CD Review: Selena Gomez Gives A Fun Listen That’s Rare

Selena Gomez “Rare” was released January 10, 2020 by Interscope Records. This cover, with the bonus tracks, is available through Target.

 

This may sound like a surprise to many, since I mostly focus on rock music reviews, but I like and respect Selena Gomez. I enjoyed her work starting on the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place (a show that was funny, well written, and family friendly) to her work into movies and music. Although I was definitely NOT a fan of the film Spring Breakers, which I felt was a horrible career choice (both for her and co-star Vanessa Hudgens), Gomez has been a role model for her core fan base, mostly of the under thirty crowd.

Gomez’s first CD, 2009’s Kiss & Tell with the group The Scene, was actually a pretty good rock/pop release. The CD had songs written by Mathew Wilder (“Break My Stride”) and Gomez worked with The Go Go’s drummer Gina Schock. Throughout the promotion of the CD, it seemed like Gomez was going to be leaning into the rock genre, where most Disney alums went for the dance/pop/hip hop style music. From then, she recorded albums in 2010 and 2011, which although wasn’t the straight up rock, had some good tracks overall. It wasn’t until 2013’s Stars Dance where she really started into the dance mode, with a more techno/pop feel to it. Gomez’s newest CD, Rare, continues the pop/dance style of music that she has become famous for.

The CD starts off with the title track, which is a good opener to the record. The drum parts on this song starts off as if it is a demo , and not the finished product, which would be used throughout the release. The song is under four minutes long, and with nice lyrics like “Why don’t you recognize I’m so rare.” This message will resonate with her core audience in terms of relationships and staying true to who you are, much like her song “Who Says” from years before. Most of the songs on the album are short, usually under four minutes or less, which is wonderful that there are not added stuff to them to draw the tracks out just to be longer and take away from the songs.

The second track, “Dance Again,” has an ’80s New Wave style beat to it, along with empowered lyrics of walking away from a bad situation (some think it’s about one of Gomez’s past relationships). This is just a nice, feel good pop song that really works and is enjoyable to listen to.

The singles “Look At Her Now” and “Lose You To Love Me” are next, and both have the same problem in the songwriting process. There is no strength in the writing in the chorus at all. “Look At Her Now” has a catchy melody to it, but just singing “mm,mm,mm” is not an exciting chorus to jump at songwriting wise. This simplicity is used throughout the CD. It becomes old by the time the CD ends. “Lose You To Love Me” is a nice ballad (the video for both of these songs enhance the song more than just the songs on the CD) , but the chorus is the problem.

After the first two singles, “Ring” is a wonderful track. This is similar to the 1960s bubblegum style songs, (or the song “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”) and is just around the two and a half minute mark, which makes it even better, with no extra fillers on the song to make the listener get tired of it. The chorus is better written than the last two songs, and is one of the best songs on the CD.

If “Ring” reminds me of something from the 1960s, “Vulnerable” reminds me of a 1970s soul song that would been played on AM Radio at the time. Even though (again) there is no catchy chorus to latch on to, this time it works in that process.

The next two songs “People You Know” and “Let Me Get Me” are probably the worst ones on the CD. “People” has no build up to the chorus and just becomes a big run on sentence in terms of musical structure (verse/chorus/verse etc). “Let Me Get Me” sounds like a demo and is too similar to “Dance Again,” which could have been left off the CD to save hearing the same type of song twice.

“Crowded Room” features someone named 6LACK, who I never heard of. I am not a fan of any type of Rap, and usually when artists add a rapper to the song, the rap part has nothing to do with the overall song, nor does it fit the structure. However, it works rather well here. Structure wise, this song is one of the best on the CD. The chorus is catchy to sing with, the pre-chorus is great as well, and is just under three minutes, which makes the listener want more, so they have to hit the repeat button again. This song shocked me in quality and how I liked it.

“Kinda Crazy” is a fun song about someone who is not the best for the singer, with lyrics like “I think you’re kinda crazy/And not in a good way.” This song has that 1970s AM radio style to it , and has nice guitar work by Kristoffer Foglmark and Albin Nedler. This has a good groove to it, and is almost like the music I liked of Selena from her first album. Again, many will read into the lyrics comparing it to her past relationships, but don’t let that get in the way in missing the attractiveness of the track.

“Fun” is another song that goes back to just having “mm” and “ah” in the chorus and doesn’t reach the build up to a chorus that a song should have.

“Cut You Off” is a unique song. This has a slower groove to it, with a nice blues guitar solo and rhythm throughout the track by David Pramik. This is a song that Gomez’s younger fans may have a problem with, with the lyrics of her talking while “I’m drunk” and drops the S-word in the pre-chorus. Parents of younger listeners may not find the song age appropriate, but her older fans will like the song. To me, this is another really good song off the CD.

The final track “A Sweeter Place” features Kid Cudi, another person I never heard of. But just like “Crowded Room,” the guest appearance fits nicely into the overall song without distracting this listener. This is a great ending song for the CD, with a chorus one can enjoy.

The Target Exclusive Edition of the CD has bonus songs, which are “Bad Liar,” “Fetish,” “It Ain’t Me,” “Back To You,” and “Wolves (w/ Marshmello).” The reason I chose the Target Edition was to have those other singles on one CD, especially since I hadn’t listened to those when they were released. I enjoy “It Ain’t Me,” which has strong backing vocals, strong music, and a great chorus , along with “Back To You,” a song that has layered vocals and strong musicians.

Rare is lacking several things on many songs: a strong chorus including the build up to it at times, the production (at times) seems like a demo, where some of the more dance style songs lack a strong bass line in it, and some lyrics that are too simple at times, (which also repeats that process on several of the songs). However, overall, there are only two to three bad songs on here and they do not come off to the point where the listener has to get up and hit the skip button. Most songs are short enough that even if one song doesn’t appeal to the listener, it is over quickly.

I wanted to listen to a CD that is just a plain, fun musical experience (much like Taylor Swift’s Lover, which was my pick on here for best CD of last year) , and although parts of Rare can be critically analyzed (this is a review page after all!!), overall Selena Gomez succeeds here for me, much better than her last venture. And since I don’t normally listen to this type of music, in this case, being “rare” is a good thing.

 

Track Listing: 1. Rare 2. Dance Again 3. Look At Her Now 4. Lose You To Love Me 5. Ring 6. Vulnerable 7. People You Know 8. Let Me Get Me 9. Crowded Room (featuring 6LACK) 10. Kinda Crazy 11. Fun 12. Cut You Off 13. A Sweeter Place (featuring Kid Cudi)

Target Edition Bonus Tracks: 1. Bad Liar 2. Fetish (featuring Gucci Mane) 3. It Ain’t Me (with Kygo) 4. Back To You 5. Wolves (w/ Marshmello)

Childhood Classic: Fogerty Hits A Solo Home Run

Centerfield was released January 14, 1985 by Warner Brothers Records.

 

 

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  

I knew of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival due to the songs that they recorded being played on the local oldies radio station. Even in my early teen years, I listened to plenty of the early ‘50s and ‘60s music, especially since I was a huge fan of The Beach Boys. Although I remember the talents of John Fogerty’s work with CCR, when his album Centerfield came out in 1985, I didn’t listen to most of his solo work until I was in a band in the mid 1990s.

My one guitar player loved Fogerty’s work, and although I had a copy of the 1985 release on cassette, I never listened to the album, besides the few times I wanted to listen to the title track, an ode about baseball. That guitar player got me listening to Fogerty’s third solo album, along with 1997’s Full Moon Swamp. Throughout the years, I started learning more about how the music business treated Fogerty, with the various lawsuits from his label to other former CCR members, to the fact that he lost most of the rights to his penned songs. Reading his autobiography also opened my eyes to some of the things he had gone through. Besides the great hits he had with CCR ( a band that never had a #1 U.S. single believe it or not), I still think his finest solo work is Centerfield.

