatever of that logic as music fans, especially teens, having to CHOOSE between great music; you could only like KISS or Alice Cooper. Van Halen or Rush. Barry Manilow or Tom Jones.  It wasn’t until the early 1990s when I joined my first band that I was truly introduced to the group, and especially the drumming of Charlie Watts.

            A guy who was older than me started talking to me one Spring day a few months before I was graduating high school, and mentioned he knew a guy that played guitar and we should jam sometime. This guy played bass, and I was a drummer, so we all crowded into my parents basement to play some songs. The songs we first jammed to was Webb Wilder’s “King Of The Hill,” “Waiting On The Bus” by ZZ Top, and two songs by The Tragically Hip called “She Didn’t Know” and “New Orleans Is Sinking.” Being mostly a listener of the glam “hair rock” of the time, along with the Top 40 pop acts, I never heard these songs, yet kept the solid beat. It must have been good enough because we started a band shortly after, and were playing the local clubs as a three piece, and moved our practices to the guitar player’s house.  About a year later, the guitar player met another guitar player and he joined our band to give a more fuller sound. This guy, Mike, was known throughout the Youngstown Ohio area as “Mr. Rolling Stones,” because he knew almost all the songs by them, which was his favorite rock band,  choosing the blues format of the group, even though he had long hair (I used to prank him by telling fans at our shows to ask him how much he liked the new Poison CD, which he hated that type of music). From then on, we added “Honky Tonk Women,” “Let It Bleed,” “Star Star,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (played as a slow ballad) to our list, and later, after Mike left and we brought in another guitar player, where the band focused more adult songs, we added “Waiting On A Friend.” Mike got me into the full albums of The Stones, instead of just singles. From then it was “Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out “, and ” Let It Bleed” on cassette for me, and later on “Steel Wheels” and ” Bridges To Babylon” on CD (due to moving several times, I had to part ways with those titles) .

            The thing about Watts’ drumming on the studio version of “Honky Tonk Women” that appealed to me was that it kept the beat going, but other drummers I saw would play the song too fast, almost double the original beat (which tends to happen when watching a few of the Stones’ concert footage).  This second guitar player told me (along with two other guitar players in bands I was in) that he thought I did that song, along with the John Mellencamp version of “Wild Night” perfectly -not too fast and not too slow. That was a major compliment to be mentioned in staying true to Charlie’s original style. Ricky Nelson did a faster, rockier version , as opposed to the blues style, which was a favorite to play in a country band I was in years later.

            In the 1980s, where many of the major acts were about style and flash (continuing the theme set by most of the 1970 arena rock bands), being on stage with a twenty piece drum set with many cymbals (and maybe a gong or double bass drums), Watts was still playing to sold out arenas with a four piece set with maybe five cymbals at most, yet he still kept a full sound. He had a jazz style playing to him , and was hardly flashy. Yes, he may have done a stick twirl once or twice, but he was never showy like his counterparts, who may been standing on the drums, setting fire to their sets, or destroying them after each concert. He was, on record and live, living proof that not only “less is more” at times when playing, but also the notion of letting his talent and playing speak for himself.  Charlie was just sitting back keeping the time, instead of needing to have huge drum solos and special effects to bring the spotlight to him.

            After joining the first band, when CDs were still my thing (my first CD was actually The Stones’ “Tattoo You” at a Best Buy bargain bin) , I decided to buy vinyl again at a local used store. The first choice I bought was Sir Douglas Quintet’s “Mendocino” and “Goats Head Soup,” due to us playing “Star Star,” which I love that the drums and guitar carrying the opening parts before the bass slides in. The store owner since that day until they closed hated me when I would come in because I ended up buying his only copies of something, such was the case with these two titles. Whether I knew it or not, The Stones were becoming a bigger musical influence (I even missed a chance to see them live in Pittsburgh, when I was teaching at a Christian school and was forced to go on a weekend retreat with the praise band, which I was in charge of, yet never booked the band for the show, and had to pass on the free tickets a guitar player was going to give me).

