Book Review: A Passion for Prayer Leads Writer In New Book

Image result for gangster prayer book
Cover Design by Faceout Studio/ Jeff Miller

 

While growing up in churches near my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio during my youth, many pastors and preachers would dispute how people in the church should pray. Is it alright to ask God for something, or are you to just go with the flow and thank God for whatever comes your way? Is there a right or wrong way to pray? What about if you prayed for something , and it didn’t come out the way you wanted? Was it a problem with you, or was it just that God wanted something better for you?

Throughout the years, the subject seemed to get more and more confusing, with different answers and writers weighing in on the topic. In her latest book Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation (Worthy Publishing, 2019), Autumn Miles digs into several types, and results, of prayer.

The book starts out by Miles telling a story about her being under conviction after watching a television series about gangsters where she felt God informed her that criminals are more passionate in their law- breaking lives than she was in her prayer life. She then decides to dig into the several different categories of prayer, and how it has affected her life since that day. Miles defines prayer as talking with God and not at him, while claiming at the beginning that she does not claim to be a expert on the topic of prayer.

Throughout the short chapters Miles walks the reader through several different types of prayers such as: the Wrestling Prayer, Scared Prayer, Working Prayer, the Fighting Prayer, and the Thanksgiving prayer among others. Each chapter gives not only examples in the author’s life when she was struggling and experiencing each type of prayer, but also gives some Biblical examples as well to help detail the points being made.

Miles also discusses her thoughts on deeper parts of prayer, such as what does the Christian do if the prayer has not been answered (do they give up after a certain amount of time), what does it mean if God says “no” to the prayer request, how to make sure the person’s prayer is not just for selfish reasons, and more.

One of the great parts of this book, especially in the beginning, is how the writer does not tip-toe around the topic and her views on the subject. For instance, she bluntly states that in today’s society, the church seems to have their minds on other things than on prayer or creating valuable prayer sessions, and how many churches are more concerned with fancy stage shows for the praise and worship portions of the church, instead of the non-glitzy prayer meetings.

In another insightful section of the book, Miles brings the topic of prayer firstly to its basic core, and then goes into the deeper parts of the issues. For instance, she writes about who God is (and his characteristics), before getting into the touchier portions like “why doesn’t God answer me now?”

Gangster Prayer is an easy to read book that has short chapters (always a plus with me) , and is packaged so that a person can read one chapter a day as a devotional, or several chapters at a time. At the end of each section, several deeper questions are asked, so the reader can reflect on what was just discussed in order to apply it to their lives. The different categories of prayer was insightful and informative, which makes the readers think about how they approach prayer in general. Although most of the personal examples Miles uses in her writing are focused towards women (by talking about her love of getting her nails done), this book is not totally geared towards females, which seems to be her ministry target audience. I have never heard of Miles before this book (she has a podcast , radio show, and other writings in her portfolio), but I still took away quite a bit of information from this title. A few times throughout the book she states that she prayed for certain things, such as a bigger house, a book deal, and dealings with other businesses, which made me (and maybe some readers) wonder if praying for those things (which some label this as “prosperity preaching”, where some think God gives any worldly possessions because he wants people to be happy on earth) are in conflict with the Bible. Nonetheless, this only occurs once or twice in the book. I am not disputing that prayer should be an everyday part in a Christian’s life, but a few examples like these made me stop and think for a minute.

Overall the book was very informative, and insightful, without having a writer with a PHD in Christianity try to write over the reader’s head, which I have read in some books while reviewing in the past. I do think the book is geared towards Christian women, but it should not stop men from reading it (I can read many women writers in the Christian genre, in fact, my favorite writer in the genre is former recording artist Rebecca St. James, who geared her writings heavily towards women). The book may help some who are struggling with the prayer aspect in their lives get more on track in a non-judgmental way.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Hachette Book Group and Worthy Publishing.

 

Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation by Autumn Miles (Worthy Publishing, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-6839-7312-6 (trade paperback), 978-1-5460-1522-2 (ebook), 978-1-5491-5089-0 (audiobook download) 978-1-5491-8123-8 (audiobook CD) can be found at :

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/imprint/hachette-nashville/worthy-books/

 

For information about the author, go to: ww.autumnmiles.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 207

Language: None

Geared Towards: 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Women’s Studies, Prayer

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Classic CD Review: Oaks Give Audiences Their Voices 20 Years Ago.

Voices was released July 27, 1999 by Platinum Entertainment/ Intersound Records and produced by Ron Chancey.

Even though the Oak Ridge Boys were one of my favorite musical acts as a kid (I got my first drum set one Christmas, along with the Oaks’ Greatest Hits record around 1980) , I never got to see the band live until 1999; I didn’t attend my first concert until 1991 (which was Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen). The group sang many times, at nearby Ponderosa Park in Salem, Ohio, which was not far from where I live in Columbiana. Those that have read Joe Bonsall’s On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys book (a review can be found here in the archives), he mentions several times the defunct venue. At one time, there was an attempt to restart the outdoor park, which I even bought tickets to see the Oaks, but the managers closed up before there were any major concerts held.

On September 1, 1999, I finally got the chance to see the Oaks live at the Canfield Fair, in nearby Canfield, Ohio, where they were promoting their new release Voices, which was released that June. Even though I am not a fan of the layout of concerts at the fair and it’s policies (you have to pay a $10 price at the entrance on top of your ticket price to the show, and you sit in bleacher seats which are so far removed from the track stage, it was similar to my early concert days of sitting in the lawn areas at pavilions where the acts looked like ants from the far distance), I remember being in awe of how great the group sounded vocally, and what a show they put on. I have seen a two other shows at the fair (Alabama, and Journey with Peter Frampton), and I will say that The Oaks’ were still the best concert I attended there.

The Voices release, which was the only record the band recorded with Platinum Entertainment did not do much on the charts at the time it was put out, but after 20 years gone by, I figured to visit the recording in celebration of it’s anniversary.

The liner notes states that the goal of the album was to mix musicians from Muscle Shoals and combine their talents with the Nashville songwriters. The album is dedicated to all of the songwriters, and the group salutes their successes to the great songs and songwriters that helped them along the way. The group also used producer Ron Chancey, who was in control of many of the group’s top albums in the 1970s and 1980s.

The album’s first single, “Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down,” a song written by Kix Brooks (of Brooks and Dunn fame) leads off the album with a catchy and wordy chorus, which made me wonder how the Oaks could sing the song while trying to get their breath when they performed it live at the fair show. It surprised me that this song did not break into the country charts (Brooks even used it as his first single in 1983 to no major fanfare). Although many country fans in 1999 were listening to the acts that had a more pop feel, this song should’ve done moderately well- the band made the media rounds on TNN and other spots promoting the song. This is the song that brings back memories of the release.

The CD is filled with several good songs that are just plain fun to listen to, including “Deep In Louisiana,” and “What’ll I Do,” both challenges the listener NOT to hit the repeat button on the player and listen many times. “What’ll I Do” was co-written by Skip Ewing, who was known for his work with Bryan White’s debut album among others, which also adds a gospel flavor to the song to blues groove.

