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Thursday, May 7, 2009
Snoop Dogg and Donna Summer, doo-wop and disco. Brooklyn Dreams have had an anything but predictable career trajectory since their 1977 debut. Nearly 30 years after their last album, Bruce Sudano and Joe "Bean" Esposito remember the long, winding, and sometimes bumpy road from Flatbush to Hollywood.

Nostrand Avenue (Brooklyn, NY) and Sunset Boulevard (Los Angeles, CA) could not be more geographically incongruous, yet the members of Brooklyn Dreams know both streets intimately. Over a four-year period in the mid-1970s, Brooklyn-born and bred Bruce Sudano, Joe “Bean” Esposito, and Eddie Hokenson recorded for a label that virtually defined the colorful characters that resided along the Sunset Strip.


Their street-corner harmonies landed on Casablanca Records, home to P-Funk, Village People, and a Viking-outfitted Cher. Brooklyn Dreams was something of an anomaly on the roster, with New York-centric lyrics and doo-wop and rock and roll-influenced melodies dressing their songs. After a one-album stint produced by Skip Konte (Three Dog Night) on Jimmy Ienner’s Millennium, which Casablanca distributed, Brooklyn Dreams was matched with a pair of unlikely producers—Bob Esty, who produced numerous disco acts on Casablanca (Roberta Kelly, Paul Jabara, and D.C. LaRue), and Juergen Koppers, best known as engineer for Giorgio Moroder. The gambit to sell Brooklyn Dreams as a disco-pop act worked for a moment when the group appeared with Donna Summer on “Heaven Knows” from her Live and More (1978) album, which earned them a Top 5 gold single. The group also co-wrote “Bad Girls” with Summer, which became the most commercially successful single of her career.


At their core, Brooklyn Dreams was not a disco act, and a faithful return to their influences on Won’t Let Go (1980) made little movement in the marketplace.  Concurrent with the shift in style, Casablanca encountered seismic executive changes when company founder Neil Bogart sold the company to PolyGram and many artists either left or were released from the label.  Caught in the shuffle, Brooklyn Dreams disbanded shortly thereafter. Eddie Hokenson returned to New York while Bruce Sudano recorded a solo album back on Millennium, Fugitive Kind (1981), and co-wrote a number one country hit for Dolly Parton, “Starting Over Again” with Summer.  Joe “Bean” Esposito worked extensively with Giorgio Moroder, including the Flashdance (1983) soundtrack and the duo’s full-length Solitary Men (1983) collaboration, and became something of a cult figure when his recording of “You’re the Best” from The Karate Kid (1984) was adopted by the athletic world.


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
Ken Stringfellow is a well-known figure in the world of smart pop music, having worked with the likes of the Posies, R.E.M., the Minus 5, and Big Star. These days he's playing with the Disciplines and their new album Smoking Kills released just last week.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
ALL Movies make me cry. I am that kind of guy. From The Terminator to soft porn to, of course, It’s a Wonderful Life, I start crying during the damn previews, for fuck sake.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Pretty much was feeling like Randy the Ram in The Wrestler when I saw that film… old, fucked up never-has-been, “he’s a loser but he still keeps on trying” as the Little River Band would say.


3. The greatest album, ever?
Hard to call. The Shaggs album? It’s really a tough call. The Shaggs is perhaps the most extraordinary. Greatest, maybe Farewell to Kings by Rush.


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Monday, May 4, 2009
Dylan's new album of rough-and-ready love songs, Together Through This, is proof that he needs a little nudge back onto a darker path.

“There’s a new Dylan album coming out,” my father announced, at the end of our weekly conversation.


“Have you heard any of the songs?”


“No. It’s supposedly an album of love songs.”


For me, growing up amidst the ‘60s hangover of small town Northern California, Bob Dylan was always one of those artists whose work provided a bridge back to the lost Eden of the ‘60s. He never seemed to date himself or to become a novelty: his classic albums were always digressive and angry enough to keep their relevance and cool from one generation to the next.


Thus, when Dylan began his mighty comeback with Time Out of Mind, I bought it right alongside albums by Radiohead, Pavement, and Tori Amos. I’ve followed him fairly closely ever since, and, like parents and friends, I’ve taken an interest in the new Dylan books and films, including Chronicles, I’m Not There, and Scorsese’s No Direction Home.


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Friday, May 1, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
Donny Blum, drummer for the Von Bondies, tells us why Star Wars rules, you ought to try yoga and how inspirational Hieronymus Bosch is.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
That would be Math Without Tears, by Roy Hartkopf. I was boning up on math, because I think it’s so important to be able to add and subtract when I’m on tour. Math is so painful to me; it’s like pulling teeth. But math is also so important to all of our lives. I also saw a commercial on TV several years ago for the Humane Society. It was about what a dog dreams of at night. It dreams of its owner, a very old man. Then you find out that the old man is dead and the dog is now in a cage at a dog shelter. It is very sad.


2. The fictional character most like you?
I would have to say Taras Bulba from that famous story by Gogol. I feel like the members of my band are like Taras Bulba’s sons. And he would do anything for them, just as I would do anything for my sons. If I had any.


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Thursday, Apr 30, 2009
Even on the interpersonal level, there is no forgiveness in forgetting, and there is no progress in regret. When we promise to funk, to face truth unheard, and trust evidence unseen but known, we commit ourselves to a broader path of liberation, and therein resides our potential for progress.

Feet don’t fail me now: Theme songs for breaking stereotypes in America


Here’s your chance to make your way out of your constriction


One of the most interesting aspects of being Black in America is dealing with strongly visible, widely circulated racial stereotypes. Retired bad-ass baller Charles Barkley recently said it best with a book Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?, whose title says quite a bit. I know of a six-foot-plus middle school Black boy whose school administrators unconscious minds are so thoroughly steeped in stereotypes as to feel so terrorized by him that they escort the child between classes separating him during lunch and other activities. This all further ostracizes the kid and teaches him—albeit fearfully flawed pedagogically—that we live in a society that fears big Black men, despite, and obviously in spite of that particular child’s talents and circumstances. In America, we live in a society that bred richly fertile black wenches and black bucks, but no sooner did we win our liberation did our image of virility turn heavily towards that of social pariah. Death, destruction, dark, violent, the scary-looking Hindu goddess Kali is the “ultimate reality” in some Tantric beliefs, despite the only global incarnation of Tantra is reduced to its sexual connotations—again mirroring the view of the big, sexualized, poverty stricken, scary Black Man.


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