The release starts off with the bluesy/swamp track “The Old Man Down The Road.” During one lawsuit that he was thrown into, his former label stated that the song sounded too much like his CCR work. I remember the music video when it came out, from my early exposure to MTV, and my local music video show from Akron/Canton Ohio Channel 23 on Billy Soule’s video show (I’m almost certain it was played on his show-he was great!). The video basically follows the guitar chord hooked at one end into a speaker all the way throughout the road until you see Fogerty playing at the end of the song, with the chord plugged into his guitar. I remember thinking it was an odd video at the time because you never saw the main artist until the end (although dressed as a different character, he is in the beginning). The song ended up being a big hit for him , hitting #10 on the Billboard charts and #1 on the Top Rock charts.

The second track is one of my favorites on the whole album. “Rock and Roll Girls” hit #20 for Fogerty, and is a nice pop/rock song. The song has a strumming guitar riff to it, along with talking about the innocence of the times, especially girls who are sitting at home listening to their radios while gossiping about guys and love. There is a small yodeling part in the song which mixes his love of classic country and blended it into a rock song. The saxophone drives the song as well, making it a pop song.
“Big Train (From Memphis)” has a Johnny Cash style feel to it, with the rockabilly style that influenced John with his love of Ricky Nelson and Cash. I could picture Marty Stuart recording this song when he was having a great run on the country charts in the 1990s.

“I Saw It On TV” is my second favorite song off the album. The song details how the age of television influenced the world with events being shown on it, much like Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” celebrated the rise and fall of radio. This song is probably the most mellow of the tracks, and references The Beatles, Davey Crockett, Howdy Doody, JFK, and other names in history. This is one wonderfully written track.

“Mr. Greed” and “Searchlight” have a big time ‘80s sound to each of the song, with the drum programming on the songs, along with the themes of greed and the mean, wealthy rich people, associated with the big greed of the 1980s. The guitar work in these songs are nice, and since Fogerty played almost all the instruments himself, it shows how skilled he is with his variety of talents.

The title track became a legend on its own, being played at every baseball stadium ever since. The fact that it was a B-Side to a single and not a hit, gives the song more history to it. The song , much like “I Saw It On TV” gives a historical snippet to baseball’s great players like Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, and Willie Mayes. The fact that it is still being played on sports shows, and in stadiums and arenas (even the opening click tracks when a player walks to the plate), shows his songwriting talents . It was also a song I would sing when I was standing in centerfield in my little league baseball days, because no one ever hit the ball that far to me anyway, so I had to pass the time by singing songs in the outfield.

“Can’t Help Myself” and “Zanz Kant Danz” end the album. The last song is a reference to the Fantasy record label owner, and was changed on the future pressings on the albums.

To me, there is only one major bad song on the release (the last one), and even though I was not a fan of the whole album when it came out, I can respect plenty from this album, which is Fogerty’s best solo album as a whole. 35 years later, it is still an enjoyable listen.

Track List: 1. The Old Man Down The Road 2. Rock and Roll Girls 3. Big Train (From Memphis) 4. I Saw It On TV 5. Mr. Greed 6. Searchlight 7. Centerfield 8. Can’t Help Myself 9. Zanz Kant Danz

 

Tribute: Farewell To The (Drum) King

 

Rush drummer Neil Peart died January 7, 2020.

I started playing drums when I was approximately the age of 7 years old. I wanted to play the drums because my uncle was the best local drummer in my opinion, and wanted to be like him. I looked up (and still do) to him as one of my favorite local musicians. He was not only a great drummer, playing rock, jazz, Dixie, and in other style bands, but no one ever had a bad thing to say about him as a person or a drummer in the area (unlike me , who got lumped into bands where drummers were considered “not real musicians” and even had a few bands that constantly ripped me off of my pay).

One of the first records I had as a child was Rock ‘N’ Roll Love Letter by The Bay City Rollers (still to me, a very underrated band when it came to musicianship, and unfortunately was lumped in as a novelty act). The first public appearance I made playing drums was at a Kindergarten or First Grade school talent show (I can’t remember which it was) playing to Waylon Jennings’ The Theme To The Dukes of Hazard. Due to my uncle’s influence, I was taught that a good drummer learned many different styles, and the more I could play those styles, the more gigs I could get playing in various bands. The process worked for me, from playing in blues, rock, country, worship music, and helping out in bands such as hard rock and minstrel style shows.

As I wrote in my retro review on the Rush album Presto for the website Sleazeroxx (https://sleazeroxx.com/reviews/rush-presto/) , I never had to buy Rush music because my best friends had all of their cassettes. I mentioned that whenever we would go out somewhere, either to church functions, the roller skating rink, or just to cruise around town, they always played Rush in their cars. During school, they would argue with me about music, or dissect the Rush lyrics in study hall at school to interpret the lyrical content of the band.

I listened to more mainstream bands like KISS and Van Halen growing up in the rock genre, along with what was being played on the radio, such as Billy Joel andDuran Duran, along with the 1970s and ’80s country acts like The Oak Ridge Boys and Jerry Reed. Since I was more into a pop sound, Rush was not a favorite of mine at first, and due to my friends constantly playing their stuff, I was over exposed to the fact the band turned me off.

It wasn’t until Presto and the MTV exposure that the album received that I finally found an album by the band that I could enjoy with my pals. Now I did like a few songs such as “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” and “Closer To The Heart” from their early work, but Geddy Lee’s voice was too high for me at the time, and as a drummer, Neil Peart’s technical skills was too much for me. However, songs like “Show Don’t Tell, ” “Anagram (For Mongo),” and the very underrated “The Pass” hit the spot for me- it had a pop radio friendly style to it without compromising the artistic style where Rush fans would claim they “sold out” (whatever that term really means)

There are many things about Peart’s skills that made him legendary. Within the past ten or so years I have started to really listen , and appreciate, his drumming skills more. Maybe it is because of the lack of great songs and acts in today’s music (to me melody in songs are missing), but re-discovering his work still amazes me. Here is a drummer who wrote all of the lyrics to the songs, and to my knowledge (Rush fans will correct me if I’m wrong), Peart didn’t play any other instruments. There are several great drummers who have contributed to their band’s lyrical department (Phil Collins comes to mind), but most of them played guitar or piano to help out with the writing process. Even my all time favorite drummer Eric Carr from Kiss played bass on some of the band’s albums. Having a degree in English (and a drummer who tried to get band members to understand what I tried to write), I can really be in awe of how hard it is to write lyrics to songs, without playing another instrument. And what great lyrics they were!!

Another wonderful aspect to Peart’s life is that he was always considered one, if not THE greatest rock drummer of all time, winning multiple drum magazine awards, but yet still went off in the 1990s to learn more, by taking lessons under Freddie Gruber. When you have played your instrument for thirty some years already, touring all over the world and making a fortune, why would you want to go back and take lessons from someone? What could someone possibly teach one of the best? This is a lesson to many younger drummers (and older ones) that you can always learn something new.

In the past few years of writing this page, I had the honor of reviewing some great books, and Peart’s Far And Wide book was one of my favorites (you can find the review by typing it in the search engine in the archives) . This book (one of many) detailed Peart’s traveling on his motorcycle throughout the United States and Canada during what would be the next to last tour of the band. I could not image him wanting to play drums for two hours plus, and then chart a destination course across two countries and ride to and from the shows just to go play again. The book has great humor in it, and shows that not only as a lyricist , but an author, Peart had another gift to him on top of being the most respected drummer in history.

My favorite Peart songs? As mentioned, I love the three I named from Presto, along with “Chain Lightning.” The fills on “Tom Sawyer” are epic. I did like some of his mellower songs in terms of style, such as “Bravado,” where he does just enough to make the song complete. Many drummers point to his massive fills, along with his complex rhythms, but let’s not forget that on songs like this he carries the beat and keeps it simple at times.

Other favorites of mine are “Limelight, ” “Spirit Of Radio,” ” Lakeside Park,” and how anyone not jam out to “Subdivisions?”

I got to see Rush twice live in concert. My pals always went without me (probably knowing I wasn’t a huge fan at the time), but I saw them on the “Vapor Trails” tour and 2007 tour. I was in awe seeing the thousands of people air drumming throughout the show; a concert first for me. With the exception of seeing Phil Keaggy , where fans were playing air guitar throughout the set, I never seen so many people air drumming in unison as a collective group.

