Childhood Classic: Sha Na Na Still Brings The Memories

Sha Na Na was released by Karma Sutra Records in 1971

 

 Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see some of those in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com.  With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock this year, I thought this would be the perfect time for this release.

 

Before MTV came along, music listeners had to watch their favorite music acts on television, via shows like Solid Gold, American Bandstand, and variety shows. Two of the biggest acts that had their own variety show when I was growing up were The Bay City Rollers and Sha Na Na.

Even today in 2019, some people do not give Sha Na Na the respect they deserve. The band was started at Columbia University, where some of the members were studying graduate work. The act was featured in movies like Grease, American Graffiti and on Happy Days. The fact that they provided almost a whole side of the Grease soundtrack, which is one of the top selling movie records of all time, should say something right there (plus singer Scott Simon co wrote the song “Sandy” for the movie, which was a hit for John Travolta). They even played the original Woodstock Festival, right before Jimi Hendrix performed. Their variety television show lasted almost four years to many viewers, which provided music, comedy, and other guest stars. The band’s popularity was not only due to bass singer Jon “Bowzer” Bauman , but had quality musicians including Lennie Baker (who played with Danny and The Juniors) and Henry Gross (of the hit “Shannon”) was in the early lineup. The group’s greaser look, as a tribute to the 1950s -1960s music acts, gave a historical lesson to listeners like me who were too young to remember those days of music.

The act released several albums, mostly of cover songs from the early rock era, but one album that I listened to frequently from my childhood was 1971’s Sha Na Na record, known among followers as the “Gold Boots” record, due to the album cover.

The first side is a live concert from Columbia University, filled with the early rock staples like ” Yakety Yak,” Great Balls of Fire,” and “I Wonder Why.” These covers are great capturing the live energy of the band, including Bowzer’s bass parts on the up-tempo versions of Gene Chandler’s “Duke Of Earl” and “Blue Moon,” which ended up being a slower version on the Grease record.

One of my favorite songs off the first side is the cover of Ray Peterson’s “Tell Laura I Love Her,” which has a pop feel to it. I list this song as one of the few songs that is better than the original. Peterson’s version has a folk sound to it, where I like the more rock style that the act brings, with Johnny Contrado on lead vocals and the drumming by Jocko Marcellino. I used to love playing this version on my drums when I was younger, and wanted to play it in the bands that I was involved in, only to be vetoed each time.

The last song on the release, “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay,” a tribute to Danny and The Juniors, is a memory for me only because there is a F- bomb thrown in there before the song. Before parental warning stickers, I wonder to this day how it got kept on the release, and how I listened to it for years and my parents never noticed it.

The second side is where I think the band impresses me the most, with studio songs, almost all written by Scott Simon. “Only One Song” has a ballad that has The Beatles-like harmonies and studio production on it that if I played it to a stranger , they may not know it was Sha Na Na. The song is wonderful and one of my favorites to this day from my childhood.

“Depression” has is a guitar driven song that I remember for being the theme song to my toy wrestlers. I was a big wrestling fan growing up, and would play with my wrestling figures (even using my G.I. Joes when I didn’t have enough figures). I would make up my own characters and created my own Supercards, where my figure who I chose to be me, would be on the same cards as wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Nick Bockwinkel, and others, regardless of the league they were in. Being a fan of the tag team The Rock N Roll Express, I would use “Depression” as my theme song. The rhythm and guitar work was perfect for my imagination.

“Canadian Money” is a song I always play when I get this record out, even sometimes just to hear it. A slow acoustic feel to it, talks about sites in Canada. I recently researched information for the song, and it has been mentioned that it was a protest song for the Vietnam War, with it’s line “No great Army doing it’s duty/Making waves across the sea.” If it is true or not, I love the song, and it should have been a release from the album.

One song that did chart from the band is “Top 40,” which has a old Southern Gospel feel to it, with some humorous lyrics. The song hit #84 on the Billboard charts. The song tells the story of someone who asks if they are going to be a hit in heaven because they were one on earth. The lyrics “Are you on the Top 40 of your Lordy?” has the tongue in cheek lyrics gives the song an unique take on heaven and how to live life on earth.

“Ruin Me Blue” reminds me of something that would have been on one of my favorite all time TV shows, W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati. It has strong piano and guitar work that drives the song, although the lyrics are pretty simple.

The final track , written by drummer Jocko, “Just A Friend” has a Rolling Stones-feel to the song. I think it is the weakest of the studio tracks, but the band still gets credit for writing some original work.

Sha Na Na may have started out as a novelty act, but listening to this record shows that the members had talent. The act has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, even finding some of the TV shows on Youtube to watch to this day. They were not a bunch of street gang people that they portrayed on television; these guys had talent and also had graduate degrees- they consisted of lawyers, writers, and great musicians who worked with some of the acts they covered. Bowzer has been an advocate for decades for preserving the names of the originals acts of the 1950s and 1960s, to where the groups have to let the public know how many original members are still in the groups.

The cover of this record , along with the music, takes me back to a great time of my early music childhood, being one of the first records I can remember getting as a child.

 

Track Listings:

  1. Yakety Yak 2. Jailhouse Rock 3. Duke of Earl 4. Tell Laura I Love Her 5. Blue Moon
  2. I Wonder Why 7. Great Balls of Fire 8. Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay
  3. Only One Song 10. Depression 11. Canadian Money 12. Top Forty 13. Ruin Me Blues
  4. Just A Friend.
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Book Review: Debut Author Geared For The Ladies

Kingdom Come: Finding Holy in the Here and Now by [Zaldivar, Melissa]
Cover Design by Jody Waldrup. Cover Copyright 2019 by Hachette Book Group, INC

There are many reasons why a reviewer may not like a certain book. For me, there are several, from just not being in the mood of the tone and style of the author, the topic sounded good at the time and then the writing goes into a different path, or it just doesn’t connect with the book at the time reading (there have been times that reading the same book later changes my view). I mostly read my books right before going to sleep, so whatever goes on during the day before that than can have an influence on it. Finally, reviews are just opinions, and I may just plain not like the book, but has nothing to do with the writing or author. I respect how hard it is to have the drive to not only write something, but find a way to put it out to the audience (either self publishing, or finding an agent and company).

Kingdom Come : Finding Holy in the Here and Now ,by Melissa Zaldivar, (Faithwords Books, 2019 ) is a book that did not resonate with me. The book seemed interesting to me at first, with the topic of looking at the Kingdom and Presence of God, how to find discernment between the two, and use it in the Christian walk.

