Rating Carolina CD Review : Carolina Chocolate Drops LEAVING EDEN

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Picture is copyright Jim Brock Photography

With 2013 still early in its run, an early contender for my favorite CD of the year is Carolina Chocolate Drops LEAVING EDEN (and yes I know it came out in 2012). It has been a while since I was so thoroughly in love with a CD from first song to last (Terry Callier’s opus SPEAK YOUR PEACE comes to mind, and that is high praise indeed).

I like their 2006 debut cd, DONA GOT A RAMBLIN MIND, but I don’t love it. The same can be said for their 2009 concert CD entitled CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS & JOE THOMPSON. However their latest LEAVING EDEN is another story. It is an album that is not only listenable from first song to last, it is immediately re-listenable. An album that can be on rotation in your cd player often without wearing out its welcome; no small feat in this day and age of too much, too fast, too poorly done.

What really endears me to this CD is how these young children of the Diaspora, these four children of the atom, of the early 21st century, are so thoroughly channeling and keeping alive this quintessential music of the early 20th century. What endears is how these young men and women of the race: Human, of the ethnic group: Nubian/Black, of the Nation: American and of the tribe: Artist; are creating music that incorporates the width and breath of all of the above.

LEAVING EDEN is at once joyous and jubilant and haunting and innovative, and sublime. The spirit of Robert Johnson moves strongly here, and well. ‘Howls in the bones of her face’ to borrow from Dylan, the cd LEAVING EDEN howls in the bones of your face.

Not only do I have a new favorite CD, I have a new favorite band. And luckily they are touring this year so if coming to a city anywhere close to you I highly recommend checking them out in person. I had the chance to see them in concert last year and missed it. I won’t miss them this year, and if you are smart neither will you.

Their touring schedule is here.

And their CD LEAVING EDEN? In an age of digital and Itunes do CDs still have a place? That appears to be the question of the moment. My answer? When they are this good, hell yeah CDs have a place. Owning just an mp3 sample would just be a crime. This is a work of art in the listening, and should be a work of art in the displaying. Grade: A+.

You can buy cds here:

Leaving Eden

And Don’t fail to also check out the following essential CDs:

Speak Your Peace

The Complete Recordings (The Centennial Collection)

And for more Carolina Chocolate Drops albums go here:

CDs available

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Picture is copyright Jim Brock Photography

COWBOY BEBOP:THE MOVIE DvD Review!

COWBOY BEBOP:THE MOVIE
Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no tobira (2001)

I’m not an Anime or Manga fan. While a fan of SPEED RACER reruns as a kid, and blown away by films like AKIRA and the first GHOST IN THE SHELL, I generally find them to be the exception rather than the rule. That is to say I come across more anime I dislike than like.

The same thing for manga, I’ve tried things like MONSTER only to find myself uninterested quickly.

So it was nice to go into COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE, and immediately take a liking to the visuals and tone of the story telling, and the multi-cultural tableau of COWBOY BEBOP was also quite welcome.

A couple things strike you really quickly going into the film, it’s visually very beautiful to look at, fluid and kinetic and even balletic. Great action scenes and the visuals are sumptuous. The 2nd thing that strikes you is just how brilliant a job the English Voice actors and sound design crew do in bringing this to life. The dub is generally a derided part of most imports, we’ve all sat through our share of horrendous English dub jobs. So the general rule of thumb, is viewers should sit through dubbing only for comedies, and subtitles are for dramatic foreign films (the thinking being humor is something that can’t be well conveyed in subtitles, humor is a lot to do with pacing and intonation and much of that requires the spoken voice, not subtitles. Plus any poor English dub voices will only add to the humor/ridiculousness).

So yeah the general rule of thumb is the dub version should be avoided for anything save humor. I’m happy to say that COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE is the exception to that rule. I watched it both ways, with the English Dub and with subtitles, and the English dub is clearly the way to go. The Voice actors are awesome, really strong performances, and convey so much information, that you don’t get by just reading the subtitles.

So very rarely do English Voice Actors working on foreign films get their due, but here they really do stellar work, and make this film shine. Highly recommended performances by all the voice actors.

