This month's MAD Magazine says what most "respectable" forms of news have not been able to but most of the country is thinking. People are smart enough to see the shrewdly engineered "grown up transformation" of Miley Cyrus into exactly what she was before: a packaged pop product with a strong marketing plan drawn up by top brand managers that get her name in some sort of "shocking" headline every day. And it works.
This is indeed "art" -- the art of distribution and targeting, media manipulation and initially seeded enthusiasm. When she was Hannah Montana, there was never any doubt that this was the game, nor were the intentions to "package" a star being touted as the pursuit of art and self-expression.
Unlike artists of the caliber of Madonna and Lady Gaga, who built their persona and music brick by brick before it mushroomed into big business, Miley's not behind (pun) most of the decisions, though she might make suggestions and approve strategic formulas. It's fictionalized reality in the most garish of Hollywood traditions. It would be nice if someone would just admit the machine-like process.
Miley is a smart young lady who has proven to have loads of talent beyond performing as if she's appearing on amateur night at the Newark strip club. That's as old as Little Egypt. But if she and her staff are really shrewd, she'll alter the brand within the next year before she becomes a self-parody.
2013 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE, PART TWO
Blog, Reviews, Movies, TV, Music, Downloads, Records, Books
Posted on Dec 20 2013 by Greg
BLU-RAY/DVDMARY POPPINS 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
No home should be without a copy of Mary Poppins
to watch. If you've seen it many times, just leave it on and go about your business, it adds an element of fun to every job that must be done.
This is the first time Mary Poppins
is on Blu-ray, much anticipated by all its fan. The picture is overall superb, but there is a bit of a contrasty quality that I'm guessing to due to Herculean efforts to spruce up some special effects that were state-of-the-art 50 years ago. The matte lines and grains are much less noticeable now and the animated sequence (I'm just as sorry as I can be, Mrs. Travers) glows with color. Mary Poppins
, by the way, has finally been added to The National Film Registry (somebody must have told them, "Spit-Spot! Get to it!"
THE GENE AUTRY SHOW: THE COMPLETE SERIESCOLLECTORS EDITION
Gene Autry was not only King of the Cowboys in the mid-20th century, he also is still one of the best selling recording artists of all time. He recorded the original "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter" and "Here Comes Santa Claus," which he co-wrote. This series is just a part of his entertainment empire, which you can glimpse in one of the many bonus features (and see momentos of at LA's Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage. The Gene Autry Show
is a lot like Scooby-Doo: there are only a handful of plotlines, but who cares because you just want to watch him and his sidekick (Pat Buttram) bring baddies to justice. Some stereotypes are on a very few episodes (amazing considering its age), but overall it's a cozy slice of Americana. Some are even in color and remarkably well preserved.
IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED
For Marvel fans impatient for the next movie, this nicely constructed animated adventure is an exciting adventure. The action is virtually non-stop, but when there is a brief respite, Hulk and Iron Man bicker like Martha and Gertrude at the Automat. There are a few bonus features, including the very funny re-voiced "Marvel Mash-Ups" that make gentle but ridiculous sport of earlier Marvel TV cartoons.THE LIFE & ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS /
NESTOR, THE LONG-EARED CHRISTMAS DONKEY
It isn't really the holiday season without squeezing in as many Rankin/Bass specials as you can. The first special in this Warner Archive release, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
, is based on the book by Wizard of Oz
scribe L. Frank Baum. It's a fitting way finale to the Rankin/Bass canon of stop-motion animated specials, as it combines the whimsy of Rudolph
with the mystical fantasy of The Hobbit
, drawing both aspects of R/B together (the voice cast is also that of ThunderCats
). Nestor is based on another song by Gene Autry (see above), with a very amusingly caricatured Roger Miller telling and singing the story of a misfit who triumphs over his "non-conformity." The animation for this special is especially smooth, (SPOILER) but be warned that there is a sad, Bambi
-like moment. THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER /
MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND
My favorite of the early Muppet films, The Great Muppet Caper
was Jim Henson's feature directing debut. The score by "Bein' Green" composer Joe Raposo is the old-school Hollywood extravaganza type, with some major production numbers including a mammoth Esther Williams
tribute that actually topped Mel Brooks' similar number the same year in his History of the World, Part 1
. Plus it's got Diana Rigg. 'Nuff said. Muppet Treasure Island was the second feature after Jim Henson passed and though very entertaining with the dependable comic chops of Tim Curry, The Muppets were starting to chew their cabbage more than twice here. Both look spiffy on Blu-ray.