Speaking of grooves, ” The Perfect Love” , sung by Joe Bonsall, combines the rhythm of an reggae/island mix, where the listener can find similarities to Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” This is one of the songs that drummer Roger Hawkins shines on (along with “Ain’t No Short Way Home”). Hawkins has played on many legendary songs in music history. Combining the great harmonies of the Oaks along with these icons in music, spotlights on this track.

William Lee Golden , who is a very underrated singer and has gained my respect on his abilities rediscovering the groups rarer tracks on albums, sings two songs on Voices; “Old Hearts” and ” Lady My Love,” both are ballads. The lyrics on “Old Hearts” seem to run together, along with breaking the traditional rhyming in song lyrics. “Lady My Love” has a more blues/southern gospel style to it, which is perfect for Golden’s voice. “Lady My Love” is the better of the two songs for my tastes, which salutes the love of a complexities of a woman with many roles.

Richard Sterban takes the lead vocals on the ballad “If All I Had Left, ” a song that has a more adult contemporary feel to it, with blue guitar fills throughout the song. Very few acts can end an album on a ballad and make it work, and the Oaks are one of the acts that can do it. The song placement works here. It’s a short run time on the song, so the song doesn’t have any fillers on it, which gives it more appeal.

When re-visiting albums for reviews (I have written many retro reviews for the hard rock site Sleazeroxx, and on this page, titled “Childhood Classics”) , I like to try and find a hidden gem that I may not have listened to when normally playing the CD, or if I haven’t listened to the CD for some time. On here, the gem is “Ain’t No Short Way Home.” The guitar work leads off the song with a chugging groove sung by Duane Allen, with the rest of the band chiming in with their powerful harmonies. Even though this song hit the country charts at #71, this song would be a great addition to the band’s current live sets. The Oaks have a awesome band live that can bring power and intensity when needed , and this song would be one that would rock out. The guitar solo, along with the drumming, carries the song, along with Sterban’s bass vocals helping bring the song to another level. Although all of the Oaks have their signature style of vocals, I challenge anyone to name a singer with a smoother voice than Allen; he’s up there with Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bublè in my picks of great vocalists.

For an album released 20 years ago, Voices still holds up well, without sounding dated with the times. The release has a mix of everything: blues, gospel, and country, along with wonderful musicians and the staple harmonies that the group are known for. Although a few of the songs are weak, seven out of the eleven songs works for me. Although Bonsall is only on one track on this release, which is a downer for me (I’d rather hear another one from him instead of “New Orleans” ) , the CD is a surprise of how good it is considering the lack of response it got. The goal of the album was achieved for the most part, and let’s be honest, it’s hard for a group to have an album with every song a smash (although The Oaks achieved that with 1981’s Fancy Free in my opinion). Voices is one that needs to be re-discovered if fans missed out on it, because it has some solid performances on here.

 

Song listings:

  1. Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down 2. Where The Sun Always Shines 3.Deep in Louisiana   4. Lady My Love 5. What’ll I Do 6. New Orleans 7, Perfect Love
  2. I’d Still Be Waiting 9. Old Hearts 10. Ain’t No Short Way Home 11. If All I Had Left

Childhood Classic: New Edition Turns 35 !!!

New Edition was released July 6, 1984 by MCA Records. It hit #6 on the U.S. Top Pop Albums and #1 on the Top R&B Albums charts.

Every once in a while, 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. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

The first cassette I ever got was 1983’s An Innocent Man by Billy Joel. At the time, I was still listening to 45s and vinyl records. My brother had several of Joel’s singles from the album, and when it was time for me to save enough allowance money (or maybe it was birthday money, I don’t remember), and my parents took me to the local store to pick out a release, I chose Joel’s album (you can read my review of that album in the archives under “Childhood Classics: My First Cassette”).

I listened to many types of music, from country to the pop songs on the radio, but I was also listening to early rock and roll music, like The Beach Boys, Elvis, and other early pioneers of music, at age 11. Joel’s album was a tribute to the early acts of music, with its pop harmonies (at the time I did not know that, but loved the songs that was played on the local radio station). So when it came time for me to get another cassette, I picked a group that was starting to get big on radio in my area, which I also had a 45 single of, New Edition.

The 1984 self titled release was actually the group’ second album, but I was already jamming to the single “Cool It Now,” which was being played on a local television video show from Akron/Canton ‘s channel 23 (we didn’t have MTV at this time- it was a pay site, and we didn’t have cable) hosted by Billy Soule. When it came to the early days of buying music, I would usually get a 45 single, which was under $2 at the time, and listen to the B sides to see if I liked the other songs, wait until the group had two or three songs out before I could have enough money to get the whole album (which was a pricey $9 back then), or wait until the album went on sale for the $5.99-$7.99 sale price.

Being a fan of Michael Jackson at the time, especially The Jackson 5 era, the guys from New Edition really hit the spot with their strong harmony vocals, and pop feel to the songs. I was also a fan of the music videos, with the guys in the group hanging out together , playing basketball and chasing girls in the park, while breaking out into song with fancy dance moves and hand motions to the songs, which helped in my opinion of how cool these guys were at the time.

The second single, “Mr. Telephone Man,” (written and produced by Ray Parker Jr.) was one of my favorite songs at the time, where I would study the music video every time it was played on Soule’s video show, so I could mimic the hand gestures to the song. I remember impressing several of my classmates at the time , when they saw that I could do all the hand movements exactly like they did in the video. It was this song that convinced me that I had to have the whole cassette. The fact that both “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” were the first two songs on the cassette was like finding King Solomon’s gold when playing the cassette, because I did not have to fast forward to my two favorite songs (the cell phone era people may not understand why “Mr. Telephone Man was so relatable at the time)

The album released four singles; the two mentioned above, “Lost In Love” (not to be confused with the Air Supply song), and “My Secret (Didja Gettit Yet)?” The video for “My Secret” detailed the guys hanging out at a L.A. Lakers basketball game during the video. I don’t remember the video being played as often as the first two in my area, nor was the song on my local radio station in Youngstown , Ohio. Anyway, I remember it started the second side of the cassette.

There are three rare cuts on the release that I enjoyed now revisiting the music. “I’m Leaving You Again” and “Delicious” are two slow R&B songs that would’ve been played at school dances or roller skating rinks to slow things down. They also would have been a great fit on the soul and black radio stations at the time. “Maryann” is a song that has the 1970’s Spinners style to it. The saxophone solo gives the song an adult contemporary style added into the mix.

If there are any fillers on the release, it’ll be “Kinda Girls We Like” which is too much rap for me (even in the 1980s, I was not a fan of rap- a little bit was ok, like on “Cool It Now” but that was enough), “Baby Love,” and “Hide And Seek.” But having 7 out of 10 songs on an album being great- that’s a good mix, especially for a pop group.

Music groups who could sing and dance were not new in 1984; acts like The Osmonds, The Jacksons, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Spinners were doing it long before. However, New Edition brought the same concept to the 80s, with a mass appeal as well; they had both white and black audiences buying their records. They were one of the pioneers of the boy band craze that happened in the 1990s.

