Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Remy's Music & Film Blog, will be a year old next month in July, 2013 and since then I have received visits from every continent all over the world averaging a humble 600 page visits per month which are steadily increasing as momentum gathers. The main aim of the blog is to provide readers with a guide to what films might be worth checking out and what music albums to listen to, mostly focusing on music and film that one may not normally stumble upon in the mainstream media, music stores and film rental shops, but not necessarily exclusively so. I mostly alternate between an album and a film review on a weekly basis, but from time to time may do a special review depending on what's going on, such as the passing of an artist, eagerly-awaited album releases or upcoming festivals. The idea is to provide as much information to the reader, in a compact way, that will allow them to decide whether the particular item sounds like it may be up their alley, or whether they would prefer to avoid it, as we know, everyone's taste is individual. Added to the reviews can be serious tones or humour depending on the subject matter which I hope will translate into a non-snobby and easily accessible point of reference for all readers, regardless of personal tastes. At some point in the near future I hope to get guest writers from amongst friends and regulars who are as passionate about either films and / or music as I am. I hope you enjoy, thanks for the support so far, spread the word and please come back often!
PS: Nominations for the Irish Blog Awards, 2013, are now open, I'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to nominate me under the Music or Best New Blog categories using the following information 1. Email: email@example.com 2. Blog name: Remy's Music & Film Blog 3. Web address: http://thebestofmusicandfilm.blogspot.ie/ vote at http://www.blogawardsireland.com/nominations-open/
Monday, 17 June 2013
Robin Trower, 'Little Bit of Sympathy'
Info: Robin Trower was born in Catford, South East London, in March 1945, but grew up in the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea in Essex where he began playing the guitar from his early teens. His early life was quite disrupted, the family moved to Canada when he was 7 years of age and then to New Zealand, before he returned back to Southend where his grandmother was now living. Trower's mother also passed away when he was young, and in a strange twist of fate, his father remarried and it would be his stepmother who would have the greatest influence on his early interest in music. In Procol Harum: Beyond the Pale, by Claes Johansen, Trower also recalls his older brother Mick bringing home American records, and being blown away by Elvis Presley in particular, then, aged fourteen, he received his first guitar for Christmas, 1959.
After cutting his teeth in his first band, The Raiders, with his older brother and some school-mates, Trower moved back to London and went on to form covers band, The Paramounts, who released a number of singles between 1963-65. In 1967, just following the international success of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', old acquaintance Gary Brooker asked Trower to join Procol Harum. It turned out to be a match made in heaven as Trower helped tighten up the band musically on successive albums from 1967-1971. In 1973, Trower decided to go out on his own, eager to express his guitar and song-writing skills outside of the constricts of a band, acquiring James Dewar on vocals and bass and Reg Isidore on drums. The debut album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, made only a small ripple in the charts, however, his second release, Bridge of Sighs stormed both the US and UK charts, reaching #7 Stateside. In the liner notes for the album, Trower humbly attributed this success to others, from engineer Geoff Emerick (who came up with the idea of placing microphones at various distances to the guitar when recording), to Dewar's vocals, Reggie (sic) Isidore's soulful drumming, and relentless touring in advance of it's release.
Bridge of Sighs does not contain one wasted track, or a wasted second as far as I'm concerned from superb rocking opener 'Day Of The Eagle' which could easily have been a Thin Lizzy number with it's fast-paced guitar and thumping bass. Title track 'Bridge of Sighs' was the first Robin Trower song I ever heard years ago, long before I'd got to listen to the whole album after I managed to pick it up recently on vinyl. This song is a beautifully enchanting slow burner, and conjures images of the Ferryman of the Dead, Charon, slowly rowing his boat through Hades and passing under the bridge of sighs. My other favourite is 'Little Bit of Sympathy' which is the video above, I think it's a good example of Trower's excellent ability on guitar, he was often called 'The White Hendrix' and you can certainly hear that in his style, not to mention being a Fender advocate like Hendrix. You may also enjoy Trower's facial contortions in the video, which are entertaining to watch, but also highlight how he is completely connected to his guitar and the rest of the band. I've also included a video for 'Bridge of Sigh's' below, as it is undoubtedly the best track on the album, which is saying a lot considering how strong each of the 8 songs are. While it's wasteful and simplistic to merely compare Trower to Hendrix, if you are a fan of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and songs such as 'Burning of the Midnight Oil' and 'Voodoo Chile' you will thoroughly enjoy this album, guaranteed.
