Book Review: Orbison Book Is More Than Just Pretty Paper

” Roy Orbison:The Authorized Biography” (Center Street Publishing, 2017 ) by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison, with Jeff Slate is a wonderful in depth collection of one of the greatest singers of all time.

The book is filled with photographs of Roy Orbison, his friends, and record covers, along with capturing the life of one of the early Rock Music pioneers. The book takes the reader through the early days of his life, when Orbison was influenced by musician Lefty Frizzell, his high school bands, and the day he discovered Rock Music by listening to Elvis Presley. Orbison’s story journeys through his heartbreaks, from his struggles with his record labels (where one label released older material of his when he was on a newer label to cash in on his success), to taking management to court, and his personal heartbreaks with the death of his first wife and kids.

This coffee table book is filled with beautiful glossy pages with photographs of his performances, some famous friends he met on the way (The Beatles, Johnny Cash), and album/single covers, and promotional events. The photographs are wonderfully put in order of the timeline of the story, which adds to the collection.

The authors add great stories in the book within the telling of the biography, like when Johnny Cash told a young Orbison that he should lower his voice if Roy wanted to make it in the music business (which his signature voice later was one of a kind and separated him from other acts), to Sun Records Owner Sam Phillips told Roy, after Orbison called him for a record deal via the advice of Presley, responded by hanging up on Orbison and told him that he (Phillips) ran the label, not Elvis. For fans of the later years of Orbison, the tale of him joining the super group The Traveling Wilburys with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan is definitely worth the read alone (along with the story of how the band name and first single “Handle With Care” came about). There is also the story about how his smash hit “Pretty Woman” was created. The book follows how Roy’s Cinemax black and white concert in 1986 led to his major comeback in the U.S.

This book is a perfect mix of photographs and text, which is not seen in many Rock Music coffee table style books. They usually carry more photographs and little to no text, however there is a great balance of the two in the 252 page volume, along with a nice discography, with the record release dates and the label included in it.

“Roy Orbison” is not just a nice picture book, but one that has great stories as told ,and put together, by his family members. The text covers the story of Roy’s life from his early beginnings to his rise to stardom, and his return right before his death. The authors state that they put the book together so Roy’s story could be told, and to “put the record straight.” This is not just a book for Roy Orbison fans, but for fans of the history of Rock and Roll. The authors of this collection have compiled a wonderful tribute to a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest singer in music history. There is so much to learn in this book that it should be a required use in any Rock and Roll History class.

 

 

“The Authorized Roy Orbison” by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison with Jeff Slate is available by Center Street Publishing, an imprint of Hatchette Books (ISBN: 9781478976547). Visit Hatchette Books at: http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

 

Thank you to Hatchette Books and Center Street Publishing for the reading copy of this book.

Advertisements

What’s Odd About Christmas? Novelty Songs For The Season!

Christmas music. Some love it, some despise it. There are some classic songs, and there are some that are so bad they are good. Some favorites songs of mine include 1988’s “Christmas Without You” by Tommy Page (the B-side of his first hit single “A Shoulder To Cry On”), “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters (which was released several times in the 1970s), and Barry Manilow’s “River” (which is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s song from his 2002 Christmas album). One can not go wrong either with the Michael Buble 2011 Christmas CD, and last year’s Oak Ridge Boys “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which you can read the full review in the archives). But for every great song (Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” or the version by the Muppets), there is awful ones (“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”).

Just like in the early days of Rock and Roll, Christmas time brings out the novelty songs. Some famous Novelty, or Oddity songs, throughout the years have been 1976’s “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees (who later became a host on “Solid Gold”) , 1950’s “The Thing” by Phil Harris (which hit #1 on the charts), and Los del Rios’ 1995 “Macarena.” Ray Stevens and “Weird” Al Yankovic made a career of parodies and novelty hits. So, to celebrate the season, here are some of my favorite Christmas Novelty songs. You may remember these, may never heard of them, or may never want to hear them again, but these are some of my favorite novelties that does not include singing chipmunks or barking dogs (in no particular order).

 

