For years rock musicians have been treated in a different way than non-famous people. Rock stars have gotten away with trashing hotels, speeding, and drugs where many people would still be sitting in jail for the same offense. Celebrities in the music world do dumb things as well, in which many of us would not think up, more less actually do.
In his book Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and BehavingVery Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019), Jake Brennan details some of music’s biggest and well known stories . Taken from his podcast of the same name, Brennan walks the reader through some of the famous, and sometimes just plain strange, stories about music legends , tying each chapter together to provide a well written story.
Some of the tales in the book are about Elvis Presley and his struggle with manager Tom Parker in being a serious musician, while Parker continues to keep a hold on his money making star, how Jerry Lee Lewis’ two wives ended up dead not long after each other, and how Sam Cooke was killed in a motel room.
Not only are the stories, as mentioned before, strange and entertaining to read, but Brennan adds a fictional flare to the conversations between the characters to reenact what was going on at the time, as well as combining the end of each person’s chapter to lead into the following artists’ tale of death, sadness, and oddities. The illustrations by Matt Nelson also adds to the strange stories.
One of the strangest tales mentioned is detailing Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, who stabbed Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, which also involves the death of vocalist Dead (who would do very strange things on stage and off to live up to his name),cannibalism, and church burnings. I have seen a few documentaries dealing with the Black Metal movement at the time, but these stories are almost so strange that it seems like a movie script.
Of course Axl Rose has to be covered in a book about bad behavior, which includes the St. Louis incident, where a riot was caused after Rose stopped a show short, and their 1999 incident at Donington, which caused the deaths of fans. One could write many tales about Rose’s behavior (not starting concerts until midnight or walking off before a show was finished) where a whole book could be featured on just him. The same could be said for Sid Vicious and Phil Spector, who are also covered in the book, along with a the final days of Gram Parson’s and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
The book reads nicely in a fictional style format, to where the stories are not just straight out facts, and the tying in each chapter from the previous star’s story is enjoyable as well. There is strong language throughout the writing, but the tales are what makes this book a nice read for rock fans. I have yet to hear the podcast , but this book gives a great introduction to some of rock music’s strange and weird personalities and lives that involves cover-ups, interesting facts, and just plain weird stuff.
This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019) by Jake Brennan ISBN: 978-1-5387-3214-4 (hardcover) 978-1-5387-3213-7 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.
For information on the Disgraceland podcast, go to:www.disgracelandpod.com
Even though I grew up in churches, I will admit I don’t know much about BeBe Winans. I do know that he and his sister CeCe are Gospel music legends, who have won many awards throughout their careers. I can not name any of their songs or albums, although I do listen to several Christian artists.
I was hoping by reading BeBe’s book Born For This: My Story In Music (Faithwords, 2019) I would know more about his career and who he is. Unfortunately, I learned very little about the man behind the music.
The book starts off compelling and emotional, with BeBe describing he and his family’s time dealing with the sickness and death of one of his brothers Ronald. The book keeps a telling and entertaining read at first, in that it is not a normal autobiography with dates and a timeline, but written where the chapters start off with a Bible verse (or quote) and then that part of his life is retold trying to keep the theme of the quote or verse. This made the book appealing to me at first, until the halfway point.
BeBe recalls his youth and growing up in the church, along with his father’s story of how he (his father) changed his name to Winans . BeBe also details how his church became a family to him, with discipline, respect, and a love for community that were all installed into his values. BeBe tells about how he started to feel a little disappointed how his older siblings (including sister CeCe ) got their musical breaks before him, by auditioning for the Praise The Lord Club show, which was run by Jim and Tammy Bakker, who wanted only his sister and not BeBe.
The Praise The Lord Club stories start off interesting, where once BeBe gets a break singing in the choir, and then later, duets with his sister, stating that there was shock by the audience (along with complaints from viewers) that African American singers were being showcased on the show. The writer starts to tease friction among those that helped broadcast the show, while being viewed as the pet projects of the Bakkers.
Halfway through the book is where things start to fade. Winans tells about how living in the South, along with singing on television and on records, turns into a race issue. I am not doubting the writer’s experiences in having to deal with being the one of the first major acts thrown onto a southern television show (who am I to judge what the author experienced), but the way it is written , the book turns into a “woah is me” experience. The early part of the book shows the drive that BeBe had wanting to be a singer, but the last half of the book turns out to be someone who almost complains about having the success.
There is a story about Tammy Bakker swearing right before a live broadcast, where the writer details the swear word several times in the following pages (which may seem odd for a Christian book to keep using the word on so many pages). BeBe also tells that a close white female friend of his gets fired by the Bakkers after the Bakkers claim that she and Winans were becoming too close. The reply in the book to this was “if people think we’re dating, let’s date,” almost to shove it into people’s faces. For someone that uses the book to claim he was judged by racial problems, the way this event is written makes it like he was dating her because she was white. There is a lack of detail describing an actual build up to a relationship before this story.
The book ends up just ending where Winans starts becoming famous with some of his albums. The book basically covers his early career. He does have some nice stories about befriending Whitney Houston, but the second half is mostly either almost complaining about not being as famous as he should be early on, to God promising him he would be famous and rich and questioning God when it didn’t happen as quick. When the reader wants to see his thoughts on the results of Jim and Tammy’s fall in the Christian world, Winans just brushes the events over , stating that they are human and it’s in God’s hands. I understand him not wanting to bash those that gave him a break , but it just stops the conversation that he spent a lengthy part of the book talking about with one minor sentence as the conclusion.
I am not sure if it is the editing or this was the way Winans wanted to express his thoughts, but the overall book seems flat. It starts off well, but after the halfway point, it turns into one of those books that he doesn’t seem grateful for what he was given. There is a part in the book where he mentions being mistaken for a valet parker while standing outside of a fancy restaurant. He then writes how he wants to go off on that person. The book tends to focus more on the race issue than being a Christian book discussing his music (which is what the title suggests). The Bible verses that are featured in the book do not get much of an explanation. I could see a normal secular musician writing a book about being angry about things in his past, but not a Gospel legend from a Christian publisher.
Just because I was not a fan of the book overall, due to the way I interpreted the voice of the writer, the work that goes into a book is not dismissed in my review. However, since Winans is a famous person, who is considered an icon, I expected more stories on his music (the writing of the songs, some studio stories, etc) and less about how God was supposed to make him famous earlier than he became. There is a lack of Christian viewpoints for the reader, and more of an entitlement attitude that should be used in a Christian Living/Inspirational genre. It lacks emotion and detail in the stories given that one would expect more from a legendary musician.
This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Born For This: My Story In Music by BeBe Winans (Faithwords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-5460-0989-4 (hardcover), 978-1-5460-0988-7 (ebook).
One of the biggest complaints for wrestling fans who grew up during the territory days and the boom of the 1980s Rock and Wrestling era, is that today’s product is not for them. Many long for the days of wrestling where two guys had a beef with each other and settled it in the ring, or fought for the quest of being the champion, not wrestling invisible men, fighting with fire, glass bulbs, or other crazy ideas. Even towards the end of the Monday Night Wars, especially with WCW’s storylines, the matches were changed throughout the show minutes before the matches,with ridiculous endings like someone winning the title belt via disqualification in a NO-DQ match (like the recent WWE Hell In A Cell result between Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt where the “no rules” match ended on a DQ finish have recently shown, but this was on a weekly and monthly basis). There is still a group of wrestling fans who would rather watch the older , traditional wrestling shows as opposed to today’s product.
