Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Belle Stars - Another Latin Love Song

As I noted in a previous blog posting, the Belle Stars were an all-female British band that formed in 1980. In 1983, the released their only full-length album - the self-titled the Belle Stars (to see that review click here). Before that, though, they released a number of non-album singles and then put out a four song extended-play entitled Another Latin Love Song.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross

The Texas singer-songwriter Christopher Cross ended the 70's with his self-titled debut album, released in late December of 1979. Christopher Cross is a soft-rock classic that went multi-platinum in the US (reaching number 6 on the Billboard Album chart) as well as selling very well internationally (number 6 in Australia, number 14 in the UK, number 16 in New Zealand and number 18 in Japan). The record stayed on the US charts for the entire year and well into 1981, when it beat out Pink Floyd’s The Wall for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 volume 8

Earlier this summer, Dark Horse comics released Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 volume 8: Last Gleaming. This collection with an incredibly long title collects issues 36 through 40 of the epic comic series. In this volume, the final part of the Twilight saga (not that Twilight saga) comes to a conclusion as Buffy faces the ultimate betrayal.

For those who followed my blog a few years back, you know that I came into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Angel television series late into the game. I got them all on DVD and watched them, as they aired back-and-forth, from beginning to end. And I loved them! But, too, I was saddened when they came to an end.

Thank You, Comic Shops

As this Wednesday (8/31/11) will mark my final trip out for weekly comic books, I thought I would take a few minutes to fondly remember and publicly say thank you to the various places I purchased comic books over my thirty five plus years of collecting.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: Space

Space by Emily Sue Harvey

I had the opportunity to read Space by Emily Sue Harvey before its September 13th, 2011, publication date and found it to be an enjoyable book. It tells the story of Deede and Dan Stowe, a couple who has been married thirty-five years. But as they are about to celebrate this milestone, their world is turned upside-down when they learn that their grown daughter Faith has a drug-addiction problem. From there, the book unfolds of the daily struggles of a near-retired couple having to deal with a troubled child who has returned to the nest.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

In 1981, Rolling Stone magazine writer Cameron Crowe went undercover to a San Diego, California, high school to research a book. In 1982, that book was adapted into the coming-of-age teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The film, which opened in August of 1982, helped launch the careers of young actors Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Renhold, Robert Romanus, Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Nicolas Cage. At a cost of $4.5 million to make, the film earned more than $27 million at the box office and has since become a TV/cable and video favorite the world over. It even spun off a short-lived CBS sitcom in 1986 that starred young actors Courtney Thorne-Smith and Patrick Dempsey.

The double-disk soundtrack album, released on July 30th of 1982, did fairly well; it peaked at number 54 on the Billboard 200 and several of the songs were released as singles.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive!

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

After four solo albums with marginal sales and chart success, Peter Frampton released a double-disk live record that finally hit the mark. Frampton Comes Alive! went to number 6 on the UK charts and number 1 in Canada. In the US the album spent ten weeks (ten percent of its incredible 97 weeks on the US Billboard Album chart) at the number 1 spot and was certified multi-Platinum. Of course, it helped that the record company reduced the price on its release to $7.98, only a dollar more than the standard price of $6.98 that most single disk albums went for in 1976. Who couldn’t resist a bargain, especially during those tight economic times? As no surprise, Rolling Stone magazine’s readers voted it the “Album of the Year”.

Comic Books of the Week (8/24/11) part 2

This is the second half of books for the week, this my final big week of weekly comic book purchasing. Let's get to these final issues.

Justice Society of America #54 - it seems like this final arc was rushed to fit in the end by the time of the September relaunch. Of course, the JSA are no where in sight for that. So this issue is a swan-song. Getting Jerry Ordway to do the art was the right way to go though. The inks fit perfectly to his style too. I loved seeing everybody in action, though we never did find out how Mr. Terrific got smart again. Oh well. And the shocking death - sad, but it doesn't matter really since reality is getting the cosmic reboot next week. I will miss the JSA. Been a fan since they came back in the 70's in All-Star Comics with the debut of Power Girl and all. You will be missed, old friends.

