Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rupert Holmes - Partners In Crime

Welcome to another edition of “Seventies Saturday”.

The man who would eventual become known as Rupert Holmes was actually born in England to the name of David Goldstein. His father was an American Army Warrant Officer and bandleader; his English mother was also musically inclined. He attended the Manhattan School of Music. His brother was an opera singer. Suffice to say, music was in his blood.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Billy Joel - Glass Houses

On March 10th of 1980, American singer-songwriter and all-around piano man Billy Joel released his seventh studio album Glass Houses. It featured his first number 1 hit single on the Billboard charts, and the album also spent six weeks of its seventy-three week run, on top of the Billboard Album. It ranked number 4 on Billboard’s 1980 year-end album chart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sade - Diamond Life

Last Spring, comedienne Wanda Sykes had a very short lived Saturday night show that combined talk and humorous sketches that aired on FOX. I think I was probably one of a dozen or so folks who actually watched it before it got cancelled. Anyway, one of ongoing things she was obsessed about was trying to get Sade to come on to the show. Sade had just released her sixth studio album, the first one in ten years, and Wanda was a huge fan.

Today, I want to look back at Sade’s debut album Diamond Life which was released in the UK on June 16th of 1984 and in the US in early 1985. And though the band is named after lead singer Sade Adu, it is really an English R&B band that combines elements of jazz, soul, funk and soft rock into a beautiful fusion of sound. The album was a slow starter that eventually made it into the top ten hit in a number of countries.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Roman Holliday - EP / Cookin' on the Roof

In the early 1980’s, the British band Roman Holliday formed. Combining a mixture of pop and swing, they brought a lot of fun to the music scene. Before their first full album was released in 1983, the group put out a five song EP.

I was first exposed to Roman Holliday and a couple of these songs by listening to local college radio during my senior year of high school. The EP was available at the local record store for $3.99, so I quickly added it to my vinyl collection.

The first side opens with “Stand By”. It was the first single released by the group; it reached number 61 in the UK and number 54 on the US charts. The opening is bouncy and gets my foot moving within seconds, thanks to the aforementioned swing elements. I was an instant fan after hearing this one song. I give it five stars.

Next up is “Motor Mania”, the third single from the group. It went to #40 in the UK. The multiple part harmony on the opening (by singers Steve Lambert and Brian Bonhomme) is kind of cool. This one harkens back to all those odes to cars from the 60’s, but with a 40’s big band sound to it. It is also a five-star track in my book.

The side concludes with “I.O.U.”, a song about a guy who is constantly running short on cash. But, as with their other songs, Roman Holliday presents it in an up-tempo way so you don’t feel so bad for the guy.

The second side of this EP advises “Don’t Try to Stop It”. This second single by the group did better in the UK (#14) than it did in the US (#68). You can really pick out Jon Durno’s thumping bass on this one. And the vocals are smooth.

The last song on the record is “Beat My Time”. It was originally released as the B-side to the “Don’t Try to Stop It” single.

Four out of five of these songs would show up a little later on Roman Holliday’s first full-length album Cookin’ on the Roof. This one didn't show up in my local record store (and I really didn't seek it out since I had the EP). It took another twenty seven years before I would come across the full release via digital downloads, but it was well worth the wait.

Side one of the full album starts with “Don’t Try to Stop It”. Then “Motor Mania” and “I.O.U” follow.

“Jive Dive” has a bit of a jazzy feel to it and makes me think fondly of the Manhattan Transfer (“Java Jive”). John Eacott on trumpet and Rob Lambert on saxophone are showcased in this one.

“Midnight Bus” talks about the perils of drinking too much and having to ride the bus home (rather than drive drunk). Of course, when you combine drinking and the word “bus”, something else comes to mind as well. LOL

Side closes with the title track “Cookin’ on the Roof”. Adrian York really works those 88-keys on this song.

“Stand By” opens side two. “No Ball Games” is next.

“Fur N’ High Heels” is a song about dating a high class gal. “Serious Situation” slows things down a little with a piano ballad opening and then brings in the rest of the band. The final track on the album is “One More Jilt”.

