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Monthly Archives: December 2005

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Savant Knows All

Glenn Erickson of DVD Savant is back with his 2005 Favored Disc Roundup. Not only does he spotlight his favorite reissues of the year, he gives a lot of insight into the often shoddy ways that film studios market their older films on DVD. A similar plea is made in Al Lutz’s open letter to Leonard Maltin imploring Maltin and Disney to better handle the material on the Disney Treasures DVDs.

Gruesome Twosome: Nick and Val, Sittin’ in a Tree Edition

Diana Ross: “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You”
LP: Surrender, 1971

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: “Won’t It Be So Wonderful”
LP: Natural Resources, 1970 | BUY

On the menu today, a couple of later Motown efforts written and produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Nick and Val made for Diana Ross’ most sympathetic collaborators. The dramatic “Can’t Give Back The Love” (previously a failed single for Syreeta Wright) gave the DUI Diva one of her best performances, with Diana’s seductive speaking voice and shrieks matching the thrilling ebb and flow of the production. Martha Reeves’ joyous vocal on “Won’t It Be So Wonderful” is an undiscovered gem which was buried on one of the last Vandellas albums. Ashford and Simpson’s perky melodies were all about the optimism of love, even when the lyrics conveyed the opposite. Solid, solid as a rock, you might say.

Silver Hells

Something occurred to me at the mall today, sometime between “Winter Wonderland” and “Frosty the Snowman” — enduring crappy Christmas music is one of the few communal experiences we have left. Now I’m fully aware that some people actually like that stuff (the same types who lovingly collect Precious Moments figurines, no doubt), and I suppose hearing those familiar chestnuts for the millionth time isn’t so bad if the perfomer has the skills (yes to Nat “King”, no to Natalie). Relatively speaking, at least.

Oddly enough, I seem to have a stonger stomach when it comes to familiar novelty Xmas tunes. For instance, I can’t get enough of those adorable dogs barking out “Jingle Bells”, and their feline counterparts The Jingle Cats never fail to bring a smile. I also never get tired of (gulp) Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”. However, the version I remember best isn’t the one constantly played on the radio nowadays. According to the book Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “Grandma” was originally recorded in 1979 by husband and wife Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg. This was the unpretentious, folksy little song about an unlucky old lady that I grew up listening to on Dr. Demento. Following that success, E&P remade the song in the early ’80s and made an accompanying music video popular on MTV. The results came across like someone re-telling a once funny joke: the delivery was more forced, slicker but not nearly as nuanced. Unfortunately, this inferior rerecording is what we’re stuck with today. Elmo’s website fills in lots more info about the song, but with no mention of Patsy (the couple divorced in 1985). Apparently he now makes a living as a veterinarian — cool!

Nepotism Alert

Just a note to say that my s.o. Christopher has launched his own weblog, Just Ask Christopher. Christopher is my own personal “Mr. Know It All”, so it’s no surprise that he decided to focus his weblog on sharing knowledge and giving advice. Make sure to go there and ask him lots of questions — so that he’ll never do a post about our cat again!

Mushrooms and Bugs

Wonderful Christopher sent along two artsy-links today that I’d like to share. The first is this L.A. Times story on a unique photography project which was a collaboration between film location scouts and disadvantaged high school students. The resulting shots of the abandoned Ambassador Hotel are eerie, especially a lovely pic of mushrooms growing out of carpeting. The other is a New York Times article on a museum exhibit of models, drawings and other pieces from — synergy alert — Pixar films. Oh, how I would love to be in NYC to catch that one.

Swankola Superhome

Recently we rewatched The Incredibles and marveled at the retro-style details used in the settings — especially the Incredible family homestead. The exterior design is inspired by Bob Alexander’s tract homes in Palm Springs. Interiors seemed to come straight off the pages of House and Garden magazine, circa 1960, with textures so lovingly rendered that you feel like you can reach out and touch them. Right then and there, we decided we had to have the charming “school of fish” wall hanging in their living room. If it existed outside a computer mainframe, that is.