Songs »Action In Istambul

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Twenty Two: Best Song for a Bond Movie That Never Was:

Action In Istambul by Minerva Daly (1976)

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Posted on May 22, 2011

Songs »Angie Baby

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Fifteen: Strangest Narrative in a Number One Pop Hit:

Angie Baby by Helen Reddy (1974)

You live your life in the songs you hear
On the rock and roll radio
And when a young girl doesn’t have any friends
That’s a really nice place to go
Folks hoping you’d turn out cool
But they had to take you outta school
You’re a little touched you know, Angie Baby

Lovers appear in your room each night
And they whirl you across the floor
But they always seem to fade away
When your daddy taps on your door
Angie girl, are you all right
Tell the radio good-night
All alone once more, Angie Baby

Angie Baby, you’re a special lady
Living in a world of make-believe
Well, maybe

Stopping at her house is a neighbor boy
With evil on his mind
‘Cause he’s been peeking in Angie’s room
At night through her window blind
I see your folks have gone away
Would you dance with me today
I’ll show you how to have a good time, Angie Baby

When he walks in her room,
He feels confused like he’s walked into a play
And the music’s so loud it spins him around
‘Til his soul has lost its way
And as she turns the volume down
He’s getting smaller with the sound
It seems to pull him off the ground
Toward the radio he’s bound never to be found

The headlines read that a boy disappeared
and everyone thinks he died
‘Cept a crazy girl with a secret lover
Who keeps her satisfied
It’s so nice to be insane
No one asks you to explain
Radio by your side, Angie Baby

Angie Baby, you’re a special lady
Living in a world of make-believe
Well, maybe
Well, maybe

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Posted on May 15, 2011

Songs »Teach Your Children

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Eight: Best Song To Get Weepy About Parenthood To:

Teach Your Children by Crosby Stills and Nash (1970)

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Posted on May 8, 2011

Movies »Small Change aka Pocket Change

directed by Francois Truffaut (1976)

Friends, Small Change is so utterly charming, you must take time to watch it! A loving ode to childhood, Truffaut, a frequent chronicler of youth (see 400 Blows) gives us a glimpse into the lives of young children in the town of Thiers. The script was largely improvised and the children (who are adorable, every one) are non actors, lending a documentary quality to the film.

Described perfectly by the Times as “a major work in minor keys”, Change is made up of small moments, often mundane which add up to a touching, heart warming whole but never feels cloying nor hits a false note.

In its simplicity and subtlety, the movie is profound – almost life changing even – in that it’s opened up my eyes to the way a film maker can so clearly capture the feelings of childhood. The only other film comparable would be the equally lovely Spirit of the Beehive.

With yuppies of the opinion that children are little more than nuisances that might dare to invade one’s dining space, and all the crummy stories of abuse and neglect in the news, it’s particularly gratifying to see a movie that is so pure in its vision and message  – essentially that children are wonderful and need to be loved; this is a sentiment that very few of today’s navel gazing artists seem to share.

While the film is brimming with humanity and includes one of cinema’s kindest portrayals of good teachers, it doesn’t shy away from the dangers of childhood, particularly neglect in the case of the rascally and charming Julien.

It’s worth noting that Small Change, as it is mostly known as in the US, is listed as Pocket Change on netflix, where you can enjoy this gem instantly. (Moms, there’s tons of great kid style too!)

Click here for the rest of Small Change aka Pocket Change

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Posted on April 9, 2011

Albums »Unleashed in the East

by Judas Priest (1979)

“Down on your knees and repent if you please!” – Judas Priest‘s Unleashed in the East begins with the highest point of the live set with an exciting “Exciter“. Not that the rest is “down hill” but it’s almost impossible to top the opening number, though Sinner and The Ripper (possibly my favorite Priest song depending on the day) come pretty close. In fact, the whole set, recorded during their 1979 live show in Tokyo is incredibly rocking and sounds great… perhaps too great?

Nicknamed “Unleashed in the Studio” by sceptics, many claim this can only be called “live” in the loosest terms. Holford, after years of denial even admitted that some vocals were re-recorded in a concert like setting. But really, who cares. It’s fun to listen to, it’s exhilarating and showcases the band at the height of their popularity in front of an adoring audience.


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Posted on April 2, 2011

Songs »The Uptown Sound’s Billy Bungeroth’s 10 Favorite Secret Soul Songs

from AV Club, Chicago

I’ve been friends with Billy since he was sporting a satin Batman bike cap and me, ignorantly, a Rasta skull cap solely because I liked the colors. In other words for a very long time. And if there’s one thing I know, he compiles a list of soul songs, you best listen. Which is just what Van and I have been doing with his AV Club recommendations all day.