The author defines the Kingdom of God as things that are under God’s rule, whereas the Presence is the reality of what happens when people encounter God. With that said, the writer takes the reader through certain aspects that are needed to know about the two, while encouraging the reader to dig deeper into their own hearts and embrace facts like learning to know God’s timing, the difference between kindness and niceness, finding time to seek the presence, and risk taking.

The writer gives great examples throughout the book (some Biblical ), such as asking how people in today’s society can get into God’s presence when we can’t get off our cell phones for two minutes without checking on it (even if it is on vibrate), using the examples of how blindness is symbolic in the Bible (both spiritual and physical), and how to view the fact that Christians do not let go of things; thinking the worst endings is the result, instead of trusting God.

While these are all great ideas, and written in ten chapters, the beginning several chapters were a struggle to get through, especially the first one, where I would keep staring at the words and wondering what it is I read. Zaldivar ‘s bio states she holds a Master’s degree in theology, which may present the first part’s problem of not being clear cut (at least to me) of the book’s goals. However, once the reader gets deeper into the book, the chapters and points flow nicely, such as the two chapters on risk taking (which is the best in the book), and the chapter on fear with an in depth look at Peter of the Bible, which was just as enjoyable.

Another problem for me is that many of the personal examples Zaldivar uses are vague and tended to turn me off. Maybe this book is geared more towards women, but after every other page of the examples such as ” I was dealing with something at this time of my life” (the quote is mine for example, not the hers), I got bored and agitated. I understand that the reader does not need to have total access about the writer’s life, and some things do not need to be known, which may be too personal for her to reveal, but other examples could be more entertaining and helpful in order for the reader to embrace the theme of the book. Also, after every situation, she writes that she would break down and cry, or give examples of “after this, I ended up crying” (again not actual quote). This may be where the female audience would get more out of the book, and this is not to sound judgmental of the emotions and passion the author has on the subject and her past experiences, but as a stranger reading the book, it, along with the vague examples, took my attention off of the points being made.

Zaldivar’s first book is for a select audience, and not for everybody. Her writing is down to earth and not over the head of readers (with exception of the first chapter which was a fight to get through). Her style is nice, and for a first time writer, she has some wonderful Biblical examples using Judas, Peter, Eve, and Ruth from the Bible, and would been better to use more of these , or use other people’s tales to help out with some of the points, instead of the vagueness of many of the situations. She knows her topic well, and at times, shows the emotion that she wants the reader to experience as well, which would be nice to see more of it to get her point across and add emphasis to the ideas being presented. Besides of these critiques, she will get her following with her writing style, and have a nice writing future if she sees fit.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Kingdom Come: Finding Holy in the Here and Now (Faithwords, 2019) by Melissa Zaldivar ISBN: 978-1-5460-1083-8 (hardcover) , 978-1-5460-1081-4 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.faithwords.com

 

For more about the author, go to: melissazaldivar.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages:213

Language: None

Geared To: Ages 15 and Up.

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Growth, Christian books, Spirituality, Women Studies

 

Book Review: Wrestling Book Tells A Historic Story

Front cover photo: New Japan Wrestling. Cover design Tania Craan.

 

I am not going to write a positive book review just because one of the writers of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame : The Storytellers from the Terrible Turk to Twitter (ECW Press, 2019) is Greg Oliver, along with Steven Johnson. I strive, and take pride in writing honest reviews, where many of the publishers and writers have complimented me on with their books. Since I have written for Oliver’s wrestling site , Slam Sports, in the past, it will not sway my review.

I saw the book online, and the cover immediately turned me off , with the photograph of wrestler Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho from their New Japan match. I still like Jericho as a wrestler, a businessman, and a writer. I have never seen the appeal of Omega, where the internet darlings, who also helped many of the ECW wrestlers in the day think they were better in the ring than they really were, praise him constantly, yet don’t know anything about when wrestling was believable. I personally would not seek out a book with Omega on the cover period. When the book came in the mail from the company, I figured I might as well give it a chance, you know the old saying about a book’s cover.

I had no doubt that something with Oliver’s name on it would be well written, but this book was wonderful in detailing the early days of wrestling, to the territories days, and beyond, when it came to the various aspects of storytelling in the ring (and out of it). The early parts of the book describes the history of promoters taking wrestling from the carnival days, to the days of Ed Lewis and his promoter manager, and making wrestling a global attraction. There are stories about how several promoters in the business , before Vince McMahon Jr. ever did in the late 1980s-1990s, publicly announced the business was not legit, and was more entertainment.

The book tells tales about the early “first blood,” ladder, and blindfolded matches, along with the strange matches involving monkeys, bears , and yes, even fish. The first cage matches, and the first manager heel, Count Rossi, are covered in the easy to read, short chapters. Announcers such as Bill Mercer, Dennis James (who is considered the first national wrestling announcer), and the return of Tony Schiavone, along with the announcers’ roles in keeping story lines going, are also part of the book.

The text covers times in the 1970s and 1980s when wrestlers needed a crazy story to boost business gate receipts, such as throwing the title belts into rivers and lakes (which was done many times before The Rock and Steve Austin did it in WWE), to how important the wrestling magazines were in helping get wrestlers over to the fans.

There are many wonderful stories about classic characters like Jack Pfifer, Jim Barnett, Dr. Sam Sheppard (who was the inspiration for the TV show The Fugitive, and had ties to my hometown, near Youngstown Ohio), to wrestlers who went on to be actors in Hollywood, like Alex Karras (Mongo from Blazing Saddles) and Victor the bear. The writers used many interviews (the credits state over 200) from people like Tom Prichard, Court Bauer, Jim Cornette, Kevin Sullivan, Bobby Fulton, and Eric Bischoff.

Another interesting part of the book (besides the first 200 pages filled with the older history of wrestling) is the section on the importance of the current day writers. I agree that wrestling today is way too scripted when it comes to writing story lines and interviews (they don’t come off as legit and too rehearsed), but the interviews with former WWE and TNA writers taking the reader behind the scenes to what goes on weekly was an informative. Another entertaining part included the wrestling magazines section, where during the pre-internet days, fans had to visit to the local newsstand and buy wrestling magazines (which I have many from the late 1980s-1990s) to keep up with what was going on, because most newspapers did not cover wrestling.

