Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ramblings:-->Jonny Quest - Counting Crows & Queen Too

"The fairy folk have gathered, round the new moon's shine...
to see the feller crack a nut, at night's noon time.
To swing his axe he swears, as he climbs he dares...
to deliver...the master stroke."
Queen


The original episodes of one of the best cartoons ever..."Jonny Quest"...are being shown nightly on the Boomerang Channel (12:30am Central).

I strongly recommend setting up your DVR to record this exciting cartoon series. How long the originals will be shown is unknown...but the originals are definitely the best.

"Jonny Quest", created by legendary duo...Hanna-Barbera ran from 1964-1965...and then was sadly canceled. ("Jonny Quest" was revived in the late '80s...but they were never quite as good as the original).

The show revolved around five...well fleshed-out cartoon characters.
  • Dr. Quest - a brilliant scientist savant and father to Jonny & Hadji.
  • Jonny Quest - a young boy...athletic and smart. (Tim Matheson provided voice in 1964).
  • Hadji - a young Indian boy...wise in the ways of mysterious tricks and adopted by Dr. Quest.
  • Race Bannon - A "James Bond" type hired as a tutor and bodyguard for the boys.
  • Bandit - the pet bulldog and comic foil.
"Jonny Quest" was a fast-paced futuristic adventure story that followed Dr Quest (and family) around the world as he investigated mysterious and unexplained events. Usually brought on by greedy, evil baddies (like Dr Zin) or from scientific experiments gone wrong.
Evil Dr. Zin
The violence was surprisingly and satisfyingly grown-up...with the bad guys meeting their deaths in a variety of creative ways. (Heads guillotined for not ducking fast enough. Loose footing causing bodies to tumble into the abyss. Snakes devouring the slow of foot. You get the picture).

And the "Jonny Quest Theme" was exciting, too...sounding like something from a James Bond thriller with heavy drums and bass underneath some tasty brass horns.
(Anyone have a mp3 of this?)


Frankly, the best part of this classic cartoon was...the show never talked down to its viewers and...for the most part...played fair with the endings.

This cartoon begs to be taken to the big screen with live actors. The right director with a good script could have a major blockbuster on their hands.
But who to cast in the roles?


Mean time...get your DVR set up. Good stuff.

AND ANOTHER THING:
The Counting Crows are offering what they call...a "digital 45". The website looks like a beautiful 45 record with 2 songs to freely download.
A
big thank you goes out to these guys for the kind gesture!
Very Nice!

Casey

"Queen II" (1974) was initially panned by critics...and boy...should they have their tails tucked between their legs today. Talk about a record that holds up better after every listen.

"Queen II" sounds wonderfully full and complex and very nearly rubs the shoulders of a..."concept album"....with lots of things happening. A total treat for the ears.

If you have some good headphones...put them on and trip on the gorgeous sounds. This offering below has some tasty...
harpsichord. Not often heard in rock.

Queen's song..."The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke" was written by Freddie Mercury and inspired by Richard Dadd's
most celebrated painting..."The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke" .
This painting, from 1864, took the eccentric artist nine years to complete.

"Queen II" is certainly a neglected gem...despite the iconic album cover...filled with plenty of FM fodder to satisfy the most jaded...classic rock listener. Make your DJ play'em.
Good stuff!
Queen:-->"The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke" (Queen II) (1974) (Must Own)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Buzz:-->”I, The Jury” by Mickey Spillane (1947)

"There's time to conceive in
and time to expire,
Though the time 'twixt the two
tells the tale that transpires.
So why must we continually
disturb the universe...

With decisions and revisions which
a minute will reverse."
Ambrosia


NO SPOILERS:
This is a fast-paced...tough as a $6 steak..."who-dun-it" revolving around one of our most famous American fictional characters...private eye, Mike Hammer.

Created by Mickey Spillane...Mike Hammer is loyal to his friends and quite nearly a "sockcucker" to anyone who ain't. He's quick to spill blood and quick to break bread...whichever best serves his purposes.

He admires the dames...and is never too busy to satisfy his needs...so long as they don't interfere with his chances of nabbing the no-good prick that is on his radar.

And finally, Mike Hammer has many friends from all walks of life. Both rich and not so rich. And clean and not so clean. Much like Ferris Beuler..."He's very popular. The sportos, the motor heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebs, dick heads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude”.

