Marking Out on Richard: Ranking Some of My Favorites

Richard Marx has been on top of the music in charts in many ways; he’s been a performer, songwriter, producer, and has sung backing vocals for many acts. He has worked with music acts like N Sync, Keith Urban, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Chicago, and many others. He has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters, especially in the 1980-2000s. Here are a few of my favorite Richard Marx songs (in no particular order).

“Satisfied” (1989). This song was released on his second album, Repeat Offender, and hit #1 on the U.S. Charts. It was the first single off of the album, and on a video discussion about the song (which he called “vlogs,” which stood for video blogs), Marx says it “reeks of ‘80s.” Marx actually stopped playing the song live for a while, but brought it back to his shows after a while when fans started demanding the song. The video featured boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who was from Youngstown, Ohio, which is not far from me.

My Own Best Enemy 2004

“The Other Side” (2004). One of my favorite albums that Marx released is 2004’s My Own Best Enemy, which featured this song. The album is darker from his first several albums, but the songwriting is just as great. The song was written by Marx, and even though the album barely made the Top 200 Albums Chart, it did produce a single from the album. I like everything about this song, from the intro to the lyrics, which states “I really wanna know was it worth the ride/ and will you be waiting on the other side.” The song is about moving on, but struggling to do it.

“Angelina” (1989). This is one, if not my favorite, song Marx ever wrote. The song hit #4 on the U.S. Charts and #2 on the AC Charts. The song has a big sound to it for a mid tempo song about a girl. The name came from a girl who was an airline worker on a plane Marx was on, and he loved the name. Marx tells a story on his vlog that he was listening to Def Leppard’s Hysteria album at the time and tried to capture that feel to his work. He says that later on Phil Collen of Def Leppard said that the band loved this song so much that they tried to copy the sound for their next album. I love the lines “ Tried to be what you wanted/I gave you all I had/Girl, you left me with nothing/nothing but a photograph.”

“Endless Summer Nights” (1987). This song hit #2 on the U.S. Charts and was kept out of the Number One spot by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” As often as this song was played, I was shocked it didn’t hit the top of the charts. This song was from his debut album, and was the third single from it. The song was an early written song for Marx, written when he was 21, before he got a record deal. Marx says that every record company turned down the song, which was a two song demo with “Summer” and “Should’ve Known Better” on it. The song isn’t actually about summer, but a guy looking back at a summer romance during the winter, but it became a standard during the summertime throughout the years. The saxophone solo intro by Dave Baruff is one of the memorable intros from the 1980s. This is probably my second favorite song by Marx in all of his collection.

“Lonely Heart” (1987). This song is rarer known off the debut album, but was originally going to be the fifth single from the album, but it was decided that Marx would just wait for the Repeat Offender album to release another song, which was already done. In his vlog, Marx stated that the song was written with Peter Cetera in mind, but Cetera passed on it. It was written by Marx, and Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Marx calls the song “dated,” but it is one of my favorites from the great first album.

1997 Flesh and Bone album

 

“Until I Find You Again” (1997). This song was one of Marx’s strongest ballads, and hit #3 on the AC Charts. The song was from the out of print Flesh and Bone album, which was not one of my favorite albums, however, the song shows Marx’s great songwriting ability, with lines like “Will time be a fair weathered friend,” and “Should I call out to angels/or drink myself sober again?” This song, for me, moved Marx’s career into more ballads and the adult contemporary genre, getting away from the pop and rock music from his early songs.

 

“Someone Special” (2004). This song was featured on My Own Best Enemy album, but was originally released in 2000 off of the Days in Avalon release. Although I was not a huge fan of the Days album, I remember liking the song, and it fits well on the Enemy album. This is a positive song, which is full of hope, about someone believing in themselves when others do not see it. The song is perfect for junior high or high school students that are not a part of the in-crowd, with dating and being in the popular group, although I’m not sure Marx geared it for that. This song was kind of passed over, and I’m surprised it was not played often when it came out on either record. I love the line “Guess the joke hasn’t hit me yet/cause I’m still waiting on my Juilet/She must be held up somewhere”, and with the chorus stating “I still believe there’s someone special/waiting out there for me.”

 

There are so many great song that Richard Marx has written or sang on, from “Everybody,” which was a hit for Keith Urban (which I think Marx’s version is better), to “Don’t Mean Nothing” and “Hazard.” With all of his accomplishments, it’s a wonder why Marx is not in the Songwriters Hall of Fame yet. He is still putting out music and writing for other acts, as well as hosting a podcast. If you haven’t listened to Richard Marx past the second album, you should go and check out his other work; he has some stuff that is just as great as when he was on top of the charts.

 

 

Advertisements

Classic Book Review: Louisville Wrestling History Covered in a Slugger of a Book

I first was introduced to professional wrestling around 1984, when my father one day was watching television on a Saturday afternoon, and called me downstairs to show me something on the screen. It was a bald headed man with a hairy torso throwing things at the television screen and yelling. He also had a green tongue. I was mesmerized by this person, who I later found out was called “The Animal” George Steele. Since wrestling wasn’t on every week in my area of Columbiana, Ohio, just outside of Youngstown, it took a few more years (1986 actually) until I had access to wrestling on a constant basis. Once we got cable TV, I had even more access, seeing the WWF, AWA, World Class Championship Wrestling, NWA, and even Memphis wrestling between our living room television that had cable, and my parent’s upstairs one where I could catch the Memphis shows via the old “rabbit ears.”