The death of Peart brings me back to my pals sitting in the high school library during study hall getting shushed by the library arguing over music; topics like “Who is the best lead singer,” “Who is the best drummer,” and “What is the best album” from different bands. Since one of the guys in my group passed away last year, Peart’s death is also that much saddening. Rush brought many heated arguments within that class period and on many nights riding in my friends’ cars, which a few times almost ending up with blows being thrown.

For a drummer who got kicked out of high school band for not being able to read music (I did OK I think locally by playing with many of the legends in the Youngstown , Ohio area, along with getting to open for a few national acts when they came to town), and not being a major Rush fan until the 1990s, it is a credit to Neil Peart’s skills and talents that even a non-die harder could state that in the rock genre, we lost the G.O.A.T. Since it is hard to compare musical styles (say rock verses jazz), I always had to separate the lists on who is the greatest drummer of all time ( a debate topic that many confuse their “favorite” drummer as the pick for the best overall).

In my opinion, Neil Peart was the greatest rock drummer , and next to Buddy Rich, the greatest drummer of all time. His influence on countless generations of drummers (and those who just enjoyed drumming in the air), along with the wonderful legacy lyrically and as a Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer, along with band mates Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, showed that a three piece band could be even more powerful than a band with four, five or even more members to create their own style without compromising integrity. And the fans stayed true to them throughout the process.

Rest In Peace to a rock legend, drum icon, and literary artist.

 

Book Review: Osteen Covers Favors

Cover design by Jody Waldrup. Cover photography by Getty Images. Cover copyright 2019, by Hachette Book Group, INC.

 

In his latest book, famous preacher Joel Osteen covers the topic of receiving God’s favor in The Power Of Favor: The Force That Will Take You Where You Can’t Go On Your Own (Faith Words, 2019).

Osteen’s preaching style and ministry is based on a positive outlook on Christianity, where others may focus on more serious topics, and Osteen’s basic viewpoints are featured here. In the book he suggests that getting in touch more with God and less about where the person’s current surroundings are, they will see more production and good things happen in their lives. He uses the idea that the word favor means “Goodness,” which by constantly speaking it into the follower’s life, God will lead them into abundance and overcome defeat.

Osteen uses Biblical illustrations from Joseph, Daniel, and Elisha (many times) to show how the favor of God can work. He also uses people from his church and others who have written him, as examples as well, from businessmen (who started with nothing and have huge numbers of clients) to how his church in Texas ended up getting an arena for their church that used to be the home of the Houston Rockets.

Just like many of his other books, the writing is simple and in short chapters, which is a plus. Sometimes books get too filled with religious jargon that the reader doesn’t know what the point being made is; not here with Osteen, which is one of his charms in his writing and preaching. However, if you have read his others books (I have read several of his), there is not much new here in terms of getting his point across, even using the story about how the church ended up in the arena multiple times in this book alone. It’s great that his church ended up with a wonderful facility for their services, and that fact that he is thankful for the success of the church, but it seems to be one of the only things he keeps repeating that got this reader to get annoyed at the constant referring to the story. The same goes with his illustrations of Elisha, which again, is constantly used as examples throughout the book, multiple times to the point that I don’t need to use my Bible now to read the story of this character.

Some argue over the fact that Osteen’s preaching is all about goodness and prosperity. I understand the point, in which that if everyone followed his models, there would be no one struggling to pay bills, everyone would be a success money wise, and have fame. This contradicts what the Bible states about love of money, and how those seeking worldly possessions will be treated in Heaven. I do believe that God can do anything and having this attitude that Osteen presents will help get rid of a defeated “Woah is me” attitude. Some people just need to hear positive messages , and he does achieve it here. I read the book in a short time, and kept the pages turning for the most part. I enjoyed looking at the viewpoint in the affirmative, which is needed.

Those that have read Osteen’s books in the past know what they are getting in regards to reading his books, and this is no different; a positive outlook with some charm and humorous takes at times on a topic that he preaches regularly on. Even with some of my critiques of the book , it was still an entertaining read that makes the reader change their outlook on things, even if you are not going to get out of debt, get a big paying job, or success like is presented here.

 

 

This book was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

The Power Of Favor: The Force That Will Take You Where You Can’t Go On Your Own by Joel Osteen (Faithwords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-4555-3433-3 (hardcover), 978-1-4555-3436-4 (ebook), 978-1-5460-3852-8 (large print) can be found at http://www.faithwords.com

 

FaithWords is a division of the Hachette Book Group.

 

For information on the author, visit: http://www.joelosteen.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 272

Language: None
Geared For: All Ages

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Self Help, Religion

Books, Music, Film, and Television: The Best and Worst of 2019

Just like my Halloween post is a tradition, one of my others here is my Best and Worst list in film, music, books, and other oddities. Unlike many of the so called critics, who choose many films that most don’t see (or have limited access to), my picks are usually different, and more mainstreamed. I also suggest a few items that deserve a second look, where many have bashed or hated, but weren’t as bad in my opinion as the other “critics” think The music section will not feature hard rock/metal due to the fact that my picks for this genre will be on the site Sleazeroxx (check out their page for my picks there, along with my retro reviews, along with their many great writers) Nonetheless, here are my picks for the best and worst of 2019:

FILMS

BEST OF:

 

  1. Alita: Battle Angel – This is a film I would normally not seek out any other time. I am not a huge fan of animation,/computer generated films, more less one that mixes animation and live actors. However, this film has a wonderful script about a futuristic society where a female cyborg who is named after a scientist’s deceased daughter. The film mixed animated action (where if it was not computerized, would be a gruesome live action film), with great actors such as Jennifer Connelly and Christoph Waltz. Rosa Salazar plays the lead character, filled with emotion, doubt, and trying to find a purpose, on top of figuring out who she is. This has a strong female lead that doesn’t offend the men with PC themes. This is my pick of the year. Tons of action mixed with a quality script.

 

 

  1. Captain Marvel. – Many may state that Avengers: End Game or Spider Man Far From Home was the best Marvel film of the year, but I am picking Captain Marvel here. Endgame forces the comedy in parts that it didn’t need to be in, and was long at over three hours. Marvel mixed the action and humor together , without being forced in the jokes. Brie Larson is wonderful in the film, along with Samuel L. Jackson (an actor I’m not a huge fan of). Next to Wonder Woman, this is a film that has a strong female lead without all the PC preaching in it, along with great action scenes. For someone who is burned out on the superhero genre, I found this a fun, entertaining film , with the humor in the right spots and not overdone, and is a film I watch over and over.

 

  1. The Banana Splits Movie- This year the horror films have been bland at best. Although many will state the film with the clown as the best of the year (which fell short of my expectations), this film is a must watch. Just like the characters from the TV show, it’s campy, fun , and almost comical about a boy and his family visiting a taping of The Banana Splits TV Show, only to find out that the robot characters have gone rogue and starts an attack on the humans. This film is part KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park, with a horror mix to it. This is a fun watch for fans that want something that’s not just gore ( there are some gory parts), but something mindless and fun. This is retro slasher fun, especially for us older folks, who remember the characters from our childhood.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker- I get the whole “Disney ruined Star Wars” debate that many have said. However, one must realize that those of us that grew up on the original trilogy are not in the Disney geared audience anymore. The franchise is for newer fans, and let’s face it: Disney has to end the Skywalker storyline because they want to do their own thing without us purists comparing it to the originals. People my age are not the Disney target audience. With that said, this film achieved , for the most part, an ending to the original story. It had emotion to it, and wasn’t too cheesy for me as the prequels were. Daisy Ridley is becoming one of my favorite actresses (she was good in Murder On The Orient Express and Ophelia from this past year as well). Rey was one of the better characters in the newer series , and was given depth throughout the three films, as opposed to the wooden acting of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, who has come off unconvincing as a dangerous threat in the universe during the first two films. Although there were plenty of predictable plotlines in the film, it was still entertaining, and I was not offended by how it was wrapped up. Now fans like me, who are rare supporters of the Skywalker saga, can move on without having be obligated to see how the stories would be taken. Although many have picked Knives Out as their favorite of the year, which was very good, I overall enjoyed this (for now) conclusion of the Skywalker series to be in my top 4.