Robin Trower, 'Bridge of Sighs', 1974
1. Day of the Eagle
2. Bridge of Sighs
3. In This Place
4. The Fool and Me
5. Too Rolling Stoned
6. About to Begin
7. Lady Love
8. Little Bit of Sympathy
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
'Behind the Candelabra' Trailer
Genre: Drama, Biography
Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe
Director: Steven Soderbergh
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10
My Rating: 7.9/10
Runtime: 1hr 58mins
Synopsis: Soderbergh's excellent biopic brings us into the world of the extravagant pianist and vocalist, Vladziu Valentino Liberace, whose career spanned over 4 decades, and between the 1950s-1970s was the world's highest-paid entertainer. Liberace went to great lengths to hide his homosexuality from the world and sued any newspaper that suggested he was gay, however, the undeniable truth eventually came out (no pun intended) via his young lover, Scott Thorson, who published a book about their relationship together a year after Liberace's death from AIDS-related illness in 1987.
Admittedly I'd heard of Liberace only in passing and knew nothing of him other than that he was a famous performer, and in some ways, that made me wonder would I enjoy Behind the Candelabra as much as I would have with prior knowledge, however, the performances of the cast, the obscene opulence of the main character, and black humour swept me along from the very beginning. I should point out, that personally, I run a mile from musicals or films that spend too much time 'on the stage', thankfully Soderbergh avoided such a scenario and stuck with the storyline, scratching away at the complex layers of the main character who is excellently played by Michael Douglas, in what I would view as his best performance since Traffic in 2000 (during the shooting of which Soderbergh actually first mentioned the role of Liberace to Douglas).
Matt Damon plays the role of Scott Thorson, who met Liberace when he was only 17 and came under his employ almost immediately, mainly as his limo-driver, along with being his lover for five years. Damon pulls off the role brilliantly, he isn't as you may expect, a shy, vulnerable teenager, in fact he's quite confident and not overawed too much by Liberace's charisma and wealth, this early confidence becomes replaced by paranoia as the years pass however and insecurity eventually takes over, leading to a combustible end to their relationship. Other honourable mentions must go to Rob Lowe, who really surprised me as Liberace's plastic-surgeon, my only complaint would be that their weren't more scenes with him as his facial expressions were classic. For his trouble, Lowe had his face pulled back with tape and removable implants placed in his mouth for the film, his character, Dr. Jack Startz, obviously being a walking advertisement for his own business. Scott Bakula plays Bob Black who introduces the young Thorson to Liberace, although he isn't in the storyline too much, it's nice to see our old friend from Quantum Leap reprise a good role once again.
There is plenty more to the story which will undoubtedly keep you entertained throughout. Behind the Candelabra was first shown at Cannes Film Festival on 21st of May and then aired on HBO 5 days later. The film was only shown on television in the US because it was deemed 'too gay' by the major studios, although I would argue that it's no more gay than the latest Robin Williams film. Thankfully in Europe, the film has had widespread cinema release and is currently showing in theatres near you. I would strongly recommend this film, you get to see Matt Damon and Michael Douglas like you've never seen them before, the acting is fantastic, and the humour is great too, and did I mention Rob Lowe's face?
I am on anti-depressants and suffer from severe anxiety, should I watch this film on a Sunday night? Yes, it will make you ever so happy.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Alice Cooper - 'Billion Dollar Babies', title track
Info: Vincent Furnier of Detroit, Michigan is another, if unlikely, son of a minister who legally changed his name to Alice Cooper, which would also become the name of his band that had undergone many name-changes (The Earwigs, The Spiders and The Nazz). In 1968 the group, with Glen Buxton on lead-guitar, Michael Bruce (rhythm), Dennis Dunaway (bass) and Neal Smith on drums, set off for Hollywood in pursuit of a more glamorous music career, initially signing to Frank Zappa's Straight Records before joining Warner Bros. in 1971 where they recorded the amazing Love It To Death album. The group's reputation for anarchic live shows, mainly helped by a misinformed media claiming the shows were gore-filled following a fan throwing a chicken on stage which Cooper threw back into the audience at the Toronto Rock n' Roll Festival in 1969. Of course, Cooper and the band, realising that there was no such thing as bad publicity, never denied any of the stories the media printed about their shows, as a result demand for the concerts rocketed and eventually the group made their impact in the UK with the 1972 single 'School's Out' which hit No.1 in the charts across the pond.
Billion Dollar Babies was released in March 1973 and was an indictment of American society, based on the theme of a political election. The album was recorded mostly in the U.S. in Connecticut and New York but also in Morgan Studios London, where T-Rex's Marc Bolan, Donovan and Keith Moon of The Who would join in the recording sessions. Producer Bob Ezrin focused on a much harder rock sound for the band, but also ensured there were softer moments of strings, perhaps most noticeably on opener 'Hello, Hooray'. This album solidified Alice Cooper's reputation as serious contenders on the rock circuit and their tour became one of the most profitable of all-time, courtesy of myth, fake blood and their front man's gender-bending eccentricity.