Even though I was a big fan of the baby faces (good guys in wrestling lingo), like Hulk Hogan, The British Bulldogs, and The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, there were a few bad guys I cheered for, even at my young age of 13. Two of the personalities , who even my parents were entertained by, were managers Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jim Cornette. Both had a wit about them, and even though their men fought my favorites at times, I couldn’t help but cheer for them.

Cornette has become a regular at wrestling and comic book conventions throughout the years, including hosting his two weekly podcasts shows. He also runs a successful website where fans can get books, DVDs, and shirts, among other items that he has added to his online business. One of his books, written along with wrestling writer Mark James, called Tuesday Night At The Gardens, details the history of wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky from the years of 1970-1975.

The Preface at the beginning of the book walks the reader through some of the wrestling lingo and terms, along with a brief description of the territories and how some wrestlers became stars by “getting over” with the fans and promoters.

The book then starts into the history of Louisville wrestling, along with the different venues that held the events, from the Armory to the Convention Center, and finally The Gardens. Each page is filled with several black and white photographs of the advertisements for the cards, and if there are any, results of the cards next to the photographs in a text graphic. There are also newspaper articles detailing several of the results the following day, along with s few entertaining stories about interactions by the fans of wrestlers with the local law enforcement officers.

The scrapbook layout makes this an easy reading, which is similar at times to the old wrestling magazine results page that I used to collect as a teen, such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Sports Review Wrestling, and others owned by the Stanley Weston publishing. Besides the results, Cornette adds stories about the wrestlers who made their way through the territory throughout the years, such as Lou Thesz, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Jim Mitchell, and more well known stars like Andre The Giant, Dory Funk Jr., and The Brisco Brothers.

Since the territory started out being owned and run by Roy Welch and Nick Gulas, and a few years later Jerry Jarrett, there are many of the names that were big in Memphis who also were big in the Louisville area. Match results and stories are told about Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto, Jimmy Valiant, and the Fullers. Later on in the book, the writers add some TV Guide clippings as well, along with results of some of the television tapings to add an extra flair to the collection. The end of the album shows some of the photographs that Cornette took when attending the cards in 1975, which helped him get his foot in the door in the wrestling business (he started out as a photographer).

Entertaining tales of when Jerry Lawler was not the hot star during a time, fans attacking wrestlers inside and outside the ring, and some more odd information about some of the stars are humorous and sometimes just plain odd, including the story where a wrestler named “Roughhouse” Fargo would only make a few appearances a year -a wild and crazy character in the ring (who sometimes would go into the crowd when he wanted to eat food or take over the television camera), stating that he only “swept floors” at the mental asylum and was not a “patient”, gives the reader how creative the characters were, as opposed to today’s current stars. There are a few brief stories about how a “outlaw” territory tried to run cards in the area as well (a territory that was not under the NWA banner, and tried to run its own shows). This part mentions a young “Macho Man” Randy Savage, along with his father, who later on ran his own outlaw shows.

At first I was skeptical in getting this book , due to the fact that it is self published (where sometimes self published books are filled with typos, misspelled words, and bad grammar), but this was not only a great history lesson, but an experience in reading. The reader will end up staring at all the photographs before even reading the text at the side of the page. There are a few minor grammar parts (a few sentences that ended up all run together without spacing) but it is so minor you will forget about it, and will just marvel at the stories, along with being entertained at some of the gimmick matches that were created back then.

This book should have a warning sticker on it, and since I promise honest reviews, I will put the warning here:

 

This book may frustrate you at times, because you will want to seek out many of these matches or find the stars in action, where many of the footage may not be found online. Also, after reading about these legendary stars, you may not be able to watch the current product of wrestling the same way as before. This historical package will want you begging for the days of good old action with characters and gimmicks that are no longer attractive to today’s current wrestling fans. However, if you are a fan of classic wrestling, and the history of stars in a territory that was similar in the Memphis area, this is a book to have.

 

If you order the book (along with other Jim Cornette merchandise), you can have it personalized. Cornette also adds a bonus DVD of some of these great matches if you get it from his site.

 

Tuesday Night At The Gardens by Jim Cornette and Mark James can be found at http://www.amazon.com or at www. jimcornette.com

For information about the authors, go to : http://www.jimcornette.com and Mark James’ site at : http://www.memphiswrestlinghistory.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 284

Language: Mild

Geared For: Ages 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Classic Professional Wrestling, Wrestling History, Sports History

Classic Book Review: Trekkies Will Enjoy Journeys

One great thing about going to local library book sales (besides the great prices) is that you can sometimes find books that may have been a part of your childhood. I remember spending many days at my local library as a child (although I wasn’t always considered a wonderful reader), seeing movies (it was where I first saw The Creature From The Black Lagoon), to getting records, and, of course , books. It was at my local library where I read every Little House On The Prairie, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew series. I have vivid memories of walking from my library on a summer day (which was only a few blocks from my house), with Andy Gibb’s Greatest Hits record tucked underneath my arm, anticipating listening to “Shadow Dancing” for the hundredth time that month (I would return the album and wait until it was checked in again, and check it back out five minutes later). Although my local libraries have now turned into teen hangouts, where they don’t even look at books, but hang out in their designated sections texting, and making more noise than at a concert, I still enjoy going to get blu rays and other videos and books.

Another series that I constantly read as a child were the Star Trek books. I was big Star Wars fan at the time, where I had the comic book subscriptions which I got via my schools Read -A-Thon prize, along with the Star Wars toys. My brother and I were always playing with our figures, along with my best friend combining them with our G.I. Joe figures to create our own universe. I wasn’t a big Star Trek fan until I saw the second movie, and the original TV Show wasn’t on much in my area at the time. However, the books fascinated me for some reason, where I read all of the ones my library held several times.