The last 50 pages for me was the weakest of the book. These sections dealt with hardcore wrestling (from ECW to “death matches,” where everything from bats to light bulbs are used) , to how the wrestlers The Hardys’ used the TNA Deletion angle into a mini movie (along with Lucha Underground, which adds a science fiction flavor to the productions in filming), and interviewing Omega on his take on storytelling. Because I was not an ECW fan , or one of Lucha, this did not appeal to me, although the authors covered almost everything on the topic of storytelling to their credit. The Omega interview was laughable to me , because of the way he explains his matches to the writers, which makes it as if he is very serious about his role in wrestling, yet this is the guy that used blow up dolls, dressed up like video game characters, and he (along with another team I can not stand, The Young Bucks), average around 200 super kick moves in each match. His interview section made him look like Randy Savage, who was known at times to have pages of ideas and moves for just one match. I am not saying Omega is not an athlete, but I never understood the appeal of many who state him as one of the top wrestlers in the world, when he does the same move 15 times in a match. I am sure he is a nice person outside of the ring, but I am not a fan of his, and his take on storytelling sounded like he was the Charles Dickens of wrestling, with every little move and segment carefully planned months in advanced. However, if the only problem in the book is my personal dislike for certain type of match or wrestler, the writers did an amazing job with detailing the subject.

The best part of the book is the first 200 pages, with all the classic wrestling tales and history, from the early masked men (and possibly the first person to ever wear a mask that got major attention), to a wrestler in matches against alligators, fans will love the classic stuff. If you are a newer fan, there is about 50-70 pages on the newer style of wrestling, from the decline of WCW, the “Attitude Era” with Shawn Michaels, to the impact of Dave Meltzer’s dirt sheets. The book is sectioned nicely, with subtitles in each major chapter, basically in three parts. The writing is easy to understand ; telling the events with interviews woven in, to where it is entertaining and a history lesson combined, without a ton facts and dates cluttering up the pages. Regardless of the cover photo ( if you’re like me and not a fan of Omega or these newer gimmick matches that is covered in the last 50 pages), don’t judge a book by the cover, and enjoy great wrestling history with the first three fourths of the book.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher

 

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame The Storytellers from the Terrible Turk to Twitter (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 9781770415027 (softcover) 9781773054223 (PDF), 9781773054216 (ePub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

For information about the authors, go to:             http://www.slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/home.html

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 304

Language: Moderate

Geared For: 13 and Up.

For Fans Of: Wrestling History, Professional Wrestling, Sports

Book Review: Educate Yourself with O’Neil’s Debut Book

Cover photo @ Craig Ambrosio /WWE. Cover image WWE. Cover Design Rodney Githens and Adam McGinnis.

 

If you have followed professional wrestling as long as I have (I started regularly watching in 1986, but watched on and off since ’84), you will know that not everyone can be the champion or in the main event. Back in the territory days, there were the main eventers, mid carders and developmental talent (also called “jobbers”). Now days, with few television time considering as many are on the WWE roster , sometimes a wrestler may not been seen for such a long time, that many may not know they are still with the company. However, they are no less important in the shape of wrestling; just because a wrestler isn’t on the shows every week, doesn’t mean they are not working the house shows or dark matches before the cameras come on, working with the upcoming stars or those coming back from injuries.

I admit the few times I have seen WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil was when he was put in goofy comedy spots. Yes, at one time he was a WWE Tag Team Champion , but all I really know about him is how much work he does outside of the ring with various charities and WWE community events.

After reading There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype , along with Paul Guzzo (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2019), I have a different view on who the person is behind the WWE wrestler, even if he does not get a lot of screen time.

The following needs to be made clear; this is NOT a wrestling book. Yes, he is a wrestler, and there are a few wrestling-related stories (maybe 3-4), but this is O’Neil’s take on how to educate, and help succeed, children from at risk environments, and trying to get them on the road to a better life, escaping drugs, gangs, or whatever they may be a part of and encouraging them to graduate high school and college and , in turn, give back to others.

The title deals with the fact that even though some children lash out at others, either school teachers, social workers, adults, and other kids in general, the label of them being a “bad kid” is not just. O’Neil, born Thaddeus Bullard, uses his own life as being labeled a “bad kid” as example to show how he overcame the stereotype with help from patient adults who saw a future for him in a different way, and encouraged him to achieve it, although the road was filled with obstacles and set backs. I do not give out spoilers, but just reading about O’Neil’s childhood (especially the relationship between his mother and other siblings) is a powerful and admirable testament to where he is today.

Being sent to various camps for at risk children, after constantly being disrespectful to schoolmates and teachers, O’Neil was taught through hard work, goals, and the right people in his life, he became the first college graduate in his family, along with playing football for the University of Florida under Steve Spurrier, and the Arena Football League before ending up in wrestling.

The only wrestling tales are used as examples to the topic of the chapters, which could be read all at once, or by using one chapter at a time, to show his opinions (and his life experiences and struggles), from the “Titus Slide,” where he ran to the ring for a match in 2018, only to slide under the ring before getting in it, to finally getting to train in the FCW league (what is now NXT). This book is more about educating-both adults and children- to look at our at risk areas with a different approach. Although I may not agree with all of his suggestions (being in the educational field at times myself), it definitely got me to look at things a little differently from my normal viewpoint. For instance some of his ideas may be hard to implement , such as getting more time in schools for the arts, when the schools have to spend some much time getting the students to pass the state standard testing (which many schools already spend the time on pre-tests, testing, make ups, practice tests, etc just on those tests as it is). I do agree with his statements on making the students have uniforms, so those without the top of the line clothing do not feel ashamed (of course then the subject of who funds them comes into play).

The various charitable things that he does when not on the road is not only admirable, but shows a love for what he does, without sounding like a braggart in writing about the events. Just because this is not a wrestling book, does not exclude the fine writing (short and easy to comprehend explanations) , and unique commentary on a problem here in the United States. O’Neil comes off as a person that one would like to sit down with at a coffee shop or restaurant, and pick his brain on many topics, without him having a judgmental attitude when the other person asks questions. Hopefully this book does not go unnoticed, especially being a WWE related book, where many of the wrestling books in past have been suspect at best (with the superstars being “in character” the whole time), because some may look at the cover and see the WWE logo on it and think it’s about wrestling. It’s about changing goals, achieving dreams, along with a touch of forgiveness and spirituality added. This is a book that educators, politicians, and anyone that works with , or wants to work with, children should read. This will , hopefully, make the reader want to get more involved with their communities to address a problem in our education system.

 

 

There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype by Titus O’Neil with Paul Guzzo (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-491 (hardcover), 978-1-77305-425-4 (PDF), 978-1-77305-424-7 (ePUB) can be found at : http://www.ecwpress.com

 

For information about the authors: check out @TitusONeilWWE and @PGuzzoTimes.

