Must own CDs/Albums in the age of Itunes : THE HEAVY

I first became aware of this band due to their song being the insanely catchy and additive opening to the British based/CINEMAX branded Adventure/Espionage series STRIKE BACK.

I couldn’t stop humming that opening tune, and in quick succession graduated to learning the bands name… THE HEAVY. And buying all their available CDs, unheard. All based on the strength of that one song, SHORT CHANGE HERO.

Well that song and my impetuousness of buying three CDs without sampling them, did not steer me wrong. The three CDs, GREAT VENGEANCE AND FURIOUS FIRE(2007), THE HOUSE THAT DIRT BUILT(2009), THE GLORIOUS DEAD(2012) beyond being fantastic music, are works of art in form as well as fuñction. The artwork, construction of the CD cases, the liner notes, the book,speak of a tactile, tangible process that remains valid and singular and needed for music when it is this good.

Their 4th album HURT AND THE MERCILESS(2016) which they are currenlty touring Europe on, cements this British band’s reputation, as one of the most exciting Rock,funk,soul,folk bands in decades!

You want to find music that is worth owing in CD or Lp form in this age of Itunes and MP3s?

Well you’ve just found it, and it’s THE HEAVY!!!!

Highly Recommend!

The Glorious Dead

The House That Dirt Built

Great Vengeance & Furious Fire

Hurt & The Merciless

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BEST EPISODES of Marc Maron WTF PODCAST!

Catching Up

PODCASTS : Currently Listening to WTF. There is a reason why people who hate interviewers and hate interviews decide to do this show.

Marc Maron manages to be actually concerned and interested in what these people have to say, and just wants to have a conversation with them and it illicits a trust in the interviewed and the listener. And it comes across. There is a reason President Obama chose this podcast to give arguably one of the most potent public interviews/conversations a seated President has ever given.

There is something about audio that lends itself to an intimate conversation better than video. It involves the listener in the theater of the mind, and you end up actually listening to people rather than just watching the spinning plates, the stock in trade of most tv talk shows.

Airing since 2009, now in its eighth year, The first three years of the WTF Podcast it was strictly comedians. But the names became ever larger so that by the end of 2011 he was interviewing movie star level comedians.

2012 was when it really transitioned from a comedian interview show to just a great ‘whoever interests me’ interview show. And 2015 with the startling appearance of President Obama on the show is when it rocketed into the Stratosphere of world wide prominence, with now a whole new level of guests appearing.

Episode #327 from 2012 starring Jimmie Walker, was recommended by another great podcast… 11oclock Comics, and became my first introduction to Marc Maron and WTF. That episode, a brilliant show that is a wonderful history of comedy, it remains one of the best episodes, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Mark Maron’s WTF is arguably not just one of the best ‘podcast’ shows, but is orders of magnitude better than any ‘talk show’ you’ll find on TV, or cable, or streaming.

Here are a few episodes that stand out for me as, not just this show done well, but really pivotal and important additions to culture and the history of entertainment.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some of the ones that stood out to me.

Without further ado they are:

#327 JIMMY WALKER 2012 Brilliant and informative history of post 60s comedy and the comedy clubs
REMEMBERING ROBIN WILLIAMS August 11 2014 – Heartbreaking and an essential listen
#523 BOB NEWHART 2014 Excellent
#544 ANDRE ROYO 2014 Fun
#593 HENRY WINKLER 2015 Rich
#605 TOMMY DAVIDSON 2015 Engrossing
#613/614 PRESIDENT OBAMA 2015 Podcast of the Year
#621 SIR IAN MCKELLAN 2015 Riveting and charming, and a masterclass on being an actor and surviving it
#622 WYATT CENAC 2015 Compelling
#624 SINBAD 2015 I like that he stood up for Bill Cosby, as Cosby remains very much THE comedian of much of the pivotal years of the late 20th century, and remains a person I hold in high regard
#638 SIR PATRICK STEWART 2015 Genius and very open about a harrowing coming of age
#684 WILLIAM FRIEDKIN 2016 Brilliant
#761 MIKE SHANNON 2016 Unexpectedly charming and nuanced
#783 BIll PAXTON 2017 Wonderful
#804 WALTER HILL 2017 Great and Bittersweet stories. Including playing part of episode #783 at Bill Paxton’s funeral

Hear these and more here:

https://wtfpod.libsyn.com

MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 1 of 2

I first became familiar with these two novels, both by master writers, as novels proper. And both blew my mind in ways both stunning and lasting. Later I listened to the Audio Books. Audio Books, if you get the right reader, for the right work, can be rewarding experiences, even to lovers of the novel.