"I, The Jury" (1947 - 174 pages) is a blast to read...filled with wonderful vernaculars from the forties. And...author Mickey Spillane allows his characters to dance from beginning to end without once fearing a reprimand blow from the "Political Correctness" police. How refreshing!

In this hardboiled mystery...Mike Hammer seeks to find out who killed his best friend...and collect his own brand of revenge on the punk.

"I, The Jury" is a page-turning mystery crime novel...and an American Classic...loaded with plenty of sex and violence. And just perfect for interrupting the regular genres you may read.

It's a man's world...in these pages, baby. Good stuff!

Moskeet

Ambrosia's debut is an extraordinary album. A lost gem, to be sure...filled with gorgeous vocals and a twirling progressive rock sense. Ambrosia spins a gentle touch of jazz in the mix, as well...without drifting too far from a tasty hook. And tops it all off by some terrific production from genius...Alan Parsons.
This self-titled classic has aged very well. And, perhaps, a fresh listen...as we stand in another phase of our lives... may shake loose some of the cobwebs from our music mind...and quickly show us..."They are "MUCH MORE" than who we thought they were". Good stuff.

Ambrosia:-->"Time Waits For No One" (Ambrosia) (1975) (Must Own)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ramblings:-->"Comanche Moon" - Brownsville Station - An Urban Legend Experiment

"You can always count on about one hundred
to five hundred people...
down at the very front row screaming
one word at the top
of their lungs...BOOGIE!!!"
Brownsville Station


NO SPOILERS:
Just finished watching "Comanche Moon" and...having read the book...I was pleased. Good westerns are few and far between...so if you missed this three night mini-series...saddle-up and go get it.
The story, written by Larry McMurtry, takes place in the 1850's...when Gus McCrae (Steve Zahn) and Woodrow Call (Karl Urban) were Texas Rangers. Gus and Woodrow are soon commissioned as Captains by the Governor of Texas and forced to take on one dangerous mission after another. Good stuff.

To be perfectly clear...Texas Rangers were oft-times a motley crew of tough, loyal, whiskey drinking and woman poking cowboys. And, because Rangering was such a dangerous and much-needed occupation to fill in the West...their sometimes wilder extra-curriculum were more easily forgivable.

A terrific cast in this old-west tale, to be sure...but two actors stand out and steal every scene they're in.
Steve Zahn nails his role as a less-than-glamorous cowboy who balances his toughness and his vulnerability to perfection.
Steve Zahn as Gus McCrae
His relationship with Clara (Linda Cardellini) is almost breath-taking in its honesty and sweetness. It is Zahn's role as Gus that makes this 6 hour mini-series so enjoyable and believable.

The other actor is Val Kilmer (the Ice Man)...who takes on an unbelievable character...Inish Skull...and nails it to the wall.

Val Kilmer as Inish Skull
Skull is a respected war-hero...eccentric to the extreme...and Kilmer is certainly having a blast stretching the boundaries. Kilmer obviously appears to be channeling this unique character, seemingly from the very mind of the creator...McMurtry, himself. Good stuff!

Add some great actors playing good and not-so-good Indians that are allowed to show individual personalities for a change...and you have a pretty fine mix for adventure. The only thing missing...but totally unnecessary...are a few cowboys sitting around the campfire blasting bean farts. Highly recommended.

AND ANOTHER THING:
Note: All my regular readers may ignore the following...as I'm sure pocket jingle-jangle is equally as hard to hold on to for you...as it is for me.

Consider this post an exercise in propagating an Urban Legend...or putting the Kibosh to it.
-->Do wealthy strangers surf the net answering the call from worthy requests?<--

In order to pick up all my necessary foreign language requirements in the shortest amount of time...I am considering joining a group of other students who will take a college sponsored trip to Guatemala this summer. And, by living with a family for 6-weeks...I'll be totally immersing myself in the language. In this instance, of course...Spanish. Rather than 18 weeks of class time.
The rub is that it will cost $4000 out-of-pocket. So...if anyone stumbles upon my blog by chance...and has some extra green paper they happily would be willing to part with...please notice my PayPal link to the side and contribute to your heart's content.

Postcards...on requests. Thanks stranger.

And Another Thing:
Plenty of bands may have played their instruments better and delivered better vocal chops than the guys in Brownsville Station. However, very few had as much fun.

