Classic Review: Boys’ 1983 Release Full Of American Made Memories

 

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American Made was released January 20, 1983. Cover photography by Alan Messer.

 

Reviewer’s Note: This year marks the 36th anniversary of the release of American Made album by the Oak Ridge Boys, which featured one of the last major crossover singles on the pop charts (the title song) for the band. This album was coming off of their 1982 Christmas album, which featured the song “Thank God For Kids,” a #3 single on the country charts. Looking back on the 1983 release American Made, I decided revisit the album.

 

I became an Oak Ridge Boys fan around 1980, when my parents gave me several special gifts for Christmas that year: my first drum set, a record player, and the Oaks’ Greatest Hits album from 1980. Without even studying the songs on the record, my parents put on the record, and went to get their breakfast in the next room. By the time they came back into the living room after getting their tea, I was playing along beat for beat with the record, as if I heard the songs a hundred times before. Not only did that start my drumming career, but also my love for the group, getting the Fancy Free and American Made records during the years to come as a youth.

The American Made record was a vital part of my childhood; even though I listened to the Top 40 radio hits of the time, along with the hard rock music, there were still several country music acts that I never strayed from, one being the Oaks. The cover of the album was imprinted in my mind, mainly due to William Lee Golden’s huge jacket that he wore on the cover (for some reason it is one of the memorable country covers I remember to this day, along with the Fancy Free release). When CDs became more available, I was lucky to find the album, along with the band’s follow up Deliver, on a two album release. Just like my writings for a hard rock website that looks at older releases, I decided to see if the Oak’s release still holds up as I remember as a child today to celebrate the album’s anniversary.

The first track, “Love Song,” was the second single from the album. One of my early memories of the song was when I was in junior high, every Friday our music teacher would allow a student to bring in a record to play one song and discuss parts of the song, along with exposing different types of music to each other. I remember her being impressed with how I stated I liked the song due to the harmonies, especially the break towards the middle of the song, which reminded me of the old 1950s-1960s Doo -Wop singers standing on the street corner singing away. Joe Bonsall’s lead singing on the track is also fitting, with him being a Philadelphia guy (where the Doo Wop sound was relevant). The guitar solo has a nice rocking sound to it for being a country song. The group still sings this song live, which shows how great songs last, and even though it was not a hit on the pop charts (it was a #1 hit on the country charts), it had the same formula of the other songs on the radio at the time.

“She’s Not Just Another Pretty Face” features the bass vocals of Richard Sterban. The orchestration in the chorus builds the song where this could have been played on any adult contemporary radio station during this time. The song has a unique ending, where it doesn’t repeat the chorus until fade out, but just once after the second verse to end the song. The keyboard piano playing adds a nice emphasis during the chorus. The just over three minute song is a great rare cut, where there is not anything extra added to the song to make it longer to bore the listener. Sometimes the listener can realize why a certain song wasn’t released as a single, due to its extra length, but this song could have been at home on the pop charts.

“Amity” brings the band back to a traditional country sound, with the smooth vocals of Duane Allen singing about a guy who runs into a childhood friend years later. The lyrics tell a Hollywood movie style theme of a guy who falls for the girl years after she left the hometown. This track features strong steel and acoustic guitars; a stable for many country songs from the 1970s and 1980s.

Track four, “You’re The One, ” shouldn’t be confused with the hit the group had in 1977, but is a ballad with William Lee Golden singing lead. The song, like the other ballads on the album, has strong orchestration with strings playing a nice melody behind the vocals. There is a pleasant guitar solo on the track, which is similar to the late 1970s and early 1980s AC songs on the radio. The musicianship here is better than the lyrics on this track, but the song still flows well with all the others on the release.

The next track is one of my favorite all time rare songs by the group. “Down The Hall” once again features Allen singing lead. The lyrics describe a man who has never visited the big sites in the world, like Paris and Niagara Falls, but doesn’t miss anything because of his love. The extra percussion adds an island feel to the song. This song has been listed on previous blogs of mine as one of my favorite songs that most people don’t know from the band (check the archives to read). I remember putting this song on several mix tapes for friends back in the day. My one friend who was a major Oaks fan, would play the song constantly in his car when we were going places as teenagers and even would sing it in the hallways at school. This song not only brings back childhood memories, but is just as great a song as I remember it decades later without sounded dated. This is one of Allen’s rare gems that people need to check out. Why this song wasn’t released is a shame, because it could’ve been on the radio in several genre formats.

The title track, “American Made” comes in next. The song is still performed live by the group today. I remember the song being used in TV commercials, and was the first single from the album, breaking into the pop charts. The song features all the members of the group sharing vocals. The Pat McManus and Bob DiPerio written song has strong piano playing throughout. The lyrics are just as relevant today as it was back in 1983. Sometimes the hits of an artist can wear on a listener, but I love this song just as much as when it was first released, and has become a staple of the band known for their patriotism.

“Any Old Time You Choose” is another Duane Allen led classic that many may not list when naming some of the group’s best work. The power of the orchestration brings an intensity to the already great ballad. Music, especially back in the day, meant something and brought feelings to the listener. Teenagers would not just dance to songs, but ballads had the lyrics and melodies that brought the listener back to a person or place from their past. This song was one of them for me, as a young kid waiting for the school girl to notice me. This was another song that I always put on mix tapes (I was the king of mix tapes back then-it was an 80s thing). This song was one of my favorite ballads of the group in the collection that I had at the time. I remember trying my best to try and sing like Allen (to no avail, like many of us, and why I stuck to playing drums).