My personal favourite on this album is the title-track (above video), it has it all, hard-hitting drums and killer lead-guitar from Buxton, as well as eerie story-telling. Other key tracks are 'Hello, Hooray', 'Generation Landslide', the most overtly critical of US society with a nice up-beat country / acoustic vibe. 'Mary Ann' is also a nice unusual, mostly instrumental piano song, which reminds me of a western bar in honky-tonk land. One of my final favourites is 'Unfinished Sweet', the longest track on the album at over six minutes, it's a great foot-tapper that you don't want to end. Some critics have claimed that this was Alice Cooper's hey-day, and it's very hard to disagree as the albums released between 1971-75 were all consistently strong, and it wasn't until 1989's Trash that anything half-decent re-emerged, and at that, it was not the original line-up from the early 70's. If you like Billion Dollar Babies, or even just one or two songs, I'd strongly recommend 1971's Love It To Death, especially their hit track 'Eighteen' which I've added below.
Alice Cooper, 'Eighteen'
1. Hello, Hooray
2. Raped and Freezin'
4. Billion Dollar Babies
5. Unfinished Sweet
6. No More Mr.Nice Guy
7. Generation Landslide
8. Sick Things
9. Mary Ann
10. I Love The Dead
Friday, 24 May 2013
Genre: Crime, Drama
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHann
Director: Derek Cianfrance
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
My Rating: 7.9/10
Runtime: 2hrs 20mins
Synopsis: Director Derek Cianfrance teams up with Ryan Gosling, unashamedly my all-time man-crush, for the second time following 2010's excellent drama, Blue Valentine. It's another very strong performance from Gosling, however, I thought the real stars were Cooper and youngster Dane DeHaan who you may have seen in last year's entertaining sci-fi flick Chronicle, or had the misfortune of catching him in what I felt was the overrated action film Lawless of the same year. I'd like to avoid going too much into DeHaan's character as it would undoubtedly spoil the storyline for those who haven't seen The Place Beyond The Pines yet, but he's definitely a talented actor with a bright future. While Bradley Cooper has had some questionable roles on his CV in the recent past such as rom-coms All About Steve and He's Just Not That Into You, he seems to be edging toward more challenging roles such as the ambitious honest cop in this film and his excellent performance in Silver Lining's Playbook.
As a relatively young director, he is 39, I'm definitely looking forward to keeping an eye on future releases by Cianfrance after seeing Pines and thoroughly enjoying the previously mentioned Blue Valentine. Once again we have another moody, contemplative film with a very good soundtrack that's shot beautifully in impoverished, middle-America. It's always a pleasant surprise to view the trailer for a film you're anticipating and then find out that your expectations are swept away as is the case here. As a result of the unexpected turn the story takes, I don't want to go into too much detail other than to say that following the first half-hour we are brought on a completely different journey, and I'm glad to say it worked very well. The basic premise is that Gosling's character is a stunt biker in a circus, who performs in one of those cages of death with two other bikers, and whilst on tour finds himself back in his hometown, where he revisits his past and his past revisits him. Misfortune hits Gosling when his path eventually crosses Cooper's by chance, and sets off a chain of events with twists and turns right up to the end, and that's where I'll leave it for now. I will probably revisit this review after it's DVD release with a more in depth analysis of the film, I don't want to be the person who tells you Bruce Willis is a ghost or Kevin Spacey is Kaiser Söze.
In summation, I would highly recommend The Place Beyond The Pines, it's a slick film, all of the cast perform excellently, great soundtrack, and we also get the treat of seeing Ray Liotta reprise his unhinged role from days gone by in Goodfellas and Unlawful Entry, even if it's hard not to hear him scream 'Kaaaaaaaren' every time you see him. Currently there's a DVD release date of June/July for US and Canada so hopefully it will be available shortly after that in UK/Ireland.
I am on anti-depressants and suffer from severe anxiety, should I watch this film on a Sunday night? Yes.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Daft Punk feat. Panda Bear, Doin' It Right
Info: This Friday sees the worldwide release of one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the last few years, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. It could be argued that it's their first 'proper' album since 2005's bummer, Human After All, when you exclude the Tron Legacy soundtrack and their live album in 2007 (Alive). Below I have done a track by track review and given a Yes, No or Maybe at the end of each track in terms of what I thought of it, if you agree with me completely once you've heard the album I can meet you next weekend to go to the Park Clinic together for DNA testing. Overall I really enjoyed this album from the first listen, if you're a fan of Daft Punk, or classics Homework and Discovery then you won't be disappointed, if you were expecting them to push the boundaries and try something exciting and new, you might be let down, it's back to basics for the two French boys, which is no bad thing.