Last fall I found a bunch of the Star Trek books at a library book sale, so I decided to grab them to see if they were as good as I remember them, now knowing more about the show and seeing all the original movies. These books were adapted from the TV shows into easy to read short stories by James Blish. Each book was a little under 150 pages (similar to the Agatha Christie books), and just titled by the number of the book.

Star Trek 2 starts off with “Arena” where James Kirk battles a Gorn on a planet where the loser will be killed. This was an great short story with a swerve type ending, by Gene L. Coon. This was a wonderfully written piece, and made me enjoy the first story of the first book I got from the book sale. I was craving more after reading this.

Another great story from this collection is the next tale, called “A Taste of Armageddon” by Robert Hammer and Coon. This adventure takes the crew to the planet Eminiar VII, where they are at war with a nearby planet. The story deals with people being assumed “killed” via computer assimilation, where those killed have to enter a disintegration chamber. This story reminded me of something that would have been created on Dr. Who (another favorite show of mine growing up) . With two great stories in a row, I was really enjoying the book.

Star Trek 2 has eight stories that are overall enjoyable. Besides the two mentioned above, “Court Martial ” where Kirk is on trail for the death of a friend’s father, has a mystery feel to it, and “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” deals with a captain from 1970s space program who encounters the crew via a time warp.

 

Star Trek 4 ‘s best story is “A Piece of the Action,” written by Coon and David P. Harmon, where Spock, Kirk , and Dr. McCoy visit a planet that is similar to the 1920s gangster era. Kirk gets put in a middle of a gang war, and attempts to make peace with the ranging gangs.

“The Menagerie” is a story that involves Captain Pike (the captain before James Kirk, for those that are not too familiar with the characters). This was an interesting story, because Blish states at the end that the story constituted the original pilot film, and the characters ended up being changed into the more famous crew.

“Journey to Babel” by D.C. Fontana, involves Spock and his parents, who board the Enterprise before a major planetary vote of diplomats at a conference. Before the ship can escort the members to their destination, a murder occurs which Spock’s father ends up being a prime suspect. This episode is a favorite of mine from the television show, so reading it here was just as enjoyable, which gives more depth to the character of Spock.

These two books mainly deal with Captain Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy, although there are some stories that have Scotty and Uhura. Once again, each story is about twenty pages long, and easy to get through. I forgot that these books were short stories, with me only remembering reading them due my remembering the covers of the book. Star Trek fans will enjoy these classic collections, and even if you are not well versed on the characters from the show (especially if you are just hearing about the characters being mentioned on The Big Bang Theory), the books are easy to read and follow. Science Fiction fans, along with fans of short stories will both get enjoyment out of these collections.

 

Star Trek 2 and Star Trek 4 , Adapted by James Blish were released by Bantam Books. Star Trek is based on the series created by Gene Roddenberry.

 

The Overall:

Pages: (Star Trek 2) 122, (Star Trek 4) 134

Language: Mild

Geared For: All Ages

For Fans of: Science Fiction, Star Trek, Short Stories.

 

Classic CD Review: The Arrival Of American Icons

  The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived was released March 30, 1979 by MCA Records, and was produced by Ron Chancey.

 

When the Oak Ridge Boys ventured into the mainstream country genre, they were well established as a gospel group with roots tracing back to the 1940s. The most famous lineup of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, and Richard Sterban had two albums that had hit singles on the country charts by 1979. With the debut at the Y’All Come Back Saloon, and ordering Room Service, the band announced that with their third record that The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived. Released on March 30, 1979, the group ‘s release spawned three hit singles, along with a concert favorite.

The opener, “Sail Away” is one of my favorites of the hits that the group has put out. Sometimes the artist’s hits become redundant and overplayed, but I never grow tired of this song. Duane Allen’s soft, soul voice gives heart to the wonderful lyrics. The guitar fills throughout the song compliments the softness of the song. Another favorite part of the song is how the drum fills kick in before the last verse as well, also bringing in the tambourine to the song, before kicking into a more mid tempo beat until fade out.

“There Must be Something About Me That She Loves” brings William Lee Golden to the lead mike on this straight country song. The band was still in their early stages of their country career , so keeping the traditional style of country music is relevant here by the early 1980s. Richard Sterban’s bass vocals comes to help out in the chorus, which adds a nice sound to the song. I did not have this release on record, only getting it a year or so ago when I discovered the CD at a used store, so this song is a pleasant surprise listen for me in 2019.

“Sometimes The Rain Won’t Let Me Sleep” lets Allen takes the lead again. I have always said that he is one of the most underrated vocalists in all music, especially on ballads. Allen brings passion to every word, which may only be rivaled with Barry Manilow in my opinion. A solid ballad, that could have been placed on the AC charts for the time. The early Oaks records (especially up until 1983) has great orchestration on the tracks, especially with the strings, which Kenny Rogers also brought to his records. This is a great song, under 4 minutes long. No fillers on this song, and has a great run time.

After the first three songs showing a softer side to the band, “I Gotta Get Over This” gets the record to a moving beat. Even though Allen is signing lead, Sterban again adds to the song. The drumming on the song by Kenneth Buttrey (as credited by my re-released CD where no major liner notes are featured) brings an added touch to the song. being a drummer, one can appreciated the playing on this song, where the added playing is not too much that distracts the song.

“My Radio Sure Sounds Good To Me” has a catchy intro vocally to the song. The song has the 1960s Doo Wop feel to the song, which is not surprising since Bonsall and Sterban had links to that era (Bonsall being from Philadelphia and Sterban sang with Elvis Presley). This song is just a great sing-a-long gem that dares the listener NOT to try and sing along (let me tell you, if you can listen to is without singing, you are a brave person and have unlimited willpower). This would be a great addition to their live shows.

