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Monthly Archives: February 2007

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Orphaned Music Reviews #2: March

The following music reviews were originally slated for publication in the March 2007 issue of az magazine. They appear here in unrevised form:

Among the current crop of sensitive male singer-songwriters, Ireland’s Damien Rice has made a name for himself as a coffee shop troubadour for the Starbucks generation. His second album, 9 (Heffa/Vector), expands his sound while never straying too far from the introspective folk he does best. Rice shines in emotionally raw, spare settings such as the opener “9 Crimes” — but his efforts at rocking out ring false. The resulting collection contains a few outright missteps, a handful of forgettable throwaways, and a pair of quietly powerful gems (“The Animals Were Gone”, “Coconut Skins”).

Fantasia Barrino is blessed with a timelessly soulful voice, but can she escape the ghetto of American Idol? With the simply titled Fantasia (J/Arista), she takes a confident step forward from the cookie-cutter R&B on her 2004 debut. Lead-off single “Hood Boy” smashes through with streetwise hooks and an unexpectedly cool sample of the campy Supremes oldie “The Happening”. She also delivers on the frisky “Baby Makin’ Hips” and the inevitable Diane Warren ballad “I Feel Beautiful”. Though the other songs here don’t measure up to the highlights, it’s still an enjoyably state-of-the-art set. We’re still waiting for her to make an Aretha-style album of stripped down Soul — but in the meantime this’ll do.

When part of the late ’90s Elephant Six collective, Athens, Georgia’s of Montreal started as straightforward ’60s revivalists with an predilection for the cute and whimsical side of indie pop. Nearly ten years on, they’ve moved their frame of reference up a decade and now sound like a lost New Wave dance-pop outfit on their latest effort, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (Polyvinyl). While the band may still be considered an acquired taste, they display enough nifty synth melodies and herky-jerky rhythms here to make one regret throwing out those old Flock of Seagulls albums.

Great Lost TV Theme: Probe/Search

Every so often I have a mini-obsession with certain tracks in my iTunes library. Lately it’s been composer Dominic Frontiere’s theme from Probe, a made for TV movie which served as the pilot for the series Search. From what I can gather, Search was a technology-based caper series in the Mission Impossible vein. It ran for a single season, long enough to garner a nifty TV Guide cover illustrated by Bob Peak. Frontiere’s arrangement has such a totally “early ’70s TV movie” vibe, it hurts — a super swanky, swingy affair similar to Burt Bacharach’s A&M solo albums from around that same period. Unlike Burt’s stuff, however, this theme was likely never released commercially (hence the mp3’s faulty sound quality).

At the fansite Probe Control, you can download a nice mpeg of the Probe opening credits (complete with “computer” font and groovy motion graphics). The YouTube clip below demonstrates the shorter, sped up version of the theme used in Search.

mp3_sm.jpgDominic Frontiere — Probe Main Title Theme

Weekend Update

A few jottings for an unusually warm Saturday:

  • Christopher’s post on the U.S. Citizenship Test contains links to the test Qs and As which recent immigrants need to memorize to gain citizenship. Look over the 142 questions to figure out how much elementary school history you’ve retained.
  • reader Chandy sent me The Final Take, an interesting All Movie Guide commentary on how John Cusack’s performances in Say Anything and High Fidelity reflect the romantic state of today’s man. Thanks, Chandy!
  • My review of Sondre Lerche’s album Phantom Punch is posted at So Much Silence. The comparison with Phoenix’s It’s Never Been Like That (which I had just loaded into iTunes a few weeks ago) is completely apt.
  • Sixteen months after redesigning this weblog, I’ve finally updated the corresponding favicon to match my little self portrait on the front page. The only thing that bugs me is that the icon still looks like gobbledygook in Bloglines — and mine’s the only one with that special “screwed up” look. Anybody know why that is so?
  • Finally, head over to the Web Goddess Oscar Contest for a chance at winning a trio of Kris’s fabulous sock monkeys!

You Better Work

As Sports Illustrated runs its first-ever Swimsuit Issue with a celeb and not a model on the cover, Nikki Finke of the L.A. Weekly runs the numbers and confirms what we already know — celebs sell magazines. Now, I couldn’t care less about S.I. and their “Minivan Cheesecake” approach to fashion coverage, but this news kind of took me aback.

