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.
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).
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
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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 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” (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.
“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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
In the book Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling (Sports Publishing; October 2017), Jim Ross and Paul O’Brien not only write about the exciting world of professional wrestling, but they also capture the ideals of the American Dream.
Jim Ross is known to many as the greatest wrestling announcer of all time, along with his duties behind the scenes on the creative committee and talent relations of several wrestling organizations. In the book, Ross details his life growing up on a farm, his first encounter watching wrestling on television, and how he worked his way up from ring crew to the top announcer in Bill Watt’s Mid-South area, Ted Turner’s WCW, and the WWE.
Early in the book, Ross writes about getting into professional wrestling, by watching it on television with his grandparents, and make up storylines with his toy army figures while commentating on his make believe matches. After getting a chance to see a live event in Oklahoma, Ross decided that “I knew I wanted into this crazy business somehow. I just didn’t know how to find a way in.”
Ross found his way in when he and a friend started fundraisers in college after making phone calls to Mid -South Wrestling’s main man, “Cowboy” Bill Watts. After Watts became impressed with Ross’s work, he was invited to work for the company, just shy of graduating from college.
Ross’s early job in the Mid -South area involved being a babysitter for announcer and part owner Leroy McGuirk, where Ross details several funny stories in the territory, including a humorous car ride involving McGuirk and his famous cigars that McGuirk was known for. Ross also worked as a referee, on the ring crew, and helped with the booking of the shows (helping plan out the storylines).
Ross tells the reader many stories about some of the wrestlers in the Mid South, including Dick Murdoch, the 600-pound twin McGuire Brothers, Bill Dundee, Ernie Ladd, and wrestlers from the more famous time of the Mid -South region like The Rock n Roll Express, Jim Duggan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and manager Jim Cornette. He also talks about when their biggest moneymaker, The Junkyard Dog, just walked out of the company in order to join Vince McMahon’s WWF in the early 1980s, along with Watt’s opinion of the situation. McMahon’s taking over Georgia Wrestling on the cable channel WTBS is covered, where after dealing with the situation, Watts and Ross decide to go national with the Mid-South to compete with the WWF.
Ross gives his take on many of wrestling’s top stars, such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Steve Austin, The Rock, Randy Savage, and more, as the book takes the reader through Jim Crockett’s NWA, Ted Turner’s WCW, and McMahon’s WWF/WWE. Ross also describes some of the bad creative decisions in his wrestling career from being on the creative committee, with angles involving Flair and Ricky Steamboat, the Ron Garvin NWA Title reign, and how he felt the NWA/WCW handled Steve “Sting” Borden as champion. Ross also informs the reader about his time in the WWF covering famous feuds, such as The Undertaker and Mankind’s “Hell in the Cell” cage match, the ill-fated “Brawl for All” Tough Man competition, and the famous “Montreal Screw-Job” involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Ross covers the revolving door in WCW’s management, which could have been a book in itself on how to manage many different bosses in a short time. Not only were there multiple managers in charge, but he also had to deal with a rotation roster of bookers as well, from Flair, Rhodes, Watts, to Ole Anderson. Since Ross was also one of the announcers, he discusses his opinions on his announcing partners such as Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, Jerry Lawler, Gordon Solie, Lord Alfred Hayes, and Curt Hennig, along with interactions with celebrities Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Butterbean, and Robocop.
The book is not just about pro wrestling; it is an inspiring tale about a man who had to overcome obstacles to achieve his dream of being in a business that was closed off to many and secretive. Ross overcomes low pay after traveling hundreds of miles, failed marriages, losing the family business store, and overcoming health issues with his fights with Bell’s palsy. Someone not familiar with professional wrestling can still find an uplifting story in Ross’s memoir. This is a tale about a man that wanted to be a part of sports entertainment and made it to the top, via hard work, determination, and a strong will.
Overall, the book is a great read, mixed with humor and inspiration. I would have liked a few more stories dealing with Sting and WCW, but with Ross’s decades of experience, there are bound to be stuff passed over, unless he wanted a 1000 page book (my book has 319 pages without the afterward, which my copy did not have). There is enough background information about his younger years that make the book interesting, without drawing out multiple chapters, like some memoirs. The chapters are mostly short, which is something else I love about the book. The book ends in 1999; right after Ross announces the Wrestlemania XV Main Event between Steve Austin and The Rock. Those that follow wrestling would know that Ross has many years left to cover in his career, and maybe another book will be coming in the future, but just like in the wrestling business, Ross’s book leaves the audience wanting more, which is a good thing.