Growing up, I was a fan of the WWF and their cartoonish characters, along with the classic Jim Crockett NWA shows, and other territories, like the American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) and World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW). Many who stopped watching wrestling may not know, but the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which brought stars like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and The Rock N Roll Express never really went away when Ted Turner turned Crockett’s territory into World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
The National Wrestling Alliance was originally a group of promoters who wanted to have one true champion, and dated back to the early 1900s. The group of promoters who were in the NWA (at one time or another) included Vince McMahon Sr, Sam Muchnick, and Verne Gagne, before Gagne and McMahon decided to go off on their own (McMahon started his WWWF, which is now current WWE, and Gagne ran the AWA). During the 1980s, the NWA was known for wrestlers like The Four Horsemen, The Midnight Express, Lex Luger, and Sting. The NWA was considered gone after Ric Flair showed up with the title on WWF television as the “Real World Champion,” but the NWA made its appearances on WWF, when Jim Cornette, Jeff Jarrett, The Rock N Roll Express, and Barry Windham had an “invasion” storyline, which fizzled out quickly. The NWA title was still defended around the country, and was merged with TNA for a time before TNA withdrew from the alliance.
The current NWA is owned by musician Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, a band who I never cared for their music. Corgan had some experience during his time with TNA, along with Dave Lagana (who has worked with TNA, WWE, and Ring of Honor). The current show, NWA Powerr, is shown on youtube and Facebook, and is causing a buzz around wrestling fans who long for the “good old days” of wrestling. If you are not watching this show yet, here are my reasons you should be following :
The setting is similar to the 1980s NWA shows that aired on WTBS Saturday Mornings and nights. Fans that long for the studio wrestling days (even back to the Pittsburgh, PA studio wrestling with Bruno Sammartino, Dominic DeNucci and Bill Cardille in the 1960s and 1970s run by Toots Mondt), this is the place to be. The crowd is facing the camera, where two announcer tables are set at opposite sides of the front section; one for the wrestlers to come out and do their promos, and the other for the play by play announcers. Many fans have stated that this is similar to the Memphis or the Crockett NWA studios, with the ring being miked for the fans to hear the sounds of the action. If you miss the studio feel of wrestling, the NWA has you covered. Even the theme song from the 1980s band Dokken helps in its nostalgic targeted audience.
2. Nick Aldis
The current NWA Champion has come a long way from his former TNA days. I was not a major fan of his TNA days story lines, being a member of the second Main Event Mafia with Sting, Samoa Joe, and Kurt Angle. Since Sting was my favorite wrestler, I did not see the reasons why Aldis was put in the group, being placed in the “elite” group and continued with a losing streak. Maybe it was the writing of the creative team not knowing what to do with him, but watching Aldis’ matches against Cody Rhodes last year, fans can see why he is the top star of the NWA. His promo on episode #1 of Powerr (and his first title match vs Tim Storm on the same show) proved what the champions today are lacking; class. He came out for his interview in a suit, did not talk down to his opponent, and gave the viewers a promo of how proud he was to be in the league. He made fans believe that Storm (a former champion) was a major threat to the championship, for those who were not familiar with his work.
Today’s wrestler promos are way too scripted, to the point that they are not emotional or believable. Aldis ,on his promo alone, showed the tradition of a classy champion, like Nick Bockwinkel or Flair.
There are many great women wrestlers right now in the world. My favorites are Becky Lynch, Alexia Bliss, and Tenille Dashwood. Dashwood and Tessa Blanchard are in Impact (the former TNA), which I do not even get to watch, and I can only get an occasional match of Lynch or Bliss (I do not have cable TV, nor am I going to pay for the WWE Network until more AWA and other territory footage is added).
The “Insurance Policy” of Nick Aldis, who appeared with him in his match against Cody at NWA 70, has been the talk of the show, without saying much. That is because she hasn’t said anything character-wise (yet), but has taken a bump from an Aldis move outside the ring, that was more believable than some of the flips and dives of the men in other leagues. Kamille has been known on the indy circuits as Kamilla Kaine (youtube videos of her from Real Pro Wrestling can be found). She is a former softball player and women’s football player. Her character development is paced nicely to where fans want more, but creative are not rushing it (which is another plus for NWA-creative is letting the promos and stories develop naturally without rushing). With Kamille in the NWA, she will get to develop skills while still being able to let fans see her, as opposed to being on ROH or Impact, where very few people will get to see her, due to the lack of exposure both have right now. I also think that the WWE would just place her in NXT to lose every week, not knowing what to do with her. Kamille is a great find for the NWA right now to give a strong woman personality, while letting the others in the women’s division shine. All the WWE would do with her is job out (lose) to Charlotte every week , or keep her off air, like Liv Morgan has been, another female who I enjoyed (many know how I am not a fan of Ms. Flair). Kamille could be one of the top stars of the NWA if not already. Male fans are already watching just due to her presence.
4. Top Stars Along With Up and Comers
A league with a television show needs to have stars to help out the younger talent. The NWA has several former TNA stars like James Storm, Eli Drake (who reminds me of a young Steve Austin from his “Stunning Steve ” days at times), Thomas Latimar (aka Bram) and others like Ken Anderson, The Rock N Roll Express, and Aron Stevens; the former Damien Sandow. I was a fan of Sandow for years, with the exception of his tag team with The Miz in WWE, where I thought Sandow was not being used properly (and not a fan of The Miz’s in ring work). Sandow is one of the few wrestlers during the first batch of tapings who has gotten under the fans’ skin, to when he walks out , he gets the fans going (NO spoilers, but he adds comedy to every promo). The mixture of top stars, and newer ones (The Dawsons, Ricky Starks, and Thunder Rosa) who may have been on the wrestling scene, but have not been noticed as much, are balanced nicely, where some of the top ones are not afraid to put the younger ones over.
5. Jim Cornette
There are few people who knew the glory days of the 1980s NWA better than Cornette, who was the famous manager, announcer, and on the creative team during the NWA/WCW years before the Eric Bischoff days. Besides Bobby Heenan, no other announcer can come up with one liners to put over wrestlers on a whim any better. Not only is Cornette’s commentary comical at times, but he also is a wrestling historian, who gives the background of the history of the NWA, mentioning former champions or memorable wrestling stories. Again, stars are needed, and who is a bigger name (besides Ric Flair or Tully Blanchard), when it comes to the NWA than Cornette? The Rock N Roll Express have made their appearances recently as well, which helped build the attention of older fans who want to see some of the classic stars. With his two podcasts, Cornette is also available to plug the show to millions throughout the week for an extra added promotional push.
6. The Format
Since the NWA is on Youtube, the program’s run time is an hour. No fillers. No twenty minute opening with a wrestler talking and another comes out to interrupt before a match is booked. The limited promos are not so scripted that they are unbelievable; they are emotional and, at times, just basic, which is a good thing. When the announcer hounds the champion Aldis to speak with Kamille , and she looks at the announcer and walks away, that’s it until the following week to develop the story. There weren’t cameras backstage following her around into the locker room in seven more segments when a match could have been booked. The matches have the wrestlers come in from the black curtain and start wrestling-no five minute introductions with tons of pyro, and have the wrestler standing in the ring for four more minutes of commercial time. Also, since Powerrr is on youtube, if fans miss the debut, they can watch it anytime during the week, or several times a week, without a subscription fee. The limited time is actually a plus for the fans, where they are left wanting more , but have to wait a week to see it.
Fans that are longing for the studio days of wrestling, with a history of tradition that doesn’t shy away from its past (as opposed to some leagues who want you to totally forget this wrestler had a different gimmick two months ago and is repackaged too often), the NWA is the way to go. Some may want to praise the work of the other televised leagues, where three of the wrestlers use the same five moves every match 17 times, NWA Powerr is the show to be watching every week. I have had friends and co-workers who have not watched wrestling for years tuning in to the NWA show. Although I was never a fan of Billy Corgan’s music, he has the right product filled with quality wrestling, nostalgia, and solid pacing for a wrestling show. I believe that having different leagues will help not only fans, but the wrestlers, and this show is attracting a frustrated group of fans who left watching a long time ago. Powerr is the best wrestling show at this time.
NWA Powerr debuts each week on Tuesdays at 6:05 PM Eastern time on facebook and youtube.
For information about the National Wrestling Alliance, visit their website at : https://www.nationalwrestlingalliance.com/
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
After his last solo album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, which spawned hits like “Don’t Lose My Number,” “Sussudio,” “One More Night,” and a tour with band Genesis for Invisible Touch, Phil Collins was on a musical roll. He was charting hit after hit in the 1980s, and a question was how long could he continue? Those that have read his book know that a lot of the stories from the 1980s are basically him not remembering much about them, due to his massive schedule.