Another reason for the pop feel is the song was written by Larry Graham of Grand Station. Even though the Larry Graham version is awesome, I have to say I jammed more to The Oak’s version, which is a testament to their talents. There are several covers that The Oaks have recorded throughout the years that have been better than the original (a song called “Elvira” comes to mind), and this is one of the them, taking nothing away from the originals.

Speaking of covers, the next song, “Dream On,” which was once recorded by The Righteous Brothers, was a country hit for the group, and just barely missed the Top 40 singles charts on Billboard AC charts. This song is probably the most famous Sterban sings lead on, and is still performed at their live shows today. I was first exposed to the song on the Greatest Hits record I got as a Christmas present, along with my first drum set from my parents, and seeing it performed on the group’s 1981 concert that aired on my local PBS station from Akron, Ohio. I remember even as a young child that the Oaks was one of the only singing groups ( I was not aware of The Statler Brothers at this age) that had a bass singer singing a lead part.

Another cover, written by Rodney Crowell, follows. “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight” was another song I was first exposed to via the Greatest Hits record and the PBS special. It then came to my attention on the television show “The Dukes Of Hazzard,” which the band appeared on. I was a big fan of the show, so having one of my favorite bands on the show was a treat for me (also John Schneider’s debut record was a major part of my childhood) The song, for me, had to be retired for a few years, due to overplaying it, but I have grown to re love the song in the past few years, seeing it live at their shows.

“Every Now And Then” is a country ballad that , if there is a filler on the song, this would be it for me. Taking nothing away from Allen’s strong vocals, especially hitting the higher note at the end of the song, the lyrics for me don’t move me as some of the other Oaks classic ballads. The orchestration helps the song give its power, and with the short run time, the song does not distract from the overall flow of the album; the listener does not have to get up to skip the song, because it is still an overall enjoyable song, but compared to the others on the album, it falls a little. I’m sure if the group performed it live, I would not be bummed or disappointed, due to how strong the musicians and the group is live.

“Dig A Little Deeper In The Well” may be known by fans of the group by it’s humorous video that was released on CBS that has made its appearance on Youtube. The video shows that the group did not take themselves so seriously that they could not have fun at times. I remember a manager of mine, when I worked at a grocery store, always loved this song off the album, and would sometimes sing it while we worked. I was only exposed to it on the PBS special, until I finally got a hold of the CD. It’s a old fashioned gospel song that gets people to feel good while listening with positive lyrics.

The album ends with one of my favorite songs in the whole catalog of the group, in fact I was going nuts when the band actually played it at a show I attended where I made many not so many requests via Twitter. “Dancing The Night Away” is the song that got me to search out this album. The song has been recorded by acts like Leo Sayer , Tanya Tucker, and the Amazing Rhythm Aces. The song was mentioned many times in Joe Bonsall’s writings as a favorite of fans, and I fell in love with the song. Once again, this is an example of the Oaks having a better version than the other acts who recorded it. The song is a strong ender for the album, starting off with the piano intro, and then by the end of the song, the song kicks up to a nice climax. The album started with a song about sailing, and ends with a guy staring across the shore. The band’s energy when I saw them perform it live, was almost became a hard rock song (my review of the concert can be found in the archives). If you see videos of the band doing the song, you’ll see how great a front man Bonsall is, and how he works a crowd. The song has a different take of a man looking back on a relationship.

With the exception of one possible song, The Oak Ridge Boys’ third record was filled with songs that was pleasing to everyone; it had country, gospel, and ballads. The format is still there listening to the released decades later. The band’s Ron Chancey produced releases covered all types of musical formats, and a few years later, the band would break into the pop music world , adding another dimension to their product. Sometimes earlier work of acts may have lesser quality songs, but this is not the case of The Oaks. The group still keeps growing musically, along with staying true to their pasts. If you get the chance, seek out this record which help develop the band into the country megastars, and American treasures, that they have become forty years later.

 

The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and William Lee Golden.

 

For information on the group, visit: http://www.theoakridgeboys.com

Classic Album Review: Fancy Free Flashback

 

Art Direction : George Osaki, Design: David Hogan, Photos: Jimmy Moore. Fancy Free was released on March 26, 1981 by MCA Records. The album charted #1 on the U.S. Country Albums chart, #14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart. According to Wikipedia, it is listed as one of the first albums to ever reach multi-platinum certification in the U.S, and was produced by Ron Chancey.

 

One of the things that makes music wonderful (at least when I was younger) is that a great song or album can bring back memories. A listener can hear a song years later, and they can remember details from the first time they heard the songs-where they were the first time they heard the song (s), standing in line at the record store to purchase the album, or even who the songs made them think of a person or place from their past when they heard it.

Fancy Free, by The Oak Ridge Boys is such a record for me. I first discovered the singing group around 1980, when I received their Greatest Hits album, along with my first drum set, from my parents as a Christmas gift. From then on, I practiced playing songs from their albums, watched them on television every time I could (including many times seeing the PBS concert), and was a member of their fan club (back when that stuff was free). To this day, Fancy Free is my all time favorite release from the band, which was released on March 26, 1981. The album’s cover, with the group sitting in a car with a bright pink background(according to the liner notes of the album, a 1929 Dusenberg Dual Cowl Phaeton),  is one of the memorable covers in that genre. I can easily remember classic album covers in rock music from my youth, like the first Kiss record and Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man, but country music’s album covers were not always as creative (usually just a picture of the act), but two that really stick out in my memory is John Schneider’s Now Or Never, and this release by The Oaks.