Slobberknocker; My Life In Wrestling by Jim Ross with Paul O’Brien will be released in October 2017.
A special thanks to Sports Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy.
One of my pet peeves when talking about music from the 1980s is when people assume acts were One Hit Wonders because their most popular song is constantly played on radio stations or on compilation CDs (along with the term “Hair Metal,” which really drives me nuts, because the band’s hair had nothing to do with their musical talents). Some people may not know but the radio format plays the same songs almost every hour, even during “Time Warp” Weekends (where radio stations play all songs from the 1980s), so it’s easy for newer listeners to assume that some of these music acts only had one hit, for instance when people think of the band Mr. Mister, they think of “Broken Wings,” but forget about “Kyrie” or “Is It Love,” which both hit the U.S. Charts, or the Australian band Icehouse, who recorded the song “Electric Blue,” but forget about my favorite of the band, “Crazy,” which hit #14 in 1987. Or even the Canadian band Men Without Hats, who we know from “The Safety Dance” hitting #11 on the U.S. Charts, but do you remember their other 1987 hit “Pop Goes The World” that charted at #20?
We can blame it on ignorance (not everyone studied music like I did, trying to know who wrote the songs or its chart position due to my childhood listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Saturday Morning), or due to the format of radio today, but I thought I’d look (an hopefully inform) at a few British acts that are usually viewed as One Hit Wonders, but really weren’t.
Cutting Crew. This act’s big hit “I Just Died In Your Arms” was recently used in “The Lego Batman Movie”. The group broke in the U.S. with the 1986 album “Broadcast,” which had this famous song. However, the band hit the U.S. Charts with the #9 “I’ve Been In Love Before,” which is my favorite of the band. The song was actually the third single in the U.S., but was a huge hit for them. The band also was in the Top 40 with a second single from the album, “One For The Mockingbird”, but it wasn’t until they took another chance with “Been In Love” after it only hit #31 in the UK as the follow up song for “I Just Died In Your Arms.” The band still records and tours with lead singer Nick Van Eede and different lineup changes through the years. I still prefer the second single, “I’ve Been In Love Before” over the first breakout single that most people remember of the band.
The Escape Club. This band hit #1 on the U.S Charts with the single “Wild, Wild West,” but many may not know that they had another in 1991, “I’ll Be There,” which charted at #9. The band formed in 1983, and as of 2012, is still performing with singer Trevor Steel, and guitar player John Holliday. Steel was also an A&R person for Universal Records in Australia after the band’s spotlight died down. As with Cutting Crew, I prefer the second single, “I’ll Be There,” which is a better song than the first single that broke the band. “I’ll Be There” is a darker song about a death of a friend, but still has positive lyrics to the song. The song has an eerie type melody, almost a goth- feel to it, but was still main stream enough to hit the Top 10. Whenever the band comes up in my music conversations, many people have never heard this second song, which is a shame, because it is really well written.
Johnny Hates Jazz. This act hit #2 in the U.S. with the song “Shattered Dreams” in 1988, but was first released in 1987 (back in this era, it took usually time for the released song to gain airplay and move up the charts, unlike today). The act also recorded “I Don’t Want to Be A Hero”(#31) in 1988. My favorite song of the band did not chart on the Top 100 Singles, but charted at #5 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Charts, along with #12 in the U.K., called “Turn Back The Clock.” I remember seeing this video all the time on my local video channels (we didn’t have MTV at first-it was a pay channel- but watched shows like “Friday Night Videos,” and the video show on WAKR Channel 23 in Canton, Ohio with Billy Soule as the host). To this day, it is one of my favorite videos, which shows the band looking back at their childhood and the things that they did, like hang out in a tree house. The single had backing vocals by Kim Wilde, who hit #1 in the U.S. with a cover of the Supremes’ “Keep Me Hanging On” in 1987. This song is a lost gem in my eyes of singles of the decade that many do not remember.