 

Deserves A Second Chance: Godzilla King Of The Monsters, Escape Room, Crawl, Ready Or Not, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

 

THE BEST HOLIDAY FILMS- Many have loved the onslaught of Christmas and Holiday films that happen every year. Me, not so much, but two that were really good were The Knight Before Christmas starring the great Vanessa Hudgens, who plays a science teacher in Ohio who meets a time traveling knight that must find is true love quest before Christmas day, and A Christmas Wish with Hilarie Burton, two of my favorite, and under appreciated actors. Burton’s film , where she plays an art teacher, is filled with several former actors from the show One Tree Hill, where she was a star on (and a favorite of mine until she left the show, and her co-star Sophia Bush was amazing in the first several seasons, another underrated actress in my opinion). Her co-star, Tyler Hilton (who played the annoying Chris Keller on One Tree Hill) is actually charming in this. There are also cameos from former Tree Hill alumni Antwon Tanner (“Skills”), Lee Norris (“Mouth”) , Barbara Alyn Woods (” Deb Scott”) , and Colin Fickes (“Jimmy Edwards”) . It is a Tree Hill reunion, but the acting and story are really good, along with an underlying message about the importance of the arts in schools.

A Tree Hill Reunion makes wonderful film
Hudgens shines in her Christmas film

 

Hudgens is not only stunning and lovable to watch on screen, but she has depth to her acting where many just think of her as a Disney actor from the High School Musical series, which they would be wrong She is multi-talented, and there is very little I have seen of her movies that I did not like (Spring Breakers would be one of the few I didn’t enjoy). I liked her music as well. The only odd aspect in her Christmas story, though, is how nice her house is for being paid an Ohio teacher salary (I live in Ohio by the way). Yes, the story is cheesy, like most of the films in the genre, but her acting makes up for it. Both of these films are well written and are enjoyable, and that’s saying something for someone that does not get excited about the onslaught of Christmas romance films.

 

The Worst In Film :

  1. Replicas- This awful Keanu Reeves film is not worth your time, and even though I watched it via DVD, I could not figure out if the film was to be this comical or actually tries to take itself seriously. Reeves plays a character who brings his family back to life after a car accident, almost to clone them, at least that’s what I got out of the bore fest. Reeves and his coworker try and avoid their bosses and the police, while stealing equipment from the company to bring the family back to life in his basement. This is part Frankenstein and part Sci-Fi, but ends up being just bad. The only bright spot is Alice Eve, who plays his wife, but she can’t even save this dud.

 

 

  1. The Haunting of Sharon Tate. Many people still are infatuated with the Sharon Tate murders and Charlie Manson’s role in them. This film, with Hilary Duff playing Tate, is both bad and weird that it is actually offensive. Duff’s take on Tate is that she actually sees the murders before they happen in dreams while staying at her house with her friends before the events. This is a film that not only insults those that lived through the events, but the added twist to it, is just plan dumb. The film is not scary or well acted.
Not even Mark Hamill could save the Chucky reboot
  1. Child’s Play/ Tolkien (tie) . These two films tie for my list. I liked the original Child’s Play, along with some of its sequels, and really wanted to like this film, with Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky. The problem with this reboot is that it looses the scariness where we are to be afraid of the doll. Instead of the original, where a killer uses dark magic to put himself into the doll, this Chucky is a defected doll, which a man who loses his job, disables the doll’s safety switch, which causes the doll to go rogue. If you want to see rogue dolls, check out Banana Splits instead.

Again, I wanted to like Tolkien, a film about the author’s time in war before he writes the Lord Of The Rings books. Starring Nicholas Hoult (who is wonderful in the X-Men films as “Beast,” my favorite X-Men character) , and Lily Collins (Phil’s daughter) , the film falls flat in everything, from the lack of chemistry between the characters, to the big absence of religion in Tolkien’s life, which was a key ingredient in his biography.

 

THE WORST (HONORABLE MENTION) : Us, Ma, Joker, 3 From Hell

 

BOOKS

Best Of :

  1. Jim Cornette Presents Behind The Curtain-Real Pro Wrestling Stories (Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton. Illustrator : Denis Medri)

This graphic novel/comic book is a wonderful look at several major wrestling stories from the classic wrestling era, from Ric Flair and Johnny Valentine’s plane crash, to the Bret Hart “screw job,” and the crazy wrestlers (and fans) that made the world of professional wrestling so unpredictable, and entertaining. The illustrations are wonderful and well done, along with the well written tales, which is missing in some major comics (not enough detail to the words and pictures). Wrestling and comic fans can enjoy this book (you can find a review of it in the archives here).

 

  1. Best Self: Be You, Only Better (Life Coach Mike Bayer). Many Dr. Phil fans will know Bayer as the person who comes on the show and helps people get their lives back in order. Most Self Help books I have read either fail short in its goals, or they assume all things are equal wherever you live. Bayer has some of these faults in the book, but it is overall a great book that helps people try to make each day better than the day before, without ignoring things like religion (some authors of these books ignore a person’s religious upbringings). Bayer’s book is also a workbook, where the best way to get where you want to go is to fill out the exercises at the end of each chapter. This was a pleasant surprise for me in not only in the exercises, but also in the fact that you can actually take something away from the books to apply. This is not over the head of people, and is something that needs to be read.

 

Television

Best Of:

 

  1. Swamp Thing

Many people will pick a Star Wars streaming show for their pick (which I found to be a dumbed -down attempt at the universe), but this show should have been given a better chance. Right after the first two episodes, the producers announced that the show was being cancelled, due to behind the scenes problems. The first episode was a throwback to the classic horror TV shows, like Thriller and other scare shows from the days of the horror hosts. Although I started liking the Creepshow series, it fizzled out for me after the third episode for my horror liking. Swamp Thing had several big names like Ian Ziering (from 90210 and Sharknado fame) , Jennifer Beals, and Adrienne Barbeau (who was in the original 1982 Swamp Thing film). Crystal Reed was wonderful as Abby Arcane, who made me root for her every time she was on screen. The show combines mystery, horror, and the DC characters all into one small season. If you missed this show, seek it out. It’s a shame the show wasn’t given a quality chance with a great up and coming female lead.

The major talented Michaela McManus deserved more love in The Village
  1. The Village

Another show that only got one season this year is The Village, which covers a small apartment complex and the lives of the people who live in there, who help each other as their own community. Some of the characters in the drama is a war vet, who is trying to get back into a normal life, a mother with a teenage daughter who is expecting a child at her young age, and a older couple who run the building who are just charming. Just like any drama, secrets are revealed, and not everyone is who they think they are. The great Michaela McManus plays the mother named Sarah, who I am a fan of her acting from One Tree Hill, The Vampire Diaries, and Law & Order : Special Victims Unit. If you are a fan of romance, drama, and well written characters, this needs to be watched, although the masses missed out on this great show.

  1. NWA POWERRR

For fans that have stopped watching pro wrestling due to the lack of quality action, this is the show for you. Unlike some wrestling shows, where you have to have cable or certain channels to watch, Powerr is available on demand on youtube if you miss the show on Tuesday Nights. This has the classic studio wrestling style, a throwback to the WTBS and Memphis studio days, and focuses on the actual combat first instead of other leagues which everything is about a outrageous story. Stars like Eli Drake, Nick Aldis, Kamille, and Thunder Rosa (along with other great people) mix newer and established stars to create an action packed hour of wrestling the way it used to be (a review of the show can be found in the archives). Other great wrestlers like The Rock and Roll Express help out those that miss the heroes of the past, along with appearances from former NWA wrestlers Nikita Koloff. If you miss the 1980s style wrestling, this is where you need to be.

 

Worst of TV:

  1. The Mandalarian – I know this has become a favorite among the Star Wars fans, but for me, this is just dumb enough to keep watching. As I mentioned above, I think this is a dumbed-down story in the Star Wars universe. This so called dangerous bounty hunter has a conscious over a baby Yoda creature, gets beat up almost every episode (where he needs his buddies to help him win most of the battles), while throwing twenty seconds of TV time to almost every creature that has ever been in the Star Wars movies . I am guessing the cute , lovable Child character will actually turn into an evil force in the galaxy. Once again, those die hard fans that state Disney killed the Star Wars films are using the examples for the same reasons they are liking this show: goofy characters (the baby Yoda child) geared towards little kids (like Jar Jar was), and characters that you can’t have emotion for. How can anyone be attached to this vicious bounty hunter when he never takes off his helmet or show emotions? The one bright spot in the acting goes to former UFC fighter Gina Carano, who plays Cara Dune (but who knows how long she’ll be on the show). It is slow moving , almost to the point where you want to turn it off, but it has just enough to keep you watching. I am not a fan of this show, when Swamp Thing was engaging every moment, and got cancelled.