Everyone (even those who are not fans of the group) knows the famous “Elvira,” which kicks off the album. At one time, I was tired of the song, but after seeing the band live the last several years, it has grown back on me. Seeing thousands of fans singing along with Richard Sterban’s bass line is something to witness live in person. The song became a #1 hit on the country charts for the group (the Dallas Frazier penned song was previous recorded by other acts like Kenny Rogers and Rodney Crowell), along with crossing over to the pop charts , hitting at #5 (and the U.S. AC charts at # 8).

“Somewhere In The Night” is a wonderful ballad, lead by Duane Allen, and features the staple harmonies of the rest of the group. Sawyer Brown recorded a version of the song, but it lacks the powerful vocals and orchestration that The Oak’s version displays. The version on this release would have fit perfectly on the AC charts during this time.

“She’s Gone To L.A. Again” starts with the group’s vocal harmonies. The song’s lyrics is a perfect fit for the year of the release, where people in the 1980s had dreams of going to California to either be in a music band or an actor. Allen sings lead on the track, where his woman breaks up the relationship to follow her dreams. The guitars and piano playing on the track help complete the song. The country/pop flavor of the track is a wonderful precursor to songs that hit the radio years later with similar themes, such as the 1985 hit “Meet Me In Montana” by Marie Osmond and Dan Seals. The Oaks were ahead of the times on this song.

“When I’m With You” spotlights Richard Sterban on lead vocals. Many of the Oaks state “Dream On” is their favorite of Sterban’s lead songs, but this one is my favorite, due to the backing harmonies, guitar playing, and orchestration brings an Adult Contemporary genre to it. This is one songs by the band that gets overlooked. This is a romantic gem.

“Another Dream Just Came True” brings the record back on an up tempo feel. Even though some of the songs on the release could have been on the pop or adult charts, this song is a good plain country track. Even though Allen sings lead on the song, you can hear all the members in the mix, especially Joe Bonsall hitting some higher notes in the harmonies. Each track on the album is short, which makes the listening even more wonderful, because there are no extra tracks or fillers on the album. This song gets you singing along, and then its over. This song makes the listener want more of the catchy melody.

“I’m Sittin’ Fancy Free” is another song that catapulted the band into the next level of popularity. Another #1 country hit that crossed over to several charts, and is a staple to the group’s live set in concert, is a wonderful ballad. This track, like many other of the Oak’s ballads, displays Allen’s soulful lead, which is perfect on ballads, with the rest of the group complimenting him with their harmonies. This song is one of the greatest country ballads ever in my opinion.

“Dream Of Me” goes back to the country flavor with the legendary William Lee Golden singing lead. The song has strong acoustic guitars throughout the song. I have grown to respect the talents of Golden more and more the past several years (and those that have seen the band live will agree). The catchy chorus makes it hard not to sing along, and as mentioned before , is not overburden with extras on the track, where just when the listener is singing along, the song fades out. Many times albums have fillers on it, but this song is not a filler, even though it was not a hit for The Oaks, it was a hit for Vern Gosdin.

“When Love Calls You” is a wonderful song, which I have mentioned on my blog page as one of my favorite rare songs from the Oaks that doesn’t not get attention. This ballad has positive lyrics to it, where Allen sings about even though a relationship didn’t work out, love will call his name again will work out someday. The guitar work, along with the backing orchestration fills out the song. I always wondered how Barry Manilow would interpret this song, because he is the only other person that could capture the heart of the song besides Allen. I always wanted to ask the members of the Oaks how they decided who sang lead on the songs, because on this album , every pick was straight on in determining who sang lead.

“How Long Has It Been” gets the listener back to an up tempo feel for the latter part of the album. The song has great dynamics, with a softer feel during the lyrics, and then kicks up during the chorus. The guitar solo on the song has a great 1980s feel to it, almost similar to the pop songs early in the decade (like Joey Scarbury’s work, who later in the 1990s, gave the Oaks a #1 hit). The guitar work ends the song into the fade out, which gives the listener more of the wonderful work that started in the middle.

One of the wonderful aspects of The Oak Ridge Boys is how they kept true to their past history of their gospel roots, and the album ends with this theme with “I Would Crawl All The Way (To The River),” another song I mentioned on a blog from 2016, as a rare song from the band that is very underrated. Sometimes artists try and end a record on a slow note, which very few can achieve. I personally like the idea of having the last song leave the listener begging for more, and this record does just that, with the group taking the listener back to the southern gospel church setting.

The song starts off with a soft acoustic sound, but by the end , kicks out in full force. Even though the follower of the band know who the song is speaking of, but nowhere in the song does the name Jesus get mentioned, and looking back at the success of the album now, it is remarkable that this perfect album gets a religious song put on the end of the record that is filled with pop, country , and rock songs on it. It shows that the group still took a chance on their traditional gospel when they were looking to branch out into other genres. The drum shuffle towards the end of the song is featured before kicking the end of the track in.

Fancy Free was the album that truly soared the band into another level of their musical plateau. The band has taken many chances in the career; from breaking out from the traditional gospel scene to go country, and then branching out again with this release, which gave the group more pop fans on top of the country fans that already knew the band. There are not many albums that I consider prefect, with every track being enjoyable without extra fillers or extended solos on the records. One of my other writings on my page was about albums that you can not skip any tracks on the release, and Fancy Free made my list of albums in ANY genre, not just country.

Fancy Free is filled with great songs, wonderful memories (This is one album that made me study and learn harmonies , which helped out in certain bands I played in as a drummer years later). Even though I was heavily into the top pop songs of the era, I never once strayed from the Oak Ridge Boys, especially this wonderful classic that should be a part of every single music lovers collection, regardless of the genre.