1989’s But Seriously was a more politically based album for Collins, with songs like “Another Day in Paradise” (which won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1991), and “Colours” (which is almost 10 minutes long). Many artists started to see that the fun time party music of the 1980s were coming to an end, and some started to use more social issues in their songwriting. Collins started to use more live drumming to some of the songs, as opposed to the drum programming from his 80s work.
The album starts off with the blaring horns of “Hang in Long Enough,” which has a rock style to it, with horns by The Penix Horns adding a flavor to it, similar to Earth Wind and Fire, along with an edgy guitar throughout the song.
The album then slows down immensely on track two with “That’s Just The Way It Is,” which has a similar opening to the following song, which makes it odd placing listening to it now. This style of ballads is in the classic style of Collins’ work in the 1990s into the 2000s, especially with his soundtrack work in movies.
One of my all time songs by Collins is track three. “Do You Remember” is a song I never get tired of decades later. The piano melody, and the lyrics on this ballad is a pop classic. Lyrically, talking about a relationship that has run its course, was used when I was an English teacher at a private school in Ohio, using the tag “People are funny sometimes/they just can’t wait to get hurt again, ” for a creative writing prompt, along with using the song in looking at poetry in music. The music video for the song is one of my all time favorites, with Collins being flash-backed to his school days when he befriends a girl and they become best friends, before she moves away. I can relate to this, due to the fact that one of my best friends growing up in junior high was female (she didn’t move away, but when high school hit, we went our own ways). If you have not seen the video, it is a must see. The song was a smash hit here in the U.S., hitting #1 on the AC charts, but still isn’t mentioned when people list some of his great songs, for some odd reason. Album flow wise, with this song being placed right after track two, which is so similar in structure, I’d say skip #2 and go straight to this one. It features Stephen Bishop on backing vocals, along with great guitar work by Daryl Stuermer. I think this is one of the best pop ballads of the 1980s.
The horn section takes over again with “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, ” along with a strong drum sound . Another hit off the album, this is another gem from the album. This is a strong powerful fun track with a big band rock feel.
The album also brought out the hits “Another Day in Paradise” with David Crosby helping out vocally, and “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” with Eric Clapton on guitar. I was never a fan of the first of these two, but the second has that crying guitar sound that Clapton is known for, which adds to the sadness of the song. Once again, the video, with Clapton having an appearance in it, is a throw back to the days of Collins’ acting days before branching into music (named Billy Collins) . It has a bluesy ballad to it with strong guitar playing. I am not against politically driven songs, but I always thought that compared to his other work, “Paradise” was a weaker song, yet it got more success critically for him, when previously the “experts” scoffed at Collins’ work.
“Heat On The Street’ is a more up tempo version of “Two Hearts” from a few years earlier, from the soundtrack to his film “Buster,” with its swing style rhythm, but with more political lyrics to it.
Two of the rarer cuts that are not usually discussed on the album is “All Of My Life,” a song that starts like a typical Phil slow ballad, but builds up with power during the choruses. The other rare song I love is the last song on the album, “Find A Way To My Heart,” which has personal meaning to it for me.
One my of best friends in high school was an illusionist, and was heavily inspired by David Copperfield. At the time I helped him write some jokes and give him some musical tips that may work for his tricks. After being influenced by a trick where Copperfield used the song “Mama” by Genesis, he decided to use this final track on this record as not only for a trick, but also was using it as his final song being played at his shows.
When I first got this release, there were many songs I skipped over, and only listened to some of the singles (except for “Find A Way..” which I always listened to with my friend). “Do You Remember” is still my favorite off the whole album. Although I do not have a bunch of Phil Collins’ releases in my collection (I have No Jacket Required on vinyl), besides this one and his 1998 Greatest hits (which for some reason doesn’t have “Don’t Lose My Number” which is a bummer), But Seriously is still an album that holds up years later. I stopped buying his studio releases after this, due to me not liking the soundtracks and too many of his songs sounding the same. The childhood memories of certain songs makes this album special for me, although I do not consider it a complete album track for track.
Hang On Long Enough 2. That’s Just the Way It Is 3. Do You Remember 4. Something Happened on the Way to Heaven 5. Colours 6. I Wish It Would Rain Down 7. Another Day in Paradise 8. Heat on the Street 9. All Of My Life 10. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning 11.Father to Son 12. Find A Way to My Heart
Wouldn’t it be nice to have one day a week to do nothing but recharge yourself in body, spirit, and mind, shutting off the emails, cell phones, and whatever else gets in the way? Christian writer Robert Morris shows readers how to do this in his new book Take TheDay Off: Receiving God’s Gift Of Rest (FaithWords, 2019).
Morris, the founding senior pastor at Gateway Church in Dallas Fort-Worth, encourages Christians to re-evaluate their lives and how to get one day of rest each week, full of distractions, along with why it must be done.
Morris takes an approach on the subject, first by stating that taking a day of rest is the 4th Commandment which God gave Moses, so if Christians can take the other Commandments seriously (such as “don’t murder, or steal”), why should getting a day of rest be any lesser than the others? Morris then describes how Christians need to re-fuel the major parts of a person’s life: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, by bringing up ideas such as if a person is not sleeping well at night, worrying about bills, the kids, or the job, it may be because the person is not trusting God that he is going to take care of his followers.
Morris uses other examples, such as the success the chain Chic-fil-A has by being closed on Sundays, yet still making a bigger profit than many of the competitors, to detailing the difference between resting on the Sabbath verses taking a vacation, having the day off written on a calendar where the person does “nothing,” even if it offends others at the office, friends, or those that want to schedule something on that day. He also walks the reader through why people do not want to rest one day a week (and the fears that it brings), to how important overall a day of rest has on a person and their ministry, to the subject on if the Sabbath day has to be on a Sunday or another day during the week. Morris also gives tips a step by step plan to get comfortable on the rest day, and some things the person should do (and should not do) during that day to get closer with God.
The book is mostly enjoyable, there are parts towards the middle and end that (to me) seemed to repeat itself in wording that has already been said earlier in the book (the book is still just over 200 pages, so it is relatively short). The first half of the book was really insightful; with Morris explaining that God even rested after creating the universe so why shouldn’t his followers, and using examples of Adam and Eve (as well as other Biblical stories), to explain why rest is important, along with doing work.
One problem I have with books like these, especially in the Self-Help area, is that not all things are equal in terms of people’s lives. I am definitely going to take the things in this book and apply it, but not every person can follow these steps, due to situations. Yes, everyone should be able to have one day of rest , away from the workplace, family, and even church responsibilities, but can they? A person that is currently working two (sometimes three) jobs just to make ends meet, due to scheduling, can not be able to have a full day to themselves, since many employers do not work around other job schedules (especially in my area of Columbiana, Ohio, where jobs are very scarce). If a person has to work several jobs just to make ends meet, does that mean they are breaking one of the Commandments, when the author writes a section about God judging the person’s heart? One may state that the person is not fully trusting God for providing, but is that really the case? Not everyone gets to choose the work schedule, like famous writers or pastors (or business owners) to be free to make one day full day possible. This is NOT a knock on the author and his ideas and points made, but just a commentary on the real world in certain areas of the world.
Overall the book is easy to read, and besides a few questions I have on the subject ( and a few parts that repeat themselves), the book’s is an unique and new way to look at not only how Christians should renew themselves throughout the week, but also how to look at their values and goals by being Christians.
This book was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Take The Day Off : Receiving God’s Gift Of Rest by Robert Morris (Faithwords, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-5460-1016-6 (hardcover), 978-1-5460-1014-2 (ebook) can be found at : http://www.faithwords.com.
The Oak Ridge Boys have been putting out several great albums in the past few years. When the band announced they would be working again with producer Dave Cobb on two upcoming albums, I was excited to hear the news. Cobb helped the singing legends go in a different direction on their last CD 17th Avenue Revival (where you can read the review in the archives by typing in the search engine). When the act announced that one of the CDs was going to be another Christmas record, I was a little shocked, since they just put out a Christmas release in 2016, called Celebrate Christmas (again you can read my review in the archives).