Sometimes I like to hear songs that have a little humor to it, or a tongue in cheek tone in the lyrics. “Heart On The Line (Operator Operator)” is one of those songs, and having Joe Bonsall , with help from Richard Sterban, sing the lead was a perfect choice. The piano (like a 1960s pop with a R&B/boogie feel to it), along with the horns playing during the song, makes it even more fun to listen to. The humorous tale of the singer calling to apologize for his actions, but gets disconnected and runs out of money (cell phone people may not know how common back in the day this was when you had to pay for calls at a phone booth) is not only fun to hear, but to sing along with.   I could argue the song was a precursor to other hits similar in theme, such as “Mr. Telephone Man” (New Edition- 1984) and “Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)” by Sheena Easton, which was released later in 1983.

Track nine, “You Made It Beautiful,” starts with Allen singing with just a piano. The lyrics seem simple, but it comes together with Allen’s great voice on ballads. This is another song under or around the three minute mark, with no repeating chorus to fade out. This song is one that I recently starting liking while re-listening the album as a whole for this review. Back in the day, I was not one to listen to the whole album -choosing the hits at the time, or a rare song here and there- but this song has my respect today studying all the work that gets put into songs. The wonderful things about revisiting albums years later is when you find newfound respect for songs that didn’t capture you the first time. This is one of those cases.

The final track on the release is “I’m So Glad To Be Standing Here Today.” Golden sings lead on this song, with its positive lyrics. The chorus has a more Gospel/R&B feel to it, as opposed to some of the songs on the album that had an adult contemporary feel to it. The drumming on the song during the chorus reminds me of the style I played at my first local church band. There is some undervalued work on this track. The saxophone solo brings power to the sound. This song will be back on my play list for a while. This song could be added to their live set list today, with their emphasis on the gospel feel that the group adds to their shows. At the time I didn’t realize it, but after seeing the band several times the past few years, I have seen how valuable William Lee Golden is to the band vocally. He was the first of the lineup to join the band, and yet he seems to not get his just due among some country music critics. It amazes me how some music critics fail to see the talent and quality of this act’s iconic status as legends vocally and picking great songs (Maybe if the radio formats would be more open to real talent instead of what’s “hot”, but I digress). Producer Ron Chancey and the group not only picked great tunes, but the production and orchestration on them are wonderful and could have been on many radio formats.

American Made may have been one of the last albums that non traditional fans purchased from the band, but the group still topped the county charts throughout the 1980s, along with the gospel charts decades later. The album was full of pop, R&B, gospel, and traditional country songs, while keeping the signature harmonies that the group perfected. There are some rare cuts on the album that I think are some of the best work the group has in its arsenal, and wonder why some of them were not released as more singles. As a whole, I say there may be one to two fillers on the album, but they are not long enough to make the listener want to get up and go to the next song (then again, with music the way it is now, I’d listen to any filler and marvel at the talent on this record any day).  36 years later, the release is as strong as it was when it first came out, with more added memories for me to enjoy this record over and over.

 

 

American Made

MCA Records (Produced by Ron Chancey)

 

Track Listings:

1. Love Song

2. She’s Just Not Another Pretty Face

3. Amity

4. You’re The One

5.Down The Hall

6. American Made

7. Any Old Time You Choose

8. Heart On The Line (Operator, Operator)

9. You Made It Beautiful

10. I’m So Glad To Be Standing Here Today

 

The Oak Ridge Boys:

Duane Allen

Joe Bonsall

Richard Sterban

William Lee Golden

 

For information about The Oak Ridge Boys, go to http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

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Book Review: Myth Book Loses Some Magic

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Front cover photograph by Jonas Rogowski

 

 

Robert McParland’s Myth and Magic in Heavy Metal Music (McFarland, 2018) is an informative book that covers some aspects of heavy metal music, while comparing them to literature and history outside of music.

When first hearing about this book, I thought the book would discuss how bands like W.A.S.P., Iron Maiden, Slayer, and King Diamond (among others) incorporated their studies in the occult, history, and other mysterious areas into their characters, music, and stage shows. This is not the case as a whole of McParland’s writing.

The book covers the bands Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden in detail, discussing how Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were fascinated with mythology, the occult, and symbolism, which they used in on their album covers and song lyrics. Sabbath is covered with a brief history of the band, especially their gloomy hometown which was filled with factory work, and the use of tuning down their guitars to get the mode of the songs. The section on Iron Maiden deals with the love of history, mystery, and horror in their work.

The rest of the book briefly names bands , including, Manowar, Celtic Frost, and Slayer. There is brief name dropping like Metallica, Anthrax, and even Christian metal bands like Stryper, which is referred to as “White Metal.” These is a small history of the bands, besides Sabbath, Maiden, and Zeppelin, and a quick summary of what makes them a part of the subject covered.

Some of the lengthy chapters in the book covers topics like defining Gothic Romanticism, and histories of mythology, using reference to books and psychologists’ theories on the subjects. During the chapter on Black Sabbath, McParland compares the band to the Brothers Grimm, where they both describe a world that is broken and dark.    The book would have been more interesting if these types of comparisons were used more often, along with the topics of maybe using interviews (via magazines, and such) of band members discussing their use of magic, and mythology in their music, instead of the in depth literary sections. The book gears away from the actual music acts and artists to focus more on being historical writings of how literature and psychology is used in metal music, as opposed to diving into why the acts use this in music.

However, if you are a reader in learning more about the literature aspects on the topic, you will find the book a nice read. The chapters are mostly short, and the book is slightly over 200 pages. Having an English degree, I found some of the deeper chapters a nice journey, but music fans may be turned off by the in-depth criticisms due to the small name dropping of some bands, and the misleading title of the book. There is a nice section dealing with the PMRC’s attack on metal music, which is a turning point in music history.