 

The Oak Ridge Boys are :

Duane Allen, Richard Sterban. Joe Bonsall, and William Lee Golden.

 

For info on the group, visit : http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

 

Classic Book Review: One Book and Two Horror Icons

Cover: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in the 1934 film The Black Cat

One of my favorite eras in movie history is during the 1930s-1950s, especially with the Universal films. Most of the films were under 90 minutes and had suspense to the horror genre, as opposed to the slasher/gore from the 1970s to current films (although I like a good slasher now and then).

Two of the major actors of the time were Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, whose careers are captured in the book Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration (McFarland, 2009) by Gregory William Mank. The book is a whopping 600 page plus account of the two actors, along with the films that the two worked on together.

This work first covers some of the actors’ early work on stage and film before making it big on the screen via the Universal monster films that made them famous. After Lugosi performed on the stage as Dracula, he was cast to be on the film adaptation, which made him a horror icon. Lugosi’s career and personal life is covered, with interviews from those close to him, detailing his lack of getting major roles after the Dracula film, and his distaste for Karloff personally. The many myths are discussed about how Lugosi claimed he discovered Karloff , along with his critiques of “giving up” the role of the Frankenstein Monster , because Lugosi was a “serious” actor, and not one that would grunt and moan throughout the film. Also interesting is how the book dives into the stereotype of Lugosi via the 1994 film Ed Wood, and the story that Lugosi claimed Karloff was trying to get him in the later days of Lugosi’s life.

Mank’s writing covers Karloff’s rise to fame, and how Karloff seemed to view Lugosi’s career and attitude with more grace (especially in the press) than how Lugosi looked at Boris. The author covers the hatred that Lugosi had towards Karloff, and also critiques the films that the two made together and separately, focusing on who was the better actor in the films.

The book is a lengthy text book history of the two actors, along with some great background information taken from interviews from the actors and close friends and wives to press releases from the studios. Books like these show interesting facts, such as how Karloff was to originally play in The Invisible Man , but due to money issues, he walked out of the Universal contract that he was to finish, Karloff collapsing on set during The Mummy, and the behind the scenes treatment he received by James Whale filming Frankenstein.

Mank seems to side with Lugosi throughout the book , thinking Lugosi got a raw deal in Hollywood when it came to getting film parts after Dracula. He also is somewhat unkind to Karloff’s acting in his films, along with some of the other Universal stars like Lon Chaney Jr. There are also a lot of “What If’s ” in the story, such as “what if Bela was available instead of acting on stage for this role” which brings thought to the book, as opposed to a typical history of the film and actors. However, towards the end of the book, the author brings the story back around to “who is the better ” of the two. While the author praises the work of Lugosi throughout the book, the end is that he states Karloff was superior because “of the striking eccentricity in his finest performance.” He also states that Lugosi has more watch able films , even during his worst ones, compared to Karloff’s worst ones.

The author is certainly entitled to his opinion (it is his book), but this statement made this reviewer stop and say “Huh?” Most of the book, he praises Bela and then states towards the end that Karloff would be considered the more superior. Personally, I think Karloff showed his superiority due to the number of characters he became (The Mummy, Frankenstein, The Grinch, and Mr. Wong to name a few), as opposed to Bela’s (Dracula, Murder Legendre in White Zombie). I personally enjoy the other Karloff films, and the statements on Lon Chaney Jr. as somewhat laughable.

Regardless on which actor you prefer, the author fills the book with great tales, wonderful interviews, and photographs that make this book a great text for horror film collectors.

 

Review copy of this title was sent courtesy of McFarland.

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

The Overall:

Pages: 701

Language: Mild

Average Audience: Any

Geared For: Classic Film, Classic Horror Fans, Textbook Historians.

 

Bela Lugosi And Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration by Gregory William Mank (McFarland, 2009 ISBN: 978-1-4766-7234-2) can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or call the order number at : 800-253-2187

Book Review: Author’s Take On Prayer Will Help Readers

Cover design by Faceout Studio, Jeff Miller. Cover imagery by Shutterstock.

 

Adam Dressler’s book this is how we pray: Discovering a Life of Intimate Friendship with God ( FaithWords, 2019) helps Christian Living readers in looking at the sometimes confusing world of prayer. Dressler answers questions and takes an everyday approach to the topic where some Christians get caught up in, and sometimes, due to leadership ideals, becomes hard when it comes to applying it to their own lives.

The book defines the word prayer in basic terms as “a friendship with God.” Each chapter walks through some of the ways a person can use prayer in their everyday lives. Does someone have to pray at length or under twenty minutes? What does someone do when they don’t know what do pray about? Is prayer just asking for things? What if the person is upset with God, and finds it hard to pray at that time? These topics are covered throughout the book (with the author’s personal experiences in covering these obstacles) along with providing Biblical text to back up his views.

Some of the chapters deal with praying with gratitude, how to deal with everyday distractions, what to do when the person praying feels like their prayers are not being answered, and being silent during prayer time.

One of the more entertaining parts in the text is the chapter titled “Others,” where Dressler tells about all of the stereotypical opinions that were given to him when he first became a Christian, which brings a humorous side to the book. Anyone who first becomes a Christian (or those looking back at the time when they did), can understand this chapter and the viewpoints, such as when they were told they had to read or pray for a certain amount of time, and getting up early at 5 A.M. to study (even if the person is not a morning person). A story about a friend of his who had a worn out Bible, stating that all Bibles should look like this, hit home here (especially since I don’t like when people write in their books, and as expensive as Bibles are, I’d always took care of mine-not let it get all worn with pages falling out).