 

The Overall:

Pages: 230

Language: Moderate

Geared For: Ages 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Social Services, Autobiography, Self-Help, Children and Youth, Biography

Childhood Classic : Barry Manilow 1989- Simple Title But Memorable Songs

Barry Manilow was released on May 2, 1989

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com, or on my online portfolio at llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

 

My first exposure to Barry Manilow was during my sophomore year in high school. I took a theater arts class and one day we were listening to the song “Memory” from Cats. The title looked familiar to me, so I went home and dug around my parents 45s (remember them??), where they had two of Manilow’s records ; 1981’s “The Old Songs”/ “Don’t Fall In Love With Me” and “Heart of Steel”/Memory” from 1982. A few years later , I stumbled upon Manilow’s PBS special from England, which ended up being “The Greatest Hits And Then Some” release. I was mesmerized by the show, and had to listen to more of his music. I played those 45s over and over again to the point where I needed some newer material. I saw an ad on television in 1997 that Manilow was coming to Starlake Amphitheater in Burgettstown , P.A. I had to get tickets to see him. My mother took me to the local National Record Mart, so I could get tickets the day they came out. If it weren’t for her, I would not have been able to see him. She gave me her credit card to use, and when the guy printed out the tickets, he mentioned that it was cash only (although there was nothing stating that before the sale date or at the store itself in the ticket policies). Luckily, she had cash on her, and I was shocked at the price of the tickets; I saw my first concert in 1991 with lawn seats at the same amphitheater for 18 dollars. Each ticket was $40 for Manilow, plus service charge, which was a lot back then (but they ended up being like 10th row-and now some of his seats go for over $100) .

After the show, I had to get some more Manilow releases (I had the cassettes of the 1978 Greatest Hits and the 1989 Volume 1 which I got from the BMG music club.) . I went to Best Buy, and the only CDs they carried were the Greatest Hits from 1989 (Volumes I, II and III), along with his self titled 1989 album. I chose the self titled one as my first Manilow CD.

Some fans have dubbed Barry Manilow as the “purple album”, because he released several other albums with his name on it; his debut in 1973, Barry Manilow II (1974), 1980’s Barry, and 1985’s Manilow. Whatever fans want to call it, it was an unique album for many reasons besides the title; all but one song had outside writers on it (Manilow usually wrote or co-wrote most of his songs, and allowed few outside writers at this time), it had a polished production, and it was his last all original music until 2001, where besides some live releases, he released covers and themed albums from Broadway, the Big Band era, and the 1970s (The Summer of ’78 album is highly underrated) . It was also one of the longer run times from previous records , almost an hour long.

The opener “Please Don’t Be Scared,” is a wonderful ballad to start off the record. Manilow still sticks to the formula of loss, love, and hope in his songs. This first track , with the lyrics “Someday someone will make you glad you survived” brings the hope theme into play , while struggling to see the bigger picture in life.

“Keep Each Other Warm,” is a cover of the British group Bucks Fizz, and became a hit on the AC charts for Barry at #7. The soulful/ R&B song would have been placed perfectly along the radio songs by groups like Surface and Breathe. Unfortunately it was never played in my area stations in Youngstown, Ohio (where the local station was, although I live in Columbiana, Ohio, twenty minutes or so away). Manilow’s take on this song has more power to it instrumentally, where the original sounds like an ABBA cover band.

Songs like “Once and For All, ” and “The One That Got Away” continue the polished 1980s feel , where “The One That Got Away” has a simple chorus lyrically , which Manilow pulls off, even though it is some of the weaker songs on the release. Even though they are weaker than the others, a weak Manilow song can still be better than some artists’ best work.

“When the Good Times Come Again,” and “Some Good Things Never Last” are two great songs in a row. “…Good Times..” has the format, much like his hit “Somewhere Down The Road,” with the theme of hoping better things will come in the relationship after taking a break, where “Some Good Things Never Last” was featured on his follow up release, Live On Broadway. The opening line of “It’s 3 in the morning/You’re nowhere in sight” is a line that’s been thrown in my head numerous times for no reason whatsoever, especially being awake at 3 A.M. It’s a wonder to me, looking back now, why “Some Good Things Never Last” was not released as a single. It should have been on the pop or AC charts.

The last three songs are the songs I remember most about the release. “My Moonlight Memories Of You’ is a catchy song that displays Manilow’s love for Broadway songs. The song starts off one way , and then goes in another style, one that you could see Fred Astaire dancing and singing in an old time musical, or in a vaudeville show. The “I Can’t Smile Without You” feel of the song challenges the listener NOT to sing along, and with the end , where he is singing the melody while it fades out, one can picture the main star walking down the street while the camera pans overhead to the city while the credits roll.

“Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak” was a hit for Anne Murray in 1987. Both versions are just as good, and it’s hard to choose one over the other.

The final is a road song, “A Little Traveling Music, Please.” I first heard this song on the PBS special, or the VHS release of the show, I can’t remember exactly, but I thought it was a great , soft song about being on the road , and away from the special person. Many road songs in music, like “Faithfully “or “Turn The Page,” have power to it musically (hence the name power ballad), where this song is a refreshingly mellow and clam, with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta playing brushes on the track. This song is the perfect placement as the ender of the album. I played this song many times after playing in local bands as a drummer on the way home to calm my ears after playing rock and blues all night long. It takes a while for the song to get going, with an instrumental intro, but when the song gets going, its great.

Barry Manilow has wonderful memories for me. One, it was exposure to Manilow’s latest work, and not just the popular hits that I knew the time. It also had a long run time, so I got my money’s worth, along with some songs becoming my favorite rarer songs from his catalog (“Memories of You,” and “Traveling Music” are two of them).

The songs still hold up after 30 years, and doesn’t sound too dated, even though it is one of his more polished production wise albums (along with 1985’s Manilow) . Manilow fans all have their favorite albums (they are as passionate as Kiss, The Beatles, and The Oak Ridge Boys’ fans as which are their favorites), this is one of my favorites where I don’t have to skip songs ( I am not counting his cover albums). Even though some are a little weaker than others, it can play all the way through. This is a CD that gave me more of a love of Manilow’s music (especially when I was in college at the time, where his music was a friend to me). It is still a go-to CD to play when I want to hear some rarer Manilow songs.

You can read my other post on Barry’s rarer songs here in the archives, by typing in “Barry Manilow” in the search engine.

 

Track Listing: 1. Please Don’t Be Scared 2. Keep Each Other Warm 3.Once And For All 4. The One That Got Away 5.When The Good Times Come Again 6. Some Good Things Never Last 7. In Another World 8. You Begin Again 9.My Moonlight Memories Of You   10. Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak 11. A Little Traveling Music, Please

Book Review: Movie Studio Book A Complete Package

Image result for hammer complete book
Front Cover: Veronica Carlson and Christopher Lee in the 1968 film Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (Warner Bros./Photofest)

 

 

When it comes to horror film companies, the causal fans think of the two most successful ones; Universal and Hammer. But many may not know that just like Universal, Hammer did not only focus on horror, but created many films in the genres of science fiction, kung fu, mysteries, and comedies. Hammer even had television shows and album records. Howard Maxford covers all things Hammer in his wonderful Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company (McFarland, 2019).