Overall the book deals with literary and psychology criticisms using metal music as a backdrop, where the title may mislead readers into thinking that the book will have detailed , in depth look, and the music acts, not just listed some song titles , and brief mentions on some acts.

 

This review copy was courtesy of McFarland.

 

Myth and Magic in Heavy Metal Music by Robert McParland (McFarland, 2018 pISBN: 978-1-4766-7335-6 eISBN: 978-1-4766-3298-8) can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or calling 800-253-2187

For more about the author, visit: http://www.robertpmcparland.com

 

The Overall

 

Pages: 210 pages

Language: None

Geared for: 15 and up.

For fans of: Music, Magic, Mythology history, Critical essays

Book Review: Author Invites Reader To Do Two Things

Reviewer’s Note: This book was mentioned in my last post on the Best of 2018 as one of my favorite books of the year. This review was not posted yet, but here is an in depth look at one of my “Best Of” choices.

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Cover Image : Tyrone Powell in Captain from Castile.

 

Books and movies have been connected long before the Harry Potter or Twilight success. In fact plenty of movies have been best selling books before they ever hit the big screen. Gary A. Smith takes a look at the books to classic films in his latest gem Read The Book! See The Movie! (BearManorMedia, 2018)

Coming off the success of the best selling book turned movie Gone With The Wind, Hollywood searched for more best selling writers to help make their company profitable, hoping the readers would flock to the screens to picture their favorite book creations come to life. Smith takes a look at the attempts made by 20th Century Fox, picking some of the best selling novels at the time that may (or may not) have been a successful conversion to the movies.

The book looks at 14 films, some which the reader may have heard of, such as Dragonwyck, Anna and The King of Siam, and The Robe, to others that may have not been that well known by readers like me, like Forever Amber, The Black Rose, and Lydia Bayley. Smith gives a brief history of the author who wrote the book, some of the casting choices and background of the filming, and a brief commentary of the film. The chapters are nicely written so the flow of the book does not drag , along with the informative details of facts that keep the pages turning.

Just like his writings in the horror film genre (you can read several reviews , along with a Q&A in the archives here- just scroll the archives or type in his name in the search engine), Smith’s style not only shows his knowledge of his topics, but also a love for the topics he chooses. The reader can tell that Mr. Smith loves films and telling his readers about it. Smith has become my favorite writer that I happened to discover while starting this page (not that I discovered him-he’s been writing for years, but by the meaning that I discovered an author’s work that I can’t get enough of).

The best thing about this book, is even though the topic is not in the horror field, there are still great actors such as Vincent Price, that still are discussed in the book. There are also great stories about Orson Welles, Tyrone Power, and Rex Harrison. The chapter on the behind the scenes of the shooting of The Robe is not only entertaining but humorous. Casting stories about who was originally to star in some of the movies and did not pan out (either by the actors’ or studio choices) also underlines a great read.

The ending of the book is also unique where Smith discusses his love for these novels, where he writes about how the authors spent plenty of time researching their topics , as opposed to many of today’s writers and readers who do not want to take the time to have their writings (or movies) develop the plot line, due to our low attention span. This afterward section should be sent to every college or high school literary class in the United States for readings to future wanna be writers.

If you are a fan of classic cinema, or even want to know more about classic films that were originally novels, Read The Book! See The Movie will want you to not only seek out some reading material, but also want you to go searching for some movies to add to your watch list. Gary A. Smith has another wonderful release that will make the reader long for the days of pre CG films, and tell a great story.

This review copy was sent courtesy of BearManorMedia.

Read The Book! See The Movie! From Novel to Film Via 20th Century Fox by Gary A. Smith (BearManor Media , 2018) ISBN: 978-1-62933-382-3 can be found at : Bearmanormedia.com.

For more information about BearManorMedia, check out facebook at : facebook.com/pages/BearManor-Media or Twitter@bearmanormedia.

 

The Overall

Pages: 243

Language: None

Geared For: 14 and Up

For Fans Of: Classic Films, Movies Studios, Books Turned into Movies.

 

The Best And Worst of 2018

Besides my annual Halloween post, one of the other constants is my year end review of the best and worst in film, music, and books of the year. The only criteria is they had to have been released during the year 2018. In some categories I have put a Best, Worst, and “Surprising” category, which was I felt needed to be noted for whatever unique reason (mainly something I thought would not be good that ended up being wonderful).

So here are my Best (and Worst) of 2018:

Movies

The Best:

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  1. Halloween

My experience with Michael Myers stopped after the first three films (Halloween 3 doesn’t have Myers in it, but is still a creepy awesome film), and the Rob Zombie remakes. I was more of a Freddy Kruger fan growing up. When the news was out that a new Halloween was being made with Jamie Lee Curtis, with the setting 40 years after the original, I had to see this.

One aspect that I enjoy in having some of the original actors replay their roles (such as Rocky Balboa) is that the directors can make them tough, but still give limitations and faults in the characters. Laurie Strode is living in her home isolated pretty much from everyone and has become a hermit of sorts away from her family, preparing for Myers’ return. The film has the classic horror feel to it, without being dated, and Curtis shines throughout the film. The other great thing of the film is one doesn’t have to follow all ten other films in the series to get what’s going on. This has a classic horror feel throughout, and was enjoyable from beginning to end.

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  1. Aquaman

Some people will just hate any movie put out by the DC Universe. I personally liked Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad ,and really enjoyed Justice League-all films that were bashed by critics and fans. I am one of the people that think CG has destroyed a lot of the films, where the director rely on too much of it. However, you know going into Aquaman that there will be plenty of CG- I mean 90% of it is underwater. This is a film that is just fun to watch- there are comical moments, good acting, and great visuals. When you think the scene is going to have tied down language, something happens that kicks the action up again.