Legion of Super-Heroes #16 - another arc that seemed to rush to get done in time. Still, it was a good issue. Levitz tied up all the plot threads conveniently, Hdr and Deering did a great job on the art, and everything is set to go forward next month. Like the JSA, I have been a long time LSH fan. Discovered them around the same time - mid-70's - when Mike Grell was setting the 30th Century afire with his amazing renditions of the teen heroes. I was an instant fan. This too is another book I will miss greatly.

Teen Titans #100 - Krul and Scott give us an all-out battle for this anniversary and final issue. The story actually concludes pretty satisfactorily and all the loose-ends are tied up as best could be done. It was a good way to go out. Sadly, I did not snag the variant Phil Jimenz cover - I have seen the image online and it was amazing. The rest of the pin-ups in back were nice as they represent various eras in cast and artists over the long Titans history. You have Liefeld, a fantastic original line up by Garcia-Lopez, the gals by Amy Reeder, boys having fun by Booth and Hunter, and the villaisn by Burnham. Those were a nice bonus.

John Byrne's Next Men #9/#39 - it worked out well that this issue came out this month. It actually ends the story of the group, for now, at least. As I stop getting new books, this was one I would regret not picking up but having the story tie-up nicely here I feel like I am leaving it with closure. Yes, issue 40 is teased for 2012 but I am okay with this. It finishes the story for me and makes my collection complete. I have been a Byrne fan since the days of X-Men in the early 80's and consider him one of my favorite artists.

Wow, a positive second half of the week. I guess I might be getting a bit sentimental as my last comic day approaches Wednesday. Who would have thought it?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Teena Marie - Irons in the Fire

In the hot summer month of July 1980, the last thing anyone wanted to think about was curling up before a roaring hearth. But that’s exactly what Teena Marie wanted you to do based on the cover of her smoking hot third album Irons in the Fire.

Combining elements of funk, soul and R&B, the album burned its way up the charts. It peaked at number 9 on the US R&B charts and number 38 on the Billboard 200 charts. Teena wrote most of the tracks and, for the first time, produced the entire record herself as well. It really shows her talents as a musician as well as a performer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve Winwood - Arc of a Diver

Singer/keyboardist/guitarist Steve Winwood was the lead singer of a number of bands (the Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, and Traffic) during the 60’s and 70’s before embarking on his own solo career in 1977. His second solo album Arc of a Diver in 1981 went to number 13 in his native UK’s charts and number 3 on the US Billboard 200 charts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Promissory Payback

Promissory Payback by Laurel Dewey

I had the opportunity to read this novella through an online source this week and I have to say, unfortunately, I was not completely enthralled by it. The story is about Detective Jane Perry who is investigating the murder of an elderly woman. The ten chapters follow Perry as she questions one person after another to try to get to the truth behind the murder and the motivation for it.

Comic Books of the Week (8/24/11) part 1

Final big week of books before the end of it all. Let's get to the Flashpoint titles from the week first:

Flashpoint: Hal Jordan #3 (of 3) - so we ended last time with Hal prepping to drop a "Green Arrow" nuke (how fitting) on the Amazons in hopes to ending the war. Clearly this world's Hal fears one thing - commitment. Why he can't admit his love for Carol in person is a shame. This whole version of Hal is a shame. This is not the Hal Jordan I grew up with. Yes, he is a hero in the end - a sacrificial one (thanks to Flashpoint #4 spoiling that one three weeks ago) - but clearly he is shown here as flawed. Sigh.

Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #3 (of 3) - while Lois does a lot in this issue, she still takes the backseat to the supers. Last month it was Grifter. This month it is Britannia. I wasn't thrilled with the art on this final issue either. Very disappointed with the way this mini played out, but I should have expected it. It tied to close to the Wonder Woman and Aquaman minis, and those two were disappointments thanks to the choppy story-flow each issue. Lois deserved better than this.

Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3 (of 3) - the art was a bit uneven with two pencilers but I liked that we at least got to see a bit more of the Flash family through this final issue. The first two issues were slow but this one made up for it. It is kind of sad though what happened to this world's Max, Jay and Wally. They all deserved better. But Bart at least is able to come out a hero - another sacrifice this week but at least his is worth something (as opposed to Hal and Lois). Will Bart's actions be enough to jump-start the new universe? Most likely. Barry has been pretty much running into too many walls up to this point. He needs something to reignite things. Bart gave him the extra push.

Rest In Peace, Nick Ashford

Before I knew who Nick Ashford (born 1941) was I knew his songs. Along with his life-time collaborator, partner and wife Valerie Simpson, Nick was responsible for writing many hit songs from the late 60's and the 70's. If you know "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", "You're All I Need to Get By", "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)", and "I'm Every Woman" then you know just the tip of the work of this amazing musical duo.

Joan Jett - Bad Reputation

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Joan Jett began her musical career as a founding member of the 70’s rock girl band the Runaways. When the group broke up in 1979, Joan embarked on a solo career and recorded an album independently with the help of Paul Cook and Steve Jones (of the Sex Pistols), Clem Burke and Frank Infante (of Blondie), and Marky and Dee Dee Ramone. That original self-titled 1980 release brought some studio interest; Joan was soon signed to Boardwalk Records.

As 1981 began, the studio re-released that album under the title of Bad Reputation. The record made a decent showing on the US Billboard 200 album charts, reaching number 51. In Australia, the album peaked at number 45.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Alarm - The Alarm (EP)

The band from North Wales known as the Alarm have been together since the late 1970’s; the primary members of the group are Mike Peters, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald and Nigel Twist. They first started out with a mod sound but eventually moved to a more alternative rock sound in the early 80’s. Their music is very much influenced by the Welsh culture where they grew up. Some would draw comparisons between the Alarm and U2 as they come from similar backgrounds, have similar sounds and have lyrics directed at activism; for me personally I prefer the Alarm (they are certainly more represented in my iTunes library).

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Smiths - Strangeways, Here We Come

Jumping back to the “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” list, it recommends that I give a listen to the Smiths’ fourth and final studio album from 1987. Strangeways, Here We Come, which gets its name from a notorious prison in Manchester, went to number 2 on the UK album charts and number 55 on the US charts. It was certified Gold in both countries within a few years of its debut.

In past reviews of the band’s albums, I have admitted my struggles to understand just what the heck Morrissey’s lyrics are about. Sometimes I get them but a lot of times I am scratching my head. Since a good bit of these songs are unfamiliar to me, once again I’ll be giving a first impression and taking a shot at figuring them out. Let’s see how laughable that attempt is.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the Jazz Singer (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

I am not afraid to admit that I have always been a fan of Neil Diamond. I enjoyed his songs in the 60’s and 70’s, hearing them on AM radio and such. I was pleased to see him inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame last year as he is both an amazing songwriter and performer. But back in 1980 it was surprising to see him add an acting credit to his list of accomplishments.

As 1980 came to an end, the American musical remake of a 1927 classic film hit the theatres; The Jazz Singer starred Diamond along with Sir Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. While the film did fair at the box office ($27 million gross sales), the soundtrack was a big success - going Platinum multiple times over and reaching number 3 on both the US and UK album charts.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

In the fall of 1977, the Electric Light Orchestra released their seventh studio album, the double-disk Out of the Blue. One of the English band's most commercially successful records, there were four million copies on pre-order alone (an incredible number considering the retail channels and the price of albums at the time) which helped the release to quickly achieve multi-Platinum status. The record scored its highest chart position in Canada, reaching number 1 during its total of 29 weeks on the chart. In both the US (58 weeks on the charts) and the UK (113 weeks on the charts), the album peaked at number 4.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Jets - The Jets