I strongly recommend Roman Holliday and these albums to anyone who likes the combo of rock and swing. This band had that style down perfectly. The songs might be a little hard to come by, but they’re worth the hunt.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Haircut One Hundred - Pelican West

In 1980, the British pop group Haircut One Hundred formed. They played a number of gigs locally, with the roster slowly solidifying, before finally getting signed to Arista Records. By early 1982, their debut album Pelican West was ready to meet the world.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Van Halen - 1984

1984 was both the name of and the release year for Van Halen’s sixth studio album, released on January 9 of that year. It was one of the band’s most popular records to date (both in chart performance and sales). It peaked on the Billboard album charts at number 2 (blocked by Michael Jackson’s Thriller). It also produced three top 20 hits singles and the band’s first (and only to date) number 1 hit single. The album was ranked number 81 in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 Albums of the 1980’s; it also appears on the 1001 Albums list.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Comic Books of the Week (4/20/11) part 2

Round two for the week - this time all super-team titles...

Justice League of America #56 - I liked seeing St. Walker and the reserve Leaguers brought in on the fight with Eclipso. Unfortunately I think the team is seriously out-numbered and out-gunned in this battle. And that ending does not look too promising for them. I'm very curious how Robinson is going to spin this one around. The artwork by Booth and Ramund was very good though. I hope they stick round.

Teen Titans #94 - the teens follow the trail of the kidnapped Wonder Girl, but it doesn't go so smoothly. This issue sort of seemed like it was stuck in a slow gear. I know there was some character development going on but I don't feel the story progressed far enough. I'm hoping for better movement in the next issue.

Legion of Super-Heroes #12 - lots of jumping around in this issue, which I understand is necessary for such a large cast. But, the negative is we only get a page or two in each area before the next jump. This issue felt kind of short too. I like having the letter columns back but I think those six pages of previews need to be cut out and given back to the titles for story. Just saying.

Comic Books of the Week (4/20/11) part 1

Breaking last week's books down into multiple posts. Let's get started.

Green Lantern Corps #58 - this was actually in issue from last month. It features part two of the "War of the Green Lanterns". I decided to grab this one even though I don't read GLC regularly. It was nice catching up with Kyle, John and Ganthlet as they find themselves facing controlled Corps members. It helped move the overall story along.

Green Lantern #65 - part four of the "War of the Green Lanterns". So, in the skipped part (couldn't find the issue in the shop), Hal and Guy battle and eventually get their rings off. They get to Oa, hook up with John and Kyle and then take up a game plan that, hopefully, they won't regret in the end. I definitely think there will be fall out.

Green Lantern Corps #59 - part five of the story arc. First, love the alternate cover by George Perez. I am a big fan. Inside, the four Earth-born GL's start to see the flaw in their plans. Will they get it together before Krona's Corps flattens them?

Purple Rain (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

On June 25th of 1984, the film Purple Rain was released along with the accompanying soundtrack album by Prince and the Revolution. This was the sixth album by the multi-talented singer/songwriter from Minneapolis. It went to number 8 in Austria, number 7 in Switzerland and the UK, number 5 in Germany, number 4 in Norway, number 3 in Sweden and number 2 in New Zealand. It topped out at number 1 in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and in the US (on both the Billboard Album chart and the Billboard R&B chart).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Electric Light Orchestra - Discovery

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

In 1979, the British rock group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO for short) put out their eighth studio album Discovery and was a smash seller world-wide. It was their first number 1 album in their native UK (it debuted at the number 1 spot and stayed there for five weeks) and in Norway, and their second number 1 album in Australia. It went to number 2 in Sweden, number 3 in Austria, number 4 in Italy and number 5 in the United States. In most places, the album stayed on the charts for over half a year (in some places a little more than a year). The album also produced five singles total.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Run-D.M.C. - Run-D.M.C.