Nicole Kidman shows in this film that she is still a wonderful actor, and Jason Momoa has found his character in films. The cast is full, with Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe, all who help make the film exciting and entertaining. The underwater visuals are astonishing. This is a film that reminds me of past summer films, where you just go watch and be amazed, regardless of those critics that want to dissect every plot point.

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  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout

          One would think after 6 movies, this series would get stale (I’m kind of burned out of the Marvel Comics movies, especially The Avengers series-although End Game was great, but had some slow parts to it), but Tom Cruise still creates ways to keep this series fresh with magnificent stunts (which he did himself at age 50, and broke his ankle while filming!) The crew is back for another mission, featuring Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and the obnoxious Alec Bladwin (in real life and in acting) along with Henry Cavill, who was filming this while doing the Justice League re-shoots. Cavill shows a depth to his character that those who only see him as Superman may be surprised. The basic themes are still here- breathtaking stunts, great fight scenes, creative camera work, and character swerves. Cruise once again shows that one doesn’t need tons of CG in the films to stay with the times. I have always been a Cruise fan and Fallout may be the best in the series.

 

The Worst:

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  1. A Wrinkle In Time

Even though I had problems struggling through the book, I still decided to see how the book would be changed into a film. Although I had my doubts with the casting of people like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, I decided to be open about the film. I should’ve been opened to what I could have been doing instead of watching this disaster. Not only were most (if not all) the religious aspects of the book taken out (which has major importance in the story), but the other changes of the story were plain awful. I get that sometimes movies change characters and ages (like hair color, etc) but this was almost nothing like the book. Not even Chris Pine’s acting (who is great in the Star Trek and Wonder Woman films) made this enjoyable. His cardboard acting made me wonder how he was talked into this film. Oprah has been viewed as a champion for literature (I’ll keep my views on that silent here), so you’d think she’d have a problem the changes in the film from the book-I’m sure the director would listen to her views. Besides all of the changes made from the novel, nothing could save the bad acting throughout, along with the casting choices, and pathetic special effects.

2018 had some dud movies, like Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence (who needs to stop preaching her politics and spend more time reading scripts after several flops in a row), Samson, and Tomb Raider, but A Wrinkle In Time made me want to time travel back and get the 109 minutes back from my day. This film has it all: bad acting, bad script, and bad effects. The basic plot from the book was taken , kept the names of some characters, and was destroyed to offend book readers and film watchers all at the same time.

 

Surprisingly:

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1.Winchester

This horror film is more psychological in nature about the widow of gun manufacturer William Winchester, who builds a huge mansion after being convinced she see ghosts from people who dies from the firearms. This 1900s story line has wonderful acting by Helen Mirren (who plays the widow Winchester), and was at one time supposed to be a Hammer Film. This is not a gore slasher film, which gets over saturated in the horror genre. If you want something that is a good throw back to earlier days of horror, check this out.

Image result for the strangers prey at night

 

  1. The Strangers: Prey At Night

This sequel to the 2008 is a fun ride if you like humor added to your slasher films. The story is common- a group of masked strangers attack a trailer park where a family is visiting relatives- but just like the Deadpool movies, the music in the film help make this enjoyable. The film takes two of my favorite songs from the 1980s, by Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler, and put them into key parts of the film where they become almost laughable, but in a good way. I have never seen the 2008 film, but it is not needed to enjoy this entertaining film. This film will be a guilty pleasure for many for years. Sometimes films don’t need a major plot , and just need to get the audience to relax and enjoy. This is one film that does just that.

 

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  1. The Least of These: A Christmas Story and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

            Sometimes Christian films are just bad. Some religious people will not admit this fact, stating that just because a film is Christian based, means it is a good film. Samson was just awful, and I Can Only Imagine was pretty dull when converted to a movie. This years installment of the God’s Not Dead series brings some nice humor to the story with John Corbett playing a lawyer brother to the preacher in the film, played by David A.R. White. Even though this movie did worse than the other two, it is the second best one, behind the original. This is a more complete film that people need to check out.

The Least of These is a Christmas themed film, based around a homeless woman and her daughter trying to make ends meet during the Christmas season. This is a more darker themed movie (it’s not a Hallmark happy love story), but has some humorous parts and a great overall theme in the film on forgiveness and overcoming odds while keeping faith.

One of the  bright spots of the film is the breakout debut of Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys, whose character plays an important role towards the end of the movie. His scenes are just as good as one of the lead actors G. Michael Nicolosi’s character (who believes he is Santa Claus). The movie may take some searching to find, but it is well worth it if you like holiday films with a faith based story.

 

Books 

The Best : (TIE)

  1. The Boy Is Gonna Rock by Bobby Rock

The current Lita Ford drummer takes his reader through the journey of playing in local bands to major arenas with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. This wonderful read is one of the best music biographies I have read in years, filled with humor, honesty, and regrets on the inner workings of the music business. Rock’s take on why the Invasion band did not reach its expected levels, along with covering his time with the Nelson Brothers and currently with Lita Ford. This book was written by Rock, who shows he has another skill besides drumming. This is a must read for music fans.

 

  1. Death of The Territories by Tim Hornbaker

There are many great wrestling books that have been released, but Hornbaker’s book is the best one this year. Filled with a historical look at how Vince McMahon Jr. went to the many wrestling territories in the 1980s, bought up the major stars, and turned them into household names in the wrestling boom. The book is easy to read, and has information that I never knew to top. Classic wrestling fans should get a copy of this book, because it is an entertaining look at how the territories crumbled. Hornbaker takes the popular theme of classic wrestling, which is all over pod casting right now, and puts it in a nice package that you’d want to read over and over and keep on your shelf.