 

Music

Best Of:

  1. Lover-Taylor Swift

I was not a major fan of Swift’s early country music songs, until I heard the song “White Horse” sung at an open mike night where I was playing drums weekly at. It wasn’t until I picked up the 2010 Speak Now CD that I really became a fan of Swift’s work. Say what you want about her music or demographic, but she keeps putting out quality music each time (I know some that talk music with me hate the pop genre, but to me, good music is good music regardless of the targeted audience). I do not listen to much new music, but when every time Swift ‘s promotional machine kicks in for a new product, I am interested. I thought her last CD, Reputation, came off short from the wonderful 1989 . Swift has great songwriting on this album, including “I Forgot That You Existed,” a catchy opener to the album , to the title track, which is a mix of Pop/Blues perfection. The contagious “Me!” is great as well (you know it from the credit card commercial and is a song that ones has to sing along to). Although the pop genre is not what I like in general, I can’t dismiss this is Swift’s best work so far.

  1. Down Home Christmas- The Oak Ridge Boys.

I am not a huge fan of Christmas music. I am not a Scrooge, but there are only so much one can do with the genre(the same songs, arrangements, etc) before one decides not to buy the CDs. With their last Christmas release only a few years earlier (2016’s Celebrate Christmas), I admit my skepticism was here. The singing group, along with producer Dave Cobb, takes a stripped down version of mostly original songs, and makes it as if the singers were sitting in a log cabin in December hanging out with us listeners. The vocals are still as great as ever with the band, but the lack of production musically, as opposed to the last CD, gives a new take on a worn-out genre (a full review on this and Celebrate Christmas can be found here in the archives) . For a group that has done it all several times over, the mighty Oaks still find ways to be refreshing without compromising their values and core audiences. On this CD the voices are the main instruments behind stripped down musicians that gives the appeal that all ages can enjoy.

 

Just like any review, these are my opinions and will (most likely) be disputed, but I do want to thank everyone who has followed me on this page , or stopped by to read certain posts (Subscribe to really help out! ). Thanks to all the book companies who have helped support the page by sending their titles, and the authors and friends I have made on here because of this page. Hopefully this new year will be just as entertaining to you readers as I have in posting my topics . Here’s to a great 2020, and thanks for the support!

 

 

 

 

Childhood Classic – Side One Memories From Summer

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  

 

Henry Lee Summer was released by CBS/Sony Records in 1988. It charted 3 singles- two singles hit the TOP 10 on the US Mainstream Rock Charts, and one hit #20 on the Billboard Top 40 charts.

 

1988 was one of my favorite years in music from my childhood. Being a young teen at the time, I was listening to many different forms of music; from Christian pop and country, to the Top 40 hits and glam metal. There were many great albums that came out that year, including releases from Poison, Steve Winwood, Huey Lewis and The News, and Brian Wilson. One of my all time favorite soundtracks and movies, Cocktail, was also released that year.

Many of today’s music listeners get their music from streaming sites or watching on youtube, but back in 1988, we had MTV, the local radio stations (which also played the national “American Top 40” once a week), and at school dances. School dances were something I looked forward to during the school year. During my junior high years, we had separate dances (usually 4-5 a year), and then we were allowed to attend certain dances with the high school.

Henry Lee Summer was one of the acts I remember hearing at the time during the school dances, another being songs off of the KISS Crazy Nights release. Once in a while the deejay would play a rare track off of the cassette or record he was playing (this was pre CDs and itunes) if it got a big response. Summer’s self titled album (he recorded a few before this one) was one that put him on MTV and got radio play in my area. The humorous , yet wonderful, “I Wish I Had A Girl” video was played quite a bit on MTV. The song had a rocking feel to it, along with a touch of gospel , with the big chorus singing towards the end. His voice was powerful, as one could hear at the beginning of the song, which was also the first track off the album. The song was actually re-recorded for this album- he released it on a previous record, but the timing was right for the song-it hit #1 in the U.S. on the Mainstream Rock charts, and broke into the Top 20 U.S. Billboard charts.

The first six songs are well written, radio friendly pop and rock singles. Three singles did well on the charts, and the first whole side had no bad songs on it.

“I Wish I Had A Girl,” “Hands On The Radio,” “Darlin’ Danielle Don’t,” and “I Know How You Feel” keeps the first side playing with songs that were not different from those on the radio at the time. “Hands On The Radio” is a celebration of how music made Summer feel in his life, from being his best friend when he was alone to a passion he couldn’t get from watching movies or television. I remember this song being played at times at our dances when we were just walking into the door, which was the best chances at the time to hear more rocking songs that weren’t in the Top 10 charts.

The ballad “Darlin’ Danielle Don’t” was one of other songs I remember by Summer being played at the dances. Summer did not just have a powerful voice, but a smooth style when it came to the ballads. This was also a song that I listened to quite a bit during the summer with a friend who went to another school. We only hung out during the summer, and he had this cassette playing on his boom box as we hung out with other friends at the city park sitting in the grass blaring our favorites songs. I wore out my copy of this cassette mainly because of “Danielle” and “Girl.”

“I Know How You Feel” was a unique song for me, because the title of the song doesn’t come in until after the second verse and just repeats until the fade out. I remember thinking the structure of the song was different than the normal verse/chorus/verse/chorus that I was used to. When I started playing in bands when I turned 16, I always had this cassette with me coming from gigs that may have not been that great. The song has a positive feel to it, with the narrator looking forward to his next adventure in life.

“Just Another Day” is has an acoustic style that closed the first side of the release, and after listening to it for this review, I now see a John Fogerty influence to the song. It starts out mellow , then the band kicks in after the first chorus. The fact that this song was at the end of the first side was good in a way, that all the first side had no bad songs on it.

Side Two starts with “Still Being Seventeen,” a song about still holding on the your youth. This is a good opener for the side, and kept with the radio friendly style of the first side.

The next three songs “Wing Tip Shoes” (which has a ZZTop style to it), “Lovin’ Man,” and “I’ll Hurt For You” musically has some good spots, but just gears off the path that all the earlier song had. “I’ll Hurt For You” reminds me of a Robert Palmer style song, and these all seemed to be B sides for the other songs on the record.

The final track is a slow tempo “I Ain’t Coming Home.” this has an island style to it on top of a basic slower song. This is the one of two songs on the second side that I like. The rest of the second side, I skip besides the first and last track. I am always weary of artists that end a record on a ballad, because very few can pull it off leaving the listener with excitement after listening to the whole thing. The final track , to me, should want either the listener wanting more or making me glad I listened to the whole thing, and just for a throwaway song.

Henry Lee Summer’s next album featured a radio hit called “Hey Baby” that was played in my area, but that was it for his career nationally. This self-titled record still has good memories for me, especially the first whole side. Once the first song on side two is done, there becomes a four song filler until the last song. Musically Summer showed his talent, but the audience moved on after this, even though “Hey Baby” charted higher than “I Wish I Had A Girl” on the overall charts.

The record still gives me memories of past summers, school dances, and MTV. This record seems to be forgotten when 1988 is mentioned, but had some quality work to it.

 

Track Listings:

  1. I Wish I Had A Girl 2. Hands On The Radio 3. Darlin’ Danielle Don’t
  2. I Know How You Feel 5. Just Another Day 6. Still Bein’ Seventeen 7. Wing Tip Shoes
  3. Lovin’ Man 9. I’ll Hurt For You 10. I Ain’t Comin’ Home

 

 

 

Childhood Classic: First Exposure to Classic Band with Fame and Fortune

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  

Fame And Fortune by Bad Company was released by Atlantic Records 1989

I first discovered the band Bad Company with this release. My brother got me the cassette as a gift (not sure if it was a birthday or Christmas). We liked mostly the same music acts in rock music, like Van Halen and Sammy Hagar’s solo work. Although I still listened to acts like Rick Springfield, Duran Duran, and some country acts, I guess my brother wanted me to find a band that I liked , as opposed to the ones he liked.