From the dirty Mary Jane ditty you don’t know to a Gene Chandler song that will have you wishing summer was here, the list is great. The world kind of stopped around me though when I listened to his Sam Cooke selection, “Mean Old World”.

Other favorites of mine are The Mighty Clouds of Joy’s “I’m Glad About It” a gospel song which Billy describes as “like something Nick Cave would write” and the very pretty “Go Now” by Bessie Banks.

Van was not so divided about his favorite. He perked up, smiling and bouncing to Booker T And The MGs, “Sunday Sermon”, Billy’s “favorite Sunday chill-out song” and Van loves to chill out.

If any of my readers are in Chicago, he and his band are playing at the Double Door tonight.

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Posted on March 18, 2011

Songs »Natural High

by Bloodstone (1973)

While Bloodstone might sound like a current goth pop outfit, it’s actually a Kansas City R&B, funk soul band who hit a career high with Natural High. The doo wop ballad is lovely and surely got lots of girls to go to the back seats in 1973.

Van and I were grooving to this on a classic soul internet station called Got Radio R&B Classics. It is probably well known from its inclusion in the Jackie Brown soundtrack. You have to admit Tarantino knows how to put some good tunes together.

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Posted on March 2, 2011

Albums »Histoire de Melody Nelson

by Serge Gainsborg (1971)

If Serge’s most renowned album, Histoire de Melody Nelson sounds like a sensual movie soundtrack – that’s because it kind of is. Not for anything released in theaters, but an indulgent, psychedelic music video piece, starring Serge and his lady Jane as a chain smoking, well dressed, slimy older man and the young gyrating, grinning nymphet he falls for after hitting her on her bike with his car, at least as far as I can interpret without speaking French.

That’s one great consistency with Gainsbourg, even if you have no idea what’s being said, you always know it will be sleazy and beautiful – a hard balance for most people, but the man’s way of living.

And beautiful this album is – thanks to the deep spoken word, the hushed giggles, and the lush orchestration of Jean-Claude Vannier, a character I am going to have to learn more about since within a two minute internet search I discovered that he was born during a bomb scare and composed music for YSL shows in the 70’s.

If there’s any complaint about this highly influential album it’s that it seems to go by in a glorious breathtaking instant.

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Posted on January 27, 2011

Albums »Let My People Go

by Darondo (1973)

Darondo led an unusual life: according to wikipedia “Later he traveled the world collecting interesting artifacts, became the king of Bay Area cable with three shows per day, and worked as a physical therapist coaxing patients to walk again” this was after a brief but brilliant stint as a soul singer which left us Let My People Go, a solid, hip swaying album.

You’ll hear hints of James Brown, Prince and Al Green among these nine songs and some will surely become new favorites for any other lovers of the genre out there. Didn’t I, which brought Darondo back into the spot light thanks to radio play, is one of those favorites and the whole album starts off with a great bass line bang with the title track.

It took years for this virtually forgotten artist to get a rerelease – but I can’t claim I found the album having any knowledge of the history. I was just browsing emusic (a site I am sure to tell you about soon) and was struck by the album cover, that featured, to my mind, possibly one of the coolest men on earth. Lucky for me, judging a book by its cover worked out (I actually find it often does) because I found some excellent new music that I can’t wait to share with friends.

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Posted on December 30, 2010

Movies »Klute

Directed by Alan J Paluka (1971)

Deliberate framing and pacing, rich, artistic cinematography, and an adult story that ignores the teen market, Klute is a film of it’s time – the great 1970’s, far before the music video era. Not that I dismiss everything made in the last several decades, just that there’s something distinct about a classic film like this one and though it hasn’t come to be remembered as well as some of its contemporaries, it will be worth checking out if only for our generation to grasp onto the fashions: feathered shags, midi skirts, sequins, and caftans…

Jane Fonda is Bree Daniels, a skilled prostitute trying to become an actress. She’s self-sabotaging, tough, world weary, angry, intelligent, vulnerable, mean, and kind hearted. She’s one of the most damaged characters put to screen and Fonda deserved the Academy Award she earned for her fierce portrayal. Her foil is Tom, played by Donald Sutherland (love) who is quiet, forgiving, seemingly naive and passive but proves himself to be complicated and brave. They are thrown together when Tom’s friend disappears leaving behind only a stack of obscene letters to Bree as any clue to his whereabouts.