I have stated here many times that I am not a huge fan of live CDs or Christmas records. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being a Scrooge here, but most Christmas records are the same standard songs that have been done so many times that there is no new way to approach a holiday release. I do enjoy several Christmas CDs (Barry Manilow, Michael Bublè , and the last one by the Oaks), but my collection of the genre is limited for that reason, preferring original songs for the season, as opposed to the standards.
The Oaks’ CD, Down Home Christmas, is a departure from those that purchased the last Christmas release of the singing group, where not only the vocals were upfront, but a powerful group of musicians and orchestration were also featured. Here, the focus is purely on the vocals, with limited musicianship, which gives the songs its appeal and a different take on the genre, using a throwback style to a simpler era and time.
There are eight new songs out of ten, with two being the standard songs, “Silent Night” and “Amazing Grace.” “Amazing Grace” has gotten quite a bit of media attention the past year for when the Oaks sang it at the funeral of their friend and former President George H.W. Bush. A lead in description on the song by Joe Bonsall gives the ending of the album an emotional flavor to a song many have heard before, dedicating the song to anyone who had lost loved ones in the past, and giving the listener a verbal hope that the people will be connected again in the afterlife, which also expresses the band’s Christian outlook in life.
The CD opens with “The Family Piano,” a song with strong piano and guitar, written by Aaron Raitiere, who helped contribute on the last album (co-writing the song “Brand New Star”). Raitiere also has written with Dave Cobb before, where acts like the band Europe recorded songs on their albums. This opener is more geared towards a Bill Gaither style audience, in which the song is not too forceful, but still a pleasant opener that takes the listener back to the living room days of singing music with the family for entertainment.
The song “Angels” is a wonderful tune that encourages being thankful that God has given angels to those that believe in him, regardless of how good and bad life has been so far. One of my biggest complaints about the Christmas season is that many are not thankful for what they have, when a month earlier they are “thankful” for one day. Duane Allen and William Lee Golden share lead vocals on this song. This will take you back to a small country church, with the vocals stripped down to basics that you could feel the echo of the voices coming through the rafters of the wooden roof. Duane Allen has long been one of the most underrated vocalists (and arrangers) in any type of music, and he just gets better every album at an age where many just don’t have the chops anymore.
“Bring Daddy Home For Christmas” is a touching song about a child that is missing their father (for reasons not really given), but combines commentary with singing. Allen starts telling the story, as if reading from a book, giving a throwback feel to us kids who grew up watching the old Rankin/Bass specials on television, or bought the records where the narrator would set up the song, and tell the listener what was going on in between the vocals.
The single from the CD, “Reindeer on the Roof,” is a fun sing along track that will be stuck in your head long after the song is over. The video is humorous with guest appearances and even masked men looking like lucha wrestlers singing along to the song. Bass man Richard Sterban sings lead on the song, which gives the group a new standard for the holidays, and could turn out to be the Christmas “Elvira” (The biggest hit of the group’s career that made the pop charts in the early 1980s) with its simple, but easy to remember chorus. Although I feel Sterban really shines on the ballads, this is up there with his best songs, I mean really, how many bass singers are still around today?
“Hallelujah Emmanuel” is one of the few songs with stronger drumming by Chris Powell, as most of the songs are played with brushes or barely heard. Once again, the power from the last CD is not here, but is more focused on the vocals this time around. Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban share vocal duties on here. Bonsall is known for his wonderful on stage presence, but his vocal skills shine here.
“Down Home Christmas” has all the members of the group singing together throughout the track, and is reminiscent of the style of John Denver. There is some humor in the lyrics, such as “Granny is a ‘cussin'” and that there is “Every kind of pie” a person would want on the table to eat. This song is about family and getting together for the season. This is not a religious song per say, but one that celebrates traditional family values that the band is known to promote.
William Lee Golden has gotten my respect within the past several years, where in my older age, I have gone to respect his vocal ability more than I did when I was younger. His style fits beautifully on the bluesy ballad “South Alabama Christmas,” which salutes those that do not have chimneys (the narrator lives in a double wide trailer) or snow during the holidays. Sterban can be heard nicely on this track as well, along with the nice piano playing on this song written by Jamey Johnson, Buddy Cannon, and Bill Anderson.
With the vocals being the focus on the CD, “Don’t Go Pullin’ on Santa Claus’ Beard” is another throwback to the 1950s novelty Christmas songs in style and feel. Joe Bonsall takes the lead, with help from Sterban on this humorous track. Fans of the film AChristmas Story would enjoy the style and lyrics on this song.
The Oak Ridge Boys have found a way to make a Christmas CD enjoyable with a new perspective on the over saturated genre. The run time of the total album is just around 30 minutes, with each song around the three to four minute mark, so there is nothing extended or fillers here. This is a multi-generational album, where the older fans of traditional, old time holiday music will enjoy its traditional flavor, but the current fans of the band will also enjoy the light-hearted songs. One could see the likes of Jimmy Stewart sitting in the living room with his children singing to the songs next to the piano, or the 1980s children who grew up on the humorous novelty acts while wrapping their gifts. Add some traditional Gospel music into the cookie mix here, and you have a new treat with fun, praise, and togetherness celebrating God, family, and a simple life.
For someone that has tired out of the standard Christmas releases, preferring original penned songs, this was a surprise for me, which shows the iconic Boys are still proving their talent and risk taking.
The Oak Ridge Boys Down Home Christmas is available now from Lightning Rod Records.
Track List: 1. The Family Piano 2. Angels 3. Bring Daddy Home For Christmas 4. Reindeer on the Roof 5.Silent Night 6. Hallelujah Emmanuel 7. Down Home Christmas
8. South Alabama Christmas 9. Don’t Go Pullin’ On Santa Claus’ Beard
10. Amazing Grace
The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.
It’s time for my annual Halloween post! Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year; a time when I can not be ashamed of my love for horror films and monsters. Originally my Halloween posts were about several horror films that I wanted to bring attention to throughout the year, but the last few years I have decided to let a few contributors (those I have met through my journeys reviewing their works here, or to some friends that I am more than happy to give them some attention). This year I reached out to a few pals, and gave them free reign to write about ANYTHING that is related to Halloween, horror or monster films, or the season itself.
One of my favorite writers I have met since starting to focus on blogging reviews is Gary A. Smith, who has written many wonderful books (you can read some of my reviews on his books by typing his name into the search engine and visiting the archives section). Smith has been a contributor to the magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors from 1980-2013, and has written several books about various aspects of films. He also gives me some great film choices to watch throughout the year. He, like me, has the habit of trying to watch a horror film every day during the month of October to get in the mood. He decided to take a look at female characters in horror films:
Most of us are familiar with the famous male monsters but the far fewer female ones have often unfairly taken a back seat to their male counterparts…sort of like in the American workplace. Here are ten which are just as fearsome as any male monster you might encounter, often more so. After all, hell hath no fury…..
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)- There is quite a buildup until we finally get to see “The Bride” in all her horrible glory. As played by Elsa Lanchester, her few minutes on screen at the climax of the movie have made an indelible impression on movie fans ever since. She also makes quite an impression on Frankenstein’s poor monster who sheds a tear at her rejection of him and then blows them both to smithereens.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936)- Countess Marya Zaleska as played by Gloria Holden is far less well known than her illustrious father. She is an artist living in London and claims she only wants release from the vampire curse. But does she really? I’m sure victim Nan Grey would tell you otherwise. The odd tone of the movie did not set well with Universal execs and brought about the end of their first cycle of horror movies which had begun with DRACULA in 1931.
THE CAT PEOPLE (1942)- Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is convinced she suffers from a Serbian curse which turns her into a panther. Jealousy is one of the emotions that triggers the change so heaven help lovers Kent Smith and Jane Randolph. This was the first in the outstanding series of horror movies produced at RKO by Val Lewton. THE CAT PEOPLE was remade very effectively in 1982 with Nastassja Kinski as Irena, although its horrors were far less subtle.
CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)- Paula Dupree has the distinction of being the only female monster in the Universal pantheon to have a series of her own. Admittedly it isn’t one of the most distinguished series they made but it is definitely worth watching. Paula is the name given to Cheela the gorilla when mad scientist John Carradine transforms her into a woman. Paula appeared in three films. In the first two, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN and JUNGLE WOMAN (1944) she is played by Aquanetta. In the third, JUNGLE CAPTIVE (1945), Vicky Lane takes over the part.
THE SHE-CREATURE (1956)- During the horror movie boom of the Fifties, there were a number of female monsters and THE SHE-CREATURE was one of the first.This early offering from American-International Pictures has gorgeous Marla English regressed hypnotically by Chester Morris into a prehistoric sea monster, beautifully designed by Paul Blaisdell. Once you’ve seen her, you’re not likely forget her in either form.
BLOOD OF DRACULA (1958)- Another AIP movie which, despite the title, has nothing at all to do with Dracula. Instead we have Nancy (Sandra Harrison), an unhappy teenager sent to a private girl’s school where the science teacher (Louise Lewis) decides she would be the perfect candidate for an experiment. Unfortunately said experiment transforms Nancy into an especially gruesome looking blood sucking vampire. Teenage terror ensues among Nancy’s curvy classmates.
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967)- In Hammer’s fourth outing featuring Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, the good doctor takes the body of a crippled woman who has committed suicide, infuses her with the soul of her wrongly executed lover and creates the stunningly beautiful Susan Denberg. She then uses her beauty to revenge herself on the trio of dandies who framed her lover for murder. One of the most memorable and tragic films in all the Hammer canon.
THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)- Although many buxom vampire women had been featured in previous Hammer films, this is the first of their movies to have one in the central role. The extraordinary Ingrid Pitt plays Carmilla Karnstein, a rapacious lady vampire who seduces her (mostly female) victims and then slowly bleeds them dry. The movie inspired two follow ups: LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1970) and TWINS OF EVIL (1971). Together they have become known as The Karnstein Trilogy.
SUGAR HILL (1974)- In this deft combination of blaxploitation and horror, Sugar Hill (Marki Bey) uses voodoo to raise an army of zombies to get revenge on the mob boss (Robert Quarry) who killed her lover. This may well be the last movie to feature zombies created by voodoo before they gave way to the gut munching creatures that have come to proliferate in movies and TV.
And last but certainly not least….
CARRIE (1976)- Based on Stephen King’s first novel about a telekinetic teenager, Brian DePalma created a masterpiece of horror that has never come close to being equalled by the several remakes. Cissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, as the abused teen and her religious fanatic mother, were both nominated for Academy Awards. And the movie has what is possibly the greatest shock ending in all of horror cinema.
I always like to add some polls , asking my readers their opinions on some Halloween themed questions. Here are the results:
Halloween 2019 Poll Results:
Best Halloween Candy?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 90%
Which is the Worst Candy for Halloween?
Candy Corn 84%
(No surprise here, many tend to HATE the Candy Corn)
3. Which actress who has NOT been in a horror film (that you know of) would you like to see in one?
Gal Gadot 55%
Taylor Swift 40%
Other (Brie Larson) 5%
(It was interesting to see Taylor Swift have such a big vote in this, since she’s not known much as an actress)
4. Should Sci-Fi and Horror Films be in Separate Categories?
(No contest here, and I agree. I get frustrated when stores put the horror films with the Sci Fi selections)
5. Best Halloween Song?
Michael Jackson “Thriller” 50%
Boris Picket’s “Monster Mash” 45%
(The “Others” included “Purple People Eater” and a few rarer songs. It seems that M.J. is still the King of Halloween. No love for Alice Cooper or Jumping Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House” novelty song this year)
My next contributor is Eric Walker, who runs WatchTowerHeroes Comics in Columbiana, Ohio, who loves Halloween and monsters as much as I do. Eric decided to focus on monsters in comics, which is very interesting topic.
From Filmland to the Comic Pages
When the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man are mentioned, one typically thinks of Lugosi, Chaney Jr., and Karloff. An oft-overlooked contributor to the horror genre is comic books. From the Golden Age of pre-code horror to the booming 70’s of mainstream horror books, comic books have been sending chills down spines for decades. With such an extensive roster of horrific characters that would take forever to delve into, let’s look at just the 3 a fore-mentioned icons and their introduction to mainstream comics in the 70’s.
The most well-known comic book featuring Dracula is Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula. The series begins with Dracula arising from his tomb and his direct descendant, Frank Drake, set on hunting him down and sending him back to his grave. While a horror title, the comic series also has fun undertones with a good amount of action and turmoil. The series is also credited with introducing everyone’s favorite vampire slayer, Blade!
The Monster has been used in many different iterations throughout comics but received his own title in the 70’s called The Monster of Frankenstein. This series was relatively short-lived, with the first few issues just retelling his origin. The series ultimately ended with the Monster somehow in current times. The storytelling in the series is a little light but it gave some fun moments and crossovers, with some pretty cool art.
In the comic books, the werewolf to know is in the pages of Werewolf by Night. In this series, Jack Russell (creative name) must deal with curse of being a werewolf. As if this wasn’t a struggle enough, he must also constantly keep his sister safe from the same curse. Jack faces off against Dracula, Morbius, and the ever-popular Moon Knight. The exploits of Jack Russell are a true representation of the fun that is Marvel’s age of horror.
We all have our Halloween season traditions; watching scary movies, carving pumpkins, eating too much candy. Why not add to the fun and read a horror comic series or graphic novel to add to the terror? Happy Halloween
Another movie expert, and someone I have been a fan of his site for a while now, is Mike Perry. Mike is a major movie collector, along with a vast knowledge of films (so much so that I learn something every time he posts something). One should visit his site, http://www.mikestakeonthemovies.com/ , not just for the movie information and his personal opinions on films, but also to see his pictures and videos of his collection. Either way you will be educated. Last year, Mike took us on his Hammer film likes , and again, he enlightens us with more Hammer films.
5 Hammer Recommendations Minus Lee and Cushing
Time to turn my thoughts once again to the films we love to revisit during the Halloween season. Last year, Lance Lumley, invited me over to his site, Lance Writes, as a guest blogger and has kindly done so once again for the 2019 season. For my previous entry I focused on my five favorite duets of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Feel free to check them out here.
As Mr. Lee and Mr. Cushing are quite often associated to the Studio That Dripped Blood, Hammer Films, I thought I’d shine the light on some other titles from the studio that did not star either one of the dynamic duo of horror. To do so I reached for my handy copy of Hammer Films : An Exhaustive Filmography from writers Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio from McFarland Publishing.
Let the debates begin but here are five titles I’ve come up with for today. Ask me tomorrow and I may change my tune and after thumbing through that book I’m not sure how I’m going to narrow this to five so you can definitely expect some honorable mentions at the bottom of the page.
Here we go in no specific order…..
Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Directed by John Gilling and starring the very dependable Andre Morell, this Hammer outing was like discovering a new flavor of ice cream when I first saw it thanks to it’s release on VHS tape via Anchor Bay in the clam shell case. I guess one could argue that Morell scores the Cushing role as a man trying to find out what is terrorizing a small community while John Carson scores the Lee role. Meaning he’s the villain who has been dabbling with voodoo dolls and raising the dead.
The production has that gorgeous Hammer look and feel to it that fans have come to recognize and of course character player Michael Ripper makes his customary appearance to give us that warm and comfortable feeling. Highly recommended if you’ve somehow missed this one that I think has gained in popularity thanks to the home video market. Oh, and I’m totally convinced if this had starred either Lee or Cushing or better still, both, it would have been one of Hammer’s more popular titles looking back.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
Another outing from 1966 proved to be a memorable one for different reasons. As a kid there’s no doubt that it was the special effects of stop motion master, Ray Harryhausen. Any film that turned up on TV featuring his amazing work was always a reason for celebration and would cause this young hockey player to forgo the neighborhood road hockey game to stay indoors and watch the Saturday matinee on TV. The teen years hit and you’d still be forgoing the road hockey match because you wanted to watch Raquel Welch parading around in a caveman era bikini. Now that I’ve aged into fatherhood I’m not sure which reason becomes more prevalent. Harryhausen or Welch?