 

Surprisingly:

1.Creating The Mania by Jon Robinson

Most WWE sponsored books tend to deny the history of the company’s past, along with keeping those interviewed in character at all times. Robinson’s book takes the reader through a year of building up to Wrestlemania, the biggest card in wrestling, and how storylines and the behind the scenes events are created. If you think there is not that much work into putting a wrestling show together, read this book, because it is filled with interviews and stories by wrestlers, production people, writers, and public relation workers that are expected to put on the best show for the company, while working a year on the build up (along with their weekly and daily duties in between). This book is not only wonderfully written, but was a surprise at how honest and behind the scenes Robinson was allowed to get to get his story. This is different than the old WWE books from the past.

READ THE BOOK! SEE THE MOVIE! FROM NOVEL TO FILM VIA 20TH CENTURY-FOX (HARDCOVER EDITION) by Gary A. Smith

 

 

  1. Read The Book! See The Movie! by Gary A. Smith

Gary A. Smith has become one of my favorite movie writers, and his latest is just as well written and researched as his horror film books. His latest deals with novels that were turned into movies by 20th Century Fox. Books such as Dragonwwyck, Anna and the King of Siam, and The Robe that were turned into movies are covered, along with others. I was not sure I’d enjoy this book as much, because it did not deal with horror films, but it still has the things that I love about Smith’s writings; well researched material in which I learn something new on every page, which keeps the pages turning until I am done reading. If you are a film fan , but do not know his work, check out Smith’s writings.

(A future in depth review is coming soon on Smith’s book, but you can find his other books reviewed here, along with my Q&A, in the archives)

 

MUSIC

17th Avenue Revival- The Oak Ridge Boys.

This is a no brainer for me. This is by far the best release of the year in ANY genre. The Oaks have proven not only that they still have the vocal chops in their older years (they are in their 70s) , but have put a new spin on their music, thanks to producer Dave Cobb. This album is filled with an old country/rockabilly take on Gospel songs in the vain of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. The songs are brief without unnecessary fillers, and contains the classic harmonies that The Oaks have been blessed with throughout the decades. In an era where most of older artists are refusing to bother with releasing new music, instead just relying on the Greatest Hits packages, The Oaks are putting out quality, wholesome entertainment. Michael Buble’s “Love” and Judas Priest’s “Firepower” are my other top picks in the music genre, but if you’re looking for an album where EVERY single track is quality, get 17th Avenue Revival. Just like the title says…..after listening to this, you will be revived!

(An in depth review of 17th Avenue Revival can be found in the archives)

 

Thanks to everyone who have followed my page throughout the year, along with all the writers and publishers who have allowed me to review their books. Hopefully 2019 will be just as great (hopefully greater), and hope everyone has a safe New Year. Now go seek my picks out and tell what you think!

Classic Book Review: The Original Teen Idol’s Rise and Fall

Cover photo: A publicity photograph of Rick Nelson in the 1960s (Photofest)

I remember listening to Rick Nelson’s songs when I was in junior high and high school, especially since I loved studying the early rock and roll music as a drummer. It wasn’t until around 1995 or so, when I started playing drums for a classic rock band, when one of my guitar players got me hooked on Nelson’s later work from the 1970s. I was always a fan of his sons Matthew and Gunnar’s music (named Nelson, who had hits in 1990), but there was something about Rick’s music from his album In Concert, Live at the Troubadour, that made me go back and buy some of Rick’s CDs.

One surprising thing to me was the lack of books covering Rick’s career that are in print. Here is a guy who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was the first labeled teen idol, and influenced many artists in creating the early country/rock music that later inspired bands like The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. When I found out that publishing company McFarland had a book on him, by Sheree Homer, called Rick Nelson: Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer (McFarland, 2012), I had to get a hold of it.

Homer’s work is a history book that covers Nelson’s rise as a television star from his father’s show, to his music career. The book is a nice description of Rick’s life, along with several photographs from Kristin Nelson’s (Rick’s wife) personal collection.

The book covers Rick’s career with some interesting topics covered, like how he would hide his lines in cookie jars and in drawers around the set because he did not study his script on the The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet show (and later, it is described that he had a photographic memory which is why he didn’t study his lines for films), to how Rick would keep musicians like Glenn Campbell in the studio for hours, taking forever to cut a record because Nelson knew the guys needed the money , so he would tie them up for hours so they could get a bigger income.

Homer details the famous night at Madison Square Garden when Nelson was supposedly booed at the concert for not playing his hits, which led Nelson to write the song “Garden Party.” In the book several different takes are covered at the event, from Kristin Nelson saying that it wasn’t because of how Rick looked or sounded, but because of the police security treating a drunken fan, to the more famous story that there was not many people booing him. Several stories are detailed via interviews with former management and band members about how several members quit Nelson’s band throughout the years over management’s lack of pay raises that were promised, to the intense traveling Nelson did later in his life, to the problems with a faulty plane that the band was taking on tour.

The plane is covered towards the end of the book and the events that happened which led to Nelson’s, his girlfriend, and band members’ death, where the pilots describe what happened in the crash of 1985. The media’s false coverage of the event is written about as well, as the media’s lack of a major retraction to some of the rumors that was spread about the crash.

Homer covers a section of Nelson’s career, which I was a fan of, when he recorded for Epic Records (a CD from this era was released a few years ago, with some of his great songs like “One X One, ” “Stay Young,” and ” Almost Saturday Night” ). Another section of his life is covered (which many historians skip over) when Nelson started to have a comeback with his hit “Dream Lover,” which was derailed by Epic’s lack of promoting the song after his appearance on Saturday Night Live . The label waited weeks until the song was released, waiting on an album, which killed the momentum of the appearance.