I was not aware at the time of the history of the band before this record, especially from the 1970s releases. However, I thought this release had great pop songs, and was impressed by the band immediately. I bought the follow up works Holy Water and Here Comes Trouble. I was also impressed that one of the girls that I was friends with at school used to wear a Bad Company T-shirt, where I thought I was the only one that listened to the band.

The famous lead singer Paul Rodgers was busy with his band The Firm when this release came out, and members Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke was starting a project, when the record company wanted them to use the Bad Company name. They got former Ted Nugent singer Brian Howe to take over, which started this lineup of the band.

This album has the feel of a style that the band Foreigner was known for (although I only knew a few of Foreigner songs at the time, mainly the hits), and the reason was simple; Mick Jones and producer Keith Olsen worked on this record. Olsen also worked on one of my all time favorite records, Working Class Dog, by Rick Springfield.

The first side of this record has some good songs on it, but it is mainly the second side that I have the most memories of this record. Staring with “Long Walk, ” a mid tempo song that I played constantly while walking through my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio’s park with my walkman playing, and even during my college years at Kent State.

“Hold On My Heart” and “Valerie” were also my favorites on this side as well, and they all three were placed right after each other. “Hold On My Heart” has the Mick Jones touch to the song, with a saxophone playing throughout. Howe’s voice really sparked my interest on these songs on the second side. It just had a unique style on the songs. I also loved the lyrics on the song “If only love would go the way you want it too.” This was a phrase many of us high school kids lived by, not being able to see past graduation. “Hold On My Heart” should have been on my local radio station because it fit the format of anything that was playing at the time. This should have been a hit.

“Valerie” has strong keyboards and the pop feel that the radio was playing, with the topic of looking back on a past relationship. This reminded me of one of the hits that Night Ranger would have had years earlier. The song has an underlining guitar driving the song, with the vocal production added during the song. Many critics of this record thought the record was too polished , but to me it fits with everything else that was playing at the time.

The album, starting with “Burning Up” to the Foreigner sounding ballad “When We Made Love” to the songs I mentioned earlier as my favorites, set the tone for the next release 1988’s Dangerous Age, which had many great songs that kept me following this version of the band during my youth, up until Here Comes Trouble in 1992. I think the Brian Howe era of the band is overlooked, and was the lineup that got me introduced to the band. I personally enjoy this version the best-I get tired of hearing the same old Paul Rodgers hits that got played all over classic rock radio in my area (with the exception of “Silver, Blue, and Gold” which I never get tired of listening to). Howe had a unique sound to his voice, and their releases combined a pop feel with some rockers as well.

If it wasn’t for the Fame and Fortune album, I would not have been exposed to some of my other favorite songs from the band, such as “If You Needed Somebody” “How About That,” “Shake It Up,” “Bad Man,” and more from the Brian Howe led releases.

 

Track Listing:

  1. Burning Up 2. This Love 3. Fame and Fortune 4. That Girl 5. Tell It Like It Is
  2. Long Walk 7. Hold On My Heart 8. Valerie 9. When We Made Love 10. If I’m Sleeping

Childhood Classics: Satellites’ Original Lineup’s Last Call

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  

 

In The Land Of Salvation And Sin was released in October 1989 by Elektra Records.

My first exposure to The Georgia Satellites was when I saw their music video for “Keep Your Hands To Yourself,” their big hit from 1986. It wasn’t a flashy video; just mostly the band riding in the back of a pickup truck jamming out their catchy song. Years later, as a senior in high school, I joined my first band as a drummer, where the lead singer/guitar player got me hooked on the band’s other releases. I was familiar with their remake of “Hippy Hippy Shake,” due to the Cocktail soundtrack in junior high (one of my all time favorite movies and soundtracks), the guitar player and I would sit at his house jamming to the three studio records by the band over and over. As a three piece blues/rock band at the time, we even rode around the back of a pickup truck for a publicity photo shoot, jamming a few songs like in the video (this was before there were laws against riding in the back of trucks).

The band had a great rock sound; some called it Southern Rock, but to me it was just blues/rock. Whatever the label, songs like “Battleship Chains,” “Mon Cheri,” and “Open All Night” were staples in our practice time or live set in our cover band, along with songs from singer Dan Baird’s first solo album.

In The Land Of Salvation And Sin, the band’s last major studio record with the Baird line-up, is filled with the same straight up rock songs, along with blues guitar riffs that the band perfected through the massive bar band scene and touring schedules. They were the band that did it the old fashioned way- through writing good songs, while having an intense live show, without the use of lots of special effects.

Starting off with “I Dunno,” a song that has a hard boogie woogie style of a throwback to the 1960s style, with an edgy guitar sound thrown in. This song has a piano helping out the rhythm to the song, but the formula is still there with strong grovel vocals and Chuck Berry style driving guitars. This is a great three minute opener to start ff the album.

The second track slows down just a bit with “Bottle O’ Tears,” written by Baird, who did most of the songwriting on the album. Listening to the band today, I can see a similarity or influence that the band may have had on groups that came after them, especially country/Americana band Cross Canadian Ragweed, a band that had a few albums in the late 1990s-2000s that never got their just due before breaking up (with the blues driving songs). The strong drumming by Mauro Magellan throughout the album, with his straight up solid beats, is underrated.

Track three is a slower ballad song , called “All Over But The Cryin’.” This is a breakup song, written by Baird again. One of the things I remember liking about this song is the lyrical content in the song. This was a different style of breakup song, using bigger words, such as in the second verse with, ” Go on and talk all you want baby/Just gonna sit right over here and listen/Just go ahead little girl/You’ve got my undivided attention.” While reading it may not be that special at first, but since I was in college at the time working on an English degree, and the guitar player in our band was a teacher, we both thought that using phrases like “Undivided attention” was unique compared to a typical guy leaves girl clichés. Also the song was 5 minutes long which ,with my lack of attention span in longer songs, this song was an introduction that longer songs can be well written without just adding filler to it. The slower guitar solos on the song was also something I enjoyed.

Skipping to track five, this is one of my all time favorite songs by the band. “Six Years Gone” was another song my band used to play at practices. I loved this song more than some of the others we played by the band in our live sets. The song is a re-recording from the band’s first EP from 1985. The same mid tempo sound of the band is heard here, dealing with looking back at a relationship that fell apart. Looking back on it, the narrator states that after all the years gone by, just put the blame on him that he wasn’t the girl’s kind of man. Lyrically, the song has it all in the southern style; booze, failed relationships, and one nighters. This is a great song to blast down the road on a sunny day.

A remake of “Games People Play” by Joe South is next, a song that was a big hit in 1970. The Satellites were not above doing covers songs, in fact they had a few in their catalog; “Hippy Hippy Shake,” “Every Picture Tells A Story,” and The Beatles’ “Don’t Pass Me By” were a few. Sometimes I’m not a fan of bands doing covers (especially songs by The Beatles), but they pull off a good rendition here. The catchy sing along part from South’s version is de-done as the guitar melody at first, and I like this version better than the original. This song has a chugging driving sound, ala like the band Extreme had in some of their hits. This is a overlooked song on the album.

Another cover “Another Chance,” an ode to Ronnie Lane, brings the band to a acoustic style, which seems a little off with the overall flow of the album, but it is placed at the end of the side. The good thing about the song is that it showcases the vocal abilities by Baird, who along with Rick Richards and Rick Price, had a grovel style and a louder, screaming style on their up tempo songs. The mellower song overall though is an odd choice on the album, but maybe there were behind the scenes stories behind the placing the song on the album I am not aware of, however the versatility of the band is shown here.

Side two kicks off with “Bring Down The Hammer,” a song that kicks it up again after ending with the mellower song at the end of side one. A mid tempo song with a cleaner sound, almost like something inspired by The Rolling Stones. The accentual breaks during the chorus adds to this song. Another underrated song on the release.