Let me preface this review with a flashback to my college days at Kent State University. As an English major, one of the classes we had to take was a Shakespeare course, who is not one of my favorite writers (even when I taught at a high school for a few years, much like the students, I dreaded this part). As many readers here may know, walking across college campus with your backpack filled with books, especially during the winter , was not an enjoyable experience. The Shakespeare class was actually bearable , as opposed to some of the other teachers who taught the subject at the campus, because my class looked at the work more from a theater aspect than looking at the plays as just literature.

The textbook we had to use for the class was The Wadsworth Shakespeare book, which is a hardback (and heavy) , book that had over 2000 pages filled with poems, plays, and all things Shakespeare . When going to the class, many of us only carried that book (with a notebook) due to the heaviness and size of the book. The book was at a hefty price as well for us students (like many text books), so when it was time to decide whether or not to keep the book at the end of the semester, it was a no-brainer for many of us to sell it back and try and get at least $50 bucks back from the $150 we paid for it.

The reason I bring up this story is when Hammer Complete showed up at my door, after requesting a copy for review, I immediately thought of that Shakespeare textbook when I unwrapped the packaging. At first glance (and this rarely happens to me, maybe with the exception of the KISSTORY book I purchased in the 1990s), I was in awe of how beautiful the book outlook was. I do not get emotional about books by looking at the covers, besides the comments of “I like that” or “that’s a neat cover.” This was an exception. The cover features Christopher Lee as Count Dracula from the 1968 Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, ready to sink his teeth into Veronica Carlson. The hardback cover, with the solid binding made me state out loud , although I was by myself, “WOW!”

I started thumbing through the thin pages, just admiring some of the pictures and text, which has three columns on every page. I was amazed at how well put together, along with the sturdiness of the binding.

With all this amazement with the visuals of the book, is the book actually good? Because it was uncomfortable to read in bed, I had to settle for browsing and reading at the kitchen table. I started to read the book from the beginning with the Introduction, where the author states that this project took him 14 years to put together, and that the text is not meant to be read cover to cover, but for “browsing.” I started to try it anyway.

Unlike other McFarland books I have reviewed on this page like Universal Horrors and Bela Lugosi And Boris Karloff (where you can find in the archives, or type in the search engine), it is difficult to read every little thing cover to cover, as the author warns. There is so much information here, from the actors, films, crew members, and anyone associated with the movie company , that I’d still be reading this book for years, and only get so far into it. I suggest following the writer’s advice and look up the topics you are wanting to read about and go from there.

Since this is about Hammer, there are many great topics and stories from the history of the company, from the obvious Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing films, to the television shows and magazines, to some of the rarer known films (at least for me) in the history. For instance, I did not know that special effects legend Ray Harryhausen helped on the Hammer film One Million Years B.C. ,that Patty Duke was featured on an episode of the television show Journey To The Unknown, or that James Bond girl Ursula Andress was in the Hammer film, 1965’s She.

The book also supplies interviews with several of the people who were a part of the film, and gives an entertaining look at some of the behind the scenes tales that is normally absent in an normal encyclopedia, such as the story during the 1966 Dracula Prince of Darkness, where Christopher Lee’s eye contact fell out during filming while he was standing on a salt block. The make up man picked up the contact and put it back into Lee’s eye, with salt still in it.

The Draculas, Frankensteins, Mummys, and the Karstein triology are all covered here, including one of my favorite films (where many dismiss) 1964’s The Gorgon. There are comedies, magazines, and just odd films featured in the text as well. The book even covers the newer Hammer films, like the underrated Woman In Black from 2012, and other films like Let Me In and the bad Woman In Black sequel.

I very much enjoyed browsing through this book, and reading all of the tales about the actors, and films. Die hard fans of the Hammer films will need to add this to their collections. The book holds up very well, as opposed to a few others I have received with huge page lengths, where the pages fell out towards the end of the book. At almost 1000 pages of three columned print (the text is small too), there is much to enjoy in this book, including the photographs of movie posters, and on the set shots. The only question remains is would the casual horror fan be willing to shell out the price of the book to use as only a reference, since it is hard to read cover to cover, to have sit on their shelves? I can not answer that question, as honest as I like to be with my reviews here. All I can say is that I was amazed at the quality of the book , and after reading it for several months, I kept a notebook beside me with a listing of films that I want to check out that I never heard of, thanks to going through this piece. The book may not be for everyone, but don’t dismiss it either. It may surprise you.

 

 

A review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company by Howard Maxford (McFarland, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-7466-7007-2 (hardback) , 978-1-4766-2914-8 (ebook) can be found at http://www.McFarlandbooks.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 992

Language: Mild

Geared For: Teens 13 and Up

For Fans of: Horror films, film history,

 

Book Review: A Passion for Prayer Leads Writer In New Book

Image result for gangster prayer book
Cover Design by Faceout Studio/ Jeff Miller

 

While growing up in churches near my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio during my youth, many pastors and preachers would dispute how people in the church should pray. Is it alright to ask God for something, or are you to just go with the flow and thank God for whatever comes your way? Is there a right or wrong way to pray? What about if you prayed for something , and it didn’t come out the way you wanted? Was it a problem with you, or was it just that God wanted something better for you?

Throughout the years, the subject seemed to get more and more confusing, with different answers and writers weighing in on the topic. In her latest book Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation (Worthy Publishing, 2019), Autumn Miles digs into several types, and results, of prayer.

The book starts out by Miles telling a story about her being under conviction after watching a television series about gangsters where she felt God informed her that criminals are more passionate in their law- breaking lives than she was in her prayer life. She then decides to dig into the several different categories of prayer, and how it has affected her life since that day. Miles defines prayer as talking with God and not at him, while claiming at the beginning that she does not claim to be a expert on the topic of prayer.

Throughout the short chapters Miles walks the reader through several different types of prayers such as: the Wrestling Prayer, Scared Prayer, Working Prayer, the Fighting Prayer, and the Thanksgiving prayer among others. Each chapter gives not only examples in the author’s life when she was struggling and experiencing each type of prayer, but also gives some Biblical examples as well to help detail the points being made.