The writing brings a more down to earth approach to the topic, as opposed to some books that seem to go over the heads of readers. This book can be geared for Christians on any level, not just beginners or only to experts. There are points that can be applied to anyone. Dressler’s writings does not come off as someone who is a pastor (although he is), and his admittance of failures in certain aspects are comforting. He is not a know it all writer. A few of the chapters, towards the middle, tend to drag a little for my taste, but the book is an easy read overall, where Christians can take away some relief if they feel their payer life is not prefect or up to what others may seem is the standard.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

this is how we pray: Discovering a Life of Intimate Friendship with God by Adam Dressler (FaithWords, 2019 ISBN: 978-1-5460-3504-6 hardcover, 978-1-5460-3503-9 ebook) can be found at http://www.faithwords.com

 

FaithWords is a division of the Hachette Book Group.

 

The Overall

Pages: 240

Language: None

Geared For: Young Teens and up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Christianity

Classic Book Review: Oaks Member Gives An American Treat

 

Cover by Janell Robertson, Green Forest, AR. Cover photo: David Johnson.

 

Trivia Question: What American music act has their history traced back to the 1940s and is still going strong in 2019?

If you answered The Oak Ridge Boys, you win bragging rights (because there is no prize, sorry). The most well known version of the band began in the 1970s, and one of the members, Joseph S. Bonsall, recounts some stories of the group in his book An American Journey (New Leaf Press, 2004).

Bonsall’s writing, which is filled with superb photographs along with the entertaining stories all on glossy pages, has a style of humor, class, and respect among the words. Bonsall shows the respect he has for not only the current members of his group, but also the past members who came before them in order to set the groundwork for the bigger success that the lineup he is a part of achieved.

The book starts out with a history of how the original members of the Georgia Clodhoppers used to perform for local audiences in the Oak Ridge area during wartime in the 1940s, which led the band to eventually change its name to The Oak Ridge Quartet in the 1950s, and then again to calling the group The Oak Ridge Boys. The author details how singer William Lee Golden was the first of the most well known team to join the group, then Duane Allen and Richard Sterban (who sang with Elvis Presley), and finally Bonsall joining in 1973. One of the interesting parts of this section of the book is how Bonsall describes how each of the members, especially he and Sterban, were fans of the Oaks before they were members (those two actually sang in groups before Sterban joined a backing group for Elvis). Unlike some musical groups that try and ignore their past history and members, this book does not, and shows respect for those that built the foundation to the ongoing group.

Because of the respect the singers had to their past, which is also similar to Sterban’s own book (which you can find a review of here in the archives), Bonsall writes a chapter about when Golden left the band , which brought in the backing band’s guitar player Steve Sanders to take his place in 1987. Being a fan of this lineup (although I was listening to more pop and hard rock at the time), the work of Sanders was enjoyable under the circumstances (it’s hard to replace a well known member of a band). The group had several top country hits during this time, but the author’s emotional take on the book caught me by surprise. Most of the book is up tempo, discussing topics like, how what each member’s role in the group is, from handling interviews to the day to day business side of the company, but when Bonsall covers the time with Sanders with the band, he does it with respect, along with admitting fault in handling Golden’s departure. The return of Golden is discussed in this section, which is also emotional when reading the pages. A few other heart filled stories, although not intended by the author since it was written in 2004, is his stories about the band’s relationship with Roy Clark and President George H. W. Bush, who both passed away late last year. For those that follow the band will know the relationship the Bushes had with the Oaks, and reading it again years after the release of this volume is more powerful in reading Bonsall’s phrasings (with Roy Clark, the story the writer tells about traveling with him to the Soviet Union in 1976 and visiting what used to be death camps will definitely pull emotions from the reader).

An American Journey is not just a picture book, which I originally thought years ago when I first saw it in bookstores, although the reader will marvel at the great photographs included, but the text is filled with humorous on the road stories, like when Golden and the band was preparing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 1978, another time when someone tried to steal their stage outfits, to stories on how the band views their role in music; from their faith and being patriots for their country, to the respect that each member has for each person’s roles are on and off the stage. The book also covers a section on how the people, including the backing band and managers who are behind the scenes, run the ship that is the Oak Ridge Boys business. The book does not go through the band’s timeline, with the author writing about what he wants to discuss- this is not a basic year by year biography, which also shows its uniqueness.

Rarely can an author put America pride, humor, religion, and emotion all in a 143 page book with photographs on every page that capture the writing, but Bonsall succeeds in this attempt with flying colors (I read the whole book in two days, and spent much time marveling at the photographs from the band’s past). Bonsall has a wit about his writings that could make him the country music’s version of Will Rogers. Journey is a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover; this is more than a normal picture book, filled with even stories that I was not familiar with , and I have followed the band for decades. This is a must for fans of the classic country music style, or if you are looking for something that is a great all around entertaining read that will not waste your time.

 

An American Journey by Joseph S. Bonsall (New Leaf Press, 2004 ISBN: 0-89221-601-8) can be found at Amazon.com

 

For all information about The Oak Ridge Boys, visit http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

The Overall

Pages: 143

Language: None

Geared For: All Ages

For Fans Of: Country Music History, The Oak Ridge Boys,

Classic Book Review: Historical Time Travel Through A British TV Classic

 

Cover: The 1983 TV Movie The Five Doctors (BBC/Photofest)

I became a fan of Doctor Who around the time I started high school. My brother somehow started watching the shows, which was aired on our local PBS Station, Channels 45/49 in Akron, Ohio. He videotaped the Tom Baker shown episodes, and we would watch it constantly (my mother even made us Tom Baker style scarves, which many of my classmates wondered why I was wearing a scarf that was almost 7 feet long).