In early 1984, one of the first old-school rap groups to make it big was Run-D.M.C. The self-titled debut album, released on March 27th, from this group from Hollis, Queens, New York is considered a groundbreaking record. They combined sparse beats (delivered expertly by Jam Master Jay) with aggressive vocals (by Darryl “D.M.C.“ McDaniels and Joseph “Run” Simmons) and some guitar riffs (by Eddie Martinez) to create a new sound that contrasted with the earlier hip-hop recordings.

The record has been recognized by many sources for its innovation. The Source gave it a five-star rating and listed it on their 100 Best Rap Albums. Rolling Stone magazine gave it four-and-a-half stars, and placed it at number 51 on their 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980’s list and number 240 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list. Spin magazine gave it a rating of 9 out of 10. It also appears on the list of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome

The British dance-pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood did something rather ambitious for their 1984 debut album - they issued a double vinyl release. Usually something like that was seen only by seasoned artists a few records into their career at least, or for a live concert record. But for a debut, that was a very risky.

Lucky for the boys, the record was a commercial success. It scored in the top ten in most countries around the world (except for the US where it only peaked at number 33). It even placed number 1 on the album charts in their home UK and in New Zealand. Sales were fueled by two big singles that they had put out in the year prior to the album - “Relax” and “Two Tribes” were both dance club favorites.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Culture Club - Colour by Numbers

In October of 1983, Boy George and the guys from Culture Club released their second studio album. Colour by Numbers was an international best-seller, with over one million copies sold in their native UK alone and more than ten million copies worldwide. It reached number 6 in Germany, number 4 in France, and number 2 in Norway and on the US Billboard Album chart. It Also went to number 1 in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The record was ranked number 96 in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980’s, and it also appears on the list of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Police - Synchronicity

On June 1st of 1983, the Police released Synchronicity, their fifth and final studio album. Ironically, it was the most popular one by the group and included their first and only number one Billboard single. The album also took a stint at the top of the Billboard Album charts, briefly knocking down Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.

Monday, April 18, 2011

U2 - War

On February 28th, 1983 (just five days after my eighteenth birthday) U2 released their third studio album War. The songs on it and the album title were a statement that the Irish rock band was making about how they perceived the world to be at the time.

In the US, the album reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 200 album charts. Over in the UK, the record knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller from its number 1 perch. It also charted at number 59 in Germany, number 26 in Finland, number 16 in Ireland, number 15 in Norway, number 5 in New Zealand, number 4 in France and Canada, and number 2 in Sweden. Rolling Stone magazine ranked War number 221 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list and number 40 in their Top 100 Albums of the 1980’s.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beverly Hills Cop (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

In December of 1984, the cold winter chill was cut by a hot new comedy film starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton. Beverly Hills Cop was not only a smash at the box office, but its accompanying soundtrack album racked up some impressive numbers on the music charts as well. It spent sixty-two weeks on the US Billboard Album chart with two weeks at the number 1 spot in late June of 1985.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comic Books of the Week (4/13/11) part 4

The final installment for this week's books...

Adventure Comics #525 - another great issue starring the Legion Academy. Phil Jimenez's artwork is outstanding as always. Paul Levitz continues to expand the LSH universe with these new characters. I also loved the tension between Cosmic Boy and Night Girl. This reminds me of the LSH of the 80's when Levitz was doing his first run - full of subplots and characterization that enriched the book greatly. I liked the art on the backup story; Borges and Alquiza did a great job as well. Next issue looks to be good as well.

John Byrne's Next Men #5/35 - Bethany's captor is revealed, only to lead to more questions. Antonia's time in Civil War America leads to some serious repercussions. Nathan goes from the German frying pan to an ancient Roman fire. And Jasmine's health takes a turn for the worse. This is the type of book that you have to be in for the long haul. The plotlines are complex and very detailed - not your typical "hero" book (not that this book ever was). Still, I've come to trust that Byrne will pay things off well - you just have to have patience. The cover of next issue looks very intriguing indeed!

Chic - C 'est Chic

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday. This album review is dedicated to Nile Rodgers (@nilerodgers on Twitter), who every day celebrates the joys of living in his blog Walking On Planet C.