KUKLA, FRAN & OLLIE: THE FIRST EPISODES, VOL. 3
First of all, the first two volumes of this priceless DVD series are required if you love The Muppets, clever comedy timing, imaginative use of limited resources and pure talent. Burr Tillstrom's puppets stop being puppets after only a few minutes, thanks in large part to the golden-voiced Fran Allison, who makes us all believe. Forget the picture quality and little cramped stage: Burr and Fran turn it into the Tardis.
MUSICDOCTOR WHO: SERIES #7 TV SOUNDTRACK
Speaking of Tardises (or is it "tardi?"), you can't go wrong with Murray Gold's magnificent music for the current crop of Doctor Who series that have really taken the world by storm in a way I can't recall since The Muppet Show. Gold's score for season seven (and also several Christmas episode scores, also on CD) are varied, ethereal, dramatic and as "big" as the galaxy. SAVING MR BANKS SOUNDTRACK
The Deluxe Edition Soundtrack Album of this very special film not only contains Thomas Newman's masterful score -- weaving his own compositions with interpolated Sherman songs -- but also includes several Sherman Brothers song demos and what is, in effect, Poppin's Greatest Hits. Plus, you can hear Colin Farrell's lyric read from the film's opening and the three memorable song pitch scenes with Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak. Tom Hanks does not appear on the album, but then, Walt himself only recorded one album for his record company (Walt Disney Takes You to Disneyland).HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS SOUNDTRACKS
First of all, know that there are actually TWO sound track albums for the Chuck Jones/Boris Karloff animated TV special. The first one was released in 1966 by MGM Records
and combines Karloff's sound track narration with a re-created version of the music and singing. It's quite wonderful, won a Grammy Award and is the only one of the two that is in stereo. You can get it on CD on the Mercury label.
Warner/Rhino released the actual TV soundtrack on another CD
many years later. You'll notice a few seconds of additional music at the beginning and end, because they originally had sponsor mentions over them. A brand-new green vinyl disc of the Grinch
was just released this year as well.
BOOKSTHE BOOK OF MOUSE
Few if any of even the most knowlegable Disneyphiles can read any book by longtime Disney Historian Jim Korkis and not say "I did not know that!" It's a testimony to the infinite nature of Disney's legacy that factual tidbits keep on coming, and it's also a testimony to Korkis' careful research and easygoing writing style that we get to enjoy it. This time, Jim takes on the life and times of the most iconic of animated characters, so much of a "real" being that he often transcends being a cartoon. ANIMATED LIFE
If I were writing a book about my career, it wouldn't be nearly as amazing as Floyd Norman's but it would have the same conversational tone, candid without being tattletale-ish, respectful of both the subjects in the story and the reader. As you read, you're seeing the Walt Disney Studios through his eyes as he wanders the hallways where cool stuff is everywhere. The first half of the book chronicles Floyd's journey through his Disney career; the second half is a series of observations, advice, wisdom and fascinating anecdotes. What a joy that we are able to share in all this wonder with a Disney Legend in his own words.
THE ART OF JAY WARD PRODUCTIONS
In addition to animation veteran Darrell Van Citters' gotta-have tome about Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol,
this is a must-have too. While doing research for the Magoo book, he uncovered a treasure trove of artwork, sketches, layouts and more that really drive home the talent of the artists behind the Ward cartoons. You're only seeing the tip of the iceberg if you've only seen the shows themselves.EVERYTHING'S COMING UP PROFITS
Longtime Late Night with David Letterman
writer Steve Young (who was the mastermind behind "Dave's Record Collection") reveals a heretofore undiscovered side of musical theater, some of which is fantastic, some that might have been better left covered. Industrial musicals were common in the postwar era, all the way up to the '80s. Some soon-to-be Broadway musical powerhouses (like Bock and Harnick, who wrote Fiddler on the Roof
) started their careers with these shows, which were surreal ways to get sales people excited about everything from cars and household notions to toilets and tractors. If you ever saw a live corporate sponsored show at a World's Fair, you get the idea.
2013 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE, PART ONE
Blog, Reviews, Movies, TV, People, Music, Downloads, Records, Books
Posted on Dec 02 2013 by Greg
THE LITTLE MERMAID II: RETURN TO THE SEA / THE LITTLE MERMAID: ARIEL’S BEGINNING
Both sequels are on Blu-ray for the first time, along with two DVDs with each film. The first sequel, Return to the Sea, boasts many of the same cast members as the original film including Disney Legend Jodi Benson, but the nice songs by Patti and Michael Silversher are too few and the plot is a retread of the first story. This time we get a skinny version of Ursula and Disney’s version of Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley. Plus, Ariel and Eric are put in a situation very frustrating to the viewers as well as their daughter, Melody, but being brick walls about everything to do with Ariel’s magical past. Plus, in limited animation, Eric looks even more like the David Seville of the ‘80s.