The book is a short read, with 149 pages of text, along with extra pages of Nelson’s Discography, Filmography, Radio and TV Broadcasts, and a listing of the songwriters of his songs in the appendixes. The photographs are nice to look at (in black and white) and even though the collection covers the music aspect of his career, it is a great have for Nelson fans to read, without having conspiracy theories and coverage of some of the rumors surrounding his life. This is a short read, with only 9 chapters, but it covers the music legend nicely. There is a brief mention here and there about Nelson’s children, actress Tracy, sons Matthew, Gunnar, and Sam, but it is more about Nelson and his music/acting career. Since there are not many books out about Rick Nelson and his career, this is a book that must be added to Nelson fans’ collection, or even for someone that wants to know a little more about who Rick Nelson was and his impact on music and television.

 

This review copy was given courtesy of McFarland.

 

Rick Nelson: Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer by Sheree Homer (McFarland, 2012 ISBN: 978-0-7864-6060-1 eISBN:978-1-4766-0019-2) can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com, or by calling 800-253-2187.

The Overall:

Pages: 206 Pages

Language: None

Geared for: Junior high and up

For fans of: Rock and Roll History, Biographies, Film history, history.

 

Book Review: Souls Has Many Genres In Rock Road Trip

Cover design by Doogie Horner. Cover photo by Viorel Sima/ Shutterstock

Some time ago I reviewed Paperbacks From Hell, a history of paperback horror books by Grady Hendrix (the review can be found here in the archives). When I saw that Hendrix released new book, I searched out to get a copy to review. The themes of the book was very much up my alley; music (heavy metal music) and horror in a fictional setting.

We Sold Our Souls (Quirk Books, 2018) is a story about Kris Pulaski, who joined a heavy metal band in the 1990s, and toured with her band Dürk Würk, for ten years, not quite getting the big break needed for success. Once the lead singer Terry Hunt decides to take the band in a different direction, he offers the band a new contract in his new band Koffin, which all the members but Kris sign. Hunt’s career skyrockets while Kris is working a day job and does not play her guitar anymore. When Hunt decides to have a huge farewell tour, strange thing start happening to the band members, where she finds out that Hunt may have done more to the band than she thinks (NO SPOILERS).

The book takes Kris on a journey to find the other band members, along with patching up any ill-feelings that was carried over from that night the other band members signed the contracts. The tale is filled with many different themes, from Sci-Fi, horror, and adventure, while filled with conspiracy theory themes in between. Even though there are many themes combining in the arc, there are a little too much in it to actually put the book in one genre, which may be what Hendrix was trying to do (just like how musicians do not want their work to be in just one category).

The first part of the book keeps the reader engaged, turning every page to see what the mystery was in what happened on the fateful night, and how Kris will escape the dangers that follow her. However, once the reveal is given towards the end, the final chapters become a let down, along the ending of the book. Another problem I was how some of the characters talk in song lyrics of the past albums and create dialog where one of the unreleased albums track listings is part of the clues to unravel Hunt’s world domination (for instance, if track four had a title that involved something that happened to Kris, the characters start analyzing what track five is-Kris wrote the lyrics and music to it, so she should know exactly what’s going on). A few of the sections get boggled down with the in depth descriptions of the song lyrics for my taste, but it is not needed to enjoy the trip. At times the book reminds me of a supernatural version of the 1999 Kiss movie Detroit Rock City.

The packaging of the book is perfect for a death metal music story, with the sides of the pages in black, and the cover all black and red. The publicity department did a great job in creating a cover that fits with the themes of the book, as opposed to just a fancy cover. The book is easy to read, but filled with strong language throughout. This is not for young teens.

Even though there is so much going on throughout the book where the ending becomes flat, and seems to lose its identity in what kind of book it is, readers that like fiction about music, propaganda, hidden messages, and conspiracy theories would like We Sold Our Souls. It is part mystery, part Thelma and Louise, part Aliens, and doomsday all tied into the theme of the power of music and the strange world of the music business.

 

Thank you to Quirk Books for the review copy.

 

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books, 2018) ISBN: 978-1-68369-012-2 (hardcover) and e-Book ISBN: 978-1-68369-021-4 can be ordered at  http://www.quirkbooks.com.

For information about the author, go to http://www.gradyhendrix.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 333pages

Language: Strong

Average Audience: 16 and up

For Fans of: Music, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery

 

 

Book Review: Wolfe’s Book Encourages Women To Sparkle

 

Cover photograph by Kate Moore. Cover design by Edward A. Crawford.

 

#Sponsored by Faithwords

 

Sometimes when I get emails from book publishers asking me if I’d be interested in some books to review, the list of books they offer may not seem to suit me , but the title brings something that I feel readers may enjoy. Kristen Dalton Wolfe’s The Sparkle Effect (Faithwords, 2018) is such a book.

I have never heard of Dalton Wolfe before this review, but the synopsis about a former Miss USA writing a Christian style book caught my eye, along with the title. What possibly could a former beauty pageant winner’s book geared to women have anything to do a male like me?

Surprisingly, I learned more than I thought in her writings.

Keep in mind, the book is geared towards young women (or women in general) and is designed as a devotional style writing, where the reader could read chapter a day (or several). The chapters has its commentary by the writer, along with a prayer and a Bible verses at the end for more insight on each topic she discusses. The main purpose of the book is to sparkle like God created humans to do, by using Dalton Wolfe’s life experiences as a background to encourage the reader to reach their potential.

The Sparkle Effect covers topics such as following your God-given dreams, know what your “style” is as a person (not just in fashion, but inwardly), making a goal list, and how a person’s speech and actions should reflect who they are in God’s plans for them.