When Chic’s second album C’ est Chic came out on August 11th of 1978, I was in Junior High School (about to start 8th grade that September). As a card-carrying disco-fanatic, I went to my share of after school disco dances that year; and the big hits from this record were part of the play lists at every one of them. I mentioned previously about my brother and I going in on a record club membership. Well, one of the albums I got from the club was C’ est Chic. I played that vinyl a lot during those years.

Comic Books of the Week (4/13/11) part 3

Birds of Prey #11 - Catman and the Huntress are back together again, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since their last encounter. Are the sparks still there? Definitely. Are there more walls between them? Absolutley. Is this a great issue? Oh Yeah! Gail Simone waves a wonderful plot with characterization that is spot on (and it should be since she also writes Secret Six where Catman hangs his cowl regularly). Huntress is shown as a being smart and strong. Catman is shown with complexity and compassion. The art by Pere Perez is amazing too (I'd be happy if he were the new full-time artist - I like his work). Great issue.

the Flash #10 - "the Road to Flashpoint" continue as Barry finds out more about Hot Pursuit. Bart is brought in to act as counterpoint, a "bad cop" (unintended) to Barry's good. The tension in those scenes is thick. Why does Hot Pursuit want to handle this time-crisis on his own? Why does Barry want to handle the investigation of Hot Pursuit on his own? Why all the tension between Barry and Bart? Great stuff. Geoff Johns continues to weave an engaging story. The art by Francis Manapul was also very good. I must also mention Brian Buccellato whose coloring this issue really sets the tones nicely.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why Music Reviews? Why Now?

I was chatting with a new follower on Twitter last night (a guy named Guy), discussing my blog and what was coming up. One of the questions he asked me got me thinking that perhaps others were wondering about the current direction of my blog. So I thought I would take a few minutes and address that.

Why music reviews? Why now?

It isn't uncommon for me to do focused postings on my blog. A few years back I began a marathon of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel seasons on DVD. Having never watched the shows before, I thought blogging my first-time thoughts of each episode would be fun. And, as long time readers know, weekly reviews of new comic book releases have been a main-staple here since my blog began. I've been a comic reader since I was a kid in the 70's, enjoying the story and art.

The recent focus here on album reviews really was inspired by another Twitter user, Liz (she is @1001albums on Twitter). Someone suggested her blog, where she's tackling the "1001 Albums You Must Listen To Before You Die" book by listening to and posting a review of an album a day. I found the blog interesting and her take, coming to many of these albums as a first-time listener, refreshing. She was entering the 1980's part of the list when I started to follow her blog.

Of course, that got me thinking about my own musical interests.

Music has always been a big part of my life. I grew up listening to the radio all the time in the 70's and 80's. I spent a good bit of my allowance and gift money purchasing vinyl (45s and albums). In college, I found cassettes an affordable way to get lots of new music. With the popularity of CD players in the 90's, I switched my collection over to that format. Jumping then to December 2007 when I got my first iPod, I ended up converting all of those CDs to digital. Today I have an iTunes library with thousands of albums represented - some complete, some partial. And it is always growing, with new CDs imported or new downloads gotten from or iTunes. I like discovering "new" tracks - be they deep tracks on older albums, never heard past albums, and the occasional current new releases.

So, what I have been doing and will be doing for the forseeable future is to continue to parallel the 1001 list along with Liz. The 1980's period has some amazing records in it, and that is the most represented decade in my musical library (over one-third of the music that spans over fifty five years(!) in my library comes from the 80's). Now, there are some records on the 1001 list that I'll be skipping (they just aren't my style). But when I do, I'll continue to supplement with some of the blog features I've already established - Seventies Saturday (picking an album from the next largest represented decade in my library) and Soundtrack Sunday (albums that accompanied some favorite films).

Eventually the 1001 list will roll into the 1990's (I calculate it'll be at least four months or so for Liz to get there) and beyond. I'll still sprinkle in my reviews of the albums there I have when they pop up, but I'll continue to focus a lot more on the 1980's (and the 1970's too). With so much music to explore and talk about, I expect album reviews to be a permanent fixture here at Martin's View.

I hope you'll continue to take this journey with me.