Either way this one is worth looking into for both reasons though it’s all rather silly in the end. Still, a must see for the work of Harryhausen. A true genius of whose importance to cinema goes far beyond the films of Hammer thus making my list of films to see.
Hammer dabbled in a number of Psycho like tales once Hitchcock unleashed the story of Norman Bates upon the world. For this effort from director, Freddie Francis, making his debut for the studio, a suitably brooding Oliver Reed has been cast in the lead role playing a troubled young man awaiting an inheritance to finally be awarded to him. His parents are long dead as is a missing brother who supposedly committed suicide years ago. Problems arise when the long thought dead brother arrives at the estate shortly before the money is handed over to the alcoholic Ollie.
Ollie an alcoholic? Perish the thought!
I’ve always liked this one and that’s in large part because I’ve always been a fan of the cinema’s number one badass, Reed. Director Francis would go on to do a number of Hammer films including both a Frankenstein and Dracula title as well as guiding a number of Amicus titles starring both Peter and Christopher.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
Bizarre twist on the famous Stevenson tale has the perfect casting. Ralph Bates as the good Doctor and look-a-like Martine Beswick as the murderous Hyde. Roy ward Baker takes the directing duties for this colorful tale of Victorian England that the studio excelled at. There’s not a lot to explain here. If you know the story of Jekyll and Hyde (assuming you have a pulse then you should know it) then the title gives all the plot points you’ll need to understand about what’s going to be happening to poor Ralph Bates.
Exploitative? You bet and by this time the studio had been dabbling in lesbians vampires and nudity. No lovely vampires cross over into the Jekyll story but Miss Beswick does offer up some skin for those looking to get a more intimate look at one of Sean Connery’s Bond girls.
I know it’s a Halloween theme but I can’t list my Hammer favorites without including this superb police drama starring the one and only Stanley Baker…..
Hell Is a City (1960)
Baker is a precursor to Dirty Harry as a cop looking to take down a murderer on the loose in Manchester. To do so he plays it mean and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The killer is effectively played by John Crawford who has escaped from prison and managed to pull off a heist. What Baker doesn’t yet know is all the crimes committed in the story are connected but with some forceful interrogation of key suspects he’s going to begin to connect the dots.
The film also stars Billie Whitelaw and in his only appearance for Hammer, Donald Pleasence. One would think that Donald should have been a sure fit for the studio’s many thrillers but it wasn’t meant to be.
This is another film that I had no idea of it’s existence until Anchor Bay released it on VHS for home video. Funny thing is I remember putting off purchasing it till I had all the other releases first. The reason? Cause it wasn’t a horror film and Hammer for me had always represented horror. As the years and film studies would go by I’d learn that they had a number of Noir tales in the books as well prior to Curse of Frankenstein that changed their fortunes and direction for the years ahead.
Be sure to watch this one. A solid gangster film and one that’s worthy to make a best of list when it comes to naming top British gangster pictures.
I know, I know, where’s Captain Kronos? Tell me about, that one’s got Caroline Munro! And how could you totally ignore Countess Dracula and the Quatermaas films? Honestly when it comes the Quatermaas films, I really like the first two but am less then enamored of the third film which seems to be the one most others like the best. On that note, X-The Unknown is also a good one alongside The Snorkel starring a deadly Peter Van Eyck. For a dose of real terror that was years ahead of it’s time one should check out Never Take Sweets From a Stranger. A chilling studio entry that’s just as relevant today as it was then.
I guess the bottom line is I would encourage one and all to look beyond the usual titles and films that featured Lee and Cushing. Hammer fans I know will be familiar with all the titles above but for those that are not then hopefully I’ve given you something to track down and enjoy. Thanks to Lance for having me over to share some fun titles for the pumpkin season.
Finally, since the horror genre was pretty much lacking in quality this year in my opinion overall, I decided to write about something I wanted to do for a long time. Not only movies and comics have had scary characters, but the influence on them has been a major factor in the world of professional wrestling. There have been many wrestlers with a vampire gimmick (Freddy Blassie and Gangrel come to mind), a Yeti, devil worshipers, and even Dr. Frank from Memphis, who was a Frankenstein Monster (who was stuck in his coffin during a bomb threat during the live TV show).
Right now WWE’s Bray Wyatt’s character is one of the talked about wrestlers today, providing a fresh take on a somewhat schizophrenic character (part Kane, Mankind, and Doink The Clown mixed together with Mr. Rogers) Wrestling has had many scary (and wild) characters throughout the years; from The Undertaker, Wolfmen, Vampires, Mummys, Chuckys, Zombies, Leatherfaces, the Frankenstein Monster, and more. I thought for Halloween I would list a few of the most scary wrestling gimmicks I grew up on.
The Boogieman- Trained by Booker T and Stevie Ray, Martin Wright may not have been the best wrestler in the ring, but his gimmick was so weird it was hard to trace what he really was. He would come to the ring with an alarm clock, and smash it over his head. He would also eat and spit out real worms in the ring and onto opponents. A mix between Papa Shango’s voodoo look and a painted devil, during a time where it was hard to scare people, the character was so weird and interesting at the same time.
The Sheik- When many mention The Sheik, they think of The Iron Sheik, but true fans know there was only one-Ed Farhat, one of the originators of hard core wrestling. Today a rich Arabian character may not be scary , but during his time, fans and wrestlers were totally freaked out by this man, both in and out of the ring. He was one of the earliest wrestlers to throw fireballs at his opponents, along with carrying pencils to carve his enemies’ foreheads. He was in some of the bloodiest matches in the 1960s and 1970s. Farhat was so into his character, that he would play his gimmick even outside the ring 24/7. His influence on hardcore wrestling, especially his nephew from ECW Sabu, is not stated enough.
Abdullah The Butcher- One of my earliest memories of wrestling was seeing Abdullah ‘s pictures in the wrestling magazines against people like Carlos Colón and Bruiser Brody, both covered in blood from Puerto Rico. Another founder of hardcore wrestling, it seemed odd when Abby DIDN’T have a foreign object in his hands to attack his opponents. Even when he came to Texas’ World Class Championship Wrestling and was on ESPN TV, he was still a scary site for me in my teen years, especially seeing the scars on his forehead, due to the massive blading occurred in his bouts (again his long time feuds with Bruiser Brody were wild and major bloodbaths) . Although he became a tamer wrestler when he arrived in WCW to feud against Sting in the 1990s, we smarter fans knew that he was a legendary force, although some remember him for his comical “Electrocution” during Halloween Havoc 1991, he regained some respect back during the “Heroes of Wrestling” match vs. The One Man Gang in my opinion.
George “The Animal “Steele- Steele was the first person I ever saw on TV, and I was hooked ever since on wrestling. Many remember Steele as a fan favorite with his “Mine” Doll, or during the Attitude era dancing with The Oddities, but during the 1970s and early 1980s, Steele was a true “Animal,” challenging Bruno Sammartino and the other WWWF Champions, attacking everyone including the ring announcer on TV tapings, running around the ring (in and out) and using objects as weapons. He also tore apart the turnbuckles, throwing the stuffing at opponents, referees, and the TV camera, while sticking out his green tongue. He may not looked “scary” in a way like a vampire, but he freaked me out as a young teen, and became one of my all time favorites. He was referred to as the “missing link” by announcers, before Dewey Robertson took the gimmick as the more known Missing Link character. Outside the ring, he was a teacher and a wrestling agent.
