Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Monday, Dec 17, 2007

The spate of post-mortem Johnny Cash product shows no sign of abating, but unlike much of what’s come out in the last four years, The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show is worthwhile to both the casual Cash fan and anyone interested in American popular music. For more than four hours, we’re treated not only to Cash’s many hits—“Ring of Fire”, “I Walk the Line”, “A Boy Named Sue” and others are given the expected airings—but also to a bevy of tunes that formed the foundation of Cash’s music: his wonderful reading of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues”, several old Carter Family songs, a holy heap of gospel numbers, and much, much more. There’s a lot of great stuff on this collection, and the guest list for Cash’s show was eclectic and impressive: Stevie Wonder, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, James Taylor, Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, among many more.


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Thursday, Dec 13, 2007

Three months before Otis Redding took Monterey Pop by storm, he and his buddies conquered Europe. Stax Records mounted its first European tour in the spring of ’67, and instantly created a passionate fanbase. Some of the earlier dates on the tour were released as live albums, but this April concert was taped for Norwegian TV, then sat in a vault for years. The black-and-white video is a joy to watch; the TV crew’s shot selection rotates nicely from artist close-up to audience reaction. But it is the performances that will ultimately amaze. The energy gets kicked up with Arthur Conley’s hot showmanship, sails through part of an Eddie Floyd song, and goes through the roof after a Sam and Dave set. Then Otis Redding comes on, and it appears neither the TV screen nor the stage nor his body can contain the joy he brings to every note.


Sam & Dave - When Something Is Wrong with My Baby



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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007

The official visual documentation of the recent Springsteen world tour arrives just in time in the “American Land” like an injection of bottled euphoria after a deadly struggle with depression. A pot of coffee after a hang over, a smile from a pretty woman, a white flag rising from the air after a gut-shredding battle, dawn after dusk—Springsteen and his talented band blast through the wreckage of a war-weary nation, hurricane disaster zone, and de-industrialized poverty and crime-stricken wasteland that is still called the United States.



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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007
by Matthew A. Stern

The layout of Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding makes for a disc that’s as much a heartfelt tribute as it is a documentary. Rather than delving a great deal into analysis of Otis’ place in the pop landscape, Otis’ career, starting with the Stax Records story is told through interviews with those close to him. Otis’ wife Zelma and his daughter are interviewed, as well as Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs, horn player Wayne Jackson, and rarely filmed Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, in between footage of Otis’ classic live performances. Instead of pushing technical and conceptual boundaries like Hendrix, the boundaries Redding pushed were ones of feeling, the way he attacked simple love songs with furious soulful sincerity. It’s interesting to think, had Otis Redding lived, how he would have deepened and widened the intangible elements of popular music, its spirit and its soul.


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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007

This DVD captures acts ranging from The Carter Family to Johnny Cash and rafts of others who were on the folk circuit playing their hearts out in the earnest belief that folk culture is the lifeblood of the country and that by turning to that wellspring passionately, they could achieve their own sense of truth and authenticity. Any DVD collection that can show you the roots of popular music forms like country music and the blues, played by some of the key musicians in the genres, is well worth the price of admission.


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