Feel free to drop me a comment here or a direct message over on Twitter (links are available on the banner and the right column) if you have any suggestions of albums you'd like me to talk about. If I have the tracks or can find a place to stream them for a listen, I'll be happy to offer my thoughts in a future blog posting. I really enjoy intereacting with all my readers. I want this to be a place you come back to visit often.

Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

In January of 1983, the British duo Eurythmics (Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart) released their second album Sweet Dreams (Are Mad of This). Their first release was a commercial failure but this one did not follow suit. Thanks to some popular songs and amazing videos that were playing regularly on MTV, the album raced up the charts and became certified Gold the world over. The record went to number 15 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 14 in Sweden, number 6 in Germany, number 4 in France, number 3 in the UK and number 2 in New Zealand.

Comic Books of the Week (4/13/11) part 2

Continuing this week's book review:

Batman: the Brave and the Bold #6 - the Caped Crusader teaches the Martian Manhunter a little bit about detective work. This was a simple but fun story by Sholly Fisch. The art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis was clear and concise. I enjoyed the lesson it had for young readers: that it is good for friends to assist each other with things they wish to learn to do better. My only negative point - the cover spoils the big story reveal of the villain.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #27 - with cancellation on the horizon and coming fast, Tony Bedard had to really speed up this arc some. Thus, this issue is a lot of fighting between the heroes and Starro's forces. I enjoyed the exchanges between Lobo and Smite. The art by Claude St. Aubin and Scott Hanna was very tight. They packed a lot of panels into the pages, and did it well. I'm going to miss this title when it goes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Comic Books of the Week (4/13/11) - part 1

A big pile of books this week (eight) so I thought I'd review them in pairs. Let's get to the first two:

Booster Gold #43 - the final issue by Giffen and DeMatteis. I must admit I really liked this one, mostly because of the big part played by the Legion of Super-Heroes. It was great to see the old gang in action, even if they were played up as a little more sillier than I like. And, on the last page, the story gets a little meta (with Booster remarking on the replacement writer that came on to his "book"). I guess that was a statement to all the fans (some like me) who didn't like this run as much as what Dan Jurgens had done before.

Justice League: Generation Lost #23 (of 24) - Max goes all out to find Wonder Woman, and his ultimate weapon is revealed. OMAC Prime shares a lot of skills with another JLA-machine-foe, but that's to be expected. Professor Ivo is Max's right hand tech guy after all. The League is going to have a serious battle on their hands in the final issue of this max-series.

ZZ Top - Eliminator

ZZ Top had been recording since 1971 and had quite a bit of success so far. On March 23rd of 1983, the blues-rock band from Texas put out their eighth studio album Eliminator, and it became their most successful album.

Chart-wise, it went to number 13 in Norway and Sweden, number 11 in Switzerland, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 4 in Austria and New Zeland, number 3 in the UK and number 2 in Australia. It was ranked number 39 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums of the 80’s and number 396 on that magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list. By 1996 it had achieved Diamond status (selling over 10 million copies world-wide).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Echo & the Bunnymen - Porcupine

Released on February 4th of 1983, Porcupine was the third studio album from the British band Echo & the Bunnymen. Despite poor reviews, it did very well on the UK charts, reaching number two. Over in the US it only reached number 137 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts.

I have to admit that this was my first listen to this particular album. It was next up on the section I was working off of in the “1001 Albums You Must Listen To Before You Die” list. Since I like the band and was well acquainted with the first track, I thought I’d do a first-impression review of this one. We’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual

On October 14th of 1983, a new personality burst onto the music scene with her debut album She’s So Unusual. Many felt the title was apropos, especially after seeing her first videos on MTV - with her fire-red hair done is a punk-like style, vintage style clothing, and her flair for humor. Of course, I am speaking of the one and only Cyndi Lauper.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blue Nile - A Walk Across the Rooftops

A Walk Across the Rooftops is the late 1983 debut album from the Blue Nile, a pop trio from Glasgow. All three guys do duty on synthesizer. Robert Bell also plays Bass. Paul Joseph Moore plays additional keyboards. Paul Buchanan handles all vocals as well as guitar. For the songs that include drums, Nigel Thomas provides those.