In 1985, the brothers and sisters of the Wolfgramm family (Leroy, Eddie, Eugene, Haini, Rudy, Kathi, Elizabeth and Moana)of Minneapolis, Minnesota, formed an R&B/pop music band called the Jets. The self-titled debut album that year did very well on the charts - reaching number 17 on the US Album chart, number 16 on the US Billboard R&B album charts and number 57 in the UK. The record was certified as Platinum and yielded four singles.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Who - It's Hard

On September 4th of 1982, the Who released their tenth studio album and the last one with bassist John Entwistle and drummer Kenney Jones. Entwistle even penned three of the record’s tracks. This would be the band’s last album of new material until 2006. Eventually certified Gold, It’s Hard went to number 11 on the UK album charts, number 8 in the US and number 3 in Canada.

For all of you old school video game geeks, the album cover features a young boy playing Atari’s Space Duel arcade game.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Comic Books of the Week (8/17/11)

As I get closer and closer to my final comic book buying day (August 31st), I am finding every book I read from DC is less and less enjoyable. I actually knocked through all of my books from today while on the treadmill. Here's the skinny:

Flashpoint: Abin Sur #3 (of 3) - this final issue had two artists and it showed. The beginning and end pages were not too bad but the middle ones were horrendous. This mini was fair at best with the final pages possibly setting up a key element for the final issue of Flashpoint and the restart of the new DCU for September.

Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #3 (of 3) - this one ended pretty much as I expected - Cyborg owns Heat Wave, there is a lot of gratuitous violence and the ending implies that Heat Wave gets what he deserves. Sad. At the very least this issue spotlighted Cyborg, certainly showing some elements that will likely get some use when the new DCU launches with him as a founder of the Justice League. Beyond that, this mini was pretty skippable too.

Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #3 (of 3) - I had a few problems with this final issue. First, it is practically half a retread of last week's Aquaman final issue. Yes, we get to see the motivation of the traitors revealed but that was about it. Next, it ruined the final issue of Lois Lane and the Resistance next week. Thanks a lot, Dan Abnett. Finally, for a mini that was supposed to also feature some Furies, we hardly got to see them more than just foot-soldiers at best. Wasted potential.

Justice League of America #60 - the final issue of Robinson's run and we know already that the team is disbanding. Funny, but a lot of the issue is about justifying why each of the team members is leaving. The rest of some Reader's Digest recaps of grand adventures of the team that never got to be fully written. Were these plots Robinson had planned out for the next few years? If so, sad to see they never happened. Most likely he knew the books were all coming to an end with relaunch and decided to blow out as many ideas as he could - knowing most would not fit/apply in the new revised continuity. So much lost potential here. Robinson clearly loves these characters though and wanted some happy endings (I won't run them). Funny but the final two page conversation between Dick and Donna seemed very much like a commentary on the relaunch. "Do you think they'll remember us?" "I want them to forget. Me anyway. I want the world to forget I ever existed."

One more full week left to go, then the final week with one title.

Kajagoogoo - Death Defying Headlines

Earlier this year of 2011, a number of my good Twitter followers alerted me the efforts by the fan community of Kajafax ( to spread the word about the new release by the 80’s UK band Kajagoogoo. The five original members (Limahl, Nick Beggs, Steve Askew, Jez Strode and Stuart Croxford Neale), after a successful recent reunion tour, were getting back into the studio for a new single and EP.

The results of their efforts are now available everywhere for download as the four-track Death Defying Headlines. I got my copy the other week from and have been enjoying the songs a lot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ABBA - The Visitors

1981 was the year that ABBA released their eighth and final studio album as a group. The Visitors went Platinum in both the UK and Germany; chart-wise it went to number 1 in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. In the US, the album went to number 29 on the Billboard 200 album charts. The album has a different sound than earlier efforts which garnered them mixed reviews from critics. Lessened are the light pop music influences as the compositions and lyrics tended to reflect more complicated and mature themes. This too was reflective of the turmoil of the personal relationships of the former couples that made up the quartet.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Living Colour - Vivid

Not to be confused with the sketch comedy show featuring the Wayons Brothers that was on the air in the late 80’s, Living Colour was an African-American band from out of New York City that formed in 1984. The line up consisted of Vernon Reid on guitar, Muzz Skillings on bass, Will Calhoun on drums and Corey Glover on vocals. Their music took elements of jazz, funk, hard rock and heavy metal to create an interesting musical blend. Their lyrics had a mix of political and personal topics.