  1. “The Heat Miser” (1974). Everyone loves the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials (at least you should). These show were, next to Charlie Brown, was the anticipated shows to watch when Christmas time came around. Shows like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” are classic shows in animation. The best one was 1974’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” where Santa decides to take a vacation after getting a cold before Christmas. In order to make things right with a town called Southtown USA, Mrs. Claus needs some help from Mother Nature’s two bickering sons, The Heat Miser (who loves the warm weather) and The Snow Miser, who loves the cold. The Heat Miser was voiced by George S. Irving, who was a Broadway actor, and later voiced the narration of the cartoon Underdog. For those that do not like the snow and bad weather, this is the song to keep the cheer if you don’t live in warmer climates.
  1. “Superstar” (1977). This song was a re-recording from a 1972 album “Snoopy’s Christmas” from the Peter Pan Record Label, which produced novelty records, along with records and book combinations, where kids could listen to the record while following along with the book. This album featured the Peanuts characters (although not voice by the actual actors) with a Christmas theme, sung by the Peppermint Kandy Kids. This album did not have the Snoopy’s Chrismas song by The Royal Guardsmen that was released on the label Laurie. I used to listen to this cassette all the time when I was younger , especially this song. Snoopy is missing from the rest of the group while they are getting ready for Christmas, but is actually outside in the yard planning his own backyard concert to perform. Some may listen top this song and think it’s awful, but it brings back childhood memories of me dreaming to be able to play in a band (which I was able to do later on). The song “Children of The World Unite Tonight” is another good song on the record, which lets kids know they don’t have to wait to be an adult to help others, but “Superstar” is the one that I remember the most from this record.
  1. “Even A Miracle Needs A Hand”-Joel Grey (1974). A song from another great Rankin/Bass production “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” about a family and their mice friends who offend Santa by writing him a letter saying he is a fraud. This song is sung by Joel Grey, who was a singer, actor, dancer, and stage talent (You can see him on the early Muppet Show TV Series). He voices a clock maker who tries to convince his children that even though it is close to Christmas Day, they can still help miracles occur. Another great childhood memory with a great message. Too bad this song isn’t play much during the Christmas Season on my local radio stations.
  1. “Yelling at The Chrismas Tree”- Billy Idol (2005). This song was off his “Devil’s Playground” CD (which is not a Christmas Album) and was written by Idol and Brian Tichy, who has played drums for many bands including Foreigner. The story tells young Billy in London during Christmas time, where his father comes home drunk from his favorite English Pub. Just like Idol’s other work, it has a punk-ish feel to it. This is one of my favorite rock original songs and is not played , but it is still a great beat with humorous lyrics to it.

5″Rusty Chevrolet”- DA Yoopers (1987). I first heard this song on my local Youngstown Radio Station years ago, but don’t hear it much anymore. The band from Michigan, makes novelty and parody songs, along with running a gift shop, whose website claims to have the “World’s Largest Chainsaw.” Some of their songs have been played on the Dr. Demento” radio show. Anyone driving an older vehicle during the winter season can appreciate this song.

  1. “What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)- 1980.

Star Wars and Christmas? Today that is not unheard of with all the Star Wars Christmas sweaters and clothing that are released now, but in 1980, Christmas meant getting the new Star Wars figures or play sets. RSO Records decided to release a Christmas Album based on Star Wars characters (called “Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album”) where droids were working in a factory to help Santa. Anthony Daniels gave his famous C3PO voice to the recording, and there was even a Star Wars Christmas TV Special in 1978, with the cast of the film, that many die hard fans still have nightmares over.

Most people will remember this album for being a young Jon Bon Jovi singing on the sing “R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” (Jon’s cousin had a hand in producing the album). The album actually sold well at the time, and had several different printings with different covers, due to the Star Wars references being removed for a time being. This song actually reached #69 on the U.S. Charts when it was released in 1980. Die hard fans may not appreciate this song, but it’s a funny novelty song that mentions several of the original characters. I remember playing this 45 single over and over when I was younger.

If you are tired of hearing the same old Christmas novelties, like “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas,” or ” I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” these are some fresher, and borderline strange, songs that you can add to your play list!

 

Book Review: Befriending the Girl Next Door? Only If You Speak The Right Language

 

I have not read a Young Adult book in several years (the last one being Jay Asher’s “The Future of Us” before starting doing more reviews for this page), and was excited when I read the synopsis for Jared Reck’s “A Short History of the Girl Next Door” ( Knopf Books For Young Readers 2017), however the book is as disappointing as losing the championship basketball game that the main character may encounter.

The book is about Matt , who is in love with his best friend, Tabby, and has yet to tell his feeling for her. They have been friends since childhood, hanging out watching Star Wars movies and eating his little brother Murray’s Nerds candy after taking him Trick or Treating. But when Tabby starts to date the star player on the basketball team, a senior named Liam, her freshman year, Matt starts to feel jealously and wonders if he is losing his friendship that he grew up loving.

There are plenty of basketball descriptions in the book, since both Liam and Matt are on the basketball team(and live for the game), which is reminiscent of the television show “One Tree Hill” (which I loved), but once something tragic happens in Matt’s life, he has to struggle with dealing with his feelings while handling his other pressures, like school, assignments, and basketball.

There are some good things about the book, like the humorous titles that start each chapter, and Matt’s English Teacher, Mr. Ellis, is not your typical teacher that a person on the basketball team would find amusing, but Matt enjoys the writing and jokes that happen in his class (once again, a possible nod to “One Tree Hill’s” Lucas character). Another humorous part is when Matt’s mother decides to match his Halloween costume with Murray, who is four at the time, which gives the reader a flashback to the classic movie “A Christmas Story.” Without giving spoilers, there is a part towards the end of the book that captures a touching interaction with Matt and his Grandfather. Also, many o have dealt with the struggles of having feelings for their best female friend growing up either in high school or junior high and whether or not to tell that person.

With that said, the biggest distraction from the book is its language. There is not a page that goes by where there is not some sort of cuss word on the page, and most of the time, it is not in a humorous way. The cursing is overdone to the fact that it just gets annoying, and offensive, after a few chapters. Yes, I know kids today cuss more than usual, but in this case, it’s almost used as a way that the author couldn’t come up with a creative way to get the characters to say anything. High school kids can (and do) drop F -bombs from time to time (my years in education can attest to that), but it’s totally useless to have something along the lines of “What the F#@*’n F,” or “F&$*’n F%ck Me” (the exact quotes are not used but are similar in nature, due to the fact I am using an advanced copy for this review, but it’s very close to this on a constant basis). This book is geared for ages 12 and up, but I wouldn’t let a 12-15 year old get a hold of this book just because of the language. This is geared for a more mature teen reader, closer to 18 year olds.

