THIS WEEK

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 09, 2013 0 comments

Robert Pollard: Honey Locust Honky Tonk

New release (GBV Inc.; tour dates for Guided by Voices)
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

When you’re the prolific Robert Pollard and you tend to release dozens of songs each year on multiple albums, one thing is certain (despite what the ultra-faithful think): Not every song on every album is going to be a gem. This is particularly true when you’re being especially prolific — as in the past 18 months, when Pollard has released four albums and one EP with his reunited main band, Guided by Voices, and now three solo albums, for a total of 130 songs, 97 of which he wrote alone and another 13 of which he co-wrote.

That said, more things are certain: The gems are far more prevalent, and typically they’re truly sparkling.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jul 09, 2013 0 comments

The Life of Oharu

The Life of Oharu (Saikaku ichidai onna, 1952), from director Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, A Geisha), tells of a 50-year-old prostitute no longer able to attract men looking back on her tragic life.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jul 02, 2013 0 comments

The Producers

When on-the-skids Broadway theatrical hustler Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) has his financial books examined by timid, nervous nebbish accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), the casual conversation that ensues persuades each of them that by producing a really, really dreadful play in order to ensure a massive flop, they can make more money than if they had a hit.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 02, 2013 0 comments

In the days around the Fourth of July, the people who run record companies take a lot of time off. They assume you’re more interested in having picnics and watching fireworks than in buying music. Accordingly, this is a customarily light week on the album-release schedule.

Of course, you could always celebrate the holiday by cueing up some “American” albums that have already been released this year, such as Patty Griffin’s American Kid, the Putumayo label’s American Playground, and Willie Nile’s American Ride. Then there’s Wings over America. And don’t forget that bree is an All American Girl.

Yolanda Kondonassis is another American girl (born in Norman, Oklahoma), and if you’d like to hear some American music, you could (with a nod to Tom Petty) listen to her harp:

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 25, 2013 0 comments

Willie Nile: American Ride

New release (River House/Loud & Proud/RED; tour dates)
Photo by Cristina Arrigoni

Willie Nile’s latest album may be called American Ride, but he’s been taking us on that journey for more than 30 years now. And although his recording career has had its fits and starts, he’s been on a consistent roll since releasing Streets of New York in 2006. Much of his recent work, starting with the Streets predecessor Beautiful Wreck of the World in 1999, has been earnest and, at times, intense. Now comes Ride, and it’s almost as if Nile is thinking, after all of that admirably hard work, it’s high time to relax, roll down the window, and shoot the breeze behind the wheel.

That said, Nile is an artist who can make shooting the breeze sound like risking it all.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 25, 2013 0 comments

Help!

The title song, Help!, kicks in beautifully - thrillingly - with snaredrums somewhere in the room up left, vocals in center, lead guitar in the surrounds - glorious. Whenever the film launches into one of its seven classic numbers (only seven?) in 5.1 channels the band leaps into the room filling the soundstage and bringing everything to life.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 18, 2013 0 comments

What you are looking at above is the “cover art” for Kanye West’s new album, Yeezus (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam). In fact, there’s no cover or CD booklet at all, just a sticker on the back of the package with the track listing. This dovetails nicely with Kanye’s mysterious anti-campaign for the album’s release today. He did perform “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” on Saturday Night Live in May, and if those hard-hitting, industrial-sounding tracks are any indication, then Yeezus could be a wowzer.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about that “cover art” and, paradoxically, how much it reminds me of this:

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 18, 2013 0 comments

Lifeforce

With a great sci-fi/horror pedigree - directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Salem's Lot, Poltergeist), screenplay co-written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Total Recall, and Dark Star) and Don Jakoby from the 1976 novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, special effects supervised by Oscar-winner John Dy

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 11, 2013 0 comments

Wild Strawberries

In this much-beloved 1957 masterpiece from the great film artist Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Persona,Smiles of a Summer Night), Professor Isak Borg - memorably played by veteran director Victor Sjöström (The Phantom Carriage, He Who Gets Slapped, The Wind) - is a selfish and somewhat cruel, yet old-world charm

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 11, 2013 0 comments

Black Sabbath: 13

New release (Vertigo/Republic; tour dates)

“What is this that stands before me — again?”

That’s the unavoidable question you’ll ask yourself when you hear “End of the Beginning,” the first track on 13. After all, this song isn’t just Black Sabbath; it’s “Black Sabbath,” the first track on Black Sabbath. That opening to the band’s 1970 debut had quiet, three-plucked-note verses alternating with massive, three-power-chord choruses, all taken at a slow pace until a choppy riff sped us away. “End of the Beginning,” from the original band’s first album together in 35 years, has quiet, four-plucked-note verses alternating with massive, four-power-chord choruses, all taken at a slow pace until a choppy riff speeds us away.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments

A Good Day to Die Hard

The latest chapter of the popular, 25-year-old franchise is a Die Hard film with subtitles. But, fear not, ardent fans, it's just for a scene or two at the start and that's as arty as it gets. The rest of the film is standard slam-bam, big-boom, non-stop adrenaline-filled, Yippie-Kai-Yay thrill seeking.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments

Various Artists: Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

New release (Hear Music/Concord; tour dates)
Photo of Burnett, Mellencamp, and King by Kevin Mazur

Indiana cabin, mid-1900s: Two brothers argue over a girl. One brother accidentally kills the other, and then the fleeing brother and the girl accidentally drive into a lake and drown.

True story. John Mellencamp learned it after buying the cabin in the early 1990s.

Soon after, Mellencamp got the idea for a musical based on that story. By 2000, he had begun work on the score (both music and lyrics), and he asked Stephen King to write the book.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 04, 2013 0 comments

Various Artists: Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

New release (Hear Music/Concord; tour dates)
Photo of Burnett, Mellencamp, and King by Kevin Mazur

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Josef Krebs Posted: May 28, 2013 0 comments

Cleopatra

For its 50th anniversary - along with the hoopla of a Cannes Film Festival re-release, a limited theatrical engagement in more than 200 theaters, and Richard Burton's posthumously receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to Elizabeth Taylor's - Cleopatra has been newly digitally restored in a 243-minute original theatrical cut.

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Ken Richardson Posted: May 28, 2013 0 comments

John Fogerty: Wrote a Song for Everyone

New release (Vanguard)
Photo by Nela Koenig

Dusting off old songs, a veteran rocker teams up with (mostly) younger musicians for duets: Often, this can be a recipe for tedium, if not disaster. So it’s a joy to report that John Fogerty’s Wrote a Song for Everyone is among the best of such tributes.

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