I love me some Walter Moseley EASY RAWLINS mysteries, I’ve read just about everyone of them, and I have to tell you the pairing of Moseley’s iconic words with a formidable actor such as Michael Boatman, is to have those works enriched, and nuances discovered that may have been skimmed over by even the most loving reader.

A great Adaptation, a great marriage of words and performance can do that, can alchemize into something more than the sum of its parts. Something magical. And an audio book avoids the constraints of time and budget and indeed visuals, that a film or TV show runs into. An audio book has the biggest theater of the world, and the biggest budget, in which to breathe life into the writers words,… the theater of the mind.

So Audio Books when they get that mixture right, become part of a sacred line of story and storytelling, going back to the cradle of not just Black History, but all history.

 

This 2 part post, honors two of the best, that should be loved and listened to and cherished by everyone.

They are:

Charles Johnson’s seminal and National Book Award winning novel, MIDDLE PASSAGE. It is an American epic, a rousing seafaring saga, blisteringly funny at times, deeply harrowing at others, both poetic, prosaic, and magical all at the same time. As someone who has read Melville, and Dickens, and Hemingway, and Crane and Poe and Bradbury and King and Baldwin, all the quintessential American masters, this is the novel I would save when everything else is burning.

 

middlepassge

 

I give the hardcover out as presents. I consider it, in an imperfect world, an arrow toward a more perfect union. So having it on a pedestal that high the audio book has to bring it. It was made into an audio book twice, the first was an abridged and hence flawed cassette version, but read by the author himself, I quite liked it. He brought something… wonderful to it.

The 2nd time was on CD, unabridged thankfully. The performer Dion Graham, gives a different performance than Charles Johnson, that I slowly warmed to. And as the story drew you deeper so did his voice. It’s a wonderful way to be introduced to this great novel.

I would say both audio book versions are indispensable. Start with the unabridged CD version, and then follow up by listening to the Abridged version. And have a copy of the paperback or hardcover, to read over especially loved passages.

In an America where folly holds sway, the words of men who both remember history and learn from it, is of the highest value.

Check them out at the links below:

Middle Passage Cassette Audio Book read by the Author!

Middle Passage Audio CD Unabridged!

By Charles Richard Johnson Middle Passage (Reprint) [Mass Market Paperback]

 

If you like this blog please support it by using the links above and by leaving comments! And come back for the 2nd part where we discuss the 2nd, must own, Black History Month (and other months) Audio book!

How do you wrap up 2016?! TV and Streaming BARBARIANS RISING


2016 was a FANTASTIC year for TV.

Netflix and streaming options such as Amazon Prime and Hulu has effectively changed how the world consumes and watches tv.

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Tonight I discovered History Channel’s BARBARIANS RISING, which tells the tale of one of the greatest warriors in the history of the world, Hannibal Barca, and his insane dream, obsession, vision, to conquer the unconquerable Rome.

I have my issues with the HISTORY CHANNEL, I think their VIKINGS TV show, that paints a friendly, proto-feminist, misunderstood anti-hero view of the Vikings, is irresponsible and misguided film-making at its worst.

I don’t expect a documentary, and even in a documentary, much of what we know, must be colored, romanticized, dramatized. The truth of over 2000 years ago like the truth of yesterday, will never be exactly seen by any two people, exactly the same.

But that said while the telling is fluid, blatantly changing the morality of what is known is not. That is simple mendacity.

It’s white-washing of history, that is beyond romanticism to bald-face lying. Like making the ancient Egyptians white. :).

Here’s the thing the Vikings, in their approach to nonvikings, were proto-Nazis, Nazis in their purest form. They were what Nazis dreamed of being. They believed in rape, and pillage, and death, and wholesale slaughter of their enemies. They were in battle, drug addled butchers and thieves and rapists, who put to the sword any land they could reach. War and Pillaging, was not an end, it was a practice, it was a purpose, it was a past time, it was the reason to wake up and the reason to go to bed. As it was for many of the ancient people. Blood, unfortunately, is under most of our ancestors nails.