After a dispute over royalties during this album, the group sued manager Maurice Starr, who went on afterwards to form The New Kids on The Block , wanting them to be the white version of New Edition. Bobby Brown left New Edition years later to go solo (I was a huge fan of his 1988 Don’t Be Cruel album) along with the other members being a part of Bell Biv Devoe, and both Johnny Gill ( a replacement for Tresevant) and Ralph Tresvant had solo careers. The group went on to have a few other good singles, such as “Count Me Out” (from their next album),  a remake of the Penguin’s hit “Earth Angel” , and 1988’s “If If Isn’t Love.”

Is New Edition going to be listed as a classic album, where many others may proudly say it was their fist record? Probably not. However, it was filled with good pop vocals, and has several wonderful musicians that was a part of the songs- Teena Marie, Ray Parker Jr. , and Michael Sambello had songs or production on it. Not everyone had their first two or three records or cassettes (or later CDs) masterpieces. The album for me brings back memories of going to a record store trying to decide what to spend your money on, studying pop vocals and harmonies, and going back to a time when some music  and videos were just plan fun without all the political agendas like today.

 

Book Review: Coach’s Book As Close To The Best As Possible

Jacket design by Ashley Caswell

I do not watch the Dr. Phil Show very often, in fact I may see two episodes in three months if that often. On top of that, I have never been a major fan of books in the self-help departments, for many reasons: one is that the people that write these books assume all things are equal and anyone has the same resources to everything in the world, second, the authors (most of the time) make readers feel so guilty about your current life that they feel worse after reading them, and finally, a lot of the books are just to promote the writer’s facilities that they work at, so they don’t reveal all the things in their books, so that the reader has to go out and either buy more of their books, or have to pay to go to their facilities.

With these points out of the way, one day I was actually watching the Dr. Phil Show at my parent’s house when I became intrigued by a person who was on his team of associates plugging his new book. For some reason, the book resonated with me, where I had to seek out a copy to check out. Best Self : Be You Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) changed my opinion about these types of books.

Bayer’s book deals with having a better outlook in every aspect of life, from the workplace, relationships, and hobbies, in order to be your “Best Self” (which is not only the title of the book, but a description of the ideal character the person intends to be).

If you are a follower of Bayer, or Dr. Phil, you may have seen him on this show using some of these techniques that he uses in the book. The early part of the book shows a technique where the reader creates a character, which is the ideal “Best Self;” the person he or she wants to become. The second is the “Anti-Self,” the person who is the opposite of that person, almost like the villain , and the person that the reader does not want to get out and take over their lives. Being a fan of role playing games growing up, I thought this was an interesting, and original idea to incorporate, especially where the person is encouraged to be as detailed as possible (regardless of their art skills), describing the Best and Anti-Self ‘s characteristics and goals, weaknesses etc, just like creating a game character.

From there, Bayer walks through little tips that the person can use to encourage more of the Best Self, and less of the Anti-Self characters, using everyday situations, (along with some of the stories from previous clients) from work situations to dealing with things like road rage, and not having fun in the workplace. Throughout most of the chapters there are exercises that stretches the thinking, as well as getting the reader more acquainted with who they are in their lives, and where they want to be heading. This book is not to be read straight through like a normal novel, but is more effective having a notebook beside you, and experiencing these exercises and quizzes during the chapters (especially if you are like me, who does not like writings in my books, and as the author states, the goals will change throughout the months as you head towards being the Best Self). The exercises enhance the 7 SPHERES where the person’s best self needs to be looked at, and how they are part of the overall goal. The SPHERES are an acronym for the different areas in life, such as the workplace, health of the person, and education among other things.

The only problems I had with the book was during the Education chapter of the SPHEREs, where the writer assumes all things are equal. For example, Bayer encourages that the Best Self should want to be educated in something, always wanting to learn something.   Although I agree with this statement, the writer states that if the Best Self wants to learn a new trade, or is being passed over at work due to lack of technology, he states that the person go out and find the tools to improve that. All things are not equal here, because some of the things cost money, and if the Best Self is living in a situation where funds are not available, or the techniques are not offered, it may make the reader feel a little down. For instance, not everyone lives in New York, where many libraries may offer many computer classes (some smaller towns only offer “How To Use The Internet” as a course), or due to license fees, they are not offered. Or if saving money to get out of debt is part of the person’s Best Self goal, how are they going to afford to be able to pay for the computer program to help them move on? Granted , heading towards your Best Self is not going to be easy, but I thought these points were missing in his writing, which also goes into the workplace section, where he encourages people to incorporate an enjoying atmosphere in the workplace, as opposed to just punching in and getting a paycheck.

I love this concept of the workplace, but once again, not all things are equal. Bayer gives a quiz where the person decides if the problems at the workplace is you or the other people around you, along with sometimes having to decide to leave that job for something else. He does encourage the person to look at their finances before just walking out of a job, but sometimes (from my own experience) the problem can be the co-workers, and yet the HR people don’t care at all. There (in my opinion) is a myth in the writing that the HR people at businesses are all out to help each other create the best possible outcome for the business. There are many HR people who are unqualified and could care less about what goes on in their workplace, and are not always there to help out. Also, if my Best Self wants to get paid for his writing in the future, but can’t find that avenue (especially where all the local papers are owned by one company and have the same staff for years that don’t accept freelancing), it’s not as easy as the writer makes out to just go out and find the other avenue and freelance, where most of the online freelance sites are scams. And if everyone who wanted to be their own boss could do it, there would be no employees, and only bosses, which is not realistic either. Keep in mind that I have just started this journey of the book’s suggestions, and maybe he sees something down the road that I am not seeing yet, as opposed to a new person just discovering the ideas (I am not knocking Bayer or his achievements).

Another great aspect of the book is that Bayer uses his own life story as illustrations, from his past with addictions, to the fact that he does not have 15 Master Degrees and is a higher up in academia. His down-to-earth approach, along with his easy to read writing comes off as non-judgmental which is a relief, as opposed to other books in the genre that I have read. Finally the fact that he encourages the importance of spirituality and religion in a person’s life is a breath of fresh air, where many of these books refuse to allow people of faith to use the skills along with their values of a higher being. Christian readers do not have to fear that the book is filled with New Age theology, or vice versa.

I enjoyed this book, especially doing the quizzes and exercises throughout the chapters. I encourage those that want to read this book to have a journal or a notebook beside them and actually participate in the book, as opposed to just reading it (stop by a local dollar store and buy a small notebook on the way home- it doesn’t have to be anything fancy). Even if you are not a Dr. Phil watcher, this book can help those looking to change certain aspects in their lives by using an unique and creative way. The writing is not judgmental nor stereotypical in the genre; I am reminded of the joke I heard one time that says “I just bought some self-help cassettes. After listening to them I felt inadequate because I didn’t have the CDs.” Anyone can take something away from this book without fears of not measuring up.