A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television, by John Kenneth Muir ( 1999, Mcfarland), is a nice historical walk through of the first seven Doctors, along with summaries of all of the episodes up to the cancellation of the show.

Muir takes the reader through a description of what the original show entailed (including the original concept of the show, which changed once it got on air), the character of the Doctor, and some of the impact the show had on other science fiction movies and television shows, such as the Alien movies, and shows like Star Trek, The Voyagers, and Space 1999 in the Introduction section. Muir also dives into why the show was big in the United Kingdom, but was still not as well-known in the United States until the Tom Baker years.

The book then walks the reader through each episode with a plot summary, cast listing, and then a commentary on the author’s take on the episodes. The book covers the episodes that have been lost, using other texts to explain the plot lines (many of the early episodes were recorded over by the BBC in order to save costs, similar to some of The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson episodes by NBC).

The author has his favorite actor who played the Doctor (it may surprise some who he chooses), but Muir finds good and bad in each of the actor’s time playing the time traveler. Some of my favorite episodes he does not share my love for, but I just recently gotten to see more of the episodes of the first three Doctors via a marathon from Twitch TV, so I was not as informed with the early ones, with only seeing a few of the shows.

The book also covers some of the impact the shows had on the audiences, which I was unaware of, including the Dalek-Mania, where toys, comics, and even musical songs, were released when the villains were first shown on television in the 1960s. The Doctor Who books, role playing games (which my brother and I had), spin offs, and radio shows are mentioned. The end of the book even goes through some of the years where Doctor Who movies were discussed and some of the actors, including a pre-James Bond Pierce Bronson, Alan Rickman, John Cleese (who was also in an early episode), and Dudley Moore were discussed to play the lead role. Another interesting topic in the book was how there were rumors to make the Doctor a womanizer alcoholic (Not sure how that would ever turn out). Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy was rumored wanting to direct a featured film of the Doctor. The Peter Cushing films, where he played the Doctor are covered in this section, along with a rumor that Vincent Price was going to play a villain in a film. The Fox TV film is covered at the end as well, along with the author’s hope that maybe a film would be made (we now know that the BBC brought back the TV show in 2004).

Muir’s book contains great research, along with a nice summaries of the shows, which Doctor Who fans will like. The book is a great guide to look up with episodes. It is nice seeing the author’s take on each actor (The end of the book made me wonder what the writer’s take of the current shows would be like, especially a female Doctor), almost like a TV Guide for all things Doctor Who. I also like how the Peter Davidson’s Doctor was not dismissed as just a replacement for Baker (I liked Davidson’s role, but Baker is still my favorite of the original seven). The part where the author discusses how the BBC basically did not support the show, bashing it at times, which hurt the international appeal of the show, was baffling to me.

Muir’s writing shows that he not only researched the topics, but shows a love for the show as a fan, and not one that dismisses the show’s impact on even today’s science fiction productions.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of McFarland.

 

The Overall

Pages: 491

Language: None

Geared For: All Ages

For Fans of: Science Fiction fans, British Television, Doctor Who, Television History.

 

A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television by John Kenneth Muir (1999, McFarland) ISBN-13: 978-0-7864-3716-0 can be found at McFarland’s website http://www.mcfarlandpub.com , or ordered at 800-253-2187.

 

Check our the author’s webpage at http://www.johnkennethmuir.com and             https://reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.com/

 

Book Review: A Remarkable Creative Look At Hope

Cover Design and illustration by Connie Gabbert.

 

Shauna Letellier’s Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People (FaithWords, 2019) takes on a different and unique way of writing in the Christian Living/Inspirational genre.

The book looks at several people in the Bible who were faithful to Jesus, although they felt at the time, they were being disappointed in waiting for answers to their questions or events. The writing (separated by each person getting their own chapter) focuses on Simeon, John The Baptist, Jairus, Peter, Mary the mother of Jesus, and a few others. The chapters start off with the text from the Bible, along with a little back story of events going on in the character’s lives, and then a description on what happened and how they overcame their feelings of being let down.

The uniqueness of the book is that Letellier brings creative writing into the fold after the original text and background is discussed. After the reader gets a background of the events, she fills in some missing parts from the Bible, or gives her take on how things start to shape, by adding a creative flare to the tales. This creative aspect brings a more colorful, and sometimes powerful, take at ideas such as what the person may have been feeling before the events happen. The author lets us (at least from her opinion) into the minds, feelings, and attitudes of the characters that are omitted in the Bible. The writing is easy to understand, but yet creative enough to paint a picture of what was going on during these stories.

Some purists of the Bible may have a beef with this take on the stories, but it is not with merit. The author is doing nothing that normal preachers have done, trying to illustrate the events and mindset of the people in the events, so followers can better understand what learned lessons are trying to tell us.

Remarkable Hope has many things going for it: creativity, the actual Biblical text, and lessons to be learned all put into the under 200 page book. This is a nice concordance , with an add of fiction, to the parts where the Bible is missing some in depth detail. The writing is colorful and entertaining while giving the reader thoughts to ponder.

 

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

 

Remarkable Hope: When Jesus Revived Hope in Disappointed People by Shauna Letellier (FaithWords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-4555-7171-0 (paperback), 978-1-4555-7170-3 (ebook) can be found at http://www.faithwords.com.

 

For information about the author, visit: https://shaunaletellier.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 197

Language: None

Geared For: Teens and up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Inspirational, Religion, Devotionals