The Wild Samoans- Afa and Sika were terrifying when I was a kid, seeing them eating chicken legs and raw fish in interviews, grunting while letting manager Lou Albano do the talking for them. In the ring, they were huge and just as wild. Outside the ring, they were responsible for training many huge stars, along with their family tree linked to today’s stars. From Calgary, Mid South, WWF and Georgia, they were one of the first wild wrestlers I saw (besides George Steele), and their influence on future stars with similar gimmicks like Kamala, Umaga, and The Headshrinkers. I could imagine them coming out of the jungles looking for food (especially humans), and would do anything in the ring to attack opponents.
Jos LeDuc- When wrestling got more TV time, I could get the Memphis area wrestling on one of our TV Channels , and one guy who scared me was LeDuc, who had a lumberjack gimmick. This guy was old school wrestling; big, tough, rough, and had a groveling voice to match. Even though he wrestled in many territories, I didn’t see him until his time in the CWA in the mid 1980s. Although his 1988 brief stint in the WWF as The Headbanger Butcher was pretty much forgettable, his time in Memphis as a heel and a good guy were both believable as a crazy man who performed feats of strength, along with just flipping out on a dime to become one of the baddest guys you did not want to deal with. In 1986, he had some memorable stories with Buddy Landel and Bill Dundee. In his interviews, he threatened opponents with an axes, chains, and 2X4s. Leduc was old school crazy, who even when he was a face (good guy) gave me nightmares.
Regardless of your liking on comics, film, or wrestling, hopefully theses topics have given a different perspective and ideas on how to enjoy the Halloween season. Thanks to my contributors, my readers for their fan voting, along with a year of support. Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!
Fans of classic country music have gotten to celebrate this year with the Ken Burns Country Music documentary that aired on PBS, along with a book and several CDs soundtracks of the show. Although I enjoyed quite of bit of the show, there were MANY omissions that hurt the overall product, along with focusing too much on certain acts. I know due to time and budget (and maybe interactions or lack thereof on input from certain acts) could have been a factor, but it only touched the surface of the history of the genre.
In what is perfect timing, Sheree Homer has released a book on the topic called Under The Influence of Classic Country (Mcfarland, 2019), which will be a great read for those that want to read more about the classic country acts, and goes even further.
Homer is a fan of the genre, especially the Rockabilly music, where she had her own magazine. She wrote a great Ricky Nelson book (which you can find a review in the archives here) , and details many classic acts in her book here from the 1940s to today’s artists. She takes a brief biography of the musicians, along with her personal interviews of some of the artists, musicians, and management personnel to weave it all together to where the subjects are not just filled with facts, but funny tales and a few behind the scenes stories of their careers.
The book separates the artists into several categories; from Country and Rockabilly Groundbreakers, which features acts like Faron Young and Lefty Frizzell, to the Seventy Stars like Waylon Jennings and Mickey Gilley. She covers the Countrypolitian Hit Makers (a term I never heard of until Burn’s show) like Kenny Rogers and Charley Pride (where Rogers only gets a brief mention in the Burn’s documentary, yet had so many hits in the 1980s,and seems to get skipped over). Of course, the one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book is because of a section on The Oak Ridge Boys, where the writer interviewed Richard Sterban.
Some great stories I enjoyed in the book discusses all the different roles Faron Young played (even driving a bus and playing poker), Jerry Reed playing with Elvis Presley on a song because Elvis’ guitar player couldn’t get the sound that Reed used when Presley wanted to record one of his songs, to the time opening act Jerry Seinfield was almost “fired” from the Kenny Rogers tour, and Jennings buying a fan a hearing aid.
Acts that I am not familiar with, such as Billy Harlan , Al Hendrix, and Bill Carter are featured as well, along with newer acts like The Ragtime Wranglers, Carmen Lee, and Randy Rich. Homer takes what could be a basic history book of music and adds more flavor to it with some of these other acts, which is a nice blend to separate the book from others in the genre.
Like most of McFarland titles, the format is a text book format, but with her added stories blended into the facts, Homer’s reading flows better than some of the straight facts books that the company produces at times. One can read just about a certain musical act at a time, or read several in a sitting, thanks to the separation of the acts underneath the genre categories. Since there is not much written on people like Jerry Reed ( a favorite of mine), along with a backlash to the 1970s and 1980s music from Burns’ documentary, this was an enjoyable read. Fans of classic country, along with learning about some newer acts, will enjoy this title.
This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Pages: 259 (175 text, 60 pages of Select Discography)
Geared For: All Ages
For Fans Of: Country Music, Rockabilly Music, Music History
Under The Influence of Classic Country :Profiles of 36 Performers of the 1940s toToday by Sheree Homer (McFarland, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-4766-6751-5 (print) 978-1-4766-3707-5(ebook) can be found at : http://www.McFarlandbooks.com or at 800-253-2187.
Wrestling fans today sometimes do not know how easy it is to find out about certain wrestlers and other promotions, as opposed to in the pre-internet days. Most fans back then had to rely on the various wrestling magazines, or if they were lucky, tape trading with strangers.
I started watching wrestling on and off around 1984, but did not have access weekly until around 1986. I would occasionally get to see WWF ChampionshipWrestling show on channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio (WYTV). I remember seeing a few matches, such as Greg Valentine bashing the I-C title into the cage after losing it to Tito Santana, Andre The Giant getting his hair cut, and several wild matches with the first wrestler I ever saw on television, George “The Animal” Steele. It wasn’t until 1986 when the WWF show was held weekly, after the popularity of Hulk Hogan, where I got regularly aired programming.
Because of this, I missed out on the career, especially the WWF career, of Rocky Johnson. The only exposure I had to Johnson was via the wrestling magazines, where I would read on the past champions, knowing that he was tag team champions with Tony Atlas. Later on, of course, with the internet and his famous son being a huge wrestling star, I was able to see some of his matches.
SoulMan: The Rocky Johnson Story ( ECW Press, 2019) Johnson, along with Scott Teal, takes the reader through his career as one of the more popular African American wrestlers from the late ’60s -’80s.
When I requested the book to review, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the co-writer was Teal, who is a legendary wrestling historian and author. Any smart wrestling collector know Teals’ name, and his company Crowbar Press, from his work writing the books for Stan Hansen, J.J. Dillon, The Assassin, and Tony Atlas (along with the many historical books he has written and edited). When I took the book out of the packaging, I knew, when seeing Teal’s name on it, this will be a good (and historical accurate book).
The Forward, written by son Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, details how The Rock’s success was due to his father, and how as a young child, Dwayne would go to the matches, being exposed to the inside work of wrestling, including blading, how the matches were laid out, and keeping the kayfabe carnival mystery so the outsiders would not know what’s going on.
Rocky takes the book throughout his career, from his first love of wrestling as a fan getting autographs outside the arenas (and seeing one of the bad guy “heels” hiding in the backseat of the car with the good guys he just fought), to his various stints in the territories and the many bookers he had to work with before getting to the WWF.
Rocky’s childhood growing up in a not so happy environment in Canada, brings a heart filled aspect to the book, where he ended up having to leave in order to get a better life for himself. The reader has to have a respect for a man who did whatever he could to keep a steady job while wrestling, to provide for himself. This is not a story where (sometimes like today) where a wrestler is discovered at a gym and giving the golden keys to train somewhere. Johnson’s career starting out as a boxer, and then going into wrestling, where he was not told of how things worked even then, and just told to go out and figure it out is an unique journey.
The book has road stories and tales of the different promotions that he was involved in , with tales about “Whipper” Billy Watson, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Buddy Colt, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and more. There are tales about promoters Ole Anderson (who Johnson was not a fan of), Jerry Jarret, Nick Gulas, Jim Barnett, and Mike Lebell. Johnson discusses how some of the other black wrestlers constantly used the “race card” to cause problems with the promoters and, at times, preventing Johnson himself to succeed. There are funny stories about Freddy Blassie and Johnny Valentine’s practical jokes on other wrestlers, to the time The Iron Sheik ran out of his own match , thinking a fan had a gun at the shows. SoulMan also gives Johnson’s opinion on his son, and some early stories of him training young Dwayne in wrestling, along with his take on Dwayne’s movie career.