 

Best Self : Be You, Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) ISBN : 978-0-06291173-5 can be found at bookstores and online at Amazon.com or at : deystreet.harpercollins.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 333

Language: Mild

Geared For: 16 and Up

For Fans of: Self Help, Dr. Phil, Life Coach

Book Review: Vader Time Well Spent

Cover art by Iron Skull Productions. Title Page Art by Tye Harris.

There were certain wrestlers who I just did not like in professional wrestling, regardless of how they were portrayed by the different leagues. A few of them were The Fabulous Freebirds (especially the WCW era with Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes), Bam Bam Bigelow, Stan Hansen, The Ultimate Warrior, and most of the ECW roster were some of the names I never got behind. Another one was Vader (also known as Big Van Vader).

I remember following him in the AWA as “Baby Bull” Leon White, and just couldn’t get behind the character; he seemed over pushed to me at the time fighting for the AWA title a few times against Stan Hansen. I was a big Nick Bockwinkel and Curt Hennig fan in the AWA, so whenever White started getting a bigger push in the league, I longed to see Hennig or Bockwinkel in a classic match instead of the “Awe Shucks” persona with a trucker hat in title matches, which was what “Baby Bull” came off as at the time (along with it was hard to get behind a 300 pound man with the nickname “Baby,” thanks to promoter Verne Gagne). Of course, when White signed WCW in the 1990s, Vader was put against my favorite wrestler Sting, who was one of the top stars of the league. Vader came in so strong against Sting as the unstoppable monster, even beating him for the WCW title, really ticked me off as a young teenager. I cheered for some heels (bad guys) in wrestling, but having someone dismantle Sting as Vader did, was just too much for my taste, making Sting not as tough as he originally was in my eyes at the time.

It’s Vader Time: The Story of a Modern Day Gladiator by White, along with Kenny Casanova (WOHW Publishers, 2019), tells how White became an international wrestling star, along with his life outside the ring, with tremendous health struggles along the way. Casanova , who was mentioned at the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame (thanks to Brutus Beefcake), also helped write books by Kamala, Brutus Beefcake, and ECW’s Sabu (You can read my review of Beefcake’s book, along with a Q&A with Casanova, on the Slam Sports Wrestling site).

After the Foreword from Mick Foley that starts the pages off, the book grabs the reader immediately with White telling the story about the match in Japan against Hansen, where Vader’s eye popped out of its socket (among other injuries during the brawl). The hardcore matches pile up from there, along with the many injuries from his college and pro football and wrestling careers. Tales such as knee and shoulder injuries, along with concussions, are all detailed in the book.

White discusses how he started training in the AWA after walking into the locker room one day as a fan straight into the locker room, coming face to face with Bruiser Brody, along with how being trained by Brad Rheigans led him to the world of wrestling to avoid going back to his life of small crimes in Compton, CA which he lived in his youth. After several football injuries, (including a gruesome story where a college teammate had to have a doctor’s assistance with making a hole in his head with a power drill) White learns his stiff style of wrestling by working with some of the toughest wrestlers at the time, including Brody, Hansen, and Otto Wantz in Germany.

White , after leaving the AWA, goes to Japan where he receives the Vader gimmick from promoter Antonio Inoki. This part was informative in the reading, due to the detailed description of how the character was created from a Japanese comic book, to how the horned headgear that he wore to the ring was created. The back story about the helmet headgear and its symbolism in culture was more than just a gimmick that was given to him; details on how the helmet’s steam blowing out of it worked , and the other wrestlers who were originally considered to be the Vader character was also insightful.

The book covers Vader’s WCW and WWE careers as well, including great behind the scenes stories about Sting, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ron Simmons, and Mick Foley. There are signature events in his career that are covered too , such as The White Castle of Fear, the 1993 Beach Blast mini movie (where the executives at Turner Home Entertainment decided that wrestling heels blowing up a boat with a spy little person was a great idea), the WCW title reigns, Foley losing his ear in a match with him, and the time he injured preliminary wrestler Joe Thurman, which ended Thurman’s career. Tales about backstage politics by Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Eric Bischoff, and Hulk Hogan are also discussed in the writing. Vader’s take on the 1997 Montreal Screw job between Bret Hart and Michaels, from his point of view, to his appearances on the TV show Boy Meets World are also featured.

The book isn’t all about his wrestling career in the American, Mexican, German, and Japanese leagues. The publication covers the emotional tales about the injuries White accumulated throughout his career, which made for serious health problems toward the end of his life, from his battles with sleep apnea, arthritis, breathing problems, and being in a coma. The emotional diagnosis of his heart and the last year of his life is covered by his son, which gives another aspect of the events. One meeting with a doctor discussing his health issues gives a special meaning to the subtitle of the book , using the term “gladiator”, which ties the cover to the theme of the book, gives the complete package its fullness (no spoilers here, but the title wasn’t just randomly chosen).

Vader, along with Casanova, combines humor with the inner workings of wrestling on top of an emotional backdrop which many wrestling fans should enjoy. Usually self-published books are filled with grammar errors and unchecked facts, which sometimes makes it hard for me to review. Although editors sometimes miss errors here and there, it should not be so evident to distract from the overall book. The writing here does just that, by keeping the story going, in which I kept reading page after page, because the tone kept me wanting to read more.

After reading this book, I started to go back and watch some of the highlighted matches that are available online to re-watch Vader’s matches. I think one reason I disliked him so much against Sting (looking at it now, knowing more about how wrestling is presented) was that White was just that good at being the monster heel, which was his job. Dusty Rhodes’ booking of him as unstoppable worked big time, and also made his WCW title loss to Ron Simmons more shocking because no one could beat Vader at the time, even the top star Sting. By the time he got to the WWF, he was not only injured (as told in the book), but , in my opinion, was limited in what he could do, which weakened him after the dominate years in WCW and international tours that made him outshine everyone on the rosters (with help from the boost of the wrestling magazines, like the ones owned by Stanley Weston). I did get to see him live in 1997 in Youngstown , Ohio verses Kane at a live event with the WWF (he was scheduled another time, but wasn’t there).

I was hoping for a part about Vader returning to the WWE as a part of the Table For 3 show, where he was with Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page, or maybe why he agreed to do it. The only part he discusses here is his brief returns in matches against Heath Slater, and inducting Stan Hansen in the WWE Hall of Fame. Being a Sting fan, many wrestling books briefly mention him in passing, so the more stories about him I can get is good with me , and this book is one of the books with several stories about The Stinger, especially how much he helped Vader in his WCW matches (which as a Sting fan, I figured it was the office making him look bad by getting destroyed in matches at times- this book dispels that myth, by stating how Sting helped plan out the matches and took Vader under his wing to teach him a different style of wrestling that he wasn’t used to). At almost 400 pages, the book does a great job covering Vader’s life, without missing much.

This was a very enjoyable book, especially since I was not a huge Vader fan. The cover of the book is amazing , with Vader standing in front of the Rocky Mountains with the helmet and skulls below his feet. When the book came in the mail, and I opened the package, I was in awe of how well done the packaging covers (both front and back) were designed, which again, sometimes self published books tend to ignore. Don’t let not being a Vader fan prevent you from checking this book out (if you weren’t a fan of his gimmick), because there are great tales about the AWA (which tends to get overlooked in books), WCW, WWF, and the Japanese leagues and stars. Being not a huge fan of Japanese wrestling, I thought the extended tales about his time in Japan would drag and lose my interest, however this was not the case.