As self appointed private detective and reluctant assistant, they traverse the sometimes opulent, often dismal seedy underground of the sex trade in New York, where Rod Schneider is deliciously seedy as a pimp. The mystery is tense at times, with almost horror movie like music and great sets for thrills, but it’s really the relationship that develops between these two unlikely lovers that is at the heart of the movie.

If you want to make an after noon of it, watch along with The Parallax View and All The President’s Men for what’s been called director Alan J Paluka’s “Paranoia Trilogy”.

Click here for the rest of Klute

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Posted on December 3, 2010

Albums »Carpenters

by The Carpenters (1971)

The Carpenters self titled album is an iconic one of its time, and many will argue, of the worst of its time. Schmaltzy, cheesy, feathery soft and mild, Karen and brother Richard were the number one selling act in the 1970’s (this album alone went quadruple platinum). Still, it’s soothing music like this that sometimes hits the mid afternoon spot and can anyone deny that she possessed one of the nicest voices ever recorded?

You’ll likely be familiar with most of the album’s many hits (Rainy Days and Mondays, For All We Know, Superstar) but there are less often played songs here too. Drusilla Penny, a rare Carpenters ditty sung by Richard, is Jim’s favorite (though he is not a big fan over all) but some of the others are admittedly a bit much to handle even for me as I recommend you give this adult contemporary dynamo a chance (see Bacharach medley and Saturday).

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Posted on October 12, 2010

Movies »The Mad Max Trilogy

directed by George Miller (1979, 1981, 1985)

The Mad Max trilogy is a grim, inventive B-movie blend of sci fi and action the likes of which I wish was made more often. Instead of drawing from established science fiction, it made its own mark on the genre and is frequently imitated to this day.

The first film, Mad Max, is the bleakest and the most menacing. Set in a nearer future where the world has certainly changed but some semblances of society are still intact (like family, a police force, and community – albeit broken versions), Gibson plays a law enforcer driven to “Mad”ness Max when a crazy band of outlaws, headed by psycho Toe Cutter, mow down his dearest (if you thought Bambi’s mom being killed was dreadful…) It’s the most convoluted of the three films, and the roughest around the edges, but it sets up the believable dystopia (with a distinctly Australian grit) that endures throughout the trilogy.

Road Warrior, also known as Mad Max 2, finds Max mid road battle with a band of incredibly awesome punk bad guys before stumbling across a ragtag, more peaceful group of gas hoarders in need of just the kind of reluctant heroism a once likable and handsome Gibson was capable of before he became such an evil prick in real life. The story is spare and harsh and once again there’s eye popping, over-the-top costumes and art design which might border on silly if designer Norma Moriceau weren’t so ballsy about it all.  In fact, the entire series benefits from the no apologies, true B-movie bad-assness that can spawn straight-faced characters like Lord Humungus, Gayboy Berzerkers, The Toecutter, and Pig Killer. The second installment might just be my favorite of the bunch with its straight forward, almost all action punch.

The trilogy gained some considerable gloss (which rears its ugly head with that head scratching saxophone that was so prevalent at the time – see Ladyhawke) with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but it’s a film very dear to my heart; as a kid my sister and I would quote “Master Blaster runs Bartertown!” endlessly. While it definitely ventures into Ewokish territory with the nearly cartoonish second half that features a band of lost kids and goofier violence (it seems strange that the menacing Ironbar played by a sneering Angry Anderson should  leave this world in such a Wile E Coyote fashion), still it’s visually stunning and unique with unforgettable set pieces. Bartertown itself, a literal cesspool of vice run on pig shit where feuds are settled in the Thunderdome (two men enter, one man leaves!) has got to be one of cinema’s most memorable post apocalyptic towns and to be honest, I was on Aunty Entity’s side when Max plus brats tore it apart. Like it or not, Aunty (played with the kind of sexually bold bravado that only Tina could lend the role) brought order to an insane world… but perhaps I’m thinking too deeply about it.

There were once rumors of a fourth starring Heath Ledger, which obviously is no longer the case and with Mel’s latest rants of hate and general horribleness, I hope the rumors of his cameos are not true. More intriguing are the latest chit chat circulating about the dashing Tom Hardy (the guy that out did Leo in Inception) taking over the role in a plot that includes “Five Wives” that need protecting. Let’s hope creator George Miller, whose been behind all of the films continues his vision of pure, exploitation cool.

