Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Buckcherry - 15 CD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Buckcherry came out of the late '90s Hollywood music scene as seemingly a breath a fresh air to those fed up with grunge and longing for the gritty rock and roll of yesteryear. Their self-titled debut didn’t disappoint. With infectious riff after riff and sing-along choruses, the band drew comparisons to Aerosmith, AC/DC, Guns ‘N Roses and The Sex Pistols. Their breakthrough single, “Lit Up,” was all over rock radio and owed a musical debt to Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me.”

The band suffered a commercial sophomore slump however with its second release, Time Bomb, and broke up in 2002. After singer Josh Todd released a solo album, he and guitarist Keith Nelson were recruited by ex-Guns ‘N Roses members Slash, Duff, and Matt Sorum for their new group – called The Project at the time. That group eventually became Velvet Revolver with Todd and Nelson being replaced by Scott Weiland and Dave Kushner.

Todd and Nelson decided to reform Buckcherry with new members and released 15 (named for the numbers of days it took to record) in Japan in November of 2005 and the U.S. in April of 2006. More than two years later, 15 still has life on the charts and rock radio. To date, it has spawned five singles, from the controversial sleaze-rock of “Crazy Bitch,” to the current hit single, “Sorry” – remarkable for a band that didn’t even have a record label in the U.S. at the time 15 was initially released.

Buckcherry have always worn their influences on their sleeves and 15 is no different. “So Far” sounds like a raunchier version of '70s Aerosmith while “Out of Line” would be at home on Highway to Hell. This isn’t a bad thing, though. The band pays tribute without totally aping the originals. Buckcherry is about as rock and roll as it gets these days.

Buckcherry have secured a slot on Motley Crue’s 2008 festival tour, Crue Fest as they continue to grow in popularity. If 15 is any indication, great things lie ahead for the band.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sinatra at the Movies CD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Throughout his remarkable singing career spanning parts of seven decades, Frank Sinatra also appeared in 58 films, winning three Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor for From Here to Eternity, and four Golden Globes, including Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Pal Joey. Sinatra contributed some of his best-loved music to these films, with 20 of those songs collected on Sinatra at the Movies.

Covering his brilliant Capitol years only, Sinatra at the Movies includes the title themes to The Tender Trap, From Here to Eternity, Young at Heart, Three Coins in the Fountain, and Not as a Stranger. Also from Young at Heart is the classic “Just One of Those Things,” which is done with its more familiar up-tempo arrangement (In later years, Sinatra sometimes performed the song as a ballad, or "saloon song" as he called them).

Four other movies are represented by two songs each, with “I Love Paris” and “C’est Magnifique” from Can Can, “How Deep is the Ocean” and “All of Me” from Meet Danny Wilson, “I Could Write a Book” and “The Lady is a Tramp” from Pal Joey, and “All the Way” and “Chicago” from The Joker is Wild.

It should be noted that while all of these songs are from Sinatra movies, they are not the versions recorded for the movies. Rather, they are the versions from his Capitol albums (“Chicago” is the version from Come Fly With Me for instance). To get the tracks from the movies, one may consider the Sinatra in Hollywood box set.

Sinatra at the Movies is part of a larger media blitz that includes a U.S. postage stamp (entering circulation in May) and television programming spotlighting Sinatra’s movies and television specials. While many of the tracks on Sinatra at the Movies are timeless standards, the CD barely scratches the surface of Sinatra’s recorded legacy, making it a bad starting point for new fans and a must-own for completists only.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder: John, Paul, Tom & Ringo DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

In the near decade The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder aired on NBC, Snyder had a number of cutting-edge performers appear on the show. Not many American talk shows would have ever touched the Plasmatics or Johnny Rotten, yet there they were in interviews and performances with Snyder trying to establish a rapport with them as well as understand them (While a good interviewer, Snyder could come across as a bit square on occasion). The most famous of these musicians were arguably the three former Beatles he interviewed: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr. Those interviews make up the contents of this two-disc set.

Disc one is a tribute to John Lennon with his interview from April of 1975, which Snyder rebroadcast on December 9, 1980, one day after Lennon’s death. In it, Lennon discusses his time with the Beatles, his solo career, his life in New York with Yoko Ono, and his immigration status (His immigration lawyer, Leon Wildes, joins the interview during that segment). It was to be Lennon’s last televised interview. The rebroadcast added then-new interviews with journalist Lisa Robinson and producer Jack Douglas, who produced Double Fantasy and had done a session with Lennon the night of his murder.