Led by Cub Koda...Brownsville Station wasn't trying to make you think. Or send you on a mind trip. BS wasn't about that. They were into providing a much-needed break from all the other serious crap going around.

Brownsville Station was about putting some "smiles" back into the music. Cranking the knob to ten. Passing around the Boone's Farm and having some skin-on skin with the gals...while the boys from Michigan delivered some terrific cover songs and original Brownsville boogie.

"School Punks" (1974) was their follow-up to their 1973 release..."Yeah".
Below is Brownsville Station doing a couple of jams from their '73 album. Fun times!

Quite simply...Brownsville Station was one of us. Good stuff!

Casey

Brownsville Station:-->"Kings Of The Party" (School Punks) (1974) (Must Own)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Track 4:-->"Violation" - Starz - Violation (1977)

"Empty pockets, empty bed.
Empty bottles, empty head.
The committee says shape up...
Or they'll fix me quick enough."
Starz


This week...Track 4 is the title track, "Violation" from the sometimes forgotten band from New Jersey...Starz.

The song "Violation" is about a future vision of morality police taking over the country...with methods of correcting "bad" behavior. Terrific song...and not too far from reality.

Starz was a five piece band who looked a bit like Aerosmith and sounded a bit like Kiss. And rocked like Kissosmith or Aerokiss.

Lead by a great RnR vocalist, Michael Lee Smith...the band, Starz straddled the fence between hard rock and power pop. And deserved much better than the fates allowed.
Richie Ranno: guitars, Joe Dube: drums, Michael Lee Smith: vocals, Brenden Harkin: guitars, Peter Sweval: guitars

"Violation" (their 2nd album) was loaded with catchy party jams and anthems...and how the golden ring slipped their grasp is a mystery.

My guess...Starz was just too hard rock for poppers and just too hard pop for rockers...there's the rub. Nonetheless..."Violation" is a sadly overlooked classic rock album. Good stuff!

Casey

Starz:-->"Violation" (Violation) (1977) (must own)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Buzz:-->"Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer (1997)

"Those pictures you said were strange...
Out of tune.
Out of key.
It's such a shame but you never quite see."
Be-Bop Deluxe


NO SPOILERS:
"Above 8,000 meters is not a place where people can afford morality." An explanation one climber offers when asked how someone could possibly leave another mountain climber behind.

"Into Thin Air" (378 pages) is a thrilling true-life story about a group of variously skilled climbers attempting to tackle the "Mother of all Mountains" - Mt. Everest.

In March 1996, author Jon Krakauer joined an expedition to climb Mt. Everest for the purpose of a writing assignment for Outside Magazine. What unfolded is a first-person account of ordinary people...faced with extremely difficult challenges...and the tragedy that unfolded before the author's eyes.

We quickly learn that prolonged exposure to unbearably cold weather and the tremendous effort to overcome high altitudes with low oxygen can contribute mightily in the effort to make wise decisions...often causing serious injury and death to oneself or team member.
Mt Everest - 29,028 feet of glorious hell.
The enormous struggle for survival becomes painfully obvious and Krakauer skillfully creates a glorious and frightening picture of a location most will never know.

I purposely waited for Winter to arrive before reading "Into Thin Air"...so when venturing outside to scrape my windshield or shovel a snow path to the car...the freezing Kansas wind sucking the breath from my lungs like an Oreck vacuum cleaner might serve as a "very gentle reminder" of what it must have been like being exposed to the merciless mountain elements.

A silly exercise, of course...and totally unnecessary...yet it easily convinced me that I would just be another..."fool on the hill"...should I ever endeavor to posture.

A sad but tremendous read. Good stuff!

MoSkeet

Bill Nelson was the guitarist-extraordinare, perfectionist and leader of Be-Bop Deluxe that masterfully walked the thin line between a progressive sound and a Todd Rundgren-like dalliance in pop perfection.

"Sunburst Finish" (1976) is a little-known gem from Be-Bop Deluxe...a much-forgotten band that will keep listeners entertained in its unexpected and unique approach with its balancing act.

A cross between Mott The Hoople and Yes...(and other influences)...BBD is easy to warm up to with its catchy melodies and the lovely and trippy guitar work from Nelson.

The instrumental breaks are delicious to the ear...with interesting directions that sound fresh and unexpected. A plus, also...is "time changes" are kept to a minimum and only to further the song along.