            Sure Mick Jagger may be the front man, and Keith Richards was more of the rock pirate who inspired Johnny Depp,  and the legend of Ronnie Wood (who replaced Mick Taylor) from his days with Rod Stewart may be the ones people think of the band first, it has always been Charlie keeping the foundation of the band with the steadiness on songs like  “Beast of Burden,”  “Tumbling Dice,” and the dance beat of “Emotional Rescue.”

            It’s a shame that many of today’s music fans do not appreciate the subtlety of rock drummers at times. Keep in mind that Charlie was from the 1960s era, like Ringo Starr, where one didn’t have to be showy to be a solid, talented drummer. Yes, Keith Moon came along, and added flash, and Neil Peart had the technical side to drumming, but Charlie didn’t need to be Moon or Peart. Charlie was Charlie. He was like the “Quiet Stone’ (similar to George Harrison) although I always loved hearing the story about when Watts punched Jagger after being called “his drummer,” which maybe he wasn’t so quiet after all. He had his own style of drumming  with a jazz influence which one can argue if it wasn’t for Watts, we may not had a Peter Criss, who was a major Gene Krupa jazz fan. Charlie helped set the jazz flavor into rock and roll that Peter ended up bringing to a harder rock crowd. And let’s not over look the fact that Watts had a career spanning over 40 years. Today’s streaming artists can’t keep career more than five to ten at best in today’s business (who knows, maybe the Rock Hall of Fame will end up lowering the rules for induction when it gets to this era of music).

            One cannot state the influence Watts had in being a pioneer in music with the famous British Invasion, and his quietness of avoiding the spotlight. Where many bands often fought over who gets the attention, the media interviews, or the on-screen time in the videos, Charlie was just happy to play drums and avoid all of that. There may have been tensions over playing or recording songs, but it never leaked out into the public media. “Let me play, and go home” seemed to be the motto of Charlie.

            Charlie, you played , left a legacy, and now you can go home.

R.I.P.

Foregone Features: Babysitting Is Still A Fun Adventure

Adventures in Babysitting was released in June 1987.

Foregone-That has gone before, past, previous.

This segment will feature some classic film reviews, similar to my Childhood Classics, which reviews music albums that have been passed over, and Tracking The Times, that deals with music home videos.

            The good old 1980s. The days without cell phones, ATMs, and Tik Tok. If a person wanted access to something, they had to use road maps, phone books, or ask the person on the street. You had to use pay phones to call someone, and most young girls at the time had jobs as either lifeguards at the park pool, worked at the local Dairy Queen, or made income by babysitting.  In 1987, Touchtone Pictures decided that the last occupation would be a good comedy focus for a film, with the lead going to Elisabeth Shue.

            Coming off of playing the female love interest in The Karate Kid, Shue plays Chris Parker, a teenager in Chicago who is anticipating her date with her boyfriend at the start of the film, dancing and singing along to the classic “And Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals. While she is dancing with her huge teddy bear and singing into the bedposts, the boyfriend shows up at her door to cancel the date, stating that his sister is sick and is “contagious”, so they must postpone their date to a fancy restaurant until another time. While sulking with her best friend Brenda, her mother convinces her to babysit the  8 year old Sarah Anderson, who is infatuated with Marvel Comics, especially The Mighty Thor. Sarah’s brother Brad, who is fifteen, has a crush on Chris, and decides to stay at home with her,  along with his best friend Daryl. When Brenda tries to run away from home and gets lost downtown, it’s up to Chris, along with the three kids, to come to her rescue. What could go wrong?

            The film then takes the Hollywood road trip fiascos, like getting a flat tire, a gang war on a train, kidnapping, and being involved in a crime group who strip cars and resells them. The film also has a side gag throughout where the information of the clients of the car crime group is written on a Playboy magazine, which the centerfold looks just like Chris. She gets mistaken for the Playmate in public while trying to make it to her friend, along with having the kids home before their parents find out that the teenage babysitter took them downtown to bad areas at night.