Doesn’t it make you miss the early ’90s heyday of the Supermodel? Christy, Linda, Naomi, where are you? Fashion seemed more “real” back then, and the industry didn’t need an anorexic trainwreck like Lindsay Lohan to help sell their wares. Another thing: the Todd Oldham of MTV House of Style was so much more fun and appealing than the waxy looking, monotonous creature currently hosting Bravo’s Top Design. The mag of record back then was the Liz Tiberis-edited, Fabien Baron-designed Harpers Bazaar, but that turned out to be a blip of brilliance in an otherwise vapid marketplace. It was an “anything goes” time that made you think of the creative possibilities. Okay, I think I’m done being nostalgic for now.

Related: S.I. Swimsuit cover gallery; ’90s Harpers Bazaar cover gallery.

Mary Mary Quite Stationary

An amusing series of short films dramatizes a few days’ worth of Mary Worth comic strips (via Crackskulbob). The actors are framed and positioned exactly as in the strips, making it weird and funny at the same time.

In a completely different vein, my review of the self titled third album from The Autumn Defense has been posted at So Much Silence. I requested it on a whim — since I thought this sort of pleasantly mellow, yuppieish music would be good for the aborted magazine column‘s readership. But it’s an excellent CD that’s been on heavy rotation ’round here.

Comments Return; Used Book Haul

Comments are back. My webhost had apparently ran a script barring spam comments to my site, a script which also barred legitimate comments. Everything should be back to normal (except for the weird white screen which often pops up in browsers after leaving a comment — something else I need to look into (groan)).

Locally, we have a huge yearly used book sale handled by a local charitable organization every February. Me and Christopher always make a point of going, not only since we love books but also because they hold it only steps away from our home. After waiting outside for an hour, we finally got in and immediately dived into the arts/entertainment and biography sections. We spent four hours there, and I never even got to look at the other sections! Here’s what I came away with. All of these books were a dollar each, unless otherwise noted:

From Rags to Bitches: An Autobiography by Mr. Blackwell (1995). An interesting looking impulse buy. When I brought it home, I discovered it was inscribed from the author: “Judy, enjoy the ‘book’. Love, Mr. Blackwell.” Why he used quotes around the word “book”, we’ll never know.

Girl Singer: An Autobiography by Rosemary Clooney (1999) Normally I tend to prefer bios over autobios, but this one got a lot of favorable reviews for Ms. Clooney’s candidness and warm writing style. Though I don’t favor her kind of music much, the lady appears to have lived a turbulent, fascinating life.

My Way of Life by Joan Crawford (1970) We had a copy of this camp classic which we sold on eBay a few years back. It’s a hoot. Miss Crawford writes this “how to” manual as if it were still 1933 and her millions of fans eagerly await her take on ettiquette, fashion, etc. I especially love the part on how to pack a suitcase, illustrated with pics of Crawford’s maid arranging clothing on her bed!

Arlene Francis: A Memoir by Arlene Francis (1978) .Entering the sale, I told C.: “If Arlene Francis wrote a memoir, I want it.” Sure enough, I came across this one near the end of the day, tucked away in a box on the floor. I’m a What’s My Line nut who’s already read the WML chapter in Bennet Cerf’s book. Can’t wait to find out the lovely Ms. Francis’ recollections. In addition to game shows, Francis was a stage and screen actress and a sparkling television personality.

Becoming Mae West by Emily Wortis Leider (1997). I like bios that don’t follow a simple bio formula, so this one looked more intriguing than usual (although the reviews at Amazon have not been kind).

Leonard Maltin’s 2004 Movie & Video Guide (2004). To replace the dog-eared 1996 edition I’ve had for a decade.

Hollywood Sings! An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Academy Award Nominated Songs by Susan Sackett ($2; 1995). I stayed up past midnight reading many of the delicious tidbits in this book. It’s surprising how many long-forgotten duds of a song have received an Oscar nom in the past.

Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco by Peter Shapiro ($2; 2005). Also looks totally fascinating, with a nicely annotated discography in the back.

The Years with Ross by James Thurber ($2; 1959). Christopher bought this for me, another New Yorker saga. Although Harold Ross’ biographer said this book is very slanted, making Ross look like a country bumpkin idiot, I’d like to give it a try. Plus the 1950s gold plated binding is beautiful.