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by Bill Gibron

1 Dec 2009

Many of the stories surrounding the making of this amazing movie are just as compelling as the film itself, and Warner Brothers has seen fit to fill out this astonishing four disc set with as many of them as possible. There is so much added content here - early silent film versions of the Oz stories (including one helmed by Baum himself), TV movies based on the material, documentaries and full length features discussing the film’s creation and lasting impact, as well as numerous critical, scholarly, and specialty (F/X, music) overviews - that we get wrapped up in the history. About the only thing not addressed here are the numerous urban legends and conspiracy theory rumors surrounding the final product.

And what a magnificent movie it is, a true endeavor of the human spirit that seems to resonate through every pore of your being down deep into the very core of your sunny, sated soul.

by Mike Garrett

1 Dec 2009

No one understands the hold music has on us quite like author Nick Hornby. Being an audiophile himself Hornby appreciates how, at least for some, the records we buy and the bands we love can take on a greater significance beyond their immediate aural pleasures. Hornby knows how music can come to dominate our lives, and how we can come to define ourselves by the music we hold dear. Hornby’s most famous protagonist, Rob Fleming from High Fidelity, goes so far to say that you can’t be a serious person if you have less than 500 records. But High Fidelity isn’t just about music. It’s also about love, death and the perils of relationships. And so is Hornby’s latest, a self-described quasi-sequel to High Fidelity, Juliet, Naked.

At first blush, Juliet, Naked seems to be exclusively about music, too. The novel begins in hilarious fashion, as our British protagonists, longtime couple Duncan and Annie, make their way across the US on a musical pilgrimage. The impetus for this magical mystery tour is Tucker Crowe, fictional musician and notorious recluse, who hasn’t been heard from since 1986, when his famous break-up album, Juliet, was released. It’s said that the greatest pop and rock songs are almost always about love—wanting it, getting it, losing it, trying to get it back. And in a sense, that’s what most Nick Hornby books are about, too. But his books are also about the things in our lives that we use as substitutes for love, the things that we cling to in the absence of relationships in an effort to make sense of our world—namely, music, or art. But as Duncan discovers, and Rob Fleming before him, your records can only nourish you so much, or as the Motown song goes, ain’t nothing like the real thing.

by Katharine Wray

1 Dec 2009

Before Dave Chapelle, before Jerry Seinfeld and before Richard Pryor—about 50 years ago, in fact—there was Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. This three CD/one DVD Box set, remastered 50 years after the birth of The 2000 Year Old Man, offers hours of hilarity with all five 2000 Year Old Man comedy albums released by Brooks and Reiner. The DVD is flush with interviews, clips from The Ed Sullivan Show and The New Steve Allen Show, the 1975 animated TV special and loads of rare photographs. This will see some happy recipient well through the long winter.

by Christian John Wikane

1 Dec 2009

Sweet like a Hershey’s chocolate kiss. Funky as if you forgot how good funk can feel. The sonic equivalent of sun rays bursting through an azure sky. That’s “Better”, the new single by Angela Johnson. How apt a title, because with each passing year and each new production, Angela Johnson only gets better.

A contender for the most infectious tune in her catalog, the song verifies that Johnson is one of the very best writers/producers/singers working today. Recently touring stages throughout France, this NY-native crafts grooves so tight that it’s no wonder why Johnson’s “Happy Feelings” was the highlight on Maysa’s Metamorphosis (2008). Nor is it surprising that Rahsaan Patterson readily agreed to collaborate with her on “Dream Flight”, a track from A Woman’s Touch (Johnson’s producer project of last year).

“Better” is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of recording, touring, and producing, both as a solo artist and her work with Cooly’s Hot Box. Those who have been following Angela Johnson will recognize the chord changes in the bridge as “distinctly Angela” while the drums and bass are luscious, deep and rich, just like the Cooly’s Hot Box cuts that found a home on the hippest European dance floors. Of course, there is her voice, a strident instrument that can become airborne within the space of two notes. Check her phrasing on “When you’re touching my skin / You’re lighting the fire deep within” at the 3:30 mark and brace yourself.

If you download only one more song before 2009 ends, make it “Better”.

by Beth Greaves

1 Dec 2009

I will admit it. One of my guiltiest guilty pleasures is The X Factor. It is essentially the British version of American Idol. It is awful, but I love it.

When it was announced that the 2008 winner would sing a cover of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”, I thought the situation couldn’t get any worse.

It just did.

It has been announced that the 2009 winner will sing a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”.

I could not believe my ears.

When I eventually believed them, I wanted to eat them in a fit of pure, undiluted fury.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” is one of my favorite songs. I am against cover versions in (almost) every shape and form. The original is the best. Unless you can do something imaginative with the original (listen to Taken by Trees’ version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, for example), then leave it as it is. There is nothing about The X Factor that could possibly be considered original. Take it from someone who knows.

I could list all the things that are wrong with this choice, but I will start with the most obvious. One: the original version is brilliant and you should never mar brilliance. Two: why not pick an original song for the winner? At least then it can stand as a song in its own right. Can they not afford songwriters in this poor economic climate? Three: one of the contestants, an admittedly talented guy named Joe, already sang this song (and is favored to win, apparently). Does anything scream favoritism louder than that?

I will end this post with a solemn plea. Please buy the original version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” from iTunes during the week before Christmas. In the name of good taste, good music and all that is holy, buy “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Please.

//Mixed media

//Blogs

Fave Five: Mike Scott of the Waterboys on Keith Richards

// Sound Affects

"The Waterboys ambitious new double-album culls a lot of inspirations, but Mike Scott is happy to expound upon one of the key ones: Keith Richards and his most badass moments.

READ the article