            The film has some humor to it, and today’s fans might not understand the lack of cell phones, or that Chris forgets her purse at the Anderson’s house , the mentioning of writing checks when Chris needs to convince someone they can pay later, along with Brenda trying to pass one to a hot dog vender.

            Even though Shue was in her twenties in the film, she still comes off pleasant on screen, just like she was in The Karate Kid, and her next film, one of my all time favorites, Cocktail.  Yes, she plays the girl that the guys are trying to get, but for what the film is trying to accomplish, she has decent comedy chops as well as a sensibility to her role. Her eyes give a throwback to stars like Natalie Wood, which shines on the screen, and the audience can believe that both the young Brad, along with the popular boyfriend, both would find her attractive.

            The film doesn’t rank up there with the John Hughes’ teen classics of the ’80s, but for a debut director, along with an early time for Shue’s career, the film works. Director Chris Columbus went on to do the Home Alone, Harry Potter, and Mrs. Doubtfire films, and Shue’s work has been steady throughout her movie and television careers. Needless to say  (at least in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio) , after The Karate Kid and this film, many of the boys were crushing on her on screen at the time. Adding the love story to it, the audience can feel for Chris, who is blind to some of the lies that she ends up realizing, along with the theme of social stereotypes that high school seniors have, which she matures from by the end of the film. Fangirls today would enjoy Sarah’s love for the superhero films and books, which is now more accepted, thanks to the comic movies, as opposed to back in the 1980s where she was seen as an outcast. 

The music compliments the outrageous feel of the film, such as when the group end up on stage in a blues club with Albert Collins, where he states “no one leaves until they sing the blues,” or seeing Southside Johnny as the singer in the fraternity party, still adds some good blues/R&B music throughout. The soundtracks to the films were just as important as the movie at the time, especially with the MTV generation, and the songs work here, from “Expressway To Your Heart,” songs by The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Sam Cooke, and the opening scene with Shue dancing around her room, giving the film a light hearted start, which many female teens could relate to at the time.

            Adventures in Babysitting may be outrageous at times, but that gives it the appeal. The purpose of the film is to be  “what else could go wrong” in theme. I remember watching the film many times when it came out on VHS and after not seeing the film for decades, revisiting the film, was still and enjoyable watch. Again, being a fan of Shue’s work in these films, made it even more pleasant, which made the overall viewing one that puts this film in the guilty pleasure ranking of my movie selection. Sometimes audiences need a plain fun watch with comedy, action, and heart to it, without being boggled down with deep plot lines and massive character developments, and this hit all the right buttons.

Childhood Classics CD Review: Bon Jovi’s”Slippery” Still Rocks Decades Later

Slippery When Wet was released on August 18, 1986 by Mercury Records

From time to time I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre, but may be on occasion. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com, or see all my published work at my online portfolio at llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

Looking at Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” release, it’s hard to understate the impact the record had. EVERYONE I knew owned a copy of this at least once in their lifetime. It was the best selling album of 1987, and eventually hit Diamond Status in the U.S. , along with making the band a household name, dominating radio and video shows every hour. I actually went through two or three cassettes of it when I finally bought it ; I did not buy many releases right when they came out, instead I bought the cheaper 45 singles to see if I liked the B-sides before buying the whole album. But does the album hold up today as it did back then, without sounding too dated?

            The opening “Let It Rock” sets the tone of loud drums, solid guitars , and catchy choruses, which would be throughout the album (and the next several releases by the band in the 1980s).  The keyboard opening by Dave Bryan starts off a little eerie, with its Phantom of The Opera vibe to it. The fact that the album doesn’t start with a guitar or drum riff to open, is unique. Sometimes the keyboard player doesn’t get the forefront of a track, more less the album, which gives the song a different look to it. Track one is pleasant to listen to from the start, and carries the whole way.