In 1988, Living Colour released their first studio album Vivid. The record sold very well and went to number 6 on the US Billboard 200 charts. They supported the album as the opening act for the Rolling Stones on the “Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour”. They won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1989 and were also named the Best New Artist at that year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album at number 64 on their Top 100 Albums of the 1980’s list.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prince - Girl 6 (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

In 1996, American film director Spike Lee released Girl 6, the comedic story of an African-American phone sex operator. The film starred Teherasa Randle, Spike Lee and a cast of cameos including Madonna, Richard Belzer, Coati Mundi, Naomi Campbell and Quentin Tarantino.

For the soundtrack album, Spike Lee tapped Prince for contributions. What resulted was a mix of previously released material from the Prince family of stars as well as a few original tracks. Unless otherwise mentioned, the tracks were performed by Prince.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Doobie Brothers - Minute By Minute

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

The American rock band out of San Jose, California, known as the Doobie Brothers have been making music since 1970. Their sound has been labeled things like “roots rock”, “country rock” and “swamp rock”, but to me it is all good music. Their mix of rich music and great harmonies are their trademark.

I know that the band was somewhere in that musical backdrop as I went through my elementary school days of the early to mid-70’s. Their songs were played on the radio that we listened to in the car or around the house. But it took their appearance on a two-part episode of the ABC sitcom What’s Happening in 1978 for me to get my first visual look at the Doobies. Remember, this was the days long before music television. The only place to see bands were on afternoon or late evening talk shows, the occasional variety show appearance, or possibly on American Bandstand.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Madonna - Like a Prayer

In 1989, Madonna released her fourth studio album Like a Prayer. As co-writer on all of the tracks, it had a much more intimate look into her personal world. The songs drew from her upbringing as well as events that were going on in her off-stage life. The result was an album that was both a critical and commercial success.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number 237 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time, the highest ranking of the four albums by her that made the list. Time magazine included Like a Prayer in its All-TIME 100 Albums list. Q magazine ranked it number 14 on its list of the 40 Best Albums of the '80s.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Comic Books of the Week (8/10/11) part 2

The month of final issues (for me) continues:

Batman: the Brave and the Bold #10 - this is one of the books I would have still picked up come September, but going to the shop for one or two books a month didn't make sense to me. The DC Kids line gets it right. Here we have a single issue tale, a trio of villains, a trio of guest heroes and a good character driven story about a father trying to take care of his family. It was light, colorful, fun - the way comics used to be when I first discovered them back in the 70's. Books could have continuity, the writers knew how to tell the reader everything they needed to know, and stories could have a beginning, middle and end between two covers.

Birds of Prey #15 - this final issue ends the two part tale by the guest creative team. Gail Simone already left the building after issue 13, leaving this story that feels more like a fill-in than a finale. Kid of disappointing really. And, I must ask, does a book that stars female heroes have to include blantant breast shots on nearly every page? Is this what comics have come to? Sigh.

Teen Titans #99 - how do you fit seven heroes, seven villains, and three Superboy clones in twenty pages? With a huge shoe-horn! We barely get enough details behind Superboy Prime's gathering of his team of evil or enough space for the various fights. The gals barely get a page each while most of the guys get two pages. The Golden Gate bridge gets trashed as does downtown San Francisco. And, oh look, a double-page spread to show us all the guest-stars for next issues anniversary/finale. I hope the final issue is double-sized because there is a lot to cover before this book bows out in two weeks. I have a feeling I'll be disappointed there too.

I think I'm getting too old for this.