Now moving onto the film itself, I went into it pretty blind having never seen an episode of COWBOY BEBOP, and for the most part that wasn’t a problem. The movie being relatively new viewer friendly. A story about a group of bounty hunters on Mars, and their most dangerous hunt. The movie does suffer from some pacing issues, it feels long. It took a few tries to actually get through this movie, I found myself zoning out consistently at the same spot. Going along with that issue, 3/4th of the way in, after the protagonist Spike has the battle on the train, the plot does get confusing. A murky resurrection, talk of Spike and the Antagonist being the same, and talk of a previous girlfriend, and it’s all a bit off-putting to the new viewer who hasn’t seen any COWBOY BEBOP.

However murky bits and pacing issues aside it ends entertainingly enough, with enough stellar, imaginative visuals and tender story and awesome jazz-tinged soundtrack to get a recommend from this reviewer, But be aware that this is very much a DVD film, it works much better consumed in portions, rather than trying to sit through the whole thing at once. Your mileage may vary. Grade: B.

Top 5 Music Podcasts! Spring 2012!!!!

Conventional/mainstream radio and discussion of music in the US is utter garbage. So to get a handle on what’s good out there takes a bit of digging, takes a bit of hunting for perspectives from the fans and true lovers of music, rather than the soulless money grubbing suits.

I’ve done the hunting, so you can do the enjoying. Hands down, below are the five best Music Podcasts…. IN THE WORLD!!

No hyperbole here. :)

VINYL, LIVE, LOCAL- Vinyl, Live & Local is hosted by Josh Gellman on Thursday’s from 3-8PM. The show always includes music from vinyl records, live recordings, and local artists. Featuring a range of music from Funk, Latin, Jazz, Indie, Classics, and a few surprises. It’s gonna be a party!! – This is an absolutely wonderful podcast of nothing but great music cuts. Radio as it should be, but unfortunately isn’t. Hosted by Josh Gellman, the show appears to have gone dark, but use the feed and for right now you can access the back shows, and I HIGHLY recommend it. If anyone has the inside scoop on this program let me know if it will be coming back. It’s that good.

CBC RADIO 3- The home of Independent Canadian Music – CBC Radio 3 is a weekly hour of 100% Canadian music from new and emerging artists. It’s one of the most popular podcasts in the country, playing the best in new rock, pop, singer-songwriters, hip hop, and electronica. Updated Fridays.
300+ episodes in and this Podcast/indie Radio Show is going strong. Wonderful selection of music, a nice range of feels, and moods. Great music to listen to while creating, for those artists and writers out there. I’ve only listened to a few of the shows so far, but my clear favorite is episode #311, their International Women’s Day Special. Lot’s of lovely music.

THE ZRO HOURI’m depressingly out of the loop when it comes to what the kids are listening to. But mostly because I don’t like the garbage the mainstream is pumping out. This hiphop show comes from the performers however, and as such, so far, I’ve found it a lot more listen-able. Show has gone on hiatus, but there’s a huge archive of shows to catch up on, and hopefully it will return so keeping it on the feed for a bit.

GILLESPETERSON WORLDWIDE- And the sceptered isle, not to be outdone, Gilles Peterson of the BBC, keeps our eyes on the prize with this podcast coverage and discussion of the once and future music, the greatest music that was, and will be again.

This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,–
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
—William Shakespeare, “King Richard II”, Act 2 scene 1

IZATRINI- The website leaves much to be desired, but man the music on this monthly podcast is —- glorious. I don’t consider myself a dancer, but even I can’t help bumping into furniture in my house when this is playing. :) What higher recommendation do you need? As long as they don’t start doing that annoying crap some reggae stations do, of interrupting the music while it’s playing, continually cutting the sound in and out so they can make comments. I HATE THAT! But luckily this show DOES NOT do that, so it’s a big recommend.

And wrapping it up, here are today’s recommended CDs:

Mysterious Traveller- “Weather Report’s greatest album – Following their previous breakthrough album ( “SWEETNIGHTER”), which established the “Weather Report sound”, “MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER” (1974) contains a number of interesting compositions that give the recording the feeling (if not the formal unity) of a “suite”, an extended journey through varying musical landscapes. Even more than in prior albums, individual improvisation is eschewed in favor of an “orchestral” and textural approach, an aspect of style distinguishing Weather Report from the Mahavishnu Orchestra ( the other great fusion band of the era”–Ian K.Hughes@Amazon
-Considering the original CD is selling for 3 figures, this import CD is a bargain at under $14.