            “You Give Love A Bad Name” was the first single on the album, and hit #1 here in the U.S. The video was plastered all over MTV, and other local video shows, and to this day, is still played on Top 40 and retro radio stations. This has a rock edge to it, but still pop sounding. Many people over look the bass playing on the track , and Richie’s guitar fills. The song is just as fun to hear as the first 5000 times it was played on radio to me.

            I was in junior high when the album was first released, so when “Livin’ On A Prayer” came out, many of my classmates were shocked when they first heard the talk box which is used throughout the song. Many of us had no idea who Peter Frampton or Joe Walsh was (two acts who used the device before this song), so to many it was something new. However, I actually heard it on a Bay City Rollers single called “Wouldn’t You Like It” before the Bon Jovi song. Besides the songwriting about Tommy and Gina being great storytelling (who would be mentioned years later on the “It’s My Life” song by the band), thanks to co-writing help by Desmond Child,  and the solid drumming by Tico Torres adds to the track. Torres not doing anything remarkable, but the solid beat is proof that sometimes simple is just as good as massive fills. The bass playing keeps the groove going (the rumor is Hugh McDonald is playing it, instead of the credited Alec John Such).  Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals on the higher end of the song is something many of us have tried to hit while singing , but to no avail. Even though I usually turn this song off if I hear it on local radio, due to overplaying, but I cannot deny that the song has endured throughout the years.

            To me, even when I first got the cassette, if there is a weaker track on the album, it is “Social Disease.” I remember waiting on the bus to go to school, which we had to walk to the high school to get the bus in junior high, and the high school kids would sit in their cars and blast music early in the morning before the doors would open. I remember several times the janitor would come out and have to tell certain students not to play certain songs due to complaints by the nearby neighbors (“Fat Bottom Girls” by Queen was one that always got complaints, even from the females at the school). This was one of them. Imagine hearing the opening sound effects of the couple at the beginning of the song at 6:30 AM blaring next door in a small town parking lot at the school. Humor aside, the track sound more like a harder Motown , horn heavy song. To me the lyrics are not as strong as the others on the record, however, it is not a song that I would have to get up to skip if I was playing the whole record. To me, it’s definitely a B-Side track, and my least favorite of the deeper cuts.

            “Wanted Dead Or Alive” is a song that , again, has been overplayed immensely on radio, but the fact that it’s still played on  radio stations almost every hour or two, shows that it means something to people. Many rock songs about touring deal with getting girls and partying, like a circus coming to town, but the comparisons of the band as cowboys in a western was very creative. Besides videos that may have put the bands in a western setting (Ratt’s “Wanted Man” comes to mind), there really wasn’t that many songs using the theme in rock at the time. We all can point to the performance that Jon and Richie did at The MTV Video Awards, as starting the “Unplugged” era (not that acts weren’t using acoustic guitars before, but this helped start the movement). The song was influenced by a Bob Seger song, according to Jon, and I still love the third verse of the song, where we musicians could say we rocked in front of thousands.

            Not counting “Social Disease,” many know the hits from this album, but one thing that I enjoy most about the record is the deeper cuts, and “Raise Your Hands” is one of them. The guitar riff on it is similar to the early Ozzy Osbourne tracks. This is a harder track and flows nice coming out of the ballad, and starting the second side.

            One of my all time favorite tracks in the Jovi music collection is “Without Love,” another song co-written by Child. I am not sure why this song was not released as a single, but it should have been. An edgy pop song, with great songwriting (especially the phrasing on the chorus), adds to the fun listen. There is a positive vibe lyrically as well , stating that there’s “nothing without love,” almost like the songwriters channeling a harder edge John Lennon. Jon’s vocals on here is not in the high range, which gives the listener another side of his talents. To me, this is one of the most under looked tracks the band ever did.