At first, I thought the book would be covered with many tales of Johnson’s time in the WWF, but I didn’t realize he was not in the WWF for a long time. There is one chapter about his time working with the McMahons .One part is mentioned that Johnson was wrestling in Struthers, Ohio, (not far from where I live and grew up) when he found out that McMahon SR. passed away. However, this chapter is very insightful, because Johnson discusses some of the things that were said about him in the book by Tony Atlas (also by Teal). I thought this was a neat aspect in the book , which gives the readers that have read the Atlas book, another side of the story. The fact that this section doesn’t turn into a gossip style bashing, and is done with respect to Atlas and his side of the breakup of their tag team, Johnson states his side of the story.
Some of my favorite stories in the book involves actor Jackie Gleason’s time in wrestling in Florida, how Jody Hamilton (“The Assassin”) would sing to wrestlers under his mask, and a story in Portland that involved Rocky’s fake death and a horse (NO SPOILERS here).
The book is a nice historical writing at the career and life of Johnson. There were several things I was not aware of before reading the book, including Johnson’s real name (he didn’t change it until years later), that he was Canadian, and how little time he spent in the WWF. The book has a undertone of a man who worked hard to not only achieve his dreams (along with giving back to others as a trainer), but to overcome biases of the time, to make a hall of fame career. Even though there was not much in the ways of his time in the WWF, the book has a ton of easy to read chapters that will not disappoint fans of the territory wrestling days.
This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press
Soul Man: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson with Scott Teal (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-493-8 (softcover), 978-177305-413-1 (pdf), 978-1-77305-412-4 (EPUB) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com.
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
It amazes me to this day why Huey Lewis and The News do not get more respect in the music world. First of all, between 1982-1994, the band charted fifteen singles on the Top 40 charts in the U.S., along with several others on the Adult Contemporary Charts (AC Charts). They seem never to be considered to get into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame , where many acts that had little to no influence on music are put in immediately (another topic for another time is the Hall of Fame). Even the most causal fans can name at several of their hits, either from the Back to The Future soundtrack to songs that have been covered by acts like Garth Brooks. They were one of the top bands in the 1980s, next to Chicago and Hall and Oates, when it came to radio airplay. I was a drummer in local Youngstown, Ohio area bands, and although my favorite bands are The Beach Boys and Kiss, I always would’ve loved to had a band patterned like Huey Lewis and The News.
The band did not only write great pop hits, but they also experimented with soul, blues, and funk at times on their albums. In 1994, the band decided to visit the early rock and soul sound that created the groundwork of Rock and Roll with their album Four Chords and Several Years Ago, where three singles came off of the album , all hitting the AC charts, and getting plenty of airplay on stations.
Releasing an album of all covers was nothing new, but this release not only gave listeners another great album from the band, but also a history in rock music. Songs like “Shake Rattle and Roll,” a Big Joe Turner song before Bill Haley and The Comets made it there own (which many historians view as one of the earliest rock and roll songs), to the more original version of “(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful” (which some causal fans may not know wasn’t firstly done by Grand Funk Railroad), walk the listener through great songs where segregation may have been on the streets but not in the recording studio.
I remember loving the PBS special of the band’s concert promoting the album, with guests Sam Cooke and Lloy Price, shot mainly in black and white. I worn out a few copies of the VHS release as well.
Some of my favorites on this release is the remake of Price’s “Stagger Lee” (which I like this version better than the original, with its more powerful sound to it), “You Left The Water Running,” the Clifford Curry hit “She Shot A Hole In My Soul,” and “Searching For My Love,” a hit from Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces. Another gem on the CD is Ernie K Doe ‘s “Mother In Law,” featuring Dr. John with a nice piano groove to it. Most of the songs stay true to the originals, but since production values were slim back in those early days, Huey and The News give it more power to the songs with the horns and backing vocals. Although a few misses are on the CD in my opinion, like “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Cash,” and ” Surely I Love You,” with 17 tracks on here, there is a few songs that wear on me because many songs (although most of the songs have a short run time, it’s still 17 songs). Even though I personally may not like the songs, every track is filled with great musicianship and Lewis’ soulful voice fits wonderfully on every track.
The singles “(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “Little Bitty Pretty One,” and “But It’s Alright” (The J.J. Jackson song, not the Curtis Mayfield song that the band also had a minor hit with) all gave the album a little push -“But It’s Alright” and “..Wonderful” both had airplay on my Youngstown, Ohio local stations, but the overall album did not chart as well, reaching only #55 in the U.S., but did well in Japan. Was it because most listeners did not care about early rock music? I don’t know, but I think 25 years later, the CD is still a fun listen. Since I grew up listening to these early rock songs, and having one of my favorite bands record these songs, was double excitement for me. If you want a good fun album , this is one that needs to be re-listened to.
Track Listing: 1. Shake, Rattle and Roll 2. Blue Monday 3. Searching For My Love 4.(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful 5. But It’s Alright 6. If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody 7. Mother In Law 8. Little Bitty Pretty One 9. Good Morning Little School Girl 10. Stagger Lee 11. She Shot A Hole In My Soul 12. Surely I Love You 13. You Left The Water Running 14. Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash 15. Function At The Junction 16. Better To Have And Not Need 17. Going Down Slow
Another unique cover album from 1994 was Barry Manilow’s Singing With TheBig Bands, a salute to popular music before rock and roll came along. Manilow, like Huey Lewis and The News, mixed many genres into his music, but where rock and blues was Lewis’ influence, Manilow mixed jazz, orchestration , and big bands into his music; one of his first hits, “Could It Be Magic,” was based on a Chopin song. Singing WithThe Big Bands was not just a collection of the classic hits from the 1930s and 1940s, but Manilow got the actual orchestras to perform on the album, such as The Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington Orchestras, along with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown.
Manilow adds two original songs to the beginning and end of the album, first starting with the title track, a song where Manilow states he would’ve loved to time travel back and sing these songs with the bands if he could when it was fashionable to do so. Many critics of Manilow have stated that Manilow was dull and never in fashion with the times, but to me, that’s what made him as great as he was. Even his pop hits from the 1970s had a different style to them (as mentioned earlier, mixing more classical and big band/jazz mix to them). The ending song, “Where Does The Time Go,” written by Manilow and Bruce Sussman, talks about how fast time flies by. This song is relevant in 1994 (and today), and not just during a big band era.
Classic songs like “Sentimental Journey,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” are sung perfectly for Manilow’s signature voice. Rosemary Clooney guest stars on “Green Eyes” with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra, and Debra Byrd helps out with “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.” What’s a big band record without “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” or “I Can’t Get Started” or “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You?” Younger music fans who want to hear some romantic lyrics need to check out these songs, because lyrically they are better than anything that is released today.
The album sold well, reaching Gold Status (his last album to do so was four years earlier) and was produced by the legendary Phil Ramone. The success of this album made Manilow decide to start a series of cover albums. The following albums after this were Summer of ’76 (a cover of 1970s hits that is far better than The Greatest Songs ofthe Seventies he released years later), followed by a Frank Sinatra themed album. Some songs of the big band era have been brought back into the public’s attention thanks to the great Michael Bublé Manilow’s release here is a history lesson of a bygone time. Even though I was not originally a fan of this type of music in high school (I was a drummer and got kicked out of band for not being able to read music, so orchestras were not my thing), I always liked this album, and Manilow’s work. Manilow was one of the first people to kick off the American Songbook craze (which Rod Stewart and others have recorded) long before it was fashionable.
If you are a fan of Bublé, or just want soothing romantic songs, this is one album you must have in your collection.
Track Listing: 1. Singing With The Big Bands 2. Sentimental Journey 3. And The Angels Sing 4. Green Eyes (with Rosemary Clooney) 5. I Should Care 6. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore 7. I Can’t Get Started 8. Chattanooga Choo Choo 9. Moonlight Serenade 10. On The Sunny Side Of The Street 11. All Or Nothing At All 12. I’ll Never Smile Again 13. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You 14. Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (with Debra Byrd) 15. (I’lll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time 16. Where Does The Time Go?