Although there are many stories about Dalton Wolfe’s life in her journey of becoming a Miss USA winner, the book is full of references from the Bible, Disney characters, and other role models throughout her life, which is almost a guidebook similar to The Princess Diaries. One will not feel judged if they did not have dreams of beauty pageants or the national spotlight to enjoy this devotional.

Dalton Wolfe’s writing , and the layout of this book, is similar to another Christian writer (and artist) who I enjoyed reading in the 2000s, Rebecca St. James. Once again, just because I am a male, I took away several good thoughts from books by James, which one can do as well from Dalton Wolfe. Both James and Dalton Wolfe have an influence that can be achieved for women in the church (especially late teens and women in the 20s-30s), that can have a positive impact in society as a whole, not just in a church setting.

The positive outlook and encouragement that The Sparkle Effect provides is contagious and inspiring for women, not just those that have dreams in the fashion world. Dalton Wolfe’s writing is simple, honest, and exciting at the same time.

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Faith Words books, a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.

 

The Sparkle Effect by Kristen Dalton Wolfe ( 2018, Faithwords ) ISBN: 978-1-5460-3176-5 (Paperback) , 978-1-5460-2717-1 (ebook) can be ordered at: http://www.faithwords.com .

 

For information about the author, visit: http://www.sheismore.com or at: https://www.facebook.com/KristenMissUSA and Twitter at @KristenJDalton

 

The Overall

Pages:320

Language: None

Geared For: Female Readers (especially Teens and Young Adults)

For Fans of: Devotionals, Bible Studies, Christian Living, Women Studies.

Book Review: Stone Writes About Angels Among Us

 

 

 

 

Jacket design by Bruce Gore/Gore Studios, Inc.

# Sponsored by FaithWords

 

Most people think of angels during the Christmas season, either in the gift shops or in holiday movies such as It’s A Wonderful Life, where Jimmy Stewart encounters the angel Clarence. Angels are seen hanging in the lobbies of churches and all throughout the television screens (usually on the Hallmark Channel) during this time.

Perry Stone’s book, This Season of Angels: Angelic Assignments During This Prophetic Season (FaithWords, 2018), takes a look at what angels are, their role, and their powers according to the Biblical texts.

The word season is defined as a “set moment in time” in the book, and uses this concept to take the reader through the different types of angels, what each purpose is for them, and also tries to answers the limitations of the power of angels. The back of the book features something that could be considered a “question and answer” segment in the Appendix section , where Perry tries to explain some of the myths about angels that may be construed throughout people’s lives. Perry also uses personal experiences, including stories from his father’s life, with their encounters of angels.

Stone writes how some of the angel’s roles are to bring warnings, use prophecy, and bring blessings to people, using stories from the Bible to show the roles , and the limitations that they have in spiritual realm.

The first part of the book started off confusing, where this reader seemed to be bombarded with information, wondering if the book was over my head (and I have spent many years in churches and reading the Bible), but once the first few chapters settle down, the book ends up explaining itself nicely, without tons of Bible verses that confuses people when some Christian writers release books. The writer explains his topic, while using the Bible and some Greek definitions to help the reader. Some Biblical books go overboard with the verses, along with in-depth Greek and Hebrew history, but Perry’s use of these definitions are just the right amount (there are parts where he writes that he will not bog down the reader with twenty more verses on the subject).

Overall, the book is an interesting read, and those that like the subject of angels will enjoy the book. The chapters are mostly short, and if you can get through the first chapter or so, the flow comes together (maybe it was just the day that I started reading it that made it confusing, which happens as well). The personal experiences from Perry through friends and family members add a nice touch to the reading, and is not just all Bible verses. Even if you are not a fan of Biblical preachers, this book is still a nice text to read for those that want to discover spiritual entities.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of FaithWords books, a division of the Hachette Book Group, INC.

 

            This Season of Angels: Angelic Assignments During This Prophetic Season by Perry Stone (2018, FaithWords) ISBN: 978-1-5460-3530-5 (Hardcover), 978-1-5460-3529-9 (ebook) can be ordered at http://www.faithwords.com.

 

For information about the author, go to: http://www.perrystone.org

 

The Overall:

Pages: 224

Language: None

Ages: 16 and up (depending on level of knowledge of the Bible)

Geared for: Christian Living, Spiritual, Supernatural, Religion

 

Book Review: Kiss Member’s Look at Club May Surprise Readers

 

I have not been shy about my respect for Gene Simmons. I grew up a Kiss fan (especially my love of the 1980s lineup with drummer Eric Carr), and have seen them live 3 times with the original members. Simmons has branded himself a successful businessman, writer, and musician. I compare him to the Tom Brady of the music world, where many criticize him for being a success, watch his every move, yet buy his products.

Gene’s new book, 27: The Legend & Mythology of the 27 Club (powerHouse/Simmons books, 2018), covers his take on some of the artists who died at the age of 27.

Simmons, along with help from his son Nick, take the reader through brief summaries of the artists covered, their successes, and how they died at the young age, putting them in a glamorized “club” among fans. Simmons then takes a look at why these artists died at the age that they did, whether it being alcohol and drugs, along with the mental aspect of the deaths, which may have been overlooked at the time (either due to lack of knowledge, or by ignoring signs).

Even non-Kiss fans know how outspoken Gene has been on topics like drugs, booze, and mental issues, including stating his opinions on the deaths of rockers like Kurt Cobain in the past. However, readers would be surprised by his take on these issues now. As stated in the Introduction section, Simmons states that although he believes these artists should not be glamorized for their drugs and deaths, which is considered a badge of honor among rock stars, he withholds judging the people. Gene still maintains his views on drugs and alcohol , and admits to having a more sensitive look once he studied their lives in more detail.

Each chapter deals with a separate musician or artist, such as Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Amy Whinehouse. There is a brief history of each artist, along with some quotes by the artists or those that knew them, along with interview snippets thrown in.

