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This week's Spin: The Archies and America
Blog, News and Events, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Jul 02 2014 by Greg

The coming Independence Day holiday and this month's passing of Archie in a specific comic book series inspired this week's story about the world's greatest fictional pop band.

This week's Spin: Donald Duck's Recording Career
Blog, Music
Posted on Jun 13 2014 by Greg
Meet some of the people who brought Donald Duck to vinyl records(and CDs-you can still buy or download "Goin' Quackers."

DVD REVIEW: 20 Feet from Stardom
Blog, Movies, People, Music, Records
Posted on May 13 2014 by Greg

I'm so glad this film won the Oscar.

When you learn about Darlene Love's astonishing career, check out her performance at this year's Oscar ceremony (the one with "Adele Dazeem"). You'll give her a standing ovation, too.

As you will for the mega-talented singers who you'll also meet in this film that -- and it's about time -- gives credit where credit is due, to the mega-talented studio and background singers who toiled behind the headliners (hence the title) and/or gave the world gigantic hit performances but were robbed of proper acknowledgement.

Also after watching this film, go back and look at the liner notes of your pop music albums. You'll see their names. Over and over again.

This documentary also questions the issue of what constitutes "stardom" and true "success." Becoming rich and famous relies on talent, luck, persistence and being at the right place at the right time -- yet some do not achieve it with all four. Yet, is a life well lived, working in a art form that you love, its own reward. Is the grass always greener? Is being content synonymous with "settling?"

I don't think being able to hold onto who are and what is dear to you is "settling." Regardless of being famous or being "niche," integrity matters, quality matters, and these artists exemplify these attributes.

Even if they aren't household names, how many of the biggest name in entertainment remembered by the general public after more than a few decades? What matters is what they have given us to enjoy and cherish. That is what lives on.

Cheers to you, great makers of music magic.

Blu-ray & DVD Review: Disney's Frozen
Blog, Movies, Music
Posted on Apr 10 2014 by Greg

To fans of Disney and musicals, there hasn't been a more satisfying phenomenon than Frozen. When Disney is true to itself, making the kind of movies that have been the hallmark of the studio for over 70 years, it's "magic" the thing, not "magic" the word.

At first glance, Frozen doesn't seem to break any new ground for the genre. It's great storytelling, a marvelous score, spectacular visuals -- everything one expects from classic Disney. But its overwhelming success suggests that it is more of a landmark than it may seem.

They listened to their audience. Not through data, research and focus groups, but in everyday life. This movie has true insight into where young and old really are in this day and age. Possible more than most live-action movies, Frozen taps into commitment, loyalty, frustration, self-sacrifice and the many forms of love. It's not all about me-me-me -- ultimately it's about we-we-we. You just don't see this much in today's entertainment, which leans toward the you-deserve-a-break-today message.

To me, the best thing about Frozen is the music -- the songs and the background score (which tends to be overshadowed by the great songs). This means that family musicals may have life again and perhaps survive a little longer than in the past. Disney's life blood is animation, but its soul is music.

And the songwriting innovation that the Lopezes brought with them from the stage (as well as their fine work on Winnie the Pooh and Finding Nemo-The Musical) is the "revue" song. There have been many humorous Disney songs, but never with this precise kind of verbal interplay. Yet their work is extremely reverential to the Disney musical canon and the great talents that created all those songs.

The bonus features are nice, but there will probably be more on the inevitable "Crystal Edition" or some such reissue, since Frozen has shattered home entertainment records the way it did at the box office and in Billboard.

You let it go, girl!

Original Theatrical Short - Get a Horse
The Making of Frozen (3:18)
D-Frosted: Disney's Journey from Hans Christian Andersen
   to Frozen (7:28
Deleted Scenes (with optional intros from directors)
        Never Underestimate the Power of Elsa
        The Dressing Room
        Meet Kristoff #1
        Meet Kristoff #2
"Let it Go" Music Videos
Original Teaser Trailer

Original Theatrical Short - Get a Horse
"Let it Go" Music Videos

DVD REVIEW: The Bobby Darin Show
Blog, TV, People, Music
Posted on Apr 08 2014 by Greg

The Bobby Darin Show may well be the very last of the grand TV variety shows done in the classic style. Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie and their ilk were more campy, more deconstructive, in their approaches. Bobby Darin was a throwback to the Rat Pack, the essence of cool and ultimate timelessness. (For those too young to know Darin's work, one of his biggest hits was "Beyond the Sea," which gained new fame in Finding Nemo, as performed by rock star Robbie Williams in tribute to Darin.)

It's also a study of a extraordinary performer giving his/her all, almost to the point of collapse. (Judy Garland's TV series is another example.) Here is a singer/actor/musician/showman who is seriously ill. Darin had struggled with health issues since childhood and when he was doing this series, his irregular heart beat often made him in a dreadful state when the cameras stopped rolling. He passed away only a few months after the series left the air.

But when the cameras were on, all the audience sees is a consummate entertainer with seemingly boundless energy and a personable quality ideal for television. He also had the rare quality of reaching audiences of all ages by singing Sinatra pop, country, classic rock and roll and blues, all in a way that came naturally. That was because there were many Bobby Darins -- he was one complicated fellow. Everything he had he gave on stage.

The TV show, whose writers included Alan Thicke and regulars included versatile TV host/radio personality Geoff Edwards, followed the basic variety format. The first few shows' finales salute a specific city with its music, there were assorted sketches, commercial bumpers with Darin as Groucho, and what had to be the most personal of the sketches, "The Neighborhood."

"The Neighborhood" was akin to Jackie Gleason's "Honeymooners," a slice of life in the tough, working class streets of New York, surely as much a part of Darin's early life as Gleason's. Darin plays Angie, the voice of reason, while familiar character actor Dick Bakalyan (who appeared in numerous Disney comedies, as well as voicing the Oscar-winning "It's Tough to Be a Bird") plays Carmine, the dreamer who always hatches a money making scheme or is snared by a fishy endeavor.

Darin's other characters include a hippie poet and "The Godmother," two more personas that come from his life as living in a trailer on the beach and in the company of tough old Italian mamas.

The shows also include another unique regular feature, in which Darin sings to his female guest, face-to-face, both in a highly seductive way that says more than the most of today's more overt depictions of romance and general bedroom hijinks.

This was the early '70s, so many of the songs have that groovy sound. The dancers have that Disneyland "Kids of the Kingdom" vibe. It's also interesting to see what fine singing voices guests like Dyan Cannon and Cloris Leachman have. (Ever strange, Leachman does a butterfly number that is characteristically bizarre.)

But it's the last episode that is most unforgettable. Watch the bonus documentary for the background. Because of a lack of rehearsal, Darin performed pretty much his entire Las Vegas act while Peggy Lee simmered in her dressing room, waiting to go on. Once she did her segment with Darin, the tension is palpable, yet fitting as the duo sings very dark songs of lost loves. By the end, the two have connected as two giants of song interpretation.

One can only speculate what Bobby Darin would have given the world had he not died at 37. This DVD truly captures his lightning in a bottle.

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