The story is nice overall, but the ending becomes a let down, and leaves the reader hanging with wanting to know how the characters end up, but even that made me not really care about the characters that much, due to the excessive language throughout the book. I ended up not caring or feeling sympathetic towards Matt, or his problems, with his massive use of cussing so much. I have much respect for any writer who gets a book published, along with getting their book on a major publisher, and as much as I wanted to like this book, due to the language and story ending, the overall book falls flat in my opinion.

 

(A Special Thanks to Random House Teens and Knopf Books for Young Readers for the Advanced Kindle Copy for this review).

 

“A Short History of The Girl Next Door” by Jared Reck (ISBN: 978-1-5247-1607-3) is available where you get books. You can download it as well (EBook ISBN: 978-1-5247-1609-7) or go to: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com , along with their other book titles.

You can find Jered Reck at http://www.jaredreckbooks.com

Book Review: Take A Journey Into The Storm

Sometimes readers will stumble upon a book that has an interesting plot, and takes the reader on a path that they are not sure where it is going, but they have to keep reading to find the end of the journey. Ramcy Diek’s “Storm At The Keizer Manor” (Acorn Publishing , November 2017) is such a book.

It is described as a “Time Travel Romance,” which involves Annet, who lives with her boyfriend Forrest, and works at the local museum, named The Keizer Manor, where the art work of 19th century painter Alexander Keizer is featured. While Annet works her way up the ladder at the museum, Forrest struggles to find work , while living with her.

Finding out she is pregnant, Annet deals with her plans for the future, Forrest’s intention of marriage, and trying to balance the 200th Anniversary party of the Keizer Manor, which involves the descendant of Alexander Keiser, Mrs. Caroline Rothschild, who will display her collection of dolls at the event.

After an argument at the event with Forrest, Annet leaves the Manor, with Forrest chasing after her. They get caught up in a thunderstorm that separates them, and Annet wakes up in a monastery in the 19th century, while Forrest stays in the current era. Annet tries to find her way back to her normal life, while carrying her future child.

The book takes the reader through situations, much like a Back to The Future plot, where Annet ends up trying to adjust to the 19th century, where there are no cell phones, showers, or other modern advances that she is used to. She also is stuck in an era where women are not vocal about opinions, yet Annet is known to blurt out anything without thinking. This part of Annet’s character ends up being humorous at times in the book. The only difference about this book compared to the Back to The Future stories, is that neither Annet (or the author) deals with the fact that every person she runs into in the past could affect her future, or theirs (there are one or two references in the book, but it’s not a major theme but is only brought up towards the end).

Diek’s book is well-written, and keeps the reader involved in the characters so they can find out how Annet and Forrest will end up at the end. She creates entertaining characters with Annet’s mother and her boyfriend, Chuck, who moves in with Forrest after Annet disappears.

Although romance books are not a favorite theme for this reader, Diek’s book gives a unique slant of the genre that satisfies, with some complex (and not so complex) characters, mystery, and a partial setting for those that wonder what it would be like settling down in another time period, without the everyday distractions of today’s modern society. Although the ending is a little bit sudden (no spoilers here, but it may shock some), it does not detract from the journey getting there. Diek’s book show why there are some great independent books that readers may enjoy, with a twist on a genre that at times seem trite.

 

Thank you to Acorn Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy for the review.

 

“Storm At The Keizer Manor” by Ramcy Diek is available November 15, 2017 (ISBN -13: 978-0-9983098-0-4) by Acorn Publshing.

 

For more information go to : https://www.acornpublishingllc.com , or go to http://www.RamcyDiek.com

Book Review: Catwoman Book A Lively Read.

Tim Hanley’s wonderful book “The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of A Feline Fatale” (Chicago Review Press, 2017) shows that not all cats just have nine lives.

When she first appeared in DC Comics, she was called The Cat, but throughout the years she has been a major part of the DC Universe, which Hanley walks the reader through in a great historical journey, without bombarding the reader with date after date.

The character got her first start in 1940, and became the first female in the Batman world (besides a few women who were only used to show off Bruce Wayne’s playboy image) to have speaking lines. Mainly known as Selina Kyle, the character has changed her costumes, her background story, and even her careers, throughout the years, as different creators got their hands on the characters, which is covered in the book.

The character started out as a minor character, who was a thief, but grew throughout the years having her own series multiple times, from being Batman’s enemy, friend, and lover in the complicated history.

Hanley takes the reader through the history of comic books as well, dealing with the 1954 critique by Dr. Fredrick Wertham. who deemed comic books a bad influence for children due to the violence and gruesomeness, along with sexual innuendos, which ended up creating a comic book council to watch over what was being published. One funny story is how Wertham accused the characters in the books as being Nazis, homosexuals, and lesbians, which was shocking to accuse in the 1950s.

Hanley’s book takes the reader through the early days of the Catwoman character in the comics in the 1940s, to her appearances in movies, television, videogames, and her many disappearances and re-appearances in the comics all the way to 2015 when DC Comics created The Rebirth Universe (which does not feature Catwoman).

My favorite TV Catwoman: Julie Newmar.

The book walks the reader through the success of Catwoman on the ABC TV Series, to the presence she had in the movies (good and bad). All of the actors are covered here, from Julie Newmar to Halle Barry, and the few times that Selina Kyle was not Catwoman in the books, along with the others who took on the role in animation.