            “I’d Die For You” keeps the deeper cuts flowing with consistency. This has a more similar style to the band’s “Runaway” song, along with referencing Romeo and Juliet in the lyrics; something Jon would use countless times in the future.

            “Never Say Goodbye” may be my favorite Bon Jovi ballad, and this track was played all the time at the school dances and roller skating rinks in 1987 when it was released. This is just a great nostalgic track on looking back at youth and simple times of being in love. The guitar work is more of a blues style, and has a steady bass line along with Jon’s powerful voice, especially at the end. This is my favorite song that was a single off the record as well. I like good ballads that take me back to a time in my childhood, and this song always works. The song was in the Top 20 on the U.S. Charts, which showed that it was a hit with others, not just me.

            The last track , “Wild In The Streets,” is the perfect ender for the album. The album started off strong, and what better than to have a solid rocker to end it? I love albums that end with a rocker , and this doesn’t disappoint. I remember buying the 45 single of “Livin’ On A Prayer,” and playing this B-side more than the A-side.  I always loved the line about “this town ain’t pretty but you know it ain’t so bad,” which reminds me of when we were younger everyone said they were going to move away from my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio. Some did, but ended coming back , longing for the safe small town environment. Richie’s guitar solo has a hard rock Chuck Berry drive to it, along with the power of the ending of the track, makes it a just, plain fun song to crank up.

            Even though the album has many songs that most of us would skip over , due to the over saturation of excessive radio airplay,  it shows how the songs have lasted throughout the years. The deep cuts on the record (except for one, in my opinion) is the story here. They are the songs that find the record still enjoyable to listen to decades later. You can always point to the hits on an album, but “Slippery When Wet” has great songs that weren’t released which makes the historical album (in terms of sales) worth the listen to this day.  I can also point to this album proving that the songwriting duo of Jon and Richie is better , as opposed to the current lineup’s songs. The polished production of Bruce Fairbairn and Bob Rock, who had some of the top credits on albums of the decade, along with some of the lucky ones who had a copy of the original cover also brings out the memories of the 1980s. Loverboy’s Mike Reno stated recently in an interview that he helped sing background on the album, along with some of the Mötley Crüe songs of the time. Some will argue what the best Bon Jovi album is, but one cannot deny the impact of this album, which is filled with songs that will take you back to another time.

 

Track List

  1. Let It Rock 2. You Give Love A Bad Name 3. Livin’ On A Prayer 4. Social Disease 5. Wanted Dead Or Alive 6. Raise Your Hands 7. Without Love 8. I’d Die For You 9. Never Say Goodbye 10. Wild In The Streets

 

CD Review: Newcomer Wilson’s Second EP Shows More County Roots

My Jesus Anne Wilson (Live in Nashville) was released on August 6, 2021 by Sparrow Records

The last time I got excited over a female Christian music artist (or any act in that genre) was when I started listening to Rebecca St. James, who topped the CCM charts in the mid 1990s, with her blend of pop/dance music and also wrote or co-wrote most of her songs. Once the grunge era of the 2000s hit mainstream music, it was back to country music for me, listening to Garth , George Strait, and Martina McBride among others.

            Anne Wilson (check the spelling so you are not confused with the singer of the band Heart), is a 19 year old singer/songwriter from Kentucky who combines Christian with country music and has become a break out star. With two EPs recorded, her latest is titled My Jesus Anne Wilson Live In Nashville.

            With some songs coming off of her last EP (the singles “Devil” and the #1 Christian single “My Jesus”), Wilson uses this EP to show more of her country style structure with a mix of some traditional country and newer flavored style, but not letting up on the Christian style lyrics.  Many Christian music lover already know “My Jesus,” since it recently topped the charts, with its catchy chorus which she co-wrote with Matthew West and Jeff Pardo, but it’s the latest single “No Place Like Home” that country fans will enjoy (Wilson is scheduled to be at the Grand Ole Opry in September, which she should do most likely perform the song), that pays tribute to her brother who died in a car accident. The song details her tagging along with her brother down the country roads while hanging out on their grandfather’s farm sharing dreams and listening to music. The lyrics will relate to anyone who has lost a love one , or just long for the simple days of childhood, but even at age 19, the songwriting is mature with the lines ” The trouble with time is it won’t slow down /How I wish it would.” This is her best track on the release.