The third Little Mermaid film (second on this set), Ariel’s Beginning, is a far superior film with a more solid storyline without delving into set pieces to extend the film length. We also get to know Ariel’s sisters better and meet a more original villain, amusingly named Marina Del Ray and superbly voiced by Sally Field, singing for the first time since The Flying Nun. Even the extras are better on this film. The animation is startlingly fluid for a direct to video production. Make the whole package worth it.
Disney has taken a few jabs for putting what was originally planned as a direct to video feature and releasing to theaters, but Walt Disney did just that with Johnny Tremain and several other of his live-action features which either turned out better than expected or ran over budget.
In the case of Planes, the budget was upped and though the film seems to dreamily ramble a bit, it was clearly an attempt to attract more of the male sector of the audience and it succeeded tremendously. I’m not a big Dane Cook fan, but he does a creditable job as Dusty, a crop duster with a fear of heights, a character much more likable than Lightning McQueen in Cars. John Cleese turns in his usual scene stealing best as a jolly old British plane. Looks wonderful in HD on a big screen.
THE FLINTSTONES CHRISTMAS COLLECTION
It's nice to have these shows on DVD after wearing out my VHS tapes, which sometimes were recorded at EP and looked ecch. The 1977 A Flintstone Christmas special is of particular interest, coming at a time with The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera were enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
It's also a musical special with songs that also popped up in other H-B Christmas specials. "Hope," sung by Wilma in this instance, is a cousin to "When You Wish Upon a Star" and was sung by Boo-Boo in Yogi's First Christmas. "Brand New Kind of Christmas Song" did originate in this special. Both this song and Boo-Boo's "Hope" can be heard on the Hanna-Barbera Christmas Sing Along sound track album.
The second special on this collection, A Flintstone Family Christmas, came after Turner acquired Hanna-Barbera and there was another resurgence with new merchandise and some really fine books, including a hardcover based on this special, which was nominated for an Emmy, a first for The Flintstones.
MARINE BOY – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Depending on where you lived, this dubbed Japanese cartoon series ran in syndication between 1967 and 1969. What’s interesting about it is that members of the Speed Racer cast does the dubbing, including Speed himself, Peter Fernandez. The music sounds to me to be composed by Billy Mure, who scored many MGM children’s records with Fernandez and the same cast.
“Marine Boy” is sort like “Jonny Quest” underwater. For some reason, even his dad calls him “Marine Boy.” But then, did Speed's parents give him that name at birth? Guess both were endearing nicknames.
The stories in Marine Boy are not as complex as some Japanese TV cartoon imports of the era, so younger kids will likely follow along nicely. The animation looks to me to be that Korean traced stuff that Warner/Seven Arts did with Porky Pig cartoons, though a little neater. I can’t confirm that as a fact, though. It’s just that the draftsmanship is not what I’ve seen in similar cartoons. But what a groovy theme song! There are actually two of them, and I like the one with the “oooooo’s.”
CDS AND DOWNLOADS
WALT DISNEY’S BABES IN TOYLAND – Original Cast Album
This is from the 1961 live action fantasy starring Annette, Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn and a very young Ann Jillian. It’s not the sound track but a “re-creation” with slightly different orchestrations, produced at Tutti Camarata’s Sunset Sound Studios.
It is not available on CD (though the Disney Parks did offer CD-R’s for a short time years ago). You can download it—with a pristine restoration by Walt Disney Records’ master producer, Randy Thorton—on iTunes.
SANTA CLAUS-THE MOVIE Original Sound Track Album
Though I love the movie and enjoyed it when it was released, not everyone does. Regardless, the magnificent score by Henry Mancini is one of the best “traditional” music and song scores of the ‘80s, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and a pop solo by Sheena Easton (“It’s Christmas All Over the World”) that should get more airplay.
Be careful when ordering this album on CD, as you’ll want the expanded edition, not the single album on CD. The expanded edition has everything the original EMI LP had plus many more pieces of music that couldn’t fit on the vinyl disc as well as alternates and deleted selections and an interesting booklet.