Hanley’s history of the character is entertaining and informative, especially for those that may not know all the different arcs that Selina Kyle was in, from being a thief, a prostitute, a mob boss, and a mother who gives up the Cat suit. With the many different writers and artists throughout the years, like many comics, Selina’s image changed as well, from different looking hair styles to outfits, which some emphasized her sexuality, while others were plain and drab to some critics.

Hanley’s history of Catwoman gives the reader plenty of knowledgeable information, but is done so in an entertaining way. The book could easily be written as a date after date history book, but Hanley gives the audience back stories and information for readers that are not familiar with the names of certain artists and writers or those that do not known some of the comic book arcs (He doesn’t just drop the names of the arcs, he explains what is going on, and how it affects the Catwoman character). He also gives a brief history throughout about comic books in general, as mentioned earlier, from the attempted censorship on early comics, to how the certain stories affected comic book sales (whether good or bad). His background on the history of Bob Kane and the myth that he created many of the DC characters he is credited with in the early chapters is one section that keeps the reader engaged.

“The Many Lives of Catwoman” is a must have manual for any fan of Batman or comic books, not just for fans of the Catwoman character. DC Comic readers will love the many plot lines that are covered here. This book is hard to put down, and will keep the readers purring.

 

(A special thanks to Chicago Review Press for the reading copy for this review)

 

The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley (ISBN 9781613738450) is available at bookstores everywhere, and through IPG through the order number 1-800-888-4741 or at ipgbook.com.   You can also find it, and other titles, by Chicago Review Press at: http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com

 

If you are looking for comics, culture, and collectables, and live in the Columbiana, Ohio area, visit WatchTower Heroes, LLC, located at 6 Main Street Columbiana, Ohio 44408. Check them out at http://www.watchtowerheroes.com and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WatchtowerHeroesComics/

 

Book Review: “Sisters First” is First Rate

“Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life ” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush (Grand Central Publishing 2017) is an entertaining and pleasant read, regardless if the reader has a sibling or not.

The 236 page book takes the reader through the lives of the former First Daughters, from when their grandfather and father journeyed into politics, to their current lives with Jenna being a correspondent for NBC’s “Today” Show, and Barbara’s work with her charity foundation, Global Health Corps. The book is split into each of the authors writing separate sections in each chapter, along with each writing a chapter by themselves, for instance, Jenna will discuss politics in the first part of the chapter, while Barbara’s view is in the second part. The book is wonderfully split, so you know which girl’s thoughts the reader is viewing.

The great thing about the book is that even though the girls have lived in the public eye most of their lives, and had media publicity the whole time, the book is not all about politics. The main theme is about family, and how each sister has been there for each other, even when they were separated during their college years, along with working on other ventures in their lives on opposite parts of the world. They discuss topics like Barbara being with her sister during the birth of Jenna’s one daughter (while Jenna’s husband thought they were pulling a joke on him when they called to tell him Jenna was in labor), to protecting each other when they were younger from the “ghosts” in the White House, along with how they learned  to lean on each other growing up in a political family being scrutinized by the media.

The sisters write some heartwarming stories about their family (the book is a family affair, with Former First Lady Laura Bush writing the book’s forward section), like when Jenna describes her Grandfather Welch patiently stopping the car while driving to retrieve the box of Kleenex he kept on the car’s dashboard every time Jenna tossed it out of the car window, to when her father was told by the elder Barbara Bush to get his feet off of her coffee table, regardless if he was the President of the United States. Barbara tells a funny story about when she and friends went to see a World Wrestling Federation event in New York and ended up losing the secret service, due to a situation involving an EZ Pass problem.

The book is not all lighthearted, and takes the readers through their experiences during the 9-11 attacks, the way the press handled their family’s political careers (how the media to other friends and schoolmates treated them), along with giving insights on how family members dealt with situations when they were in the White House and on the campaign trail. The sisters discuss the media coverage that they endured when they were young and thought the press was not around them, only to find out that they were there snapping photographs of them. Barbara even tells a story about a Yale Professor offering to change her grade if she would call her father, who was president at the time, and convince him not to go to war with Iraq.

Jenna talks about how she met her husband, Henry Hager, and how he courted her, including a humorous story about him going on a mountain bike adventure with Jenna’s father, President George Bush. Barbara also opens up about her past dating life, including her dealing with critics wondering why she is not married yet and why devotes her time to her charity projects.

Jenna Bush Hagar and Barbara Pierce Bush.

This book is not a typical tell-all memoir, but a book that celebrates two sisters and the exploration of finding who they are throughout a life of constant exposure. It takes the reader through the maturity and honesty of some of the mistakes they made, as they look back on events as mature women discussing their childhood.

Regardless of the political stance someone may have about the Bush Family, this book is wonderfully written (like Jenna’s other books) and gives an insight of who Barbara is, who sometimes was seen as the other lesser known sister, although both are compassionate, and full of opinions and causes that they believe strongly about. This book is filled with emotional stories that celebrate family, with some political stories involved, and is an awe-inspiring story of the maturity of two woman who have overcome media scrutiny to become a leader of a charity organization, and a media personality with stories that inspire, respectively. Even if the reader does not have a sister (or any siblings), this writing will inspire, along with entertain the reader, regardless of the reader’s political stance.