The Outfield. This British band had 5 Top 40 singles from 1986-1990, but yet the band is still considered One Hit Wonders due to the smash #6 hit “Your Love,” from their “Play Deep” Album. I still crank up the song whenever I hear it playing to this day. I love their 1990 album “Diamond Days,” which I happened to get the CD at a bargain bin for a great price. I loved all the songs on the CD, including the 1990 hit “For You,” which charted at #21 in the U.S. This band is underrated when it comes to 1980s band Nu-Wave Acts. They had Nu-Wave and Pop mixed together with some straight ahead Rock feel to it. Bass player and singer Tony Lewis has a great voice, and I remember seeing the cover of their 1986 Album “Play Deep” all over the record stores at the time.
O.M.D. This is another band that had several hits from 1985 -1988, including the #4 song “If You Leave” from the 1986 movie “Pretty in Pink.” The band also hit in 1985 with “So In Love,” and “Forever” in 1986, but my favorite song by the band was called “Dreaming,” that charted at #16 in 1987 in the U.S. The song has the band’s Synth-Pop beat like their other songs, but “Dreaming” just had some great lyrics in my opinion, especially the opening stanza. The band may have had a long name (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark), but the band’s hits are still played today, even though “Dreaming” seems to be lost in that list.
Breathe. I remember hearing this London band’s single “Hands To Heaven” when it first came out and thought it was very soulful, as opposed to some of the other songs that were hitting the charts during 1987. The song charted as high as #2 in the U.S. in 1988. I also remember seeing their album “All That Jazz” all over the record stores at the time. Even though the second single in the U.S. did not chart as high on the Pop Charts, “How Can I Fall” hit #1 on the U.S. AC Charts, and #3 on the Pop Charts. Unlike some of the other acts on this list, where I liked the second single better than the first, I liked both of these singles equally. A third single from the album, “Don’t Tell Me Lies,” hit #10 on the Pop and # 5 on the AC Charts, but isn’t as played as the other two singles (in the UK, “Lies” was the first single released from the album) The band continued to record until 1992, but their three singles was the only hits they had in the U.S. The band’s work should be rediscovered for fans that like Air Supply and Rick Astley, who linked soul and jazz to their Pop sound. I really liked these songs, and still shocked why I never owned the cassette or CD in my collection.
When people think of the 1980s British acts, artists like Duran Duran, Elton John, Rick Astley, and George Michael come to mind. However this list above is often misjudged as One Hit Wonders, when in reality, they had great success. I encourage you to check out these acts’ other songs-you may find some more gems to add to your playlist that you don’t hear on local radio.
The summer season of movies used to be when the big blockbusters would come out. It used to be a major event each summer, but that has changed. Movies put out blockbusters all year long, which can wear thin on some movie goers. That is why some movies are expected to do well, and fail, or on the other extreme, movies that aren’t expected to do well, perform better than expected that leaves the so called critics scratching their heads. If you are tired of the normal movie trends that are out there right now, try taking these films in account. These are my suggestions on some great films that have been overlooked this past year that are all available for your home watching.
“The Great Wall” (2016). There are not many films that I really like that stars Matt Damon, with the exception of The Bourne films (although I didn’t care for the last one , titled Jason Bourne), but The Great Wall was a surprisingly good film. Even though this film was viewed as a disappointment at the box office, it still made over $300 Million worldwide (It did well in China).
Damon plays a mercenary in China, who ends up helping soldiers fight against monsters while searching for the secret to making gunpowder. The film has quite a bit of subtitles, due to the Chinese soldiers that they help, but the film was good overall. Basically the film is a mix of Dungeons and Dragons meets Aliens. There are humorous parts in the film as well, thanks to Pedro Pascal’s character Pero, who is Damon’s best friend. The action is good, along with a unique fighting style that the soldiers use in the early fight scenes. This was an underrated Action/Fantasy film.
“The Institute” (2017). I have never been a fan of James Franco’s work, but in this film, I enjoyed his work as a doctor who uses questionable methods to treat his patients. Franco stars and co-directs this film based on a true story about The Rosewood Institution in Maryland. Lori Singer, from the 1984 movie Footloose is also in this film.
A girl checks herself into the institute after her parent’s death and ends up seeing, and being subjected to, strange medical therapies, such as brainwashing and mind control. This film is almost like a throwback horror film, however there is quite a bit of nudity in the film. There are parts of this film that reminded me of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s film Eyes Wide Shut, dealing with a secret society. If you can get through the nude scenes, the film is really good. If you can’t, I suggest the film with Kate Beckinsale called Stonehearst Aslyum that came out several years ago, which is similar to this film.