Concrete Love – Julia Fordham“Fourteen years and six albums into her recording career, British thrush Julia Fordham hasn’t quite earned the following one might have forecast for her when she arrived with a bit of fanfare in the late ’80s. That said, she’s persevered long enough to have garnered the admiration of a core of devotees and more than a few notable musicians, including this collection’s guests, India Arie and Joe Henry. That Fordham has become something of a singer’s singer is not surprising given the cool intelligence of her phrasing and the versatility of her husky-to-piercing range, which recalls trilling ’70s singer-songwriters Minnie Riperton”—Steven Stolder@Amazon.com

 

Well that’s all for this installment. If you dug this post, and my selections, do three things:

 

1/if you’re a fellow blogger press ‘like’ on this post, that’s always helpful and

2/ definitely leave a comment and let me know if you dig the selections or tell me if I’m on crack, and left out your favorite music podcast and

3/ Support this blog by purchasing today’s item of the day via the link above. Each purchase gives this blog 2 cents to keep kicking.

 

Enough shilling, thanks for supporting. And in the immortal words of a wiser man than I… Peace, Love, and Soul!

DVD Review: THE CAPTAINS written & directed by William Shatner

I just watched William Shatner’s THE CAPTAINS. Oh My God!

It is jaw dropping unbelievable. It’s like a god damn train wreck. Avery Brooks either has dementia or is on a different dimension (and I say that with no joy, being a huge Avery Brooks fan, but yeah his portions are cringe inducing), Shatner is attacking and trying to make Kate Mulgrew and Patrick Stewart cry. He’s openly jealous and arm wrestling Chris Pine. The only one he kinda gets along with is Scott Bakula, and mostly because Bakula feeds into his ego, and the rest of the episode is William Shatner going down memory lane and shamelessly looking for compliments at every turn.

It really is painful to watch at times, and I say that, also being a huge fan of William Shatner. That said, when Shatner’s ego and showmanship gets out of the way, it’s good viewing. The convention riff at the end is a lot of fun. And there is some good moments between Stewart and Shatner. And good revelations between Mulgrew and Shatner.

All in all, train-wreck moments aside, it’s incredibly important what Shatner has written and directed here. The cringe worthy moments accepted, endured, fast forwarded… at the end of the day, we’re all better for Shatner having immortalized these reminisces. In many ways it’s William Shatner’s last word on the iconic character he created.

Shatner a man perhaps feeling distinctly his mortality, making a concrete capper to his career and his life. Much of this is a vanity project, an auto-biography of self, window dressed as an interview with others. William Shatner utilizes the other actors to tell his story.

William Shatner trying to immortalize his place in this enduring mythology called Star trek, to not be lost in this new Christopher Pine age. So on that level, THE CAPTAINS is at heart a very selfish vanity project.

However, that said, Shatner does his homework, and does allow actors to come to terms and discuss arguably the most iconic role of their respective careers. And it does, by weight of just the actors involved, become a bit of cinematic history, as none of the actors are getting any younger and this film is arguably the last time all six of the actors who played the role of Captain will ever share a film together.

And to have William Shatner helm such a meeting, well… all things said… who has more right to do so.

It deserves at least a rental, and for those who count themselves as fans, possibly a purchase. It’s worth a look and has by its very nature become something that will, its relative quality issues aside, stand the test of time. Forty years from now when only Chris Pine, and the captains that follow him remain, people will dig out this film, to find out who Shatner and Stewart and Brooks and Mulgrew and Bakula were.

And if that is Shatner’s gift to himself and his family, at the end of the day, it’s also a gift to us, a gift to posterity. There are worse gifts to get.

Soliloquies of Survival


Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would –
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said –
“Tell me are you a Christian child?”
And I said “Ma’am I am tonight”
—Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis lyrics

That ‘s a great song.

Odd, where are today’s great songs? In this age of AMERICAN IDOL and “insert reality/music show here” and media consolidation, we’ve embraced the gimmick, regurgitating endlessly the old, but the new… and I have heard the new, the truly new… doesn’t make it to the big stage.

The truly new and innovative and dangerous, the challenging, which is really what so much of great music is, anthems of rage, Soliloquies of survival are… ignored by a medium intent on keeping music… a tool, to sell you Sprite or that new car.

The songs of Dylan and Beetles reduced to selling pop drinks.

Culture and art reduced to nothing more than a sound byte for corporate pimps.

Be aware of that.