 

 

(A Huge Special Thanks to Hatchette Books and Grand Central Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy to review)

 

 

“Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life” by Jenna Bush Hagar and Barbara Pierce Bush (Grand Central Publishing, 2017 ISBN 978-1-5387-1141-5) can be found at bookstores and at http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com. It is also available in downloadable and e-book (978-1-5387-1143-9) formats. Also visit http://www.Sistersfirst.com for more information.

 

2017 Halloween Movie Picks

Even though I have recently been focusing on book reviews lately, thanks to the many publishers that have sent me review copies (more to come), it’s always been my annual topic on this page to focus on horror films during Halloween. My last post , if you missed it, was a book review on 1970s Vampire Films. I always like to pass along a few rarer, or missed films, that people should check out during the month of October, because I like watching a least one horror film a day during the month. If you want to check out some of my older posts for more suggestions, click on the link at the side of the page, or type in the search engine “Horror Films,” and you will find some great suggestions. The following is some films that I suggest that I have recently seen from the last time I posted movie picks.

  1. “The Black Room.” (1939). This film, starring Boris Karloff, is more of a mystery/suspense film, but it is really underrated. I saw this film when I purchased a DVD Collection from WalMart called ” Boris Karloff 6 Movie Collection.” This film has Karloff playing the roles of twin brothers in the 1800s.

The film starts out years earlier, when two sons are born in a castle where a prophecy is stated that the younger brother will kill the older brother in the Black Room of the castle. Years later, the older brother becomes the baron of the castle and murders women in the land. The younger brother, who can not use his right arm, returns after traveling, and becomes popular among the villagers in the land. Jealousy ensues (I don’t give spoilers), and things go from there.

Karloff’s acting skills are unique here playing both brothers, especially for an early film like this. Today, and even in the 1960s, this is not a big thing, having the main actor playing two roles, but this is in the 1930s. The ending is a little predictable, but the film is still one Karloff fans do not talk about much. If you are not a horror fan, this film is still one to check out if you like medieval setting films. The run time is only 69 minutes, so it will not take much of your time.

The Karloff DVD cover that “The Black Room” and “Man They Could Not Hang” were on. This is a good buy for Karloff fans.

2. “The Man They Could Not Hang” (1939 re-released in 1947). This is another film from the same Karloff DVD. Karloff plays Dr. Henryk Savaad, who is convicted to be hanged after the death of a student during an experiment. The doctor was studying a way to bring people back to life, and before his execution, he allows another doctor to try the experiment on him. Months later, the jurors who convicted Savaad start to get murdered. Lorna Grey plays Savaad’s daughter in the film, who worked with John Wayne, The Three Stooges, and was in the 1944 Captain America serials. This film had a suspense feel to it, although the ending seems quick, it is still a film that deserves viewing.

Even though the poster looks scary, this film is pretty comical.
  1. “The Blood of Dracula’s Castle” (1969). If you would like a more comedic feel to your horror films, this one may be for you. The film is about a young couple who inherit a castle, only to find out that the people currently living there are kidnapping young women who need their blood in order to stay young. There is a butler, a hunchback ogre-like man (named Mango), and a friend who is a criminal in the area. The couple living in the castle, under the name Count and Countess Townsend are actually Dracula and his bride. This B-Movie is actually funny, whether it was meant to be, directed by Al Adamson, who is mentioned in my book review about vampire films, who was known to just piece together parts of other films and throw it into one full movie. This is one of the films that you may find of Mystery Science Theater, but it is still enjoyable.
The DVD cover that I have of “The Gorgon.”
  1. “The Gorgon” (1964). This Hammer movie’s billing says that it stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but Lee has a minor role in the film for the first hour. He appears as a major player in the last part of the film, but it is still a great film considering the time period.

A son goes to a village where his brother and father died. The father leaves a letter stating that he, and others in the past few years, have died by being turned into stone. Due to the local legend that the lurking of one of the Gorgon Sisters from mythology scares the townspeople, the local authorities refuse to investigate. Lee shows up as a professor, to help his friend look into these murders, while Cushing plays a local doctor who tries to keep his assistant from leaving him (who he is in love with) especially during the full moons.

Lee is humorous in the film, wearing a brown trenchcoat/cape that makes him look more like Sherlock Holmes than a professor. The music in the film helps build the suspense throughout the film, which is only 83 minutes long. This film was part of the two-disc DVD package “Hammer Film Collection,” and is the best film in the collection. Even though the look of the Gorgon may look cheesy for today’s standards, keep in mind the time period it was released in. Also starring in the film is Barbara Shelly, who was Hammer’s #1 female actress.

Madhouse-one of Price’s underrated films.
  1. “Madhouse” (1974). I can not suggest any horror films without mentioning at least one by Vincent Price. Although I love “Theatre of Blood” and “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (which is mandatory Halloween watching), “Madhouse” is a lesser known one later in his career.

Price plays Paul Toombs, who is a famous movie actor, known for his character Dr. Death. When his wife dies at a premiere party for his latest film, he ends up having to go to a mental hospital for several years. When he gets out (this is off screen), he is not sure if he had anything to do with the murder or not, even though he was acquitted by the courts. His friend, played by Peter Cushing, convinces him to bring back Dr. Death for television, since Cushing’s character was the head writer for the films. Several deaths start happening on the set of the movies, and some are based on his films, by a masked man. The ending is one that the viewer may or may not see coming, but it is an underrated film in the Vincent Price collection. Plus seeing Price and Cushing together in a movie is worth the viewing just to see two of the most known horror actors of all time.