Along with the touching tales of forgiveness throughout the book, from White’s problems with certain wrestlers to reconnecting with his son (after years of being on the road) before Vader’s 2018 death, the book gives a new look on the person who was a dominate monster in front of the audiences, yet a different man when he was away from the cameras.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Kenny Casanova and WOHW Publishers.

 

It’s Vader Time : The Story of a Modern Day Gladiator (WOHW Publishers, 2019) by Leon White and Kenny Casanova (ISBN: 978-1-941356-08-1) can be ordered at http://www.wohw.com. You can also find out more about the author at :www.kennycasanova.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 397

Language: Moderate

Geared For: Ages 12 and up

For Fans Of: 1980s-1990s Pro Wrestling, Autobiographies.

Book Review: The Perseverance of Randy Travis Entertains

Cover Design by Jason Gabbert. Front cover photo: Warner Music

During the mid 1980s, one of the biggest country music acts was Randy Travis. Travis was hitting the charts with songs like “On The Other Hand,” “1982,” and “Diggin Up Bones,” among others. In the book, along with Ken Abraham, Forever And Ever, Amen (Nelson Books, 2019) ,Travis takes the reader through his musical, and personal journey from the top of the charts, along with his health and financial problems.

Travis discusses how he got his start in music playing in a duo with his brother, performing in clubs until his brother was sent to prison, where Travis ended up having to go solo. Several years later, he describes how every country music label turned him down (some of them several times) for being considered “too country” to them, arriving just after the boom of the Urban Cowboy era. The John Travolta film made country music more popular, where a more pop sound was wanted in Nashville to appeal to the masses, where acts like Kenny Rogers, Juice Newton, Dolly Parton, and The Oak Ridge Boys were crossing over on the pop charts.

While working at a club, where he was also the cook, the owner , Lib Hatcher, took a liking to him and helped him avoid his own personal troubles with the law, by taking over as his guardian. Travis eventually made Hatcher his wife and full time manager, who he ends up decades later seeing the controlling nature she had over his life and finances.

Travis used three name changes and struggled to get a major label deal, which came about in 1985, and in 1987, topped the charts with his most famous song “Forever And Ever Amen,” written by Paul Overstreet, which became Travis’ third number one single at the time. Travis then started topping the charts with successful albums and singles.

The book tells some interesting stories, including his friendship with George Jones, Josh Turner, Jimmy Dickens, and other country acts. Entertaining tales about when he played pool with Minnesota Fats, and the time he stood up Mick Jagger for dinner in London, were also very entertaining.

Throughout the book Travis talks about his faith in Christianity, along with his personal struggles involving alcohol, and the stress of non-stop touring on the road being one of the top music acts at the time. He covers his film career, along with his funding to help create Pure Flix movies, which released the successful God’s Not Dead series, among other Christian films.

Many readers may want to know if he covers the 2012 incident , which Travis was arrested after crashing his car, which made all the tabloid shows after the video was leaked out. Travis tells what happened that night, the arrest, and the aftermath of the incident. Travis also talks about how his divorce from Hatcher made him see similarities in his life with the relationship between Elvis Presley and his manager Col. Parker. This part of his life, is somewhat similar to the character in the George Strait 1992 film Pure Country, where the female manager starts shoving the new boyfriend into the spotlight, using the current star’s success, which Travis explains Hatcher did with an European singer.

In what is the most emotional aspect of the book (not counting the aftermath of his divorce, where he finds out that money and insurance payments were all misused), is the ill health, which led to him to flat line and have a stroke that took years to recover from (which he is still doing). For a person who made his living in music and with his voice, the sudden health issue , and his struggles in rehabbing just to be able to walk and talk, is not only emotional, but gives me a new respect for the man as a person of faith, along with the willpower to keep moving on.

The book is easy to read, with short chapters (another plus for me), and is filled with some great stories on country music, the road, and a man struggling with health and money issues in his later years. This is one of the better music related books I have read. One does not have to be a major fan of Travis to enjoy the book (I liked several of his songs, but honestly was not considered big fan of his music) to find time well spent on an inspiring writing filled with hope, faith, struggles, and the power to keep moving forward.

 

Forever And Ever, Amen by Randy Travis with Ken Abraham (Nelson Books, 2019) ISBN: 9781400207992 (ebook), 97881400207985 (hardback) can be found on Amazon and at : http://www.harpercollinschristian.com.

 

For information on Randy Travis, go to: http://www.randytravis.com

 

The Overall

Pages: 304

Language: None

Geared For: 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Country music, Christian Books, Music, Autobiographies.

Childhood Classic: My First Cassette

An Innocent Man by Billy Joel was released by Columbia Records in 1983.

  Every once in a while, 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. You can see some of those in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

 

Just like remembering your first concert, the first album, cassette, or compact disc a person buys is just as much part of a person’s memory. The first cassette I ever bought for myself, after saving up allowance money, was An Innocent Man. My brother and I shared the 45s of “Uptown Girl” and then “The Longest Time” before I bought the whole cassette. Since we had “The Longest Time” on 45, I must have purchased it in 1984 after several singles were out in the stores, because I also remember not too long later I got my second cassette as a gift, the self titled New Edition release.

Growing up, I always like the bands of the 1960s, so this album by Joel, which was tribute to these acts, was not too far off the track musically for me. I don’t think I remember Joel’s earlier work at the time, although I wrote a research paper in 5th grade on music, and mentioned Joel in the paper. My teacher at the time had seen him live several times at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, and I remember him telling me about the show.

Joel was one of the top acts at this time, getting all kinds of local and national radio airplay, along with his videos on the video shows (I did not have MTV at the time, so shows like “Friday Night Videos” and the local Akron/Canton video show hosted by Billy Soule played his videos).

The opening track, “Easy Money,” which was featured in the 1983 Rodney Dangerfield film, was a great opener to the album, and I would play the song on the way to visiting the casinos when my friend’s band would play there (as little as two years ago-the song is still on my play list). Throughout the song, and the album, I became a fan of drummer Liberty Devitto’s strong snare drum sound.

“An Innocent Man” was a song that , at first, I was not a major fan of, but during my adult years, I grew to love the song more. The lyrics are strong and describe the human nature that most pop songs did not at this time. Being 11 years old when I got this cassette, I was more into the hit singles of the albums than deeper cuts mostly.

“This Night” was one of the fewer deeper cuts on albums and the cassettes that I always listened to. The song had the Doo Wop sound to it, almost reminded me of another group that I was a fan of at the time, Sha Na Na.

“Tell Her About It,” “Uptown Girl” and “The Longest Time” were already blaring on my radio, so I was not unfamiliar with these singles, singing along with my friends during recess at school and in music class, where every Friday we were allowed to bring in a 45 or record to play and study and dance to as a reward. Thankfully our music teacher, who was also the drama teacher, was a fan of popular music like Hall and Oates, Duran Duran, and Joel. We did not have the old grey-haired teacher who hated rock music, like the professor I had in my college music class.