They did monstrous things, but they also did admirable things. But art, to be honest, must not dismiss the one, to elevate the other. And that’s what the show VIKINGS does, it glorifies that which has no glory in it, and ignores that, which should not be ignored. And to do this is analagous to havaing a show called Nazis, and to portray them as heroic, with no look into the programs of genocide, and the Nazi Work and Death camps.

I’m not saying don’t have a show about Vikings, but tell the truth, don’t make saints out of sinners, and if you find your characters are too reprehensible when you do that, then maybe that’s telling you something.

So I have my issues with HISTORY CHANNEL.

But those issues do not extend to BARBARIANS RISING. Which quite frankly is my last great television discovery of 2016!

 

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The first episode, RESISTANCE, simply must see television.

“I swear by the Deathless Gods that I shall not rest till the heart of Rome bleeds dry on the sword of Carthage.” –Hannibal Barca, Son of Carthage, One of the Greatest Generals in the History of the World

 

This is one I have to own the Blu-Ray of! It’s not a show you want to have disappear off of streaming.

Get your copy here:

 

 

Barbarians Rising [Blu-ray]

LUCIO FULCI : BEYOND THE BEYOND! A Critical Reassessment! His 7 Best Films!

The Roman born Director Lucio Fulci when remembered today is primarily remembered for his his schlock and gore filled horror films of the 80s such as THE BEYOND, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBI 3, which is a crying shame, because these were the lowest common denominator films of a filmmaker reduced to making dreck to make a paycheck, rather than his films of the  late 60s and throughout the 70s that can be considered his artistic passion projects.

His film-making and use of the camera in this period was ground breaking and incredibly influential, and his best films remain among the best of their respective genre.

From 1966’s MASSACRE TIME (an early inspiration and precursor to the dove filled blood ballets of John Woo) to 1978s rarely seen SILVER SADDLE, was a twelve year period of unbridled creativity  and staggering experimentation, and contain not only Fulci’s best films, but some of the best films by anyone during the period, and films that stand the test of time.

 

Here without further ado our Fulci’s best films and essential films for any true lover of cinema:

 

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PERVERSION STORY AKA ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER – Don’t let the salacious poster fool you this is a MAGNIFICENT film. It’s a reworking of a more well known film, a classic film by one of the world’s most respected directors, however I have to say… I prefer this Fulci film. It is an unjustly little seen masterpiece, beautifully shot, and deserves a great and feature rich Blu-ray disk. Fulci’s best film.

 

In second place I put PSYCHIC, just adore this film.

 

I follow that up with his LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN and DONT TORTURE A DUCKLING solidly in 3rd and 4th place.

SILVER SADDLE in 5th place, is the best of Fulci’s three westerns which says a lot. As it beats out the praised MASSACRE TIME in 6th place. (FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE does not make this best of list. It’s overlong, and I can do without its denigrated and stereotyped Black character. But its distasteful parts aside, it remains, like all of his wide-screen films… beautifully shot.)

BEATRICE CENCI, in 7th place, is the director’s own favorite film, his attempt to make a serious Fellini level film, and its poor critical and commercial response was a blow the Director never truly recovered from. The film is solidly good if not great. But definitely deserving of a watch. It’s a solid B/B-.

And those are Fulci’s seven best films, and are must watch films for anyone desirous of the best of Euro-cinema of the period.

 

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1966’s Massacre Time – This film was the one to put Fulci on the genre/world map. One of the earliest of the Spaghetti Western craze, and one of the best. This is an ultra violent flick, that shows off Fulci’s adeptness and creativity in staging action scenes. You can definitely see in this film with its gravity defying blood laced shootouts and its prevalence with doves, a clear inspiration and precursor to the later ‘blood ballet’ films of John Woo. Made during the glory days of the spaghetti western genre (roughly 1966 to 1968) MASSACRE TIME stands out as being one of the most extreme of these extremist westerns.

 

More detailed reviews to come next installment!

Best current TV Show : BBC One’s and Hulu’s MUSKETEERS!!

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MUSKETEERS courtesy OF BBC One and currently available on Hulu is far and away my current favorite show. From series creator and main-writer Adrian Hodges comes this wonderful reworking of Alexandre Dumas perennial classic, THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Perhaps outside of Shakespeare and the Bible, the work of Alexandre Dumas (the son of the Black Giant, The Black Devil, Napolean’s greatest general, Thomas Alexandre Dumas) has been the most adapted into film of any body of work.