The DVD cover is a little less interesting than the original movie poster, but still an all time favorite of mine.
  1. “Trick Or Treat” (1986). This film is not to be confused with the other horror film 2007’s Bryan Singer’s film “Trick R Treat.” I watched this movie many times growing up, which features cameos by Gene Simmons of Kiss, playing a radio deejay, and Ozzy Osbourne, who plays a preacher that appears on a television talk show.

Marc Price (who was known as Skippy on the show “Family Ties”) plays Eddie, a high school outcast who gets bullied at school and takes refuge in his Heavy Metal Music, especially his favorite singer, Sammi Curr (played by Tony Fields). When Curr dies in a hotel fire, a local deejay (Simmons) gives Eddie an upcoming album of Curr that the station will play on Halloween night. When Eddie plays the record, he hears messages (when played backwards) to take revenge on his classmates that have bothered him.

This movie is interesting for many reasons. First, it was released during the time of the PRMC , which was a council lead by Tipper Gore to put labels on music due to the lyrical content in 1985, that summoned artists like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and John Denver to appear in front of Washington Senators. Second, there were many artists being sued and accused of having hidden messages in their music, which many would listen to the records backwards to get hidden messages (also known as backmasting).

The music in the film is by the band Fastway, who had success with the song “Say What You Will,” and featured Motorhead member Fast Eddie Clarke and UFO’s Pete Way. The film was the first film directed by Charles Martin Smith, who played Toad in the movie “American Graffitti.” Fields, who played Sammi, was a Solid Gold Dancer, and appeared in Michael Jackson’s videos “Thriller” and “Beat It.”

Besides this film being a good movie, it is now filled with many Pop Culture themes from the 1980s; the PRMC had to been an influence on the film, backmasting, transferring albums onto cassette tapes, and the theme of Heavy Metal fans being outcasts in normal society at the time. Some people goof on the cheesy 1980s film making of the time, but I enjoy this movie, and watch every year in October. The fact that Gene Simmons does a good job with his Wolfman Jack-inspired character, makes the movie a Kiss collector’s must have, as well as the humorous casting of Osbourne playing a preacher who is against rock music, which was the exact type of people he was against in the 1980s . This film is hard to find, but is worth it. I am glad I found it in a bargain bin years ago. It also brings childhood memories of watching this movie with friends, and seeing the soundtrack album cover in stores.

These films are suggestions for those that want to see something more deeper into the horror genre that is not drawn out for 2 hours, like most of the horror films are today. Enjoy them and enjoy your own Halloween movie selections!

Book Review: Vampire Films a Fang-tastic Read

Gary A. Smith’s book” Vampire Films of the 1970s Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” ( McFarland, 2017 240pgs) is a wonderful book that every horror fan should own.

This guide to Vampire films starts by Smith writing that the movies made during this decade were mixed; some were great and others horrible, but lets the reader make the final determination. Smith then starts walking the reader through the many known (and unknown) films that was made dealing with vampires, which some movies stuck with the normal themes of vampirism, while others were so far out there that they are only vaguely considered vampire films.

The first chapter is given to the Christopher Lee films (which started in the 1960s) that entered into the 1970s, such as “Taste the Blood of Dracula,” and his final film in 1973, “The Satanic Rites of Dracula.” The next several chapters deal with other Hammer productions, including the failed “Vampirella” film in 1976, along with other British Vampire works like “Bloodsuckers,” “The House That Dripped Blood,” and “The Vault of Horrors.”

Smith’s book covers so many types of films that true fans will appreciate how he covers films from France, Italy, Spain, and Asia. The behind the scenes tales of some of these films are not only interesting, but sometimes just plain humorous, such as when one director hired his stockbroker to play Dracula, changed his name, and pieced together parts from other movies in order to make his films. Even the vampires in the Asian films have a different approach to the vampire character; instead of walking they hop according to Smith. Smith even covers a chapter of the book that features famous Mexican Wrestler Santo, who Smith writes “met more monsters than Abbott and Costello.”

The great thing about this book is that Smith covers all Vampire films, not just a few famous ones, and covers genres, such as comedies, some hard to find films, and a section that he calls “oddities.” The book not only gives out some background of the films, but also gives written reviews by several named critics, along with Smith’s own opinion of the movies. This book is not just for entertainment, but is one filled with knowledgeable facts that will make the reader find themselves looking up some of these rarer works to watch.

One (of the many) interesting chapters that comes to mind is the one on Elizabeth Bathory, who was known as “The Bloody Countess,” because of the rumored stories of murdering hundreds of women and bathing in their blood to stay young and beautiful. The several films mentioned in this chapter are definitely ones that this reviewer will be searching out for viewing.

Smith discusses some television movies of the decade, such as “Salem’s Lot,” ABC’s “Vampire,” and the “Dark Shadows” TV series. He also briefly covers Dracula and vampires in novels and comic books as well.