“Slaughterhouse” brings a harder edge to the record again, with the typical driving style. If you like straight up rock and roll with some edge to it, this is a song from listeners. With a theme of working at the slaughterhouse, this is not a ballad by any means. Written by Rick Richards, it’s one of the few non-Baird penned songs on the album.

One of the songs that I wished my bands would have played when we played The Satellites would been “Sweet Blue Midnight,” a sweet blues ballad. The song is sort of long, at over six minutes, but it is just beautifully written. The bass guitar bends during the song by Rick Price, gives extra emphasis to a somewhat darker song. The song is a mix between a traditional country song and a slow blues. Sometimes during our band breaks in between the sets, we would play this song on the P.A. system or sit in my car and play it over the tape deck. Backing vocals on the song is Nicolette Larson, who had the big hit “Lotta Love.” This is one of my favorite songs by the band in the catalog.

Coming off of it is the wonderful “Days Gone By,” another song we used to play in our set list, and a favorite of mine. The song kicks off with power, and continues throughout the three and a half minute track. It’s a fun song to jam out to and sing along, especially opening with the line “Don’t let this dream stop it feels so right/nothing means nothing when the dark turns light.” Where else can the line “nothing means nothing” makes sense? Lyrically Baird’s work is just filled with great lines like “Head in the clouds with a hundred dollar bill,” and my favorite “Six out of seven still leaves you one shy.” This is just a plain fun song with wonderful rock lyrics. This is a great Dan Baird sung track.

The Rolling Stone influenced “Crazy” and the hard rocking “Dan Takes Five” end the album off strong.

The album has 14 tracks on it, with three tracks over five minutes long. There are a few songs to skip over on the album, but since the band only had three major studio releases with the Dan Baird lead group, it is not a bad thing listening to it thirty years later. I remember listening to the album many times at my guitar player’s house, and on cassette (back in the days when people taped records to cassettes) skipping several of the songs due to the length, compared to the other two previous records. However, listening to the release now, longing for the good old rock and roll sound that today’s music is lacking, In The Land Of Salvation And Sin very underrated musically and lyrically. The album has many memories for me, and a few of my all time favorite songs by the band on here, regardless of the few songs I pass over. It is still a lengthy album, that may have been better off with a few less songs on it, but as a piece of music history filled with memories, it is still an enjoyable listen. It brings back great memories of loving rock music, former band members , and a simpler time for me. Musically, this is a guitar filled album that doesn’t get the credit it should.

 

Track Listing: 1. I Dunno 2. Bottle O Tears 3. All Over But The Cryin’ 4. Shake That Thing 5. Six Years Gone 6. Games People Play 7. Another Chance 8. Bring Down The Hammer 9. Slaughterhouse 10. Stellazine Blues 11. Sweet Blue Midnight 12. Days Gone By 13. Crazy 14. Dan Takes Five

 

Childhood Classic CD Reviews: Debuts of Christian Legends

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  

 

Al Denson was released January 1, 1989 by The Benson Company

 

The first time I ever heard of Christian singer Al Denson was at a church youth conference in Pennsylvania that I attended with my group. There were several memories from that trip, including riding with my college aged buddy to the event, where most of the other kids in our small group had to ride in a van to and from the conference. We also stayed in the house of volunteers during the event. I remember going to a church where one of the staff members performed a song called “Be The One,” which was a hit for Denson. My buddy later convinced me to go see Denson as the opening act for Petra, which I was not a major fan of the group (I only liked the Beyond Belief CD they had, but after seeing them live, I became even less of a fan). The main reason I agreed to go to the concert, after prodding from my pal, was so we could hear live the guy who sang the song that we became attached to from that conference.

Denson came out singing his songs to song tracks (he didn’t have a full band), but had his keyboard there for the ballads. I was more impressed with his performance than I was with the high octane, light show of Petra. I remember my buddy getting the Be The One CD at the concert afterwards (he was one of the few people at the time that was able to afford and have access to a CD player, where I was still buying cassettes). After searching for months at local Christian stores, I finally started getting the Denson collection.

The self titled Al Denson, released in 1989, was a cassette I found after getting his recent two releases, Be The One, and The Extra Mile. Denson’s piano/keyboard pop sound was different than the acts in the genre like Carman or early Michael W. Smith, and had a unique voice to him. I wasn’t listening to him at the time, but in many ways I can see the similarities of Barry Manilow in Denson’s style, although Denson was targeting the youth crowd.

The album starts off with the songs “Reckless Heart” and “Love Is Taking Hold,” two songs that have the 1980s style pop feel to it. Even though someone first listening to the album today may think it sounds dated, this is what the pop genre was putting out at the time, so there is nothing different from those of us that lived the songs during its release.

Side one gets its groove starting with track three, with the wonderful “Heaven Knows My Name,” a song with a clean guitar sound strumming throughout, and has a catchy sing-a-long chorus. After the instrumental break, the split vocals of singing the chorus and the bridge gives the song it’s special flavor.

Denson’s choices of ballads, whether written by himself or by outside writers, is what made me compare him to the style of Barry Manilow. “Right Where You Are” is a ballad dealing with struggling to find a way into the world, and realizing that God is waiting there no matter what the struggles are, which is a constant theme is Denson’s work, especially with his calling to the youth with his books and TV show appearances. This is the start of a series of well written pop songs that ends up being a staple on the rest of his albums.

The last song on the side is “On The Upbeat,” a song is a mellow, slow creeping groove to it using musical terms lyrically in emphasizing that common theme of being a different person once in Christ. Lyrics like “you’re the metronome in my life” brings that out.

Side two has more of the 1980s pop style, with songs written by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Amy Grant (“Warm Place In A Cold World”), along with Degarmo and Key (“Strong Love”) , but the last two songs on the album brings out the best of the second part of the release.

“Faces And Names” is a song I still listen frequently to this day. It was also a song I ran to my local Christian store to buy the vocal track to it to sing to when we had church concert nights. Although I am not a singer; I was mainly a drummer in my youth, I just loved the song about looking at a person’s heart instead of having to know their name, their occupation, or status in life. I never did sing the song at the church (my buddy wanted to it, so I let him borrow it), but during my senior year in high school, my other buddy convinced me to try out for the school musical, knowing how I always had the lead in junior high due to my acting. I had no idea the part I was auditioning for had a singing part, and I didn’t have anything planned, except for some reason, I had the track of this song in my locker. I must not have done a bad job, because I got the part. This song is still relevant today, especially for those of us who struggle with having to be based on what we do for a living. This is a song that I always could’ve pictured Manilow performing with its positive lyrics and encouraging to look behind the first impression of someone.

The final song is a song that got Denson moving into the music scene, reaching #1 on the Christian charts. “Peace Be Still” is where he really shines on the album, with just his keyboards and vocals. A ballad about not panicking whenever trials come, and just be still and know that God loves you. It’s a simple theme, and simple structure of a song, but it comes off powerful, especially with Denson’s unique vocal style.

The self titled release by Al Denson was not the first release I heard from him (Be The One brought me to his music) , nor is it a complete album with every song a winner, but it still has some songs that hold up 30 years later. We Christians usually remember the songs that led us to our faith, and Al Denson was one of the first people to help me get there. If it wasn’t for Al Denson’s music (along with Rebecca St. James and The Oak Ridge Boys), I may not have been exposed to Christian music. Denson’s music, along with his books, was a major influence on me, which I was happy to be able to tell him at an intimate concert at a Pittsburgh Pirates game he was playing at (I have yet to meet The Oaks and tell them, but maybe that’ll happen, although I did meet James at an event years ago). Al Denson is not as polished as his later albums, such as the Be The One and The Extra Mile follow ups, but there is still enough to like here in re-visiting his early work.

 

Track List: 1. Reckless Heart 2. Love Is Taking Hold 3.Heaven Knows My Name 4.Right Where You Are, 5. On The Upbeat 6. Strong Love 7. It Takes The Strong To Surrender 8. Warm Place In A Cold World 9. Faces And Names 10. Peace Be Still.