Napolean’s Greatest General

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–Olivier Pichat’s portrait of Alexandre the Elder

And with good reason, its themes of heroism and villainy, liberty and tyranny, corruption and honor, love and lust, are timeless, and its characters… iconic, and its swashbuckling action lends itself to the cinematic.

I’ve seen many of the films, and a few different TV shows, seeking to adapt the work of this most brilliant of France’s writers (a writer whose work was infused with a pride in his father, and his heroic exploits) and unfortunately none of the adaptions, none of them, ever refect the rich Haitian, and Black, and African, and Moorish nature not just of the writer, nor of the inspiration for these stories… his father, but of a France and Spain and an Europe that was teeming with a melting pot of a people… a rich vibrant stew of exslaves, freemen, and emissaries from distant lands.

So adaptions have always felt for me lacking, due to this sense of a fiction, less rich than the facts, this lack of any characters of color. Which is no great plot, it is infact an extension of Dumas himself writing for a mainstream audience, so the grestest mass of france could see themselves in his writing.

And so finally 172 years after Alexandre Dumas first wrote of his d” Artagnan and the Three Musketeers (serialized in the Parisian paper Le Siecle) in Adrian Hodges MUSKETEERS we finally get a Black Musketeer, played awesomely by Howard Charles. And on top of that you get a multicultural France, sprinkled with people of color.

In many ways I find the BBC One Adaption superior, because it takes risks in terms of ethnicity and politics that are, if not completely absent, dialed down, in at least the English translation of Dumas THREE MUSKETEERS. But the current adaption appeals to a 21st century audience, the original had to appeal to a 19th century audience, and be published.

“In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the King. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody.”
—THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas

I really think the series, wonderfully speaks to a little bit of the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ lives of the Alexandres. The wonder of their lives, the height of their challenges, the magnificence of their victories. You get just a smidgen of this in the new series, but its enough… to finally allow me to completely embrace this show.

That and the fact the writing in the series is great, the direction is great, the performances are great, and the action is fun and swashbuckling. I love this show.

The third season has wrapped up, BBC says it is the last season. Hopefully Netflix will pick this up for a fourth season. But whether or not they do, for my money they have left us with the definitive version of Alexandre Dumas’ MUSKETEERS. (At least until Carl Franklin releases his version of the THREE MUSKETEERS, with multiple musketeers of color 🙂 )

I am going to buy all three seasons, because this is a series, (much like the 80s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD that is also the definitive treatment of that property) that deserves to be always readily available; whether or not you have an internet connection.

Highly Recommended!

 

 

 

Musketeers, The (BD) [Blu-ray]

Musketeers, The: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

Musketeers, The: Season 3 [Blu-ray]

6 Best and 3 Worst Free Channels/Apps on Amazon Fire!

I’ve been trying out the Amazon Fire lately.  It’s interface takes a bit of getting used to if you are used to the Roku, but for the most part is very navigation friendly.

It allows the easy install of the three must have paid channels, NETFLIX, AMAZON PRIME, and HULU; however it also offers a selection of excellent free channels. Not as extensive as Roku, but it has a solid selection.

 

So without further preamble, The best free apps/channels for Amazon Fire are:

 

  • CRACKLE – It’s selection can use updating, but offers a nice feature of being able to watch a show while searching their list of titles
  • TUBITV- arguably the best selection of content on any free channel, including notables not available on the paid channels
  • SNAGFILMS – It’s selection needs updating, but highligts  a few movies that may fall through the cracks of the other channels
  • For the most part the above channels are easy to load  and navigate, offer good content, and keep the ads to a minimum. Three things that the below apps/channels fail to do, and hence end up in our hall of shame.
  • YOUTUBE and VIMEO – convenient for staying abreast of movie trailers and finding short films and other hard to find content
  • PLUTO TV- The cable experience, without the cable price

 

The worst Amazon Fire Channels/Apps are:

  • KINO LORBER – Horrible navigation issues, mediocre content
  • GO INDIE TV – Navigation issues, and more mediocre content
  • SCREAMBOX – You’ll be screaming at what a waste of time this channel is. Lackluster content, poor navigation menu
  • COMICBOOKCAST2 – is basically a podcast with static pics, Not worth the time to download.

So there you go,  the best and worst channels on Amazon Fire. Feel free to comment with your picks for best and worst!