Miles also discusses her thoughts on deeper parts of prayer, such as what does the Christian do if the prayer has not been answered (do they give up after a certain amount of time), what does it mean if God says “no” to the prayer request, how to make sure the person’s prayer is not just for selfish reasons, and more.

One of the great parts of this book, especially in the beginning, is how the writer does not tip-toe around the topic and her views on the subject. For instance, she bluntly states that in today’s society, the church seems to have their minds on other things than on prayer or creating valuable prayer sessions, and how many churches are more concerned with fancy stage shows for the praise and worship portions of the church, instead of the non-glitzy prayer meetings.

In another insightful section of the book, Miles brings the topic of prayer firstly to its basic core, and then goes into the deeper parts of the issues. For instance, she writes about who God is (and his characteristics), before getting into the touchier portions like “why doesn’t God answer me now?”

Gangster Prayer is an easy to read book that has short chapters (always a plus with me) , and is packaged so that a person can read one chapter a day as a devotional, or several chapters at a time. At the end of each section, several deeper questions are asked, so the reader can reflect on what was just discussed in order to apply it to their lives. The different categories of prayer was insightful and informative, which makes the readers think about how they approach prayer in general. Although most of the personal examples Miles uses in her writing are focused towards women (by talking about her love of getting her nails done), this book is not totally geared towards females, which seems to be her ministry target audience. I have never heard of Miles before this book (she has a podcast , radio show, and other writings in her portfolio), but I still took away quite a bit of information from this title. A few times throughout the book she states that she prayed for certain things, such as a bigger house, a book deal, and dealings with other businesses, which made me (and maybe some readers) wonder if praying for those things (which some label this as “prosperity preaching”, where some think God gives any worldly possessions because he wants people to be happy on earth) are in conflict with the Bible. Nonetheless, this only occurs once or twice in the book. I am not disputing that prayer should be an everyday part in a Christian’s life, but a few examples like these made me stop and think for a minute.

Overall the book was very informative, and insightful, without having a writer with a PHD in Christianity try to write over the reader’s head, which I have read in some books while reviewing in the past. I do think the book is geared towards Christian women, but it should not stop men from reading it (I can read many women writers in the Christian genre, in fact, my favorite writer in the genre is former recording artist Rebecca St. James, who geared her writings heavily towards women). The book may help some who are struggling with the prayer aspect in their lives get more on track in a non-judgmental way.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Hachette Book Group and Worthy Publishing.

 

Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation by Autumn Miles (Worthy Publishing, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-6839-7312-6 (trade paperback), 978-1-5460-1522-2 (ebook), 978-1-5491-5089-0 (audiobook download) 978-1-5491-8123-8 (audiobook CD) can be found at :

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/imprint/hachette-nashville/worthy-books/

 

For information about the author, go to: ww.autumnmiles.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 207

Language: None

Geared Towards: 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Women’s Studies, Prayer

Classic CD Review: Oaks Give Audiences Their Voices 20 Years Ago.

Voices was released July 27, 1999 by Platinum Entertainment/ Intersound Records and produced by Ron Chancey.

Even though the Oak Ridge Boys were one of my favorite musical acts as a kid (I got my first drum set one Christmas, along with the Oaks’ Greatest Hits record around 1980) , I never got to see the band live until 1999; I didn’t attend my first concert until 1991 (which was Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen). The group sang many times, at nearby Ponderosa Park in Salem, Ohio, which was not far from where I live in Columbiana. Those that have read Joe Bonsall’s On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys book (a review can be found here in the archives), he mentions several times the defunct venue. At one time, there was an attempt to restart the outdoor park, which I even bought tickets to see the Oaks, but the managers closed up before there were any major concerts held.

On September 1, 1999, I finally got the chance to see the Oaks live at the Canfield Fair, in nearby Canfield, Ohio, where they were promoting their new release Voices, which was released that June. Even though I am not a fan of the layout of concerts at the fair and it’s policies (you have to pay a $10 price at the entrance on top of your ticket price to the show, and you sit in bleacher seats which are so far removed from the track stage, it was similar to my early concert days of sitting in the lawn areas at pavilions where the acts looked like ants from the far distance), I remember being in awe of how great the group sounded vocally, and what a show they put on. I have seen a two other shows at the fair (Alabama, and Journey with Peter Frampton), and I will say that The Oaks’ were still the best concert I attended there.

The Voices release, which was the only record the band recorded with Platinum Entertainment did not do much on the charts at the time it was put out, but after 20 years gone by, I figured to visit the recording in celebration of it’s anniversary.

The liner notes states that the goal of the album was to mix musicians from Muscle Shoals and combine their talents with the Nashville songwriters. The album is dedicated to all of the songwriters, and the group salutes their successes to the great songs and songwriters that helped them along the way. The group also used producer Ron Chancey, who was in control of many of the group’s top albums in the 1970s and 1980s.

The album’s first single, “Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down,” a song written by Kix Brooks (of Brooks and Dunn fame) leads off the album with a catchy and wordy chorus, which made me wonder how the Oaks could sing the song while trying to get their breath when they performed it live at the fair show. It surprised me that this song did not break into the country charts (Brooks even used it as his first single in 1983 to no major fanfare). Although many country fans in 1999 were listening to the acts that had a more pop feel, this song should’ve done moderately well- the band made the media rounds on TNN and other spots promoting the song. This is the song that brings back memories of the release.

The CD is filled with several good songs that are just plain fun to listen to, including “Deep In Louisiana,” and “What’ll I Do,” both challenges the listener NOT to hit the repeat button on the player and listen many times. “What’ll I Do” was co-written by Skip Ewing, who was known for his work with Bryan White’s debut album among others, which also adds a gospel flavor to the song to blues groove.

Speaking of grooves, ” The Perfect Love” , sung by Joe Bonsall, combines the rhythm of an reggae/island mix, where the listener can find similarities to Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” This is one of the songs that drummer Roger Hawkins shines on (along with “Ain’t No Short Way Home”). Hawkins has played on many legendary songs in music history. Combining the great harmonies of the Oaks along with these icons in music, spotlights on this track.

William Lee Golden , who is a very underrated singer and has gained my respect on his abilities rediscovering the groups rarer tracks on albums, sings two songs on Voices; “Old Hearts” and ” Lady My Love,” both are ballads. The lyrics on “Old Hearts” seem to run together, along with breaking the traditional rhyming in song lyrics. “Lady My Love” has a more blues/southern gospel style to it, which is perfect for Golden’s voice. “Lady My Love” is the better of the two songs for my tastes, which salutes the love of a complexities of a woman with many roles.