            “Devil” starts off with a slow dreary vibe  until the song kicks into a more rock attitude, which some have compared to a Carrie Underwood influence, but I see more as an Avril Lavigne in it. Regardless, the song gives hope to the listener in dealing with the struggles and is a edgier listen.

            The Little Big Town cover of “Boondocks” is added to the new release, where if one reads her background, fits with her genre of mixing country and Christian music, without offending the listener where most country music act’s music is all about drinking and partying. Even though I’m not a fan of the original song, Wilson adds her signature style to it, with a solid backing band, that is more listenable, and at a run time of under three minutes, it’s not that one has to skip over if one isn’t a fan of country music.

            The other hold over from the first EP is “Something About That Name,” a song co-written by Wilson, which will probably be a feature in church praise bands for years to come. The unique thing about Wilson, besides her voice that blends a southern drawl mixed with a soul/folk vibe, is the fact that her label Sparrow Records allows her to co-write the songs, which is usually rare for debut artists, and at her young age, shows that she has more talent beyond her years, in writing more deeper lyrics than talking about falling for a boy which her peers may be writing about.

            Wilson’s has two EPs out in a short time, while touring and working on music for a later full album. The question may be whether or not by the time a full completed work comes out, will it be filled with the already five songs from the first two releases which may drive buyers away after buying the two EPs? Time will tell on that, but from this live, newer version of her songs, there is no doubt that she has the talent and songwriting skills to last in the industry with a unique sounding voice that even if people are not fans of the Christian market, country fans will still enjoy the music (or vice versa).

            Christian Music seems to go in waves of ups and downs, where there seems to be a group of talented artists only to disappear after a short while to give in the cheesiness at times, where the musical integrity lacked. However, Anne Wilson is a breath of fresh air with her originality, quality songwriting, and what seems like genuine love for not just music, but her faith.

For information on Anne Wilson, visit her website at: http://www.annewilsonofficial.com

Track List: 1.Devil 2. My Jesus 3. Something About That Name 4. Boondocks 5. No Place Like Home

Foregone Features: Series Of Tales In Asylum Not All Scary

Asylum was released by Amicus Productions in 1972 and directed by Roy Ward Baker.

Foregone-That has gone before, past, previous.

This segment will feature some classic film reviews, similar to my Childhood Classics, which reviews music albums that have been passed over, and Tracking The Times, that deals with music home videos.

Amicus Productions had several anthology films including The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), and 1967’s Torture Garden, all with Peter Cushing having roles in them. Cushing made several films with the company outside of his famous Hammer projects, which he is probably best known for (Star Wars not included). In 1972, Cushing returned to another anthology series entitled Asylum.

            The plot involves Dr. Martin (played by Robert Powell) who is interviewing for a position in an asylum. When he gets there,  he is told that the former head in charge had a breakdown and is now one of the patients. If he can rightly pick out which person is the former head, named Dr. Starr,  he will be considered for a position. The anthology stories start when Martin starts interviewing four inmates telling their stories of how they got there, as the attendant Max Reynolds walks him to the different rooms.

            The first story deals with a man who plots with his girlfriend to murder his rich wife (played by Sylvia Syms). He murders her with a hatchet, chops and wraps the body parts in paper, and hides it in the newly purchased freezer in the basement.  After he sees the head roll into the kitchen, he walks down and finds the parts escapes and kills him. The girlfriend comes in and the parts attack her as she grabs the hatchet , which flashes back to the current time when the girlfriend is locked in the asylum.