1. Give Life Back To Music - Disco-funk, á la Chic, 'Good Times' especially on guitar, you can dance to this song even if you can't dance (Yes)
2. The Game of Love - Chill-out with funky beat and bass, trademark robot vocals, not a big fan of this track (No)
3. Giorgio By Moroder - Begins with presumably Giorgio Moroder (soundtrack song-writer) talking about his dream of becoming a musician, Daft Punk back to basics here, nice lengthy digitised melody, as song goes on dips in and out of orchestral and fast drumming and beats before exploding towards the stars at the end, nice (Yes)
4. Within - Appealing lo-fi piano song, very reminiscent of Air c.Moon Safari (Maybe)
5. Instant Crush - Interesting to hear Julian Casablancas of The Strokes at higher than normal pitch through famous Daft Punk vocoder, catchy, ponderous tune (Yes)
6. Lose Yourself to Dance - Jamming song, guitar-led, first of three songs feat. Pharell, slow-motion disco vibe, enjoyable if not great, perhaps a 'grower' LOL (Maybe)
7. Touch (feat. Pharrell) - Half like a theme tune to a 1970's tv show (Hart to Hart?) that turns into spacey electronica (Maybe)
8. Get Lucky - THE song, Pharrell's best input, reminds me of Dublin's Republic of Loose on holiday in Provence... (Yes)
9. Beyond - One of my personal favourites, nice drum n' bass and lots of Daft Punk digi-vocals going on, chilled like a brain-dead penguin on 1sq foot of ice blissfully ignorant of global warming (Yes)
10. Motherboard - Only song to scream of filler, might sound better after a few listens but it's 5 and a half minutes of aimless instrumentals and adds nothing (No)
11. Fragments of Time (feat. Todd Edwards - yeah, me neither) - Instantly enjoyable and funky, Al Green with double-speed music behind him (Yes)
12. Doin' It Right (feat. Panda Bear from Animal Collective) This could be your favourite song on this album, everything comes together superbly, this will be on party playlists, only complaint, maybe too short compared to other tracks on album, see above video (Yes)
13. Contact - Great finish, like Luke Skywalker about to drop the bomb on the Death Star a high-speed, deafening powerhouse of a song (Yes)
Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5 (but could rise sharply after multiple listens)
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Luther Allison, 'Bad News Is Coming', Live Montreux 1997, 5 weeks before his death
Info: Born on the 17th of August, 1939, in Arkansas, Allison was one of 15 children from a family of cotton farmers. His love for music began as a youngster playing the organ in the local church, and this set the groundwork for his love of the blues which was helped along nicely by a family move to Chicago in his teens. Allison was a talented baseball player in his youth and following high-school in Chicago began learning the shoe-making trade, but, with the encouragement of his brother, he started to focus solely on playing the blues on electric guitar, and honing what was to become a powerful and soulful voice. Following a family move to a new neighbourhood in Chicago, Allison became best friends with one Charles Waters, Muddy Waters' son, coupled with hanging out in blues clubs, Allison's learning-curve was fast-tracked, and in 1969 he recorded his first album, Love Me Mama on the tiny Delmark record-label.
It fell upon Allison to tour extensively in order to promote his music, and he quickly became a favourite at blues festivals, his sets coming in at just under 4 hours packed with blistering guitar solos. In 1980 he moved to Paris, France, and recorded mostly live albums, but his American exodus came to an end in 1994 when he was convinced by Alligator Records owner, Bruce Iglauer, to return to his homeland and record new material. Albums such as Soul Fixin' Man (1994), Blue Streak (1995) and Reckless (1997) became huge critical and commercial successes. Allison toured heavily throughout the USA and Canada in the mid-90's, and his last concert was at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 4th, 1997, unfortunately, weeks later he would die from throat cancer, hard to believe given his vocal performance in the above video at the festival.
As for the album itself, while it only contains two originals, the title track and track 10, 'It's Been A Long Time', it could be said that the remainder of the album is an homage to Allison's personal influences and heroes. The catalogue begins with two opening tracks by Willie Dixon, 'Little Red Rooster' and 'Evil Is Going On' along with Robert Johnson's 'Sweet Home Chicago' and Elmore James' classic 'Dust My Broom' with some great slide-guitar and bopping piano playing. The great thing about this album, aside from the wonderful blues is Allison's powerful croaky vocals and energy, he really puts his own stamp on the covers and infuses them with great pace along with some amazing guitar solo improvisations. Personal favourites are 'Raggedy and Dirty','Cut You a-Loose', and 'Rock Me Baby', this album is currently for sale on www.play.com for only €7.16, brand new US Import CD.
1. Little Red Rooster
2. Evil Is Going On
3. Raggedy and Dirty
4. Rock Me Baby
5. Bad News Is Coming
6. Cut You A-Loose
7. Dust My Broom
8. The Stumble
9. Sweet Home Chicago
10. It's Been a Long Time
11. Take My Love