Comic Books of the Week (8/10/11) part 1

Let's hit the Flashpoint books first this week:

Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #3 (of 3) - I was kind of disappointed with the second act of this mini last month after enjoying the opening volley. The finale here redeemed things a bit. Scott Kolins does grim and gritty villains well, and this book has a ton of them. All your favorite Rogues are here: Cold, Weather Wizard, the new Trickster, Mirror Master, the Pied Piper as well as Tarpit and Fallout. Iris West learns the truth about Central City's "supposed hero" and the book comes to a gratifying ending.

Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #3 (of 3) - I felt my stomach turning in knots as the book jumped back and forth between flashbacks and present day. I get that the issue had to resolve the plot of who was behind the war and how they deceived everyone, but the whole mini was like that. Learn how to tell a story straight-forward. Show, don't tell. That's Writing 101. And, of course, it all ends in issues 4 and 5 of Flashpoint, the first part which came out before this issue - way to ruin things there, DC. Poor editorial control over the mini.

Booster Gold #47 - the final issue of the series and final part of the Flashpoint "tie-in". I put that in quotes because, for me, it was a waste. Booster spent the entire time screwing around with Doomsday. I would rather have seen him be a key part in the resolution of the event - showing Barry how much of a hero he could be. Instead, we get poorly worked finale with only a few pages in the real FP action and then Booster fails. This made me sad. Of course, I should have expected the worst when Dan Jurgens couldn't do the art for this final issue. We only get a few pages from him near the end. I am very disappointed with this one.

Oingo Boingo - Only a Lad

Founded as a performance art troupe in 1972 (they actually appeared on the Gong Show in 1976), the Los Angeles group known as Oingo Boingo transitioned into a ska-influenced New Wave band in 1979. Lead by singer-songwriter Danny Elfman, the eight man band released a self-titled four song EP in 1980 and then their first full-length studio album Only a Lad on June 19th of 1981.

Their albums were hardly high charters or mega sellers even though their career as a band ran until 1995. This one spent five weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 172. Thanks to their quirky sound and off-beat view of the world, Oingo Boingo developed a dedicated cult following.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Human League - Fascination!

In May of 1983, the British synth-pop band the Human League put out a six song EP (extended play) album called Fascination!. The idea was this would act as a bridge between their 1981 debut Dare! (click here for that review) and the planned 1984 Hysteria (click here for that review). The EP did fairly well in the US (where it reached number 22 on the Billboard album charts) and Canada (where it went to number 38 on the charts). It also produced two hit singles that helped further make the band a household name.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark - Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark

The UK synth-pop band many refer to as OMD put out their self-titled debut album Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark in 1980. The album did very well on the UK charts (peaking at number 27). The record was slightly retooled for the 1981 US release under the same name - compiling tracks from both this record and the band’s second UK release Organisation. I’m going to review that US release as that is the version I am most familiar.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rick Astley - Whenever You Need Somebody

Born just shy of a year after I was, Rick Astley’s recording career took off after working with the famed English production team of Stock, Aiken and Waterman. Their formulaic approach of combining mainstream synth-pop with attractive singers brought them much success, and Rick’s 1987 debut album Whenever You Need Somebody was an example of that. The record went multi-platinum in the UK (where it went to number 1), the US (where it went to number 10) and Canada (where it went to number 2). It also produced five hit singles.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Prince - Batman (soundtrack)

Welcome to another edition of Soundtrack Sunday.

With so many super-heroes flying about the box office this summer, I thought today we'd take a look at an earlier film of this genre. In 1989, Warner Brothers studios tapped Prince to do music for their upcoming Batman film starring Michael Keaton (as Bruce Wayne/Batman), Jack Nicholson (as the Joker) and Kim Bassinger (as reporter Vicki Vale). The hope would be a cross-company marketing move to bring together one of their music legends with one of the biggest comic book franchises. The result was this Platinum selling soundtrack album that went to number 1 on the US Billboard 200 and R&B Album charts and number 1 on the UK album charts too.