“Careless Talk” and “Christie Lee” were songs that I grew to love more in my college and post-college days, especially when I started playing in local bands, and we started writing original songs. Why not try and copy the great songwriting of Billy Joel, right? Unfortunately the rock/blues band I was in didn’t lend to that kind of 60’s pop.

The last two songs, “Leave A Tender Moment Alone” and “Keeping The Faith” were two other songs that I remember loving from the first time I heard them. I loved the harmonica in “Leave A Tender Moment,” seeing the video of Joel playing live on the Akron/Canton video show, “23 Music Videos,” hosted by Billy Soule, on WAKC Channel 23- a channel where I also got to watch Memphis wrestling .

“Keeping The Faith” was a popular video , with Joel in a court room trying to plead his case to a jury. I remember us kids re-enacting music videos during recess at times, with this one being one of them (another was “Method of Modern Love” by Hall and Oates). We had to use our imaginations back then before the cell phones and internet to keep us occupied.

I bought a Billy Joel video collection years later on VHS, which had the video of “Keeping The Faith” on it. Videos at one time were a visual interpretation of the songs, and Joel standing next to the giant jukebox was a great visual with a song about his musical heroes. I always love the lyrics in the song of “The good ole days weren’t always good/and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

Even though some people scoff at videos made in the 1980s, they were a new genre for musicians, and there were no set rules on how to do them. Some were cheesy, some weren’t, but they helped sell records, which was the goal. Although I had a few of the 45s, the videos helped me enjoy this release even more. I listed this album as an underrated album that many people either missed in the stores or that they are not mentioned among the artists’ best work on an older article. It’s hard to imagine that people forget An Innocent Man, which spawned 7 singles, and if it wasn’t for Thriller by Michael Jackson, it would probably been the album of that year.

Book Reviews: Double Shot of Wrestling History

Photos from the collection of Larry Matysik 2005

If you have read any of my reviews when it comes to professional wrestling, you would know how I prefer the days of the territories, where many different promoters ran particular areas, and bred their stars, as opposed to today’s product where the wrestlers only have NXT or a few other choices to learn their characters and skills. Places like Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas had their own regional promotions, which some were placed under the National Wrestling Alliance banner (also known as the N.W.A.). One of the most respected, and historic promotions was the St. Louis area, run by Sam Muchnick, which is detailed in the book Wrestling At the Chase by Larry Matysik (ECW Press, 2005).

Matysik was a key member of the St. Louis territory, starting his work as a writer and press person, all the way up to helping Muchnick develop the league as a booker ( a person who sets up the matches and the endings). Stories throughout the book are told about many of the top stars of the day, from Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Bobby Heenan, Dick The Bruiser, and other legendary wrestlers. Each chapter is (almost) based on the author’s experience with the particular wrestler, along with other chapters that detail his friendship with Muchnik and what made that St. Louis area popular with not only the fans , but the wrestlers as well.

What were some of the reasons that wrestlers respected Muchnick? Not only did he give out respectable payouts to the workers (one time even paying them when there was not even a show), but the booking was unique; there were mostly clean finishes in the matches, where other territories were constantly booking controversial finishes every month, which left fans angered and (finally after so many of them) refusing to come back to the matches. The author writes how Muchnick valued the sport aspect of the wrestling that made the fans respect his television and live events. Muchnick also didn’t like “swash” matches, where the star would get all the offense in his television matches against a younger wrestler with little experience. Sam thought that the enhancement wrestler should make the match seem like a legit fight, and have some offense.

The writing relays stories that are entertaining, such as the time a bunch of local guys wanted to fight the wrestlers in a hotel, and 7-foot tall Andre The Giant decided to challenge the men, to how respected Bobby “The Brain” Heenan became , who ended up being the first and only manger in the territory. Stories are told about stars like Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell (who walked out on Vince McMahon Jr. right during his start of the 1980s boom), Joe Garagiaola (who was an announcer for the promotion at one time), and Dick Murdoch.

Another great aspect of the book is the author’s telling of some of the political behind the scene lobbying among the N.W.A. brass in determining the champion at the time (the N.W.A. Champion would travel to each territory to defend the title as an added attraction). One story deals with how then champion Dory Funk Jr. was injured and may not have been able to defend when he was scheduled to be in St. Louis, where the fear and rumors were that he just did not want to drop the title. Muchnick responded by getting Bruno Sammartino from New York’s WWWF to come to St. Louis to show that Muchick could work with the “rivals” of the N.W.A. The political sections of the book also covers when Vince McMahon Jr. started his 1980s run in buying out the territories to create his World Wresting Federation (WWF), after taking over his father’s league, and later, conquering the world.

Matysik covers his friendship with the late Bruiser Brody, a wrestler who became one of the original independent wrestlers. Brody would pick and choose who he worked for, and sometimes refuse to follow the actual finishes of matches. Since Brody was tragically murdered at an event in Puerto Rico, fans of the wrestler would enjoy these stories about the writer’s and one of the original hardcore wrestler’s friendship, which brings a touching aspect to the book. Not only is the friendship with Brody emotional, but also Matysik’s and Muchnick’s evolution over the years is also touching.

Wrestling At the Chase is a wonderful, easy to read book about the bygone era of territory wrestling. This is a collection of great tales involving the classic stars, what made that area different from the others, and several tales of a few long lasting friendships on top. There are some pleasing black and white photographs throughout the book of the great wrestling stars, such as Harley Race, Terry Funk, Andre, and more. The author, sadly, died in 2018, but this book is a testament to his contribution to wrestling history.

 

This book was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Wrestling At The Chase by Larry Matysik (ECW Press, 2005) ISBN: 978-1-55022-684-3 can be ordered at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

The Overall

Pages:232

Language: Mild

Geared For: Teens and Up (12 and Up)

For Fans Of: Classic Wrestling, Sports , St. Louis History

 

Cover design: Michael Holmes.

Women’s wrestling has become a major player in the past few years, especially in the WWE with their Women’s Revolution. Although many wrestling critics have scoffed at the sincerity of some of the choices made, it has given women wrestlers more of a spotlight in the mainstream.

The book Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy (2017, ECW Press) follows the years of women’s wrestling that have led us to this point. The authors have been followers of wrestling for years, with Laprade writing the great book on Mad Dog Vachon (a review can be found here in the archives), and Murphy was a writer for the wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which was THE major magazine in the 1980s and 1990s.

The book starts with a forward from WWE Superstar Natalya Neidhart, discussing how her uncle Stu Hart always had wrestlers at his home, which she became acquainted with, along with the two author’s support of the women wrestlers, where many promoters viewed them as a side show.