Until this past weekend, I had never heard this album. However, this album was on the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list so I sought it out online to see what I thought of it.

Side one opens with the title track. “A Walk Across the Rooftops” has a melancholy feel to it. I get the imagery of a very late at night/pre-dawn time of reflection, up above the sleeping city below.

“Tinseltown in the Rain” has a little more movement to the music, but it too has a sense of regret to it as a love comes to an end. It is a beautiful sounding song though.

“From Rags to Riches” has an interesting synthesizer-drum rhythm to it. I like the vocals on this one.

I can say the same thing for the next track “Stay” which opens side two.

“Easter Parade” slows things down again. The band clearly know what works for them - solid piano arrangements and soul-exploring vocals.

“Heatwave” provides another example of the amazing sounds these guys can produce with synthesizers. The music has complex elements to it - almost sounding like exotic instruments. But it is all produced with amazing results.

“Automobile Noise” closes the record on a slower note. As the beginning did, I get the feeling of a late night alone with the sounds of the occasional passing cars cutting through the stormy darkness.

If I had ever heard any of the tracks from A Walk Across the Rooftops, it was likely on some alternative radio station at the college, and the songs never really registered with me. As for Blue Nile as a group, I have one song in my library from their 1996 album Peace At Last - until today I never knew they got their start in the 80’s.

Overall, I have to say I found this a pleasant listen. The record has a more gentle synth-pop sound that is easy on the ears. It is the type of music that quietly demands you sit and give it a listen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday Night Fever (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of “Soundtrack Sunday”.

This time we’re jumping back to the late 1977 released album that sold over 15 million copies world-wide, that stayed atop the album charts for twenty-four straight weeks from January to July of 1978, and stayed overall on the Billboard album charts for a total of one hundred and twenty weeks (until March 1980). Coincidentally, it was the record that dethroned yesterday’s reviewed album Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams from its number one album perch. This soundtrack even was ranked in Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time, coming it at position 131. Of course, I am talking about Saturday Night Fever.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Linda Ronstadt - Simple Dreams

Welcome back for another edition of “Seventies Saturday”.

In 1977, country-rock singer Linda Ronstadt released her eighth studio album Simple Dreams. This record is one of the most successful releases of her career; it spent five consecutive weeks at the number 1 spot on the Billboard Album charts and it even knocked Elvis Presley off the number 1 spot on the Billboard Country charts. It was also her fifth consecutive million-selling Platinum album, selling over 3.5 million copies in less than a year in the US alone in 1977. To say it was a popular record would be a huge understatement.

Comic Books of the Week (4/6/11)

Brightest Day #23 (of 24) - damn! Johns has kicked the story into overdrive with this issue. The revelation of the Dark Avatar and the ultimate savior has rocked the Internet this week - some people loving it, some hating it. Put me in the loving it category. No spoilers from me on this one - go read it yourself, fans! As for the art - amazing. That cover Gary Frank and Rod Reis was outstanding, and inside the art Reis and Prado was equally stunning. Those double-page spreads were very nice. I am so looking forward to the finale in less than two weeks - and the follow up Brightest Day: In Search of... mini (again, shortening that title to not reveal the spoilers).

Justice League of America, 80-Page Giant 2011 - ugh. Man, I should have saved the $5.99 and skipped this one. I had a feeling it would be just so-so and I was right. The premise: the JLA goes to Hell - with a number of guest stars. It is really hard to fit this given who is involved. Wonder Woman is in her new costume, so it it taking place now. If so, why are some of these other folks there? Too many questions to throw the reader out of the story. The pairings are odd too - some did not work for me at all. I just didn't feel vested in the outcome. And the art was uneven. Bleech.

JSA All-Stars #17 - who is the Prince? Who is Regal? Who is Dr. Hate? Why does this feel like their story with the JSA just taking the backseat? Not a fan of "this reality you know is wrong" tales, especially when we know it will have zero effect in the end. Sort of a wasted exercise. Maybe it is for the best that this title is getting tanked. Get the heroes of this book back to the main JSA title and salvage them both. Right now, both are just limping along badly.