Even though the topic is a serious one, there are some entertaining stories put in throughout the book, such as the time Gene thought he was talking on the phone to Kurt Cobain to get his band Nirvana to play on the Kiss tribute album, to an interesting interview at the end of the book by Nick, who discusses the topic with Dr. James Fallon, Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology.

27 is an easy to read book, with short chapters, filled with some great information on what may have been going through the minds of these artists, including their childhood growing up. The two major things that intrigued me about the book was the interview with Dr. Fallon and his take on the so called “club,” and Gene’s discussion on the topics , which shows his maturity in showing the respect of the artist’s skills, and not just the tragic life they led.

An ironic part of the book is how Gene uses information from biographies and magazines to help his research. One of sources he uses several times are interviews from Rolling Stone Magazine. I found this take somewhat entertaining because Simmons has always bashed that magazine for their lack of acknowledging the success and talents of Kiss (personally, I side with Simmons’ past views on the magazine as a whole). Maybe I am reading too much into this part (maybe it’s the only interviews he could find by the artists on the subject), but it was just something that popped into my head when I read the footnote sources.

27 is an entertaining and thought-provoking book that may show why some of these artists ended up dying at the same age, but still shows the respect of the talents these musicians and artists. Do not let the past views of Gene Simmons prevent you from getting this book, because you may be surprised at what these pages hold. Simmons still does not condone the lifestyles of the artists, but does show he is wiser on the topic of mental issues and substance abuse.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Powerhouse/Simmons books

 

27: The Legend & Mythology Of The 27 Club by Gene Simmons (powerHouse/Simmons books, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-57687-886-6) can be found at bookstores and at http://www.powerhouse.com.

For information about Gene Simmons, go to: http://www.genesimmons.com

 

The Overall

Pages: 261

Language: Moderate (Artists interviews uses some language)

Geared For: 13 and Up

For fans of: Music biographies, Music History, Psychology,  Gene Simmons

 

 

Book Review: Author Wants More Weirdos In The Church

                                                                                                                                                      #sponsored by Faith Words

 

C.J. Casciotta ‘s new book is full of weirdness.

This is not an insult, because his book Get Weird: Discovering the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference (Faithwords, 2018) encourages people to get in touch with the things that makes them considered weird in society and embrace it.

Casciotta describes how as a young child, the things that made people unique and “weird” define them until one day people suppressed these actions, and lose touch of what made them unique; things like coloring outside of the lines , and having structure throughout everyday life to the point that when someone was different, they were made fun of until they hid the things that made them different.

Get Weird has many humorous illustrations throughout, including the writer’s references to Willie Wonka, Charlie Brown, Jim Henson, and Walt Disney. Casciotta compares why he no longer likes the “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer” TV show, and how Fred Rogers influenced him to accept the weirdness in himself.

The author discusses how being weird can start a movement, from communities and churches. He states by looking at Jesus Christ’s teachings to his disciples (all who were considered outcasts in society of the time), and the use of the Parable of The Lost Sheep, it shows how each person’s uniqueness can be used in society.

Casciotta’s humor throughout the book, along with the chapter titles, reminds me of the writing of musician David Crowder, where Crowder once wrote a chapter in a book about finding God in a Chick-fil-A sandwich (this was before Tim Hawkins’s famous song about the place). Casciotta tells stories of people he met in his life, such as a woodworker ex-sniper named Charlie, to his own train jumping experience, to drive home his points in the midst of the humor to tie his ideas together.

The book has three major parts: the first part of the book encourages people to embrace what makes them unique by not being ashamed of their “weirdness,” the second part discusses “What To Make of Your Weirdness,” and finally “How Your Weirdness Will Change Us.”

Although the overall theme is nice, where the writer encourages people to be different and embrace others who are not like them (one story involves a pastor struggling to decide if a woman is fit for church service due to her tattoos). The second half of the book encourages people to do things like speak up, step out of the norm, and challenge people and things to create a movement. While these are all creative in a way, there is also a time when order is needed (even in the church) and being a radical all the time leads to consequences in my opinion.

The author uses quotes and actions from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Henson, and Walt Disney to show how they paved their own paths when people thought they were weird. Jim Henson had to go to England to make his shows, because he was turned down in the United States by every television company. Using his life as comparison is different than, say a person challenging the local pastor on a dress code in the church or fighting the church leaders on things that go against Biblical principals. The writer does not encourage anarchy, but the Bible does talk about respecting and following church and local leaders and their rule. The book kind of gets lost in creating a movement that consequences are not discussed much.

This is a nice, easy to read book, with mainly short chapters. The author has a great sense of humor and nice Pop Culture references (his discussion on why albums are better than downloaded music and CDs is entertaining, which I agree with his logic). There are a few Bible verses in the book, but not much, and some references to Jesus, but it overall is not a normal religious book. The book entails more of embracing weirdness and using it to start a movement.

Just because my personal opinion at times varies with the book, the overall theme and entertainment of the writing makes it an pleasurable read. It has plenty of humor throughout , while stating the message the author is trying to achieve. Just because I don’t always agree with the writer does not mean that the book is not bringing out some nice, thoughtful ideas that need looked at. Maybe that is one of the things that makes me weird.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Faith Words, an imprint of Hachette Book Group

Get Weird: Discovering the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference by CJ Casciotta (Faithwords, 2018) ISBN: 978-1-5460-3191-8 (paperback) , 978-1-54600-3190-1 (ebook) can be found at http://www.faithwords.com

 

For information about the author, go to https://www.cjcas.com .

 

The Overall

Pages: 217

Language: None

Ages: 13 and up.

For fans of: Christian Living, religion, humor.