I'm not an expert on Bill Nelson and his band...Be-Bop Deluxe by any means..but I know what I like.

"Sunburst Finish"
is a nice addition to anyone's musical crayon box. Good Stuff.
Be-Bop Deluxe:-->"Like An Old Blues" (Sunburst Finish) (1976) (Must Own)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Classic Pick:-->"Point Blank" - Point Blank (1976)

"Listen darlin', I got myself a problem.
You know I need a helping hand.
I don't want to share my candy.
I want my sugar handy.
But don'tcha know you got to live according to the law."
Point Blank


Point Blank is one of those bands that…when you hear them for the first time…make you scratch your head and wonder why they didn’t break out big.

Releasing their self-titled debut in 1976, Point Blank sounded like they were ready for bear. Drawing quick similarities to the best of what ZZ Top had to offer.

Point Blank also calls to mind some Hatchet…Skynyrd…and Outlaws. This time a dose of ballsy southern-rock from Texas.

But this was ’76, and disco was beginning to strangle all other genres from being heard on the radio, so this album…for the most part…tanked before it even got into the water.

Too bad…because this release begs to be re-discovered. A bona fide lost classic…filled with songs screaming to be heard on classic radio. Preferably…while taking a “let's go anywhere” road trip.

At this time, Point Blank was a five member band that provided some amazing dual guitar work from Randy Burns and Kim Davis. Their axes were extraordinarily tight and seemed to drive every song home.

The growling vocals by Jack O‘Daniel gave each song the proper attitude…with Phillip Petty (bass) and Peter Gruen (drums) keeping the dogs on the fox.

“I’m singing such a sad, sad song…for such a free, free man” ("Free Man") starts off the CD with a bluesy lament that quickly slips into some delicious paint-peeling guitar jamming.
A great blistering number when performed live...I'm sure.

“Moving” is a tasty churning number with another deep-fried guitar jam in the middle that ends much too quickly for my pleasure. The vocals are delivered with his fingers in the wall socket. Good stuff.

“That’s The Law” captures O’Daniel’s best vocals and…just guessing…but the rest of the band mates are playing like the spotlight should be on them. Very nice!

Point Blank closes out this tasty disc with "In This World" ...a catchy “can’t change my rowdy ways” number. This song screams for another guitar battle.

“Wandering” and “Bad Bees" are both great songs as well and are just waiting to be discovered by new ears.

Cherry-pickin’ songs from this album is pleasantly difficult. There simply are no throw-aways. And each number is perfectly placed on the CD.

Point Blank’s debut stands beside the greatest southern-rock albums of all time…no apologies necessary. This band spreads jam all over this record like a piece of toast...and should have garnered major props...if there was any justice.

These tracks will spin on a regular basis in your player of choice. A lost gem, indeed.
Good stuff!

Casey

Point Blank:-->"That's The Law" (Point Blank) (1976) (Must Own)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ramblings:-->Hacksaw Jim - Don McLean & We're Late For Class


"Somewhere the dogs are barking and the
children seem to know...

That Jesus on the highway was a lost hobo."

Don McLean

Went to a "Big Boys Show" at Century II in Wichita...(a place where motorcycles, electronic toys and bikini babes abound)...for the sake of meeting Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

Hacksaw is primarily remembered as being one of the "good guys" of WWF...back when wrestling was fun.

  • He won the New York St High School wrestling championship (unlimited weight class div).
  • Hacksaw won the 1st WWF Royal Rumble in 1988.
  • His signature move was the three-point stance tackle.

In 1998, Jim Duggan was diagnosed with cancer, but has since made a full recovery. He had obviously lost some muscle mass from his illness...yet still looked like a pretty strong "hoss" to me.
Didn't have my camera with me...however I was able to get a pretty clever autograph..displayed on a piece of 2x4. A trademark of Hacksaws'.

AND ANOTHER THING:

Walking the thin rope of tasty avant-garde...without falling on one's egotistical face...is a tough balancing act. And rarely accomplished to the satisfaction of my ears.

But the soul-trippin' indie band...We're Late For Class...satisfies a much needed niche...with their tour-de-force of mind-expanding grooves.

We're Late For Class is an all improv college band who create a unique sound...underscored with a minimalist approach of jazz juice and some groovy well-placed funk notes.