Secret Six #32 - thank you, Gail Simone, for showing us how a trip to Hell should be done. She and J. Calafiore deliver an awesome middle-of-the-arc chapter and give us a lot to think about for the future of this cast of characters. The mix of dialogue, action and weirdness are a perfect balance. Great issue, as always.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The The - Soul Mining

Soul Mining, released in 1983, was the debut album from the British band The The, fronted by Matt Johnson. While the band was popular in their home country, putting three singles up on the UK charts, their success didn’t translate as well in the States. Mostly their music could be heard on college radio stations that tended to showcase more alternative music.

I had actually forgotten about some of the songs on this album that I did know until about a year or so ago. My buddy Aaron in the state of Washington mentioned them, leading me to seek out the music to add to my library. That was really the first time I had listened to the whole album. Since then, it has come up a few times on my iPod album shuffling.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

R.E.M. - Murmur

On April 13th of 1983, a quartet of musicians (Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe) came up from Athens, GA, to Reflection Studios in Charlotte, NC (not far from here) to record their debut album - Murmur. It charted at number 100 in the UK, number 47 in New Zealand and number 36 on the US Billboard Hot 200.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Def Leppard - Pyromania

On January 20th of 1983, the British rock band Def Leppard released their third studio album entitled Pyromania. Phil Collen joined the band as a guitarist mid-way through the recording of this record (he replaced Pete Willis who had already laid down all the rhythm guitar tracks) “Mutt” Lange was the album’s producer.

Pyromania reached number 70 in Australia, number 26 in New Zealand, number 23 in Sweden, number 18 in the UK, number 4 in Canada and number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 200 charts. It ranked number 62 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of the 80’s list and number 384 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list. Three songs from the album became Top 40 singles in the US.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock

By 1983, British impresario Malcolm McLaren had already left his mark on the world of pop-culture. From clothing designing in the early 70’s on Kings Road, London, to working with the likes of various musical acts (the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants, and Bow Wow Wow) during the 70’s and 80’s, his resume was very impressive indeed.

But in January of 1983, he added musician and singer-songwriter to his accomplishments. For his first album, Duck Rock, he collaborated with a duo of hip-hop radio disc jockeys from New York City known as the World’s Greatest Supreme Team. Together, they mixed up musical influences from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas (North, Central and South) to create a most interesting collection of music.

The album starts of with “Obatala”, a tribal rhythm that McLaren co-wrote with musician Trevor Horn. It is very soothing, almost transcendental in nature.

Next is “Buffalo Gals”, one of the most familiar tracks from the album. It mixes the DJ voiceovers with some amazing hip-hop beats, scratching, and calls from square dancing (trust me, if you‘ve never heard this one - it works very well). This was one I heard played a lot on the college radio stations when the single was released in 1982, both in the original album version and an extended remix version. It made for a great dance song at the time. Parts of this song have been sampled by the likes of Neneh Cherry (for her hit “Buffalo Stance”), Weird Al Yankovic and the Sublime.

“Double Dutch” is next, another very popular track from the record. It was the follow-up single to “Buffalo Gals” and it actually reached number 3 on the UK Singles chart. Again, this one opens with the deejays as well. It then kicks in with an infectious rhythm with backing sounds of spinning jump ropes. The backing vocals add a world-music atmosphere to it as well. The combination of all these elements gets your toes tapping.

“El San Juanera” is another DJ interlude between songs as the guys interact with their radio show callers. Then “Merengue” provides the Central American elements to this world-party. The Latin rhythms celebrate the cultural dance from those regions. The side closes with “Punk It Up”, another energetic number that blends various elements in an interesting way. It is like a smorgasbord for your ears.

“Legba” is the first track on side two. I like the African percussion used on this one. Like the opener on side one, it is another relaxing instrumental piece. Very pleasant. “Jive My Baby” follows after another DJ interlude. It has a similar rhythm to “Double Dutch”, very bouncy and full of energy. It sounds a little like some of the sounds the Talking Heads had been experimenting with in the early 80’s.