            The second story involves Bruno, a poor tailor who is told he will be evicted if his rent isn’t covered by the end of the week. A stranger named Mr. Smith ( Cushing) enters his store and asks Bruno to make him a suit with detailed instructions for his son. The stranger brings his own fabric and tells him the suit can only be worked on after midnight. When he brings the suit to the Smith, Bruno meets the son and sees the reason for the special fabric and the powers it entails, which put him into the asylum (No Spoilers, sorry).

            The third story is about a woman named Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) who returns to the house her brother and nurse live in after a stint in a mental ward. When she takes hidden pills, her trouble making friend Lucy (played by Britt Ekland) shows up to cause trouble.

            The final story features Dr. Bryon (Hebert Lom) who makes robot figurines, and claims they have working organs in them. The faces are reminiscent of former colleagues of his, and he tells Martin that he can will his mind into the figure that looks just like Bryon. This part leads into the final scenes where Martin has to tell who he thinks Dr. Starr really is.

            The first story is pretty non-scary and almost humorous to a stupidity point with the body parts trying to attack the girlfriend and husband. The music tries to help it become scary, but it can’t save the ridiculousness of the story.  The Cushing tale, is obviously the best one, due to the mystery involving the suit and the son, plus, let’s face it, it’s Peter Cushing!! The story with Lucy, is entertaining (again a bigger name in the section with Britt Ekland), adding a nice twist at the end of the segment that is classic horror. The final story, although involves a star in Lom, went back to silliness more than scary horror. I never found figurines scary ; the genre like The Puppet Master, The Gingerbread Man , and Dolls are just ludicrous (although the original Child’s Play series can be enjoyable). It became obvious to me seeing the movie for the first time who Dr. Starr was, the ending still added a nice touch to the film.

            The stories were written (and the film scripted by)  Robert Bloch, known for writing the book Psycho, which Hitchcock turned into one , if not The greatest horror film of all time. Some of these tales were used on television shows as well, but even though two of the tales were a little hokey, the film is still watchable and not a waste of time. With stars like Lom, Cushing, and Ekland, Asylum is still better than many of today’s horror films, along with the fact that since there are four stories involved, there is something that the audience will like with the different subjects and themes.

Book Review: Early Readers Won’t Doze On Dozers

Dozers Don’t Doze  by Melinda Rathjen and Illustrated by Gareth Williams (Worthy Kids, 2021) is a short children’s book that would suit children who like trucks, cars, and planes, along with farming.

            The book takes the reader through different types of equipment, stating how they rest. For example race cars have to use the pit stop, and semi trucks break at rest stops, but bulldozers (aka dozers) just keep going because they don’t need to rest. Other types of transportation discussed are airplanes, school buses, and ice creams trucks, which are all separated from the bulldozer because they have to take a break at one time or another while doing their chores, even farm balers and boats at sea.

            The book has thick cardboard pages which is perfect for younger age readers (pre-school to 3 year olds), along with simple illustrations from Williams, which doesn’t distract the younger readers with having too much on the page that can be intense for some younger readers. Most of the writing has a rhyming scheme to it, but not every page does, but it still flows nicely with a four sentence stanza typically on each page.

            The author has written several titles, including the Flanimals series and Ideals books, and the illustrator Williams has several titles he has worked on as well.

            Even though this is geared for the pre-readers, children up to five and six can enjoy the book as well, especially for the parents whose children like learning about equipment and transportation; most younger boys love to see trucks and race cars in their books. This is a neat topic covered by the writer, and will be a hit with the targeted audience.

            This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.  Worthy Kids is an imprint of  the Hachette Book Group, INC.

            Dozers Don’t Doze  by Melinda Rathjen and Illustrated by Gareth Williams (Worthy Kids, 2021) ISBN-13: 9781546013822 can be ordered at : http://www.worthykids.com.

The Overall:

Pages: 24

Language: NONE

Geared For: Preschool to age 5.

For Fans Of: Children’s books, Illustrations, Transportation books.