MARY POPPINS Special Edition Original Sound Track Album
You know that tape recorder you see taking in what happened during those meetings with the persnickety Ms. Travers and the supercalifragilistic Shermans? You can hear many of the REAL ones on disc two of this glorious sound track album.
The aforementioned Randy Thornton pretty much put the entire musical score on this album for the first time and it should be in every home.
THE SHERMAN BROTHERS SONGBOOK
Speaking of the Shermans, the landmark songs from their history making career are contained on two discs here. There's even a non-Disney film represented in this collection, with the Oscar-nominated theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was tthe brothers’ first outside film, done with the approval of Disney. On this collection, the great Mike Sammes Singers perform the song. Every home should have this, too.
JIM HENSON – THE BIOGRAPHY
A meticulously detailed portrait of the man behind the Muppets, unlike anything published before. Lengthy yet a brisk read, the book covers the length and breadth of Henson’s life and career in a matter-of-fact, clear headed way, without the armchair speculative psychology of other bios of others (you know which ones).
Few will read this and say, “I already knew ALL of that” or they’d be fibbing.
INSIDE THE WHIMSY-WORKS: My Life with Walt Disney Productions
Disney Legend Jimmy Johnson rose from the mailroom to merchandise and from publishing to launching what is now Walt Disney Records. He wrote this memoir in 1975 but it was never published until now.
This is one of the very first insider looks at what is was like working for Disney from the Snow White days to the opening of Walt Disney World. I know this is a blatant plug and you have to pre-order the book because it won’t be sent out until February 2014, but please consider getting a copy and wrapping up the amazon description as a lovely thing to place under the tree.
Steve Martin and Gilda Radner - Dancing in the Dark
Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Oct 26 2013 by Greg
One of TV's great moments was "Dancing in the Dark" with Steve Martin and Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live.
One of the things that made it stand out was that the setting was a typical disco club of the day, and when Steve Martin and Gilda Radner spotted each other, the trendiness of the era vanished for them and it all became about real stylishness, real music and true artistry (even though they clowned around a little, which was also fun). When they finished dancing, the disco music came back up, and there we all were, trapped in what is accepted as the style of the day, whether we all like it or not.
After Gilda Radner's passing, Steve Martin presented this clip again and become as emotional as viewers had ever seen him, before or since. When TV news shows reported the loss of Gilda Radner, they also used "Dancing in the Dark".
This particular version of "Dancing in the Dark" is from the soundtrack of the MGM classic, The Band Wagon.
The legendary Uan Rasey actually hits a flawed note at one point, but the overall performance and impact of the whole is so great that it was left the way it is.
It's a masterwork of musician and composer, and yet it is not perfect. In this era of over-editing, over-shooting and CG to cover flaws, it's important to remember that you sometimes have to look at the work as a whole, otherwise the unchecked pursuit for perfection becomes like sawing legs off a coffee table to keep it from wobbling.
How to keep the Fourth going on in Golden style
Blog, Music, Records
Posted on Jul 05 2013 by Greg
Once again, Verse Music has released a pristine reissue of classic Golden Records, this time themed to patriotism.
Those familiar with Golden Records will recognize the boisterous, robust sound of these selections, almost all produced under the direction of Mitch Miller. You’ll also find two songs by “Miss America” TV pageant, parade and game show icon Bert Parks.
If you have never heard these songs before, they were done in the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s so they have that “live TV” sound. And they should, since the Sandpiper singing quartet was also the group who donned Texaco uniforms and presented Milton Berle each week on his legendary variety show.
Here is the track list with the artists:
1. You're A Grand Old Flag / Bert Parks & The Mitch Miller Orchestra
2. Yankee Doodle / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
3. The Caissons Go Rolling Along / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
4. America The Beautiful / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
5. Stars And Stripes Forever / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
6. Mighty Navy Wings / The Naval Cadet Choir
7. My Country, 'Tis Of Thee / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
8. The Army Air Corps / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
9. The Flag's Flying High / The Naval Cadet Choir
10. God Bless America / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
11. Battle Hymn Of The Republic / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
12. When Johnny Comes Marching Home / Win Stracke
13. Semper Fidelis (Make Way For The Fife & Drum Corps) / The Naval Cadet Choir
14. Halls Of Montezuma / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
15. I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy / Bert Parks & The Mitch Miller Orchestra
16. Washington Post March / Golden Orchestra
17. 101st Cavalry Gallop / The Naval Cadet Choir
18. Anchors Aweigh / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
19. I'm Proud Of My Land / The Naval Cadet Choir
20. The Star Spangled Banner / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 Next >>
BACK TO BLOG HOME