“Morgan” (2017). This film was directed by Luke Scott and stars Kate Mara, who was not cast right in the reboot of The Fantastic Four, is a good actress. The film is about an experiment named Morgan, who is a hybrid with an advanced growth rate. She looks around 19 or 20, but is really 5 yrs old. After murdering a researcher, it is decided that the Morgan project should be terminated. Mara plays a government agent sent to watch and then end the project. After it is determined the project should end, the chase is on with Morgan attacking other people and trying to escape the compound where the tests are being held.
The cast also includes Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti. I thought the ending was predictable, but it doesn’t take away from the film. It actually made its budget back, although it was not viewed highly. This film was underrated that is a good DVD watch.
“Keeping Up With The Joneses.” (2016). With her success in the film Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot is the current “It “ girl in Hollywood. This film was shot after her debut of the character in Superman vs Batman, but before the solo Wonder Woman film. The film was a DVD library choice for me, and I actually enjoyed it. It also stars Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher.
This comedy is about a couple (Hamm and Gadot) who moves into the neighborhood, with Fisher and Zach’s characters assuming that they are secret agents. Fisher and her husband start watching and following the new couple and chaos ensues when they get mixed up in the case. When the trailer for the film came out, I thought it was a Mr. and Mrs. Smith remake, but the film was pretty funny, thanks to Gadot’s acting. She has some good comedy skills as well as being an action star. This film bombed at the box office, but don’t let it stop you from checking it out if you want to see more of Gadot.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” (2017). I first heard about this film when it came out, and then forgot about it. Several months later, I was listening to a Christian Radio Show that was giving out the DVD as a prize, and went to the library to check out the film. It was a great movie.
Some Christian films are too cheesy, and there is a reason why some only last 2 weeks in the theaters. However, this film was enjoyable and funny.
Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton from “Marvel’s Agents of Shield”) is a child actor who ends up in trouble for his excessive partying and must do community service in order to avoid jail time. He ends up going back to his hometown, where he takes work at a church, and lies about being a Christian in order to earn his time by playing Jesus in an upcoming play after seeing the bad acting during the auditions. Stone ends up meeting many people in the play, including former WWE Wrestler Shawn Michaels (The film is put out by WWE Films, which is why Michaels is on the cover, but he has a small role in the film). Since the word “resurrection” is in the film, there becomes a coming of age moment for Stone and his lies.
The film is touching, yet funny. I remember reading some reviews of the film that some Christians did not like it due to scenes making fun of the typical Christian stereotypes and their church language, which is what I think makes the film enjoyable. If you have been a part of a church play or community theater, you know what unexpected things or ideas can come up, which makes the film even funnier. You do not have to be a Christian to like this film, and just want to see a decent film without violence or cussing that the family can watch, this is a great pick.
“War and Peace’ (2016 Miniseries). If you are a fan of the BBC type films, this is a must watch. This series, based on the Leo Tolstoy book, is so good, I not only watched most of it in one day, but makes me want to read the 1000 page book. This show aired on the BBC, then on A&E, Lifetime, and The History Channel. I picked it up on an impulse at my local library, and as mentioned earlier, couldn’t stop watching it. (I think I watched 4-5 hours in a sitting).
This series stars Paul Dano (who was also great in the Brian Wilson film Love and Mercy), Lily James (from Disney’s Cinderella) Brian Cox, and Gillian Anderson. The film does not have much war scenes in it until the later episodes, but the show draws you in, and makes you involved in the characters and their actions. James is just adorable in her role as Natasha, while Dano’s acting is great as Pierre (although I’m not sure what to think of the character overall-like him, hate him??) This is a series I highly recommend that people add to their movie collection.
On a final note, if you haven’t seen the film “Split” with James McAvroy, it is worth watching, although the trailers were misleading in making it look like a horror film-it’s more of a thriller. I didn’t rank it above since the film did very well at the box office.
Maybe these suggestions will help you the next time you are looking at Redbox, the library, or wherever you get movies to watch at home. I have seen some good films (Wonder Woman) and some overrated films (Beauty and The Beast, Spiderman Homecoming, Get Out) to just bad (The Mummy). Consider these films if you want something different or can’t decide the next time you go to watch a movie. You may be surprised.