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Sunday, Dec 2, 2007

Time Life’s fantastic three-disc set, The Definitive Collection (1947-1966), is aptly named, for it’s the very first Stanley Brothers compilation to include tracks from every label they recorded for, including Rich-R-Tone, Columbia, Mercury, King, and Starday. Therefore, it’s an incredible collection for novices and fans alike, compiling the Stanleys’ greatest secular and gospel sides, songs from the band’s famed radio shows, and a handful of previously unreleased live recordings, along with a generous booklet of photos and highly informative liner notes. Some say that the Stanleys’ Mercury recordings from 1953 are their best, and it’s true that songs like Carter’s “(Say) Won’t You Be Mine” and Ralph’s “I’m Lonesome Without You” are early perfections of the style they’d disseminate well into the mid-‘60s.


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Sunday, Dec 2, 2007

In a time when many companies are content to slap a new coat of paint or throw in a couple new maps or unimpressive features on games, call them sequels and ask consumers to pay full sticker price for them, Valve’s The Orange Box is a bargain of incredible proportions.  For a mere $60, The Orange Box includes first-person shooter classic Half Life 2, its quasi-sequels Episode 1 and Episode 2 (the second of which hadn’t been previously released), the wildly inventive puzzle game Portal, and last but not least, Team Fortress 2, the best team-based multiplayer shooter on the Xbox 360 not named Halo 3Half Life 2‘s reputation is well-known, and Team Fortress 2 is a sequel to a cult favorite a long time coming, but the biggest surprise is Portal. Combining first-person shooter mechanics with simple-to-learn, difficult-to-master puzzles, Portal is arguably the best of the entire batch.  But even if puzzles aren’t your bag, just about everyone will find something to love in The Orange Box. Other video game companies be warned, Valve may have just raised the bar on giving gamers their money’s worth.


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Sunday, Dec 2, 2007

The Dixie Chicks’ sweep of the Grammy Awards seemed a vindication of their decision not to “make nice” with their erstwhile country fans. Seeing themselves as the Post-Comment Dixie Chicks, they reframe the controversy as a matter of free speech.  This film shows their healthy integration of professional and personal politics, and also makes clear the significance of the Chicks in broader contexts including free speech, the growing anti-war movement, and their experience as women in the music industry.



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Sunday, Dec 2, 2007

How does House, M.D. manage to garner not only popular success but critical approval, as well?  By now, even the most casual of television viewers will know the answer:  sharp writing and whip-smart acting.  In just three seasons on air the absurdly talented duo of creator David Shore and lead actor Hugh Laurie have managed to re-establish the modern medical drama while simultaneously subverting many of its hallowed conventions.  For in Dr. House we have a protagonist whose very charm and likeability is intrinsically supported and bolstered by an unrelenting personal abrasion and callousness.


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Sunday, Dec 2, 2007

A stunning late-career album from the country legend—free of gimmick, chock full of guests that add to the record’s authenticity. What might seem like something commemorative, a re-recorded “greatest hits” made in celebration of a great country singer’s career, is, in fact, far too vital and alive to be passed off as some late-life cash in. There isn’t an insincere moment to be found on this album. These songs are well-selected and well-executed. The guests here make not so much for a passing of the torch, but more a meeting of minds both young and old to play the music they love. Should Rick Rubin decide to take on another legend for a late-career resurrection, he’d do well to look at this record.  It is free of gimmick and ploy, happy to make the songs Charlie and company love. And the results make for a must-have record. More importantly for Charlie Louvin, though, this is a record Ira would love.


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