Richard Sterban takes the lead vocals on the ballad “If All I Had Left, ” a song that has a more adult contemporary feel to it, with blue guitar fills throughout the song. Very few acts can end an album on a ballad and make it work, and the Oaks are one of the acts that can do it. The song placement works here. It’s a short run time on the song, so the song doesn’t have any fillers on it, which gives it more appeal.

When re-visiting albums for reviews (I have written many retro reviews for the hard rock site Sleazeroxx, and on this page, titled “Childhood Classics”) , I like to try and find a hidden gem that I may not have listened to when normally playing the CD, or if I haven’t listened to the CD for some time. On here, the gem is “Ain’t No Short Way Home.” The guitar work leads off the song with a chugging groove sung by Duane Allen, with the rest of the band chiming in with their powerful harmonies. Even though this song hit the country charts at #71, this song would be a great addition to the band’s current live sets. The Oaks have a awesome band live that can bring power and intensity when needed , and this song would be one that would rock out. The guitar solo, along with the drumming, carries the song, along with Sterban’s bass vocals helping bring the song to another level. Although all of the Oaks have their signature style of vocals, I challenge anyone to name a singer with a smoother voice than Allen; he’s up there with Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bublè in my picks of great vocalists.

For an album released 20 years ago, Voices still holds up well, without sounding dated with the times. The release has a mix of everything: blues, gospel, and country, along with wonderful musicians and the staple harmonies that the group are known for. Although a few of the songs are weak, seven out of the eleven songs works for me. Although Bonsall is only on one track on this release, which is a downer for me (I’d rather hear another one from him instead of “New Orleans” ) , the CD is a surprise of how good it is considering the lack of response it got. The goal of the album was achieved for the most part, and let’s be honest, it’s hard for a group to have an album with every song a smash (although The Oaks achieved that with 1981’s Fancy Free in my opinion). Voices is one that needs to be re-discovered if fans missed out on it, because it has some solid performances on here.

 

Song listings:

  1. Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down 2. Where The Sun Always Shines 3.Deep in Louisiana   4. Lady My Love 5. What’ll I Do 6. New Orleans 7, Perfect Love
  2. I’d Still Be Waiting 9. Old Hearts 10. Ain’t No Short Way Home 11. If All I Had Left

Childhood Classic: New Edition Turns 35 !!!

New Edition was released July 6, 1984 by MCA Records. It hit #6 on the U.S. Top Pop Albums and #1 on the Top R&B Albums charts.

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

The first cassette I ever got was 1983’s An Innocent Man by Billy Joel. At the time, I was still listening to 45s and vinyl records. My brother had several of Joel’s singles from the album, and when it was time for me to save enough allowance money (or maybe it was birthday money, I don’t remember), and my parents took me to the local store to pick out a release, I chose Joel’s album (you can read my review of that album in the archives under “Childhood Classics: My First Cassette”).

I listened to many types of music, from country to the pop songs on the radio, but I was also listening to early rock and roll music, like The Beach Boys, Elvis, and other early pioneers of music, at age 11. Joel’s album was a tribute to the early acts of music, with its pop harmonies (at the time I did not know that, but loved the songs that was played on the local radio station). So when it came time for me to get another cassette, I picked a group that was starting to get big on radio in my area, which I also had a 45 single of, New Edition.

The 1984 self titled release was actually the group’ second album, but I was already jamming to the single “Cool It Now,” which was being played on a local television video show from Akron/Canton ‘s channel 23 (we didn’t have MTV at this time- it was a pay site, and we didn’t have cable) hosted by Billy Soule. When it came to the early days of buying music, I would usually get a 45 single, which was under $2 at the time, and listen to the B sides to see if I liked the other songs, wait until the group had two or three songs out before I could have enough money to get the whole album (which was a pricey $9 back then), or wait until the album went on sale for the $5.99-$7.99 sale price.

Being a fan of Michael Jackson at the time, especially The Jackson 5 era, the guys from New Edition really hit the spot with their strong harmony vocals, and pop feel to the songs. I was also a fan of the music videos, with the guys in the group hanging out together , playing basketball and chasing girls in the park, while breaking out into song with fancy dance moves and hand motions to the songs, which helped in my opinion of how cool these guys were at the time.

The second single, “Mr. Telephone Man,” (written and produced by Ray Parker Jr.) was one of my favorite songs at the time, where I would study the music video every time it was played on Soule’s video show, so I could mimic the hand gestures to the song. I remember impressing several of my classmates at the time , when they saw that I could do all the hand movements exactly like they did in the video. It was this song that convinced me that I had to have the whole cassette. The fact that both “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” were the first two songs on the cassette was like finding King Solomon’s gold when playing the cassette, because I did not have to fast forward to my two favorite songs (the cell phone era people may not understand why “Mr. Telephone Man was so relatable at the time)

The album released four singles; the two mentioned above, “Lost In Love” (not to be confused with the Air Supply song), and “My Secret (Didja Gettit Yet)?” The video for “My Secret” detailed the guys hanging out at a L.A. Lakers basketball game during the video. I don’t remember the video being played as often as the first two in my area, nor was the song on my local radio station in Youngstown , Ohio. Anyway, I remember it started the second side of the cassette.

There are three rare cuts on the release that I enjoyed now revisiting the music. “I’m Leaving You Again” and “Delicious” are two slow R&B songs that would’ve been played at school dances or roller skating rinks to slow things down. They also would have been a great fit on the soul and black radio stations at the time. “Maryann” is a song that has the 1970’s Spinners style to it. The saxophone solo gives the song an adult contemporary style added into the mix.

If there are any fillers on the release, it’ll be “Kinda Girls We Like” which is too much rap for me (even in the 1980s, I was not a fan of rap- a little bit was ok, like on “Cool It Now” but that was enough), “Baby Love,” and “Hide And Seek.” But having 7 out of 10 songs on an album being great- that’s a good mix, especially for a pop group.

Music groups who could sing and dance were not new in 1984; acts like The Osmonds, The Jacksons, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Spinners were doing it long before. However, New Edition brought the same concept to the 80s, with a mass appeal as well; they had both white and black audiences buying their records. They were one of the pioneers of the boy band craze that happened in the 1990s.

After a dispute over royalties during this album, the group sued manager Maurice Starr, who went on afterwards to form The New Kids on The Block , wanting them to be the white version of New Edition. Bobby Brown left New Edition years later to go solo (I was a huge fan of his 1988 Don’t Be Cruel album) along with the other members being a part of Bell Biv Devoe, and both Johnny Gill ( a replacement for Tresevant) and Ralph Tresvant had solo careers. The group went on to have a few other good singles, such as “Count Me Out” (from their next album),  a remake of the Penguin’s hit “Earth Angel” , and 1988’s “If If Isn’t Love.”