Click here for the rest of The Mad Max Trilogy

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Posted on October 9, 2010

Movies »Violette

directed by Claude Chabrol (1978)

Violette opens with Isabelle Huppert dressed in black with thick eyeliner, red lips looking every bit the femme fatale. In a bar, she teases young men with intense stares, long cigarettes and indecent proposals. Soon, however, we see young Violette at home, where she is clean faced, seemingly obedient, looking years younger, eye battingly sweet and a pathological lair. She suddenly, in the skillful hands of Huppert, becomes more complex; recognizable as one of those sociopath teenage girls who longs for something more than her common, strict home life – a 1930s echo of all the girls that walk out of their houses in modest clothes and a lie about spending the night with a friend only to have a stash of makeup, revealing tube tops and mini skirts in her backpack for a tour of the mall. Except, of course, that this one has murder on her mind.

Based on a true story, Violette is a conniving teen – deeply passionate underneath a shockingly emotionless exterior. The murder, once it is revealed, is as mundane as it is disturbing. Her life outside the home is daring and dangerous. She meets with many older men, is a blackmailer, and even keeps a hotel room for her many trysts. Her parents, a struggling but happy train conductor and a gorgeous woman with a secret past – played by Chabrol’s wife and muse Stephane Audran, are poor (but never has close quarter apartment living looked so cozily French – save for 400 Blows maybe). They try their best to assure better for their daughter and the relationship and dynamics are tackled with subtly and the artful patience Chabrol is known for. This is not a fast paced film but a quietly fascinating one – partially for the cinematic beauty and partially for Huppert’s captivating performance.

Director Claude Chabrol passed away last week and was one of the most important forerunners of the New Wave movement in France. His career is vast and sadly less known than many of his contemporaries. His last work, Bellamy, comes to theaters this Fall.

Click here for the rest of Violette

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Posted on September 26, 2010

Albums »Songs of Love and Hate

by Leonard Cohen (1971)

I guess Leonard Cohen‘s third album, Songs of Love and Hate could be considered baby Van’s first album pick because he’s been quite moved to kick and punch whenever it’s played. Looks like he’ll be one moody little poet kid because Jim Morrison also gets him going. Fortunately mommy likes the album too. It’s got my favorite Cohen song possibly of all time, the incredibly sad Famous Blue Raincoat.

The entire album is perhaps his most effectively depressing with suicide, infidelity, the pain of becoming obsolete, and lost love as just a few of the topics covered. It’s spare and sparse (only eight tracks) with the focus being on his signature melancholy and beautiful lyrics. I’d call him the perhaps the best lyricist of all time, and this album is certainly evidence of this.

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Posted on September 26, 2010

Songs »Slip Sliding Away

by Paul Simon (1977)

Poignancy could be Paul Simon’s middle name and perhaps never more than with his bittersweet Slip Slidin’ Away – a song that never fails to make me rather sad (and enjoy it). The song was an new composition released on his 1977 Greatest Hits, Etc.

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Posted on September 12, 2010

Albums »Reflections

by Iceberg Slim (1976)

I am slightly conflicted about recommending the pimp poetry spoken word gem Reflections by Iceberg Slim. It has become a favorite of Jim and mine since we came across it and became intrigued during our last Amoeba trip but it’s definitely not pc. It contains offensive material to nearly everyone (women and homosexuals getting the worst of it) but both the work and the man behind it is more complex than that. Slim, born Robert Beck, was an actual pimp for most of his young life and after a long prison sentence, decided to write about his life experiences. The result was the cult classic (though largely ignored) book, Pimp: The Story of My Life. Long before the gangsta rap that spoke of the violence and brutality of the streets, Slim was using his life as inspiration for eye opening and disturbing truths.

Reflections is his sing songy spoken word version of that rough life but accompanied by the Red Holloway Quartet, it’s also addictive, jazzy and strangely calming (kind of like a beatnik Dr. Seuss from a pimps point of view) and is unlike anything else you’re likely to have in your library. If you can get past the content and take it as one man’s experiences concerning a certain dark lifestyle, which by the way is always eloquent and often poignant and heartbreaking, this could be one of the greatest albums you’ll discover this year if only for the undeniable smoothness of his incredible voice.

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Posted on September 5, 2010

Albums »The Switched-On Boxed Set

by Wendy Carlos (1968-1979)

It’s hard to disconnect the powerful images Kubrick created for Clockwork Orange and the moog symphonies of Wendy Carlos. This is not a bad thing, but a full day of her tunes, courtesy of Shaun who let me borrow The Switched On Box Set puts you in one technicolor and strange mind frame.

This is a well designed and comprehensive set that includes her most famous album, Switched on Bach, the first classical album to ever go platinum. A revolutionary musician who took the newest instruments of the time to create unique sound scapes of familiar classics, Wendy takes the baroque and blasts it into the space age.

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Posted on August 29, 2010