Disc two begins with an interview with Paul and Linda McCartney just before one of their 1979 concert appearances in London, England. Wings were on the road for Back to the Egg (The video for “Spin it On” is included in the broadcast) and were about to play the Concert for Kampuchea. The interview was taped the day after the Who concert at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati where 11 people were trampled to death as fans rushed to their seats. McCartney said the key to better security at such shows where festival seating is used such as the Who concert, is have more entrances for fans, so everyone isn’t all going into the same doors. Paul also talked a little about his time with the Beatles and life at home with the kids and how he enjoyed having a family and being able to take his kids on the road with him. Snyder asked Linda McCartney how she met Paul and asked Wings members Laurence Juber and Denny Laine how they came to be in "the Wings organization" as Snyder called it.

The final interview on disc two is with Ringo Starr from 1981. Ringo was promoting his then-new album, Stop and Smell the Roses, which featured contributions from Paul McCartney and George Harrison (the video for Harrison’s “Wrack My Brain” is shown) and was to have also included songs written and produced by John Lennon. The two were to work together in January of 1981, but Lennon was killed the previous December. This interview was less than a year later and Starr was still very shaken up at the loss of his friend. The interview also includes Ringo’s wife Barbara Bach, who he met on the set of the film Caveman. Angie Dickinson fills up the second half of this episode where she promotes her series, Cassie and Company, and discusses why she returned to television.

For Beatles fans, John, Paul, Tom & Ringo serves as an interesting time capsule, both in terms of the various Beatles careers at that point, as well as world events of the time. It’s nice to have the interviews all in one collection and is well worth owning.

Cloverfield DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

On a recent trip to Japan, producer J.J. Abrams saw a number of Godzilla toys in a toy store and realized the impact the fictional creature has on Japanese culture to this day. He then thought, “what if America had such a creature?” It was this thought process that led to the creation of Cloverfield, an American monster movie that owes a lot to its Japanese counterparts.

Set in New York City, Cloverfield begins at a going away party for Rob Hawkins (played by Michael Stahl-David), who is leaving for a job opportunity in Japan. Among the guests present are Rob’s brother, Jason; and Jason’s girlfriend, Lily; Rob’s friend, Hud, whose home movie serves as the documentation of not only the party, but of the monster’s attack; the object of Hud’s affections, Marlena; and Beth McIntyre (played by Odette Yustman), who brings a date in spite of the fact she once had a fling with Rob. Hud films testimonials from the guests about Rob and it is here we learn from Beth’s reaction that she still has feelings for Rob. When Rob reacts angrily to the fact that Hud is inadvertently taping over video footage of him and Beth, it is revealed that Rob shares Beth’s feelings.

The party seems to be going fine when tragedy hits New York City. Buildings shake and there are explosions as the city reacts in panic, not knowing whether it was an earthquake or possibly a terrorist attack. It is here that Cloverfield does a good job of playing on post-911 fears, showing the chaos that would take place were such an event to actually occur. The monster rips the head from the Statue of Liberty, hurling it down a busy street and at this point, we first get our first glimpses of the creature as captured by Hud’s camera.

A group of New Yorkers tries to flee via the Brooklyn Bridge and Rob gets separated from Beth who is trapped in her apartment building. Desperate, Rob goes back to try and save her while the military is called in to fight the creature. In spite of being a monster movie, at its heart Cloverfield is really a love story between Rob and Beth. In a series of flashbacks (shown from Rob’s original tape, which wasn’t completely erased), we get glimpses of the playful nature of their relationship and, after the attack, see the lengths Rob will go to save her.

Cloverfield runs about 75 minutes – a short film by today’s standards – but that enables the film to keep its frantic pace throughout. With its shaky, first-person perspective (Think The Blair Witch Project), Cloverfield is not for those who get dizzy easily, yet it is this very technique that enables the viewer to see what Hud sees as he sees it and helps Cloverfield manage a fresh take on the monster-movie concept.

The DVD has a number of bonus features, including: deleted scenes, alternate endings, featurettes and commentary by director Matt Reeves. Those looking for drastic differences in the alternate endings however will be disappointed as it is merely the flashbacks that have been changed, though the commentary provided by Reeves offers interesting insight as to why they were left on the cutting-room floor.