Comic Books of the Week (8/3/11) part 2

This is the final month of DC's Flashpoint event, and as such I will keep those reviews seperate from the final regular issue reviews. Let's get to this week's books:

Flashpoint: Deathstroke #3 (of 3) - the plot of this one pretty much went as I expected. Deathstorke finds who has his daughter and mounts a rescue. My problem was the art. There were two artists on this issue and it is very obvious where it switched from one to the other. The second half of the issue was far from good. Yuck. I think that's part of what ruined this mini for me - inconsistent art. Deathstroke can be an amazingly dynamic character but if the art isn't the same it drags things down. Very disappointing.

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3 (of 3) - art did this mini in for me too. First issue with George Perez pencils were amazing. That switched with issue two. Issue three was the worst. The art had a heavy feel to it thanks to very thick, very dark inking. This book should have been flowing and dynamic, but it turned out fat and blocky. It does set up one plot point that is important in issue 4 of the main Flashpoint mini - so I am glad I decided to read this one first. Another poorly concluded mini.

World of Flashpoint #3 (of 3) - Traci 13's adventure ends with a bang. As I predicted with issue 1, this one was kind of key to the main Flashpoint mini. We certainly get scenes from that one in this issue. However, the story does stand on its own too and we get a complete story out of it. It ends on a note of hope, something that this dark reality seems to be lacking a lot of. In hindsight, I probably should have read this one after #4 of the main Flashpoint mini but it didn't ruin it much.

Flashpoint #4 (of 5) - this is the main mini and one that continues to be enjoyable on its own. Yes, we see references to Hal Jordan, Queen Industries and events from the Atlantean/Amazon war from other minis, but you get enough that you need to know from the panels. Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert jam pack every page in this book which I liked - and was needed to move the story to where it needed to be for the finale next issue. This issue has a lot of movement and action, but the character moments are there too. You get the feel for the S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids and Element Woman (one at least will be showing up in the DCnU come September). You feel Barry Allen's frustration as the memories of the world he knows continues to slip from his mind. And you see the conflict between Barry and Thomas Wayne (that one line on page 12 shows you how much respect Barry has for his Batman). Of course, the final panel is no surprise - we all know who is behind this reality and there has to be a showdown before things can get "realligned" for September. And from all the solicitations for the next two months, we know that Barry is not going to be able to put this Humpty-Dumpty-timeline back together again completely right.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Billy Joel - The Stranger

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Saturday.

In 1977, the piano man from the Bronx released his fifth studio album. It was the multi-platinum selling The Stranger which helped Billy Joel breakthrough and started his career as huge star. The album went to number 2 on the Billboard charts (where it spent six of its total 137 weeks!), number 24 in the UK, number 3 in Japan and number 2 in both Australia and New Zealand. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number 67 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Comic Books of the Week (8/3/11) part 1

Comic Books of the Week (8/3/11)

As we move into August and what is looking like my final month of collecting new comics (due to the relaunch of the line in September), my issue reviews might run a little longer. Allow me the space to wax poetically on these final issues.

Adventure Comics #529 - this issue marks the final issue of the run of a title that started out in the Golden Age of comics.

Adventure Comics was one of the first titles I picked up regularly when I started getting DC super-hero books in the 70's. Back then, Aquaman was headlining the anthology title though I remember seeing a few earlier issues that featured Black Orchid and the Spectre.

When Aquaman got his own solo title, Adventure Comics became the home once more for Superboy, then the book expanded with a number of features when it joined the Dollar Comics format. Remember when one dollar could get you 80 pages and no ads? I do. It was great!

And that's when I subscribed to the title - getting copies mailed to me flat with that brown wrapper for protection. I had a subscription to the title from the Dollar days to the Plastic Man/Starman/Aquaman run, followed by the Dial H For Hero run. Then the book moved to a digest format, mixing a healthy dose of reprints with pages of new material.

When Adventure Comics was relaunched a few years back, I was ecstatic. And old friend was back. And it went back to its roots of an anthology - with Superboy (Kon-El) in the lead and Legion backups. The Legion moved to the front and got the Atom for backups. It ended the run with the recent Legion Academy series taking over the whole issues.

