You don’t need to be any kind of Stax freak to get into this music, and this new compilation makes for a great starter drug. It’s awesome for people who do not have the originals all on vinyl or eight-track or lousy CD masters from 17 years ago. It is also probably a good thing for people who do have them all already anyway. Listening to songs like “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”, “B-A-B-Y”, “Do the Funky Chicken”, and “Starting All Over Again” is like taking a stroll through the garden of sublime American soul music. But the most important thing about it is that it augurs well for the new era to come. If Concord continues to pump out high-class re-issue material like this, then we will see an undreamt-of Stax renaissance in the next few years. The liner and the photos are beautifully done, and the sound is as crisp as the creases in the Mad Lads’ pants.
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Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s collaborative cinematic crack, the brilliant and brash Grindhouse, was a failure in perception, not in execution. Exploitation fans just couldn’t cotton a three hour sleaze fest bowing over Easter weekend. Before an eventual full blown DVD delivery of the entire in theater experience, we get two separate releases, and both are fantastic. Tarantino’s car chase slasher stunt gets an inflated narrative and more scintillating dialogue. Rodriguez offers up missing transition, loads more gore, and a commentary track that dissects the teamwork between the filmmakers. Until we get the final version, fake trailers and drive-in bumper material intact, these will have to do. They’re a sensational substitute.
You like beer? Who doesn’t like beer? But do you know beer? Are you aware of its origins in this country, of the immigrant brewers who took a gamble and made a fortune on the golden ale, helping to pave the American frontier in the process? Ambitious Brew, Maureen Ogle’s history of beer in the United States, only begins there. In a brisk prose that will keep even the non-bibliophile hooked, she pours forth with tales of saloons and Prohibition, anti-drunk driving campaigns, right up through today’s mega-brewers. It’s 342 thorough pages, but it reads quick, and goes down like a smooth draught.
This 2006 German film took the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film over heady competition like Pan’s Labyrinth and for a good reason. Von Donnersmarck’s affecting tale of artistic bravery and political resistance in the midst of the crushing monotony and soul-sucking fascism of 1980s East Germany is a creative triumph. From the meticulous acting of Sebastian Koch (Black Book), Martina Gedeck (Mostly Martha), and the sadly departed Ulrich Muhe to the gorgeous score and searing script, the film is a testament to the power of the individual.
Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas would be an unlikely candidate for Top Pick in the “Lady Ella” discography, Christmas albums being what they are. You know, all happy and jolly and “you better not pout ‘cause the man with the reindeer will pay you a visit”. Some people, but not me of course, become increasingly blah and “bah humbug” as the Christmas season approaches. In such cases, Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas might provide the right vibe to get you in the spirit. The material itself is decidedly non-secular, which may not have universal appeal, yet the simple beauty and gorgeous technique in this music might have you listening to it over and beyond the holidays. Especially when you consider that these tracks were recorded in July of 1967! Ms. Fitzgerald’s voice is one of our musical treasures, and here, her pure and tender renderings bring magic to 13 of my, I mean your, favorite Christmas tunes. Highlights are “Joy to the World” and the always adorable “Silent Night”. Other standards, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”, benefit from the backing of Ralph Carmichael’s Chorus and Orchestra, offering a sense of familiarity and togetherness. The world could use a little more of that, right? At slightly under 30 minutes, someone (okay, I admit it, it’s me!) might feel compelled to keep this CD on repeat.
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"The charisma of Giuliano Gemma and some stellar action sequences can't save this sub-par spaghetti western.READ the article