Keep seeking out the artists who aren’t being shoved in your face.

Do a search for music on my blog and you’ll come across a lot of recommendations.

Search out those… anthems of rage, and Soliloquies of survival.

Search out art… that matters.

Because we need it.

Devoid of it we become… like the ‘media’ we do consume, cowardly, sycophants, blowing ignorantly to the most venal breeze.

Artist and those who love art, tend to be people who actually care about something beyond the… trivial. They’re the only people I can stand to be around anymore, people with… courage. And with… individuality.

“So that even unbeknownst to me, off the top, BeBop was a movement and a spontaneous cultural crusade. To restore the music to its deepest and profoundest originality, the essence of what gave it important cultural meaning.

Diz, Monk, Bird, and the others were restoring improvisation as the critical factor of jazz creativity. They were restoring the blues, as its sensuous history and self-consciousness. They were reinserting the polyrhythms of Africa and freeing post-1940s jazz from the Tin Pan Alley prison.”
–Amiri Baraka on THE HIGH PRIEST OF BEBOP from DIGGING:THE AFRO-AMERICAN SOUL OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC

Ishmael Reed’s MUMBO JUMBO

“Look, LaBas, Herman. I believe that you two have something. Something that is basic, something that has been tested and something that all of our people have, it lies submerged in their talk and their music and you are trying to bring it back, but you will fail.

It’s the 1920s, not 8000 B.C. These are modern times. These are the last days of your roots and your conjure and your gris-gris and your healing potions and love powder.

I am building something that people will understand. This county is eclectic. The architecture, the people, the music, the writing. The thing that works here will have a little bit of jive talk and a little bit of North Africa, a fez-wearing mulatto in a pinstriped suit.

A man who can say ‘give me some skin’ as well as ‘Asalamilakum’.

Haven’t you heard? This is the country wheresomething is successful in direct proportion to how it’s put over; how it’s gamed.”

—Excerpt from Ishmael Reed’s satiric, staggering, and significant MUMBO JUMBO. If you haven’t read it or listened to the brilliant audio adaptation, you’re missing really one of the most important, informed, and strangely prophetic works written about both the dream and the nightmare of America.

It comes with highest recommendation. Go seek it out.

MUMBO JUMBO by Ishmael Reed Book Review: A novel about Haiti and America and Ragtime 90 Years Ago

“It’s a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut ‘em in half with a machine gun and give ‘em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.”– Apocalypse Now


I just finished Ishmael Reed’s 1971 Novel MUMBO JUMBO, a biting, absurdist, fantastic satire, that also happens to be, like the best of satires, a cutting and revealing and true depiction of our ids and our angsts. It is for a work of fiction, far more true than are so-called “history”. It is such a rich and deep and sprawling and compelling and… brilliant novel.

I consider myself a pretty informed reader, and this 4 decade old novel had insights into not just our history but our humanity, that i had never even considered.

Example?

How it defined Museums as store-houses for Pirated/Stolen goods.

I’ve been in and out of museums all my life, and it never even occurred to me to consider them in the context of Robber-Baron’s basically raping and destroying civilizations and bringing home to the west their trophies. Their stolen goods.

And this was like a throw away line in the novel, and it blew my mind. That I who consider myself relatively afro-centric that it did not even occur to me to question the origin and rightness of Museums. And the whole novel is like this, one smashing revelation after another.

And yes it’s a work of sensational fiction, but what makes it even more sensational are the parts of it… that ring true, are true. And speak even today… of true things.

From the hidden Haitian War and Holocaust of the early 20th century, which oddly mirrors the conflicts in Haiti today, even to the search for a talking Android to lead the people astray, which without too much of a jump can be compared to today’s President Obama…. it is almost a prophetic work. Or perhaps it just illustrates how history not learned from, is repeated.

This is the type of book that school curriculums that teach children of color… should cover. Must cover. It’s the kind of book… written with brilliance, and that inspires, ignites a real fire… for more brilliance, and more questions and answers.

It’s the kind of book that inspires… real learning.

It is a challenging read, but stick with it as it does all come together. And I highly recommend hunting down the griot audio book version which is FANTASTIC! It is an essential read, and in light of recent issues in Haiti, I think a surprisingly timely and insightful one. A satire that hints at much that is true, about Haiti’s tumultuous and troubled relationship with Western Powers.

It is an essential purchase. B+/A-

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