Gary A. Smith’s manual is well written without boring the reader with too many facts, and has a great summary of each of the major films that he covers in each chapter. There are enjoyable black and white photos added in each chapter, along with a Filmography at the end of the publication. This book is a wonderful textbook, thesaurus, and historical read all in one collection. From “Blacula,” “Love at First Bite,” ” Count Yorga,” to Frank Langella’s “Dracula” and Klaus Kiniski’s “Nosferatu The Vampire,” Gary A. Smith’s book is one that film fans should sink their teeth into.

 

 

McFarland books can be ordered at:

http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or call the order line at (800-253-2187).

 

Vampire Films of the 1970s Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between. McFarland, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-7864-9779-9. eISBN: 978-1-4766-2559-1.

 

I would like to thank McFarland for the review copy of this book.

Book Review: Say Yes to Chris Jericho’s “No”

Following Chris Jericho for me has gone back many years. I first started watching him in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and became a fan of his in Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. I met him in 1998 in Boardman, Ohio at a WCW signing event, where he talked about his love for Christian Metal bands. I had the honor of writing a review for his last book in 2014 (“The Best in The World”) for Slam Sports Wrestling in Canada. I am a constant listener to his podcast “Talk Is Jericho,” and I used to read his columns in Metal Edge magazine in college (which I still have in my collection).

Chris Jericho has been an actor, wrestler, writer, podcaster, dancer (he was on the TV Show “Dancing With The Stars”) and a singer of a Hard Rock band, so who better to write a book on achieving a person’s life goals than Jericho? In his latest book, “No Is A Four Letter Word: How I Failed Spelling But Succeeded In Life,” (Da Capo Press) Jericho takes the reader through his successes and failures in life, along with the valuable information he learned throughout his journeys.

Each chapter of the book deals with advice that Jericho offers, called Principles, named after a celebrity, such as The Gene Simmons Principle, The Paul Stanley Principle (who writes the book’s Forward) The Vince McMahon Principle, and even The Yoda Principle. Each chapter has stories explaining the Principles from Jericho’s life, including when he met Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, when his band Fozzy played a concert on the Kiss Cruise (which didn’t go quite as planned), and explaining WWE Owner Vince McMahon’s work ethic.  The topics deal with ideas enjoying the moment, eliminating negativity, let failed attempts in the past, and advice that a person never knows who is watching them. The topics deal with everyday issues, from the workplace to achieving a goal in the person’s life.

Jericho provides great stories such as his encounter with Yoko Ono at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremonies, meeting Gene Simmons at the Kiss founder’s house, and meeting Alice Cooper’s manager Shep Gordon. There are also wrestling stories with backstage tales of his recent WWE programs with Dean Ambrose and A.J. Styles.  Some funny tales include being on a Fozzy tour with the band Saxon that involves a chicken, when he sang at Lemmy Kilmister’s  (of the band Motorhead) 70th Birthday Concert, and a story dealing with management of the band The Scorpions for his podcast that is not only humorous but also makes the reader just as frustrated as Jericho was during the event.  These stories all are combined throughout the book with one liner references to Star Wars, The Blues Brothers, Kiss, Kool and The Gang, and The Nelson Brothers (and it wouldn’t be a Chris Jericho book without some Canadian Band references like Kick Axe).

Some self help books by celebrities are laughable when someone who was born into money tries to tell someone how to achieve goals, but Jericho’s advice is from someone who really paid dues and failed in order to achieve his goals of being a pro wrestler and a singer in a rock band. This book is filled with interesting tips (some are even common sense) with a touch of humor. With this being Jericho’s fourth book, one would think there is not much left for him to write about, but that is not the case.  One does not need to be a wrestling fan in order to enjoy the stories and advice that this book entails.

 

To read my previous review of Chris Jericho’s other book, go to http://slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/Reviews/2014/06/13/21738661.html or to read my other published reviews, go to www.llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

For more information on Da Capo Books, go to www.Dacapopress.com

Loving It-Some of the Most Romantic Songs in Music

It’s hard to define what exactly the word “romantic” is, or what songs is or is not considered romantic. There are the standard ones, like Etta James “At Last” or Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which are usually played at weddings. One definition of the word is “displaying or expressing love or strong affection.”  This blog is going to look at a few of the songs that I would list in my favorite romantic songs, in no particular order, with the dates in the parenthesis. Maybe it is one of yours.