Plus they have an uncanny way of making time...drip. WLFC...never seems to lose focus on where their Magic Bus wants to take us. The listener need only relax...and enjoy the ride...knowing they are in good hands.

We're Late For Class:-->"(Hand Me That) Revolutionary Coat" (A Collection) (2008)

We're Late For Class offers beau coup songs for everyone's downloading pleasure. And, to be sure, do not confuse improv with sloppiness.
WLFC is good stuff.


Casey

The 1974 "Homeless Brother" (Don McLean) was on a cassette that seemed to always be in my folk's car while driving around the town. This is one CD that creeps upon you and sticks in your crawl. Getting better and better after every listen.

Perhaps I'm waxing nostalgic about hearing these songs by the ..."American Pie" wizard...as each song reminds me of front seat riding with dad...but just try finding another CD that relaxes one so easily.
Good stuff!

Don McLean:-->"Homeless Brother" (Homeless Brother) (1974) (Must Own)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Book Buzz:-->"Deviant" by Harold Schecter (1989)

"Nobody's gonna change my world.
That's something too unreal.
Nobody will change the way I feel."
Black Sabbath

NO SPOILERS:
Truth is stranger than fiction crime writer...Harold Schecter...has written a fascinating study of warped-minded Ed Gein...a small and lonely nobody of a man from a small town...who committed some of the most sickening crimes imaginable.

And though not quite what I would call a serial killer...certainly a murderer of at least two people. And Gein, to this day, is suspected of committing others.

"Deviant" (1989 / 256 pages) reads like a page-turning novel...with plenty of facts and theories about Ed Gein and his macabre deeds. And the observations of the small town life and the reactions of the good people of Plainfield, Wisconsin upon discovering these gruesome crimes are especially interesting.
Ed Gein house of macabre.
The little town of Plainfield was certainly put through hell during this stretch and easily warrants sympathy from this reader.

Loser Gein has been credited with being the inspiration for several cult films...as well as for the infamous..."Psycho" character...Norman Bates.

One can't help but wonder what other evidence might have been uncovered... had the investigators not been limited by their 1950s crime solving techniques.

And though more insight into the workings of Ed Gein's mind would have been welcome...Harold Schechter's offering of "Deviant" is still a tremendous read.

MoSkeet

When "Technical Ecstasy" was released by Black Sabbath in 1976...critics threw nothing but ka-ka its direction.

It was well known that Ozzy and the boys were falling apart...so critics must have been chomping at the bit to come up with clever and unfair ways to diss this disc...even before it came out.

Thirty-plus years later...this panned release...though obviously not Sabbath's best...generates enough pleasure to my ears to recommend giving this one another listen.
Good stuff.
Casey

Black Sabbath
:-->"You Won't Change Me" (Technical Ecstasy) (1976)
(Must Own)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Track 4:-->"The King Will Come" - Wishbone Ash - Argus - (1972)

"In the fire, the king will come.
Thunder rolls, piper and drum.
Evil sons, overrun.
Count their sins - judgment comes."
Wishbone Ash


The album..."Argus" (Wishbone Ash) was heard often around the house while I was growing up.

I enjoyed listening to the majestic aura each song projected while thinking about the fascinating cover. And though never admitted as a concept album..."Argus" always sounded like more than just random songs released to the public.

Perhaps...a life-long warrior's conflict between his love for the battle and his struggle to find peace. Concept or not, Wishbone Ash delivered an often forgotten classic.

Track 4 on this gem is "The King Will Come"...a 7 minute blend of double-lead guitar spinning trips and runs to delight the listener.

This double-lead guitar attack was a successful trademark of Wishbone Ash.

Andy Powell and Ted Turner seem to communicate on a whole other level...ad libbing, as often as not. And with each uncannily anticipating each other's string bites. Awesome!

Trivia note:
Ted Turner played guitar on John Lennon's..."Imagine".

Martin Turner on bass...lays a creative undertow on every song and sings or shares vocals on every number.

Tasty drums are provided by Steve Upton and he has a sweet way of drawing attention to the skins at just the right moments.
You'll understand after listening to this lost classic.

Finally, this band has one of the greatest names of all time. And...one of my favorite album covers...perfect for framing. Good stuff!

Wishbone Ash performing another great song
from Argus..."Throw Down The Sword".

Casey

Wishbone Ash:-->"The King Will Come" (Argus) (1972)
(Must Own)