Is New Edition going to be listed as a classic album, where many others may proudly say it was their fist record? Probably not. However, it was filled with good pop vocals, and has several wonderful musicians that was a part of the songs- Teena Marie, Ray Parker Jr. , and Michael Sambello had songs or production on it. Not everyone had their first two or three records or cassettes (or later CDs) masterpieces. The album for me brings back memories of going to a record store trying to decide what to spend your money on, studying pop vocals and harmonies, and going back to a time when some music  and videos were just plan fun without all the political agendas like today.

 

Book Review: Coach’s Book As Close To The Best As Possible

Jacket design by Ashley Caswell

I do not watch the Dr. Phil Show very often, in fact I may see two episodes in three months if that often. On top of that, I have never been a major fan of books in the self-help departments, for many reasons: one is that the people that write these books assume all things are equal and anyone has the same resources to everything in the world, second, the authors (most of the time) make readers feel so guilty about your current life that they feel worse after reading them, and finally, a lot of the books are just to promote the writer’s facilities that they work at, so they don’t reveal all the things in their books, so that the reader has to go out and either buy more of their books, or have to pay to go to their facilities.

With these points out of the way, one day I was actually watching the Dr. Phil Show at my parent’s house when I became intrigued by a person who was on his team of associates plugging his new book. For some reason, the book resonated with me, where I had to seek out a copy to check out. Best Self : Be You Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) changed my opinion about these types of books.

Bayer’s book deals with having a better outlook in every aspect of life, from the workplace, relationships, and hobbies, in order to be your “Best Self” (which is not only the title of the book, but a description of the ideal character the person intends to be).

If you are a follower of Bayer, or Dr. Phil, you may have seen him on this show using some of these techniques that he uses in the book. The early part of the book shows a technique where the reader creates a character, which is the ideal “Best Self;” the person he or she wants to become. The second is the “Anti-Self,” the person who is the opposite of that person, almost like the villain , and the person that the reader does not want to get out and take over their lives. Being a fan of role playing games growing up, I thought this was an interesting, and original idea to incorporate, especially where the person is encouraged to be as detailed as possible (regardless of their art skills), describing the Best and Anti-Self ‘s characteristics and goals, weaknesses etc, just like creating a game character.

From there, Bayer walks through little tips that the person can use to encourage more of the Best Self, and less of the Anti-Self characters, using everyday situations, (along with some of the stories from previous clients) from work situations to dealing with things like road rage, and not having fun in the workplace. Throughout most of the chapters there are exercises that stretches the thinking, as well as getting the reader more acquainted with who they are in their lives, and where they want to be heading. This book is not to be read straight through like a normal novel, but is more effective having a notebook beside you, and experiencing these exercises and quizzes during the chapters (especially if you are like me, who does not like writings in my books, and as the author states, the goals will change throughout the months as you head towards being the Best Self). The exercises enhance the 7 SPHERES where the person’s best self needs to be looked at, and how they are part of the overall goal. The SPHERES are an acronym for the different areas in life, such as the workplace, health of the person, and education among other things.

The only problems I had with the book was during the Education chapter of the SPHEREs, where the writer assumes all things are equal. For example, Bayer encourages that the Best Self should want to be educated in something, always wanting to learn something.   Although I agree with this statement, the writer states that if the Best Self wants to learn a new trade, or is being passed over at work due to lack of technology, he states that the person go out and find the tools to improve that. All things are not equal here, because some of the things cost money, and if the Best Self is living in a situation where funds are not available, or the techniques are not offered, it may make the reader feel a little down. For instance, not everyone lives in New York, where many libraries may offer many computer classes (some smaller towns only offer “How To Use The Internet” as a course), or due to license fees, they are not offered. Or if saving money to get out of debt is part of the person’s Best Self goal, how are they going to afford to be able to pay for the computer program to help them move on? Granted , heading towards your Best Self is not going to be easy, but I thought these points were missing in his writing, which also goes into the workplace section, where he encourages people to incorporate an enjoying atmosphere in the workplace, as opposed to just punching in and getting a paycheck.

I love this concept of the workplace, but once again, not all things are equal. Bayer gives a quiz where the person decides if the problems at the workplace is you or the other people around you, along with sometimes having to decide to leave that job for something else. He does encourage the person to look at their finances before just walking out of a job, but sometimes (from my own experience) the problem can be the co-workers, and yet the HR people don’t care at all. There (in my opinion) is a myth in the writing that the HR people at businesses are all out to help each other create the best possible outcome for the business. There are many HR people who are unqualified and could care less about what goes on in their workplace, and are not always there to help out. Also, if my Best Self wants to get paid for his writing in the future, but can’t find that avenue (especially where all the local papers are owned by one company and have the same staff for years that don’t accept freelancing), it’s not as easy as the writer makes out to just go out and find the other avenue and freelance, where most of the online freelance sites are scams. And if everyone who wanted to be their own boss could do it, there would be no employees, and only bosses, which is not realistic either. Keep in mind that I have just started this journey of the book’s suggestions, and maybe he sees something down the road that I am not seeing yet, as opposed to a new person just discovering the ideas (I am not knocking Bayer or his achievements).

Another great aspect of the book is that Bayer uses his own life story as illustrations, from his past with addictions, to the fact that he does not have 15 Master Degrees and is a higher up in academia. His down-to-earth approach, along with his easy to read writing comes off as non-judgmental which is a relief, as opposed to other books in the genre that I have read. Finally the fact that he encourages the importance of spirituality and religion in a person’s life is a breath of fresh air, where many of these books refuse to allow people of faith to use the skills along with their values of a higher being. Christian readers do not have to fear that the book is filled with New Age theology, or vice versa.

I enjoyed this book, especially doing the quizzes and exercises throughout the chapters. I encourage those that want to read this book to have a journal or a notebook beside them and actually participate in the book, as opposed to just reading it (stop by a local dollar store and buy a small notebook on the way home- it doesn’t have to be anything fancy). Even if you are not a Dr. Phil watcher, this book can help those looking to change certain aspects in their lives by using an unique and creative way. The writing is not judgmental nor stereotypical in the genre; I am reminded of the joke I heard one time that says “I just bought some self-help cassettes. After listening to them I felt inadequate because I didn’t have the CDs.” Anyone can take something away from this book without fears of not measuring up.

 

Best Self : Be You, Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) ISBN : 978-0-06291173-5 can be found at bookstores and online at Amazon.com or at : deystreet.harpercollins.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 333

Language: Mild

Geared For: 16 and Up

For Fans of: Self Help, Dr. Phil, Life Coach