“Song for Chango” features more African rhythms and singers. “Soweto” is an up-tempo song that mixes various elements into another celebration of cultures. “World’s Famous” features the deejays with their own free-styling.

The last track is “Duck for the Oyster”, a rather interesting mix. It takes square dance elements (calls and fiddle music) and adds some rather comic sound effects. It is kind of fun but might not appeal to everyone.

Listening to this album in its entirety is the best way that the various DJ interludes work. Clearly McLaren had a vision in mind - a concept for the album to tie together the various musical styles he and his crew presented here. Some might find the interludes to be annoying, but they work for me. It reminds me the past when radio shows were faithfully followed in part thanks to the personalities that put their heart and soul into the production. This record is a love-note to that bygone era.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes

Hailing out of Milwaukee, WI, the Violent Femmes was a trio of alternative rockers. Gordon Gano was the singer, guitarist and songwriter of the group. Brian Richie played bass and Victor DeLorenzo played drums. They were inspired by the initial wave of American punk rock of the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fame (soundtrack)

Welcome back for another edition of “Soundtrack Sunday”.

In the late Spring of 1980, MGM released Fame, the motion picture that told the story of a group of students as they progressed through their four years at the New York High School of the Performing Arts. It starred Irena Cara, Laura Dean, Lee Curreri, Paul McCrane, Barry Miller, Maureen Teefy and Gene Anthony Ray as the students, and Anne Meara, Albert Hague, Jim Moody and Debbie Allen as some teachers. Curreri, Ray, Hague and Allen would eventually go on to star in the hit TV version two years later, reprising their roles from the film.

Fame won the Academy Award for Best Music - Original Score. Two songs were also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song with the title track winning the Oscar in that category.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Partridge Family "Album"

Welcome to another edition of "Seventies Saturday". This time we're digging into the back recesses of the music closet - to the corner where we hide our bubble-gum music for fear that someone might stumble across it while flipping through the stacks and let out a hearty "ha-ha" (ala Nelson from the Simpsons). We're not really ashamed of it - we like the simplicity of the pop songs; we're just maybe afraid to lose a little cred with our peers. Ah, who cares? It is all part of the musical mosaic of the decade.

In September of 1970, a half-hour American sitcom debuted on the ABC network. The Partridge Family was the story of a widowed mother trying to raise her five kids. The kids decide to help out by forming a band to help out, practicing in the garage after school. Add in their manager and a psychedelic bus, and you have the foundation for a hit show that ran four seasons (and was a syndication juggernaut for decades after). I grew up on this show and the songs interspersed in each episode were always a highlight.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Duran Duran - Rio

Released on May 10th, 1982, Rio was the second studio album by the British rock band Duran Duran. It was through this album that Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor ("no relation" as they would say on Tiny Tunes Adventures) would become big stars in the US as they had done so the previous year in their native UK. The North American album was released in a number of versions, the later ones taking advantage of new mixes on a number of the singles that would further propel the songs up the US charts.

Comic Books of the Week (3/30/11)

Final week of the month, or as I like to call it "J.T. Krul Week" (since his two DC books come out at this time). Let's get to them.

Green Arrow #10 - Ollie and his allies attempt to turn the tide against the Etrigan-possessed forest. But they need a little help. This issue we also get some revelations into who is Galahad. Is he the champion they need? Can they turn the tied? This opening arc which ties in directly to Brightest Day continues.

Justice Society of America #49 - the "Supertown" arc concludes with the return of Green Lantern, plus many others. It was a good conclusion to the story, but things at Monument Point are far from over. That final page was an interesting turn of events, but one that didn't catch me off-guard. I had a feeling it was leading to this point. Big celebration issue next issue - including some George Perez art. Yeah.

Teen Titans #93 - Red Robin is back on the team, and they answer a call to help Solstice, the young heroine Wonder Girl met in one-shot back in January. I liked this issue a lot. J.T. has the voices of this group down pretty good, and the artwork by Scott & Hazlewood was really amazing. The issue was a good mix of characterization, mystery and action. And Solstice should add a nice dynamic to the group.