 

 

Rebecca St. James was released in January 24, 1994 on Forefront Records

 

Anyone who has read my writings on Christian music will know that two of my major influences in the genre were Al Denson and Rebecca St. James. There have been many Christian acts that I have listened to and had a musical influence on me (Stryper, Michael W. Smith, and Steven Curtis Chapman to name a few), but none had more influence on me than those two. Both artists had success not only in music, but in writing books, along with their television appearances. Denson had his own teen show on TBN, while St. James was a frequent contributor on Fox News, along with several acting roles. This year is the 25th anniversary of her first major release, and I’d thought it’ll be a good time to revisit to see if the album still holds up.

St. James got her start, like many other Christian artists at the time, by opening for a major act. She opened for the 1980s singer Carmen when he toured her native country Australia at age twelve. She then recorded an independent album (under another name) before signing with the Forefront label, which was one of the big labels in the genre. My brother had her debut release from Forefront (I have no idea how he knew of her or why he got it), and it wasn’t until years later , when I became of fan of her music, that I took his copy to listen to.

The album starts with the song with “Here I Am,” a song that encourages the listener to obey God’s request to stand up and follow whatever ministry they are called to work in. The song starts with just keyboards playing, fooling the listener into thinking the song will be just a mellow ballad. The drums and rest of the music starts in to play a nice pop style song with a catchy chorus. There is a vocal part where James just talks before going back into the chorus that could have been omitted, making the song have an awkward part, but it is a good opening song nonetheless.

“Everything I Do” is a three minute gem, and one of my favorites on the album. The words and music were co-written by St. James, which she contributes to four songs on the release, which is impressive alone being a debut release for age 17. The guitars are more in front than on the first song, and has the standard pop sound that could been heard on any radio station at the time.

“A Little Bit Of Love” is a keyboard heavy song with a nice syncopated rhythm to it, which is another favorite on this release. The lyrics are simple, but they work in this case, with again, a part vocally where St. James mentions the “Love Chapter” in the Bible, that isn’t a Rap, but this time it fits the song nicely, as opposed to the previous song.

“Side By Side” was the song that made me go and listen to the album. The song was used at my church’s Vacation Bible School for the week-long end program, where the younger kids would sing along to the song, with hand gestures. Being a fan of St. James by this time, I was not familiar with this track. I had to dig the CD out of my collection to listen to the song , which is about friendship and togetherness. The track is the most different song on the CD, with an African style beat, with chanting at the beginning, which then features a children singing in the background. The song was written by Eddie DeGarmo, the president of the label who also had a Christian pop act in the 1980s. I never knew there was a music video for this song, until I started this review’s research, which has St. James standing by a fire singing the song, where several comments mention that they thought the image was to created a newer version of Amy Grant. I am not sure about that or not; a female with a big hair look wasn’t only Grant at the time. And since I was not a huge Amy Grant fan, I was a little turned off by the comment, but it had no bearing on me when it came to see an early video of St. James, who in the near future would be one of the biggest acts in CCM music. This song was unique due to it not being a pop style song, but it still not too far out from the overall album.

“True Love” is another great song, with an adult contemporary style to it, with its catchy mellow sing along chorus, taking a new idea of the “Love Chapter” of the Bible. There is also a more live drum sound on this song, as opposed to the programming sound on the previous songs. It also features a clean sound guitar solo , which enhances the AC feel of the song.

The next songs, “Way Up Here,” and the ballad “Above All Things,” are two songs that show the datedness of the CD. Although “Way Up Here” is overall the better of the two, with the live sound again with drums and guitars, the first actual ballad on the release in “Above All Things” is one I would skip. The overall songs is the weakest on the CD, but with a major debut on a major label, not every song will be a winner.

“I Thank You Lord” (not to be confused with her hit “I Thank You” from her 2003 Greatest Hits CD), is another great mid-tempo song with a catchy sing a long chorus. Some of her best work on this CD is her mellower AC style songs.

The next song is the Rap inspired “We Don’t Need It,’ about the bombarding of images the media puts out on teens (especially the females), which became one of the major themes to St. James’ ministry throughout her career. I was never a Rap fan, so any song with it , is usually a turn off to me. The great thing about the song , though, is the musicianship on this funky song, with the drumming by Chester Thompson (who later played with Phil Collins’ most successful work), and the bass playing of Tommy Sims (who was in the band Whiteheart, along with co-writing many big songs, like Eric Clapton’s “Change The World”). The musicianship on the song is what makes the song tolerable, so even if listeners are not a fan of the Rap lyrics, the music is worth the time.

The closing song is the song “Jesus Loves The Little Children.” This is a great ender of the song, although a short song. I normally like songs without a lot of filler to them (such as unneeded solos or waiting too long for fade outs), but maybe another turn of the chorus would have been nice on this track. The unique rewriting of added lyrics by Bill Deaton and Blair Masters add to the standard song, to which turns it new again. The syncopated rhythm with the clean guitars and drums, along with organ sounding fills, makes this song a gem. This is also a song that could be played today in churches and worship concerts without sounding dated.

 Meeting St. James at a concert in 2004.

Even though there are a few songs I would pass over on this CD, there are still great songs that still hold up today decades later. Sometimes it’s enjoyable to re-discover the earlier work of musicians to see where the journey before mega stardom. Rebecca St. James became a voice of her generation in the Christian music scene, with top Christian albums and books (and even hit the mainstream charts with some of her songs). There are several dated songs on this CD, but overall they mostly are still listenable, and for those of us that were inspired and enjoy her work throughout, Rebecca St. James is a release that still has a raw pop driven style to it, before she found her groove in music, and became a Christian icon.

 

Track List: 1. Here I Am 2. Everything I Do 3. Little Bit Of Love 4.Side By Side 5.True Love 6.Way Up Here 7. Above All Things 8. I Thank You Lord 9. We Don’t Need It 10. Jesus Loves The Little Children

 

Book Review: Music Tales Makes Entertaining Book

Cover design by Phil Pascuzzo. Cover illustrations by Matt Nelson.

 

For years rock musicians have been treated in a different way than non-famous people. Rock stars have gotten away with trashing hotels, speeding, and drugs where many people would still be sitting in jail for the same offense. Celebrities in the music world do dumb things as well, in which many of us would not think up, more less actually do.

In his book Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019), Jake Brennan details some of music’s biggest and well known stories . Taken from his podcast of the same name, Brennan walks the reader through some of the famous, and sometimes just plain strange, stories about music legends , tying each chapter together to provide a well written story.

Some of the tales in the book are about Elvis Presley and his struggle with manager Tom Parker in being a serious musician, while Parker continues to keep a hold on his money making star, how Jerry Lee Lewis’ two wives ended up dead not long after each other, and how Sam Cooke was killed in a motel room.

Not only are the stories, as mentioned before, strange and entertaining to read, but Brennan adds a fictional flare to the conversations between the characters to reenact what was going on at the time, as well as combining the end of each person’s chapter to lead into the following artists’ tale of death, sadness, and oddities. The illustrations by Matt Nelson also adds to the strange stories.

One of the strangest tales mentioned is detailing Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, who stabbed Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, which also involves the death of vocalist Dead (who would do very strange things on stage and off to live up to his name),cannibalism, and church burnings. I have seen a few documentaries dealing with the Black Metal movement at the time, but these stories are almost so strange that it seems like a movie script.

Of course Axl Rose has to be covered in a book about bad behavior, which includes the St. Louis incident, where a riot was caused after Rose stopped a show short, and their 1999 incident at Donington, which caused the deaths of fans. One could write many tales about Rose’s behavior (not starting concerts until midnight or walking off before a show was finished) where a whole book could be featured on just him. The same could be said for Sid Vicious and Phil Spector, who are also covered in the book, along with a the final days of Gram Parson’s and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

The book reads nicely in a fictional style format, to where the stories are not just straight out facts, and the tying in each chapter from the previous star’s story is enjoyable as well. There is strong language throughout the writing, but the tales are what makes this book a nice read for rock fans. I have yet to hear the podcast , but this book gives a great introduction to some of rock music’s strange and weird personalities and lives that involves cover-ups, interesting facts, and just plain weird stuff.

 

This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019) by Jake Brennan ISBN: 978-1-5387-3214-4 (hardcover) 978-1-5387-3213-7 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

 

For information on the Disgraceland podcast, go to:www.disgracelandpod.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 288

Language: Strong

Geared For: Ages 16 and Up

For Fans Of: Rock Music, True Crime, Biographies