The history begins covering how women wrestlers dated back to the Amazon warrior days (even questioning if the Amazons even existed) and in the 1800s, where women took part in boxing, wresting, and bar room fighting. Names like Marie Ford, who participated in what could be an early form of MMA, to Josie Wahlford, who may have been the first women’s champion of wrestling are discussed. These early women fought both men and women on carnival shows and the burlesque circuits. The authors take the reader through names like Cora Livingston, who in 1910 became the first to carry an actual belt as champion, and Clara Mortensen, who claimed to be champion and went on to be a Hollywood actor, along with her part in helping the transition from the carnivals into actual sports arenas.

The book covers mini-biographies of many of the wrestlers, separated by eras, such as the 1980s Rock ‘N” Wrestling era, with Wendi Richter, Leilani Kai, Candi Devine, and Sherri Martel. One of the great stories about this section is how Richter was a part of a screw job (long before the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels event in 1997), with the backstage politics of The Fabulous Moolah, who ran most of the women’s wrestling for decades. Each wrestler gets a several page biography stating some of their wrestling history, along with how they got into the business. I personally enjoyed Candi Devine’s work in the AWA, although the writers seemed to just pass her off as nothing special.

The Attitude Era from the WWE (with stars like Lita, Trish Stratus, and Chyna), TNA’s Knockouts Division (with Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, and Angelina Love), to Japanese and Australian stars are all covered in this writing. The process of going from “women” to “Knockouts” to “Diva’s” are all transitioned here.

The most interesting parts of the book for me was the early history of the women, from names like Cora Combs, Penny Banner (who dated Elvis Presley), and Ethel Johnson (who was one of the early popular African American wrestlers). The detailed story about Mildred Burke and Billy Wolfe’s influence on women and wrestling is a plus, along with the backstage influence of Moolah, which to this day has controversy among those that worked with her. There is also an interesting story from 1951 that details the death of Janet Boyer Wolfe at a card in East Liverpool, Ohio (which is around a 30-minute drive from my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio.

The biographies of the other stars are limited to a few pages at best, depending on how big of stars they were, and several are omitted from here from recent times- the writers mention Stephanie McMahon’s influence on the current product, and there is a chapter on Ronda Rousey, but no Alexa Bliss, covering only NXT wrestlers like Paige, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair. Throughout the book there are comments from Dave Meltzer, who is considered a historian in wrestling by some, and not so by others (Meltzer created dirt sheets newsletters, where he would expose the business by giving so called backstage “news” about contracts, storylines, and the paid arena incomes, although many in the business claim his stories were all made up, some claim he is correct). I personally, would have liked a little less of his opinions, and maybe more of the writer’s view.

It would been nice to have the writers state a little of their personal opinions into the book, such as some of their favorite matches from the stars, but overall the book is a nice reference guide for looking at some of the women and their biographies. Names like The Jumping Bomb Angels, Judy Grable, and Velvet McIntyre may not be well known with today’s fans (but neither are current wrestlers like Tenille Dashwood or Tessa Blanchard) that may only follow the WWE, but they are featured in this time capsule. True fans will enjoy the early history of the pioneers and the Moolah stories. It is interesting to see how far the women’s world has evolved, regardless of opinions of those that see the WWE’s division with skepticism.

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History And Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy (2017, ECW Press) ISBN: 978-1-77041-307-0 (paperback), 978-1-77305-015-7 (PDF) , 978-1-77305-014-0 (Epub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 415

Language: Mild

Geared For: 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Women’s Wrestling, Pro Wrestling, Wrestling History.

Music Review: Childhood Classic- Celebrating The Summer of 1985 With The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys Released by Brother/Caribou/CBS Records 1985

Every once in a while, 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. You can see some of those written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com , where I contribute now and then. With summer starting soon, what better release to look at than one by the band that made summer fun?

The year 1985 was a good year for records. Whitney Houston’s debut, Ratt’s Invasion of Your Privacy, Tears For Fears’ Songs From the Big Chair, No Jacket Required by Phil Collins and “We Are the World” was blasting the charts and airwaves. I was listening to these, along with the WWF Wrestling Album, Stryper’s Soldiers Under Command, Rick Springfield’s Tao, and Corey Hart’s Boy In The Box. One of the underrated albums that had great memories for me was the self titled Beach Boys album.

I grew up listening to The Beach Boys as far back as I can remember; they were one of the bands I never strayed away from, regardless of what genre I was listening to at the time. Drummer Dennis Wilson was one of my favorite drummers, who played with a passion and intensity live. Regardless of the backlash that he wasn’t playing on all studio tracks, he was still a good drummer live. I remember seeing the ABC TV Special from 1976 many times on television, getting to tape it on VHS in the 1980s, and wearing out that tape (getting a copy of it years ago on DVD was an extra treat for me when that came out).

The 1985 album was the first release since the death of Wilson, who drowned in 1983. The record was produced by Steve Levine, who produced albums by The Culture Club, and the simple title of The Beach Boys was also symbolic of a new era for the band; from the first release without a founding member, to moving into the 1980s pop sound with drum machines, synthesizers, and samplings.

The first song, “Getcha Back” starts with a big drum sound, and then the powerful harmonies of the group kicks in before the first verse. I remember seeing the band on one of my favorite television shows of the day, “Solid Gold,” debut the song. Once I saw them on the show, I had to get the record because the song just hit me. My local radio station actually was playing the song on frequent rotation, and the single charted to # 2 on the AC charts and # 26 nationally. One could argue that the success of this song helped pave the way for the next big smash, “Kokomo” in 1988 (the band did chart with a duet with rappers The Fat Boys before that, and in 1986 barely charted with the underrated “Rock N’ Roll To The Rescue” for a greatest hits package). Many stations were not playing new music from a “nostalgia” act like The Beach Boys, so getting airplay in 1985 was a big help.

The song has the strong harmonies that the band made famous, along with the lyrics looking back on a love gone wrong, with hope that the lovers could get back together. The opening line of “The other night they were playing our song/haven’t heard it for ooh so long,” and in the second verse, “I’m getting tired laying around here all night/thinking about some other guy holding you tight/he may have money and a brand new car/may even treat you like a movie star,” may sound simple but was just poetry for me hearing it back then. This song is a Nicholas Sparks novel in 3 minutes.

The whole first side of the album is filled with strong vocals and harmonies that could have been on any radio station at this time. The slower “It’s Getting Late” (which was also released from the album , but for some reason didn’t connect with the national listeners), and the next song, ” Crack At Your Love,” gives the album a great flow. “Maybe I Don’t Know” is maybe the only filler song on the first side, but it’s not a bad song.

One of my favorite songs on the album, besides “Getcha Back,” is the last song on the side; a ballad written by Bruce Johnson titled “She Believes in Love Again,” which features Johnson on lead with Carl Wilson coming in on the chorus. This ballad about the guy messing up and asking for forgiveness is a updated theme of the normal love goes wrong and has a spirituality to it. It was released a single but didn’t get airplay anywhere near me, which is a shame because it is one of my favorite ballads of the group.

Side Two kicks in with an ode to California called “California Calling.” After all the years of writing songs about surfing and beaches, you’d think the band would have run out of ideas or original ways to talk about the theme, but this is a fun pop filled song that isn’t dated. Ringo Starr guest drums on the track, which is interesting due to the band’s past with The Beatles, where Brian Wilson had to top the band on the charts. “Passing Friend” has a calypso style to it, co written by George O Dowd (aka Boy George) and Roy Hay (also of Culture Club).