I really enjoyed the Academy tales and issue #529 was a nice ending to that chapter. There was plenty of action in this issue and it felt like a full issue. The art was solid too. As expected, it managed to tie things up fairly well with the promise of the remaining Academy cast rolling into the new Legion title come September. I wish the new recruits well. With Paul Levitz writing the book in the new DCU, I am sure they'll be in good hands. This is one I will miss reading each month.

Secret Six #36 - Gail Simone managed to do something pretty rare - she wrote one of the longest running DC villain-team book and did it with a cast of lesser known characters, plenty of violence, a little perversion and a whole lot of heart.

She did what a writer is supposed to do - make you care about the characters. The fact that these were some of the vilest criminals didn't matter. As a reader, I cared. This was a book I welcomed every month. You never knew what was going to happen. You could predict the strangest circumstances and Gail would likely top it. That's how fun this book was.

Unfortunately, not enough people got it. Sales were surprisingly lower on the monthly title though the trades sold quite well. And when the book didn't make the cut for the September relaunch, DC at least gave Gail a chance to go out with a bang.

These last two issues managed to tie-up (rather quickly) the plot lines of the major cast as best she could in the space allowed. This issue felt like a proper ending. The villains, with their backs against the wall and surrounded by a plethora of heroes, went out in a blaze of glory. It spoke to these characters' natures and personalities. It did not feel like a compromise at all. They went out as any true villains should - fighting.

This is another book I am going to miss reading. I know Gail will be doing Batgirl and Fury of Firestorm come September, but those books won't be the same as this one. I don't think DC will have another great villain team book like this again. When they made Secret Six they broke the mold.

Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force

Formed in 1984, a trio of musicians rose up from the urban contemporary music scene of New York City. Assembled and produced by Brooklyn’s own R&B sensations Full Force, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (guitarist/bassist Alex “Spanador” Moseley and drummer/keyboardist Mike Hughes) took the world of freestyle music by storm. The band’s early career was helped greatly by a track of theirs appearing on a compilation record Breakdancing that had been popular in Europe and crossed over to the States. US club DJs had been playing it as an import and the song caught on.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

R.E.M. - Green

As 1988 was coming to a close, R.E.M. had moved over to the Warner Brothers record label and released their sixth studio album Green. This record also marked changes in how they put together an album - from the band members learning each other’s instruments so they could switch roles during recording to the way the songs were written (starting with lyrics first in some instances).

The record did very well commercially. In the US it went to number 12 on the Billboard album charts and went double-platinum in sales. In the UK, it peaked at number 27 on the charts and was their first album to achieve gold and then platinum sales status.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ABC - Beauty Stab

After their very successful debut record The Lexicon of Love (click here to see my review of that one), ABC decided to switch things up for their 1983 sophomore release. Where their first album had a more styled production, Beauty Stab leaned more towards a guitar-based sound. Did this change cost them? The album did not sell nearly as well and only reached number 12 on the UK album charts and number 69 in the US.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nik Kershaw - Human Racing

This album is reviewed by request for one of my Twitter friends. Thanks for suggesting it, Guy.

On February 24th of 1984, the then twenty-six year old Nik Kershaw released his first studio album Human Racing. With the help of strong pop production and his poster-pretty looks, the album achieved its highest position on the UK charts at number 5 (it spent a total of 61 weeks on the charts) and was also in the top 10 on the album charts in Finland, Germany and Norway. In the US after seventeen weeks total on the Billboard Hot 200 chart, the album only got to number 70.

Monday, August 1, 2011

the Rolling Stones - Tattoo You

1981’s Tattoo You was the sixteenth studio album from the Rolling Stones. The record spent twenty weeks on the UK charts with a top position of number 2 and fifty-eight weeks on the US charts including time at the number 1 spot. It went Gold in the UK and four times Platinum in the US. It also went to number 1 in Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. The album was ranked number 211 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list.

Tattoo You built off the band’s successful momentum in the 80’s started by Emotional Rescue. Many of the songs culled for this record came from outtakes from earlier recording sessions.