  1. “Lady In Red” –Chris Deburg (1986). This song was from his “Into the Light” Album, and is the song that made him famous. Deburg was said to have written the song about his wife when they first met, stating that men can’t remember what their wives were wearing when they first met. The song hit #3 in the U.S. in 1987, and hit #1 in other countries. Rolling Stone once ranked it on its Worst Songs of the 1980s, which to me, show how stupid the magazine and their so called experts are.  The song has a slow groove and the lyrics are very poetic.
  1. “Could I Have This Dance”-Anne Murray (1980). This song was everywhere for years after it was released, and was a wedding staple. The song was for a Greatest Hits Album, and was played in the movie “Urban Cowboy.” It was a #1 Country Hit, along with being a #33 Pop Hit. I remember this song being played at dances when my uncle would deejay them. Every time I hear the song, I can picture that 45 spinning around at those dances. Not only is Anne Murray underrated as a singer, but the song is pure magic. The theme about the dance being a symbol of life is also proof of the romance in the song.
  1. “God Only Knows”-The Beach Boys (1966). I remember watching an ABC Movie of the Beach Boys, and the part where this song is being recorded. The actor playing drummer Dennis Wilson is listening to the song and states that it’s the most beautiful song he ever heard. Whether Wilson really said that or not, the statement is true. This is one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, and most would be surprised to find out that it barely broke the Top 40 Charts, at #39.  The orchestration and the overlaying of vocals made the song a classic.  This song was off the famous “Pet Sounds” Album, which was considered Brian Wilson’s greatest accomplishment. This is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, and decades later, it is still being recorded by artists in many genres.
The Beach Boys
  1. “I’ll Be True To You”-The Oak Ridge Boys (1978). Picking out just one song by The Oaks to make this list was very difficult. They have recorded many romantic songs in their careers. In my mind, The Oaks are up there with the Beach Boy, Barry Manilow, and Kiss as my Top American Institutions in American Music.  This song was from the “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon” Album, and was the group’s first #1 single.  Duane Allen’s smooth and soulful voice about a couple that falls in love and breaks up, even though she stays true to him until she dies, makes the song even more heartbreaking.  The song was important in my childhood, being a big fan of the group, but it also shows how quality songwriting and soulful vocals that tell a story is missing in today’s Country Music. It was one of the first songs I heard in Country that made me listen to the layers of the orchestration and layering of the backing musicians as well as the upfront vocals.
  1. “If You Could Read My Mind”-Gordon Lightfoot (1970). Lightfoot is another underrated performer and songwriter that our younger generation is missing out on. His songs are pure poetry- in fact I used this song in teaching poetry when I was teaching English. Lightfoot uses a normal breakup and mixes the lyrics with references to cowboy movies, haunted ghosts, and books.  This song was a #5 hit in the U.S., #1 on the Easy Listening Charts, and #1 in Canada.
Gordon Lightfoot
  1. “I’m Sorry”-John Denver (1975). This song was a #1 hit in the U.S. about a man thinking back of a failed relationship.  I only discovered this song a few years ago, and it has become one of my favorite songs by Denver.  His line “I’m sorry about the ways things are in China” at first feels completely out of place, but it somehow fits.  The song is a short song, but is powerful in the lyrics, and Denver was one of the few artists that all he needed was his voice and a guitar to make a classic song.
  1. “Islands in the Stream”-Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1983). How could the most popular duet song not be on this list? The song was written by the Bee Gees, and was a huge hit (#1 on Pop, Country, and AC Charts), and is still recorded by acts all these years later. The medium tempo groove and the lines like “Baby when I met you/there was peace unknown/ I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb” is a typical Gibb Brothers lyrics that made them geniuses (how many songwriters can use a comb in a love song?).  The Bees Gees’ live version from their “One Night Only” Album is one of my favorite versions of this song. The catchy rhythm and unique lyrics makes this a classic. Barry Manilow and many others have recorded it throughout the years. Most younger fans may not understand how popular this song was when it came out, crossing over to all different charts.
  1. “Weekend in New England”-Barry Manilow (1976). Just like the Oaks, choosing a Manilow song is tough for this list (I could list all Manilow songs on here). I decided on this song, from the “This One’s For You” Album for its songwriting that makes you feel like you were on the “long rocky beaches.” The listener wonders if the singer will ever see the girl again, and the “story must now wait.” I can’t picture anyone but Manilow singing this song with the feeling and romanticism, even though he did not write the song.
Barry Manilow
  1. “Cool Night”-Paul Davis (1981). This year was a good year for music, giving us this gem from Davis. This is one of my favorite song from the whole decade, about a guy looking back at a summer breakup with the fall coming. This song was one of my earliest memories of listening to the local radio station and hearing the term Adult Contemporary when it came to music. This song is constantly played by me today. The theme of sitting by the fire on a cool night, is a common theme in romance, but Davis makes it lasting and not repetitive. Paul Davis was very underrated in his music and have many great songs.
  1. “I Love You More Than I Can Say”- Leo Sayer (1980). This song was actually a remake, which I did not know until I started doing research for this topic. It was written and recorded first by Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison of The Crickets after Buddy Holly died. Bobby Vee then recorded the song in 1961. It was Vee’s version that Sayer went out and bought to learn for his “Living in a Fantasy” Album, when he was looking for an oldie to add to the album. Sayer’s version has more guitar and less piano than the previous recordings, and it hit #2 in late 1980 and early 1981, along with #1 on the AC Charts.  Sayer had other hits during his run within a few years, but this one is my favorite.

 

  1. “I’ll Be There”- The Escape Club (1991). Many people think this group was a One Hit Wonder after hitting #1 in 1988 with the song “Wild Wild West,” but they had a few hits that charted. This song was about a friend’s death, and is very broody, but beautiful in the same way. The song was produced by Peter Wolf. The heavy keyboards were common for music at the time, but it brings that eeriness to the song. The lines “In a whisper on the wind/On the smile of a new friend/Just think of me/And I’ll be there” makes me think of poetry that may have been during the Romantic Era. I was never a fan of “Wild Wild West,” but I still play this song often to this day. If you’ve been a follower of this page for a while, you’ll know how much I liked this song, due to my frequent mention of this 1991 single.

There are many other Romantic Songs I could mention on this list (I could probably list a hundred songs), such as “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke, “Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner, “Inside Silvia” by Rick Springfield, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” and “Sara” by Starship to name a few more of my favorites. Maybe these songs would make your list, or maybe not. Hopefully you will take the time to explore these (along with other songs by the artists) to increase your music catalog.