The Brian Wilson led “I’m So Lonely” has the feel of his solo work , with a mid tempo song filled with layers of vocals throughout the chorus. The song is not a typical ballad but has a 1970s feel that could been on the AC charts. The quick two and a half minute song sends the listener back to the days of the 45 records, where anything over 4 minutes would been considered too long for the listener.

Stevie Wonder contributes to the song “I Do Love You,” which sounds like the group just singing a Wonder song. This coming after the song “Where I Belong,” which is another filler on the album starts to seem like the band lost the pop radio friendly style and went back to experimenting with another direction. These songs are not bad , but listening to the album as a whole, it ended the flow. Not being a fan of Stevie Wonder’s music (with the exception of a few songs), I don’t want to hear one of my favorite groups sing a song that sounds just like Stevie Wonder.

After the song “I’m So Lonely,” the album goes downhill for me, but very few records (even now) has every track a winner. The first side and a half though is filled with great songs and memories. I remember wearing out several copies of this cassette while playing along in my bedroom on a summer day with my drums. My best female friend during junior high was also a Beach Boys fan, so this was an album that was played often in my childhood and bring back summer days hanging out with her. The album was re-mastered on CD on a double release with Keepin’ The Summer Alive from 1980 (why this combination was put together with the releases five years apart is questioning, but I only listen to the 1985 release).

When I want to go back to my childhood and listen to a feel good record that takes me back to summer time, friends, and a simple time, I can always count on this release.

 

Track Listings:

  1. Getcha Back 2. It’s Getting Late 3. Crack At Your Love 4. Maybe I Don’t Know
  2. She Believes In Love Again 6. California Calling 7. Passing Friend 8. I’m So Lonely
  3. Where I Belong 10. I Do Love You 11. It’s Just A Matter of Time

Book Review: A Physical Workout Getting Through Superstar’s Book

Front cover Photograph Denise Truscello Cover design by Alex Ross Penguin Random House Australia PTY LTD

 

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was not a bigger female star on the music charts than Olivia Newton- John. John was near the top of the rock and country charts throughout this time, and was considered the world’s sweetheart after her movie role in the musical Grease (which is one of my top three favorite movies, next to The Wizard of Oz and Cocktail with Tom Cruise). In her memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’ ( Gallery Books, 2019) John takes the reader through her life on and off stage, detailing some of her work and struggles.

The book starts by John describing her childhood in England, along with stories of her family and some of their famous friends; her grandfather was a Nobel Prize winner who was friends with Albert Einstein. John tells about growing up at her various schools, even getting a “F” grade in music . It wasn’t until a few friends of hers started singing at a coffee shop that her music career started, along with appearing on several television shows, where she won a talent contest with the prize being a trip to Great Britain.

John’s music career started rolling when she and her duet partner, Pat Carroll, started singing backup with Cliff Richards. John later went solo and started hitting the country and pop charts with several singles. Her songs topped the charts, like the AC charts, and in 1975, she won a Grammy for her song “I Honestly Love You,” which the record label did not want to release as the first single, according to the book, and when she was the ACM award for Country Vocalist for “Have You Ever Been Mellow,” she states that many members of the committee split and even quit because they did not feel the song , nor she, was a true country.

John takes the reader through her time when she ended up being in a lawsuit with her record label, based on the label stating that she owned them more albums, although her contract was based on years. John ended up winning the suit, which set a precedent from the recording industry at the time.

The most anticipated parts of the book is her time on the set of Grease, where she had to be convinced by co-star John Travolta to play the part of Sandy, which moved her career onto a different level than where she was. The stories of directors having a sock hop the first day of shooting to get the cast comfortable with each other, to the broken air conditioning throughout the shootings, to Sandy not being originally in any dance scenes at the time, makes the book very enjoyable. One could read a whole book on the making of the movie alone. John tells the reader about why there wasn’t a sequel to the movie, with Danny and Sandy (instead Hollywood made the dreadful Grease 2 film).

The section of John’s movie career in the middle gives the book its most enjoyable parts. After Grease, she discusses turning down certain films, along with making others that did not do as well as Grease at the box office. The book takes just as much detail is telling the behind the scenes of Xanadu, which she claims many people still come up and tell her how much they loved that film (I remember seeing it in the theaters with my father at age 7, and even at that time, I didn’t know what I was seeing). The author seems to make the film out to be better than it was during this time. It is her book, and she has every reason to like the film and the good memories of it (and be proud of the work for being something different), but in my opinion, the writer tends to boost the film up as better than it really was. But her tales on filming the movie while injured, may give her more respect as an actor, which may require another watching of the flick.

The rest of the book covers John’s passion for her charity causes, and her fights with cancer. There is a small part about her thoughts on her boyfriend Patrick McDermott, who disappeared in 2005. For readers that are looking for juicy information, there are not any here; only a few sentences about the situation. The second half of the writing is more about John’s thoughts on health, charity, and other views, which turns the book into a New Age /healing genre book.

The first part of the writing is the best part for me, reading about her career and her filming of the two major movies. However, for a memoir, there are many parts that just fly off quickly. There is not much information on her behind the scenes of recording some of her albums, only the craze that her video for “Physical” and how she had double thoughts about the song after she recorded it. Other than that, there is not much take on her thoughts on recording the albums or songs. The same goes for her filming Two Of A Kind with Travolta, except a brief plot line of the film, and how it disappointed at the box office. There is not much gossip stories about filming with Travolta and her co stars, which some may want to get out of the book. Maybe the author didn’t have great stories to tell, but the reader will be misled thinking there will be some funny pranks or mishaps on the film set. I’m not advocating a TMZ style book, but some more background stories about the recording of the music and films would be more entertaining for me as a reader than several hundred pages on the many charity and New Age thoughts (But then again, the die hard fans of John who follow her career after the “Physical” stage will enjoy this-it wasn’t for me).

Regardless of my thoughts politically on the writer’s views, the book is covered with class; which is not to be surprising considering it’s Olivia Newton-John, who seemed to have a classy outlook throughout her career. The most interesting parts of the book (with the exception of the Grease and Xanadu ), seem too brief and glossed over. Maybe it was because of the publisher or editor’s decision, or just that’s they way she wanted to cover the book, but music fans may be a little let down by this. I really was looking forward to reading this book, being a fan of her career up through the 1980s, but parts fell flat for me, especially with the lack of entertaining tales during her major run in the spotlight. However, those who are true die hard fans of hers, they will enjoy the writing and her insight on her life.

 

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John (Gallery Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-9821-2224-9 (hardback), 978-1-9821-2226-3 (ebook) can be found at:

www. simonandschusterpublishing.com/gallery-books .

 

For information on the author go to : http://www.facebook.com/olivianewtonjohn

 

The Overall:

Pages: 323

Language: Mild

